Monthly Archives

February 2020

A story is named – Day 1755

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Who are you talking to I asked my intern at home, she looked at me and said Rim Jhim. ‘Rim Jhim?’ I repeated making action of raindrops. Yes, she replied, ‘My cousin was born in the monsoons and her parents love the sound of the rain. I love it too and the name Rim Jhim reverberated in my head for days at end. I had decided that irrespective of the  course of the story the title of my film will be Rim Jhim  and slowly I had found my protagonist, a young girl who was going to take you through the story, introduce us to her parents, other characters, their back stories, interactions and attachments. When I penned the synopsis, it was meant to be a film script and then on the advice of a filmmaker friend, I wrote the character sketches, their past, their present, their fears and anxieties and finally the beat sheet – which is a scene break up. I was ready to write a full-length screenplay but not before I had found a director to own my story so I waited…

To be continued…

@bhawanasomaaya

A story is born – Day 1754

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It was in the early 2000 when I was walking on the road and found a poor woman sobbing on the street mourning the death of her six-month-old infant.  On my way home I kept thinking about her life, her husband, her parents, her in-laws. There was nobody around her and she was wailing unable to get a grip of herself. I kept thinking about her husband and his reaction to the tragedy, will he empathize with her that she had to handle this crisis single handedly or will he blame her for what had happened even though it was not her fault. Weeks passed by but the incident was still hovering in my head, unknowingly I began making notes. The subject had the potential of a dramatic narrative but the details were taking long to form a pattern. I was certain that it had to be the story of a family but what kind of a family I didn’t know and so I decided to wait till the story in my head was ready to lead me…

To be continued…

@bhawanasomaaya

Movie Review – Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan

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Unengaging

Film: Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan

Release: 21.02.2020

Writer/Director: Hitesh Kewalya

Cast: Ayushman Khurana, Jitendra Kumar, Gajraj Rao, Neena Gupta

Actor Ayushman Khurana was a radio jockey before he made his debut in films in 2012. In the last 8 years he has made 15 films out of which many have been superhits. What is commendable about his choice of subjects is that all these films have addressed relevant issues be it physical like obesity in Dum Laga Ke Haisha or alopecia in Bala, marital as in Shubh Mangal Savdhan which was about erectile dysfunction or Badhai Ho about parent pregnancy.

If Bareily Ki Barfi addressed small town complexities and Hawaizaada elaborated on professional aspirations, Article 15 enlightened us on our constitutional rights.

Dream Girl was about deception but more about repression and sexual fantasies while Vicky Donor unapologetically celebrated sexuality. In all his films, Ayushman Khurana wittingly or unwittingly played the victim who has his say in the climax. For the first time in Shubh Mangal Zyaada Savdhan which addresses homosexuality, Ayushman plays the aggressor egging on his docile partner to defy his family and come out of the closet.

In the very first scene the lead pair Aman/ Jitendra Kumar and Kartik/ Ayushman Khurana are established as a couple, boarding a train to Allahabad, Aman’s home where Aman’s cousin/ Goggle is getting married.

The following sequences are a replay of what we have watched in earlier small-town movie releases that is a large joint family with innumerable characters running up and down, shouting instructions. Shot inside a dilapidated ancestral home, the characters are forever venting frustrations. In short, a story of family problems, family conflicts, family drama and family bonding!

Clearly there is no dearth of excitement in the Tripathi household where the son is discovered to be homosexual, the daughter runs away on her wedding night and the to be daughter-in-law is nabbed by the police with the family jewelry. There’s more, the parents have a past, the family has a history and the brothers, the co-sisters are all fighting old battles, with so many complications the story should have got us hooked, it does not!

The pace is slow, screenplay unengaging, dialogues lack-lustre and narrative devoid of any surprises. Some scenes are meant to shock you like the prolonged kiss scene between the heroes beneath the windcheater a la Aashiqui irritates more than amuses. Some scenes are meaningless like Ayushman in superman costume delivering gyaan and some annoyingly regressive like Gajaj Rao performing funeral rites of his alive son and women of the house obsessed with Streedhan.

Ayushman Khurana and Jitendra Kumar make a drab pair devoid of any chemistry and nothing about their portrayal or interaction makes me believe that they are genuinely in love. On the contrary there is a sparkle though not as strong as Badhai Ho between Neena Gupta aur Gajaj Rao and they are responsible for you to sit through the utterly boring film.

I rate Shubh Mangal Zyaada Savdhan with 2 stars.

Bhawana Somaaya

Memories of Sai and Shabana Day 1751

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Were you disappointed that they killed you halfway through the fi
No, my exit was very clearly stated in the script and the film is fair to the script. A lot of
people felt that the film ended for them when I die in the hospital but I disagree because
eventually. Saaz is the story of Bansi and her traumas.
How was your interaction with Shabana Azmi and director Sai Paranjpye?
Shabana Azmi is an old friend. We have done many films together in the past. She starred
in my home production Anokha Bandhan. Our careers had traveled different destinations
but the warmth remained consistent. I didn’t know Sai at all and did the film because I
was curious about parallel cinema but I was not very comfortable. I have been around for
a long time, started my career as a chorus dancer then solo dancer, then supporting and
second lead roles and finally played a heroine as well. Over the decades we adjusted to
the multi-starrers then the Gujarati films but the art and parallel cinema is a different
culture altogether. For a long time now, I have been associated with television and now
waiting to explore the web series which are more realistic and addictive I am told.
@bhawanasomaya

Creating Mansi Brindavan Day 1750

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So what attracted you to Mansi Brindavan?
That she is mature beyond her age, that she is devoted to her family and also devoted to
her career. Mansi is ambitious but you cannot question her love for her younger sister.
Did it worry you that the story was controversial?
More than thousand films are made in a year in our country and every story is inspired/
influenced from somewhere – real life, books or other films. As an actress, it’s not my
concern to worry about the source of the story besides every story about a singer is not
related to the Mangeshkar family. There were some similarities but there were many
contradictions as well.
Your character was almost negative
That was the attraction, Mansi has so many shades – she is warm, sensitive and also
authoritative. She feels protective about her younger sister and is angry when she is
abused by her husband but is not as generous with her career. It was a terrific plot but
mishandled in the climax. I missed the aunt-niece relationship, I’m an aunt in real life and
while my sister and I have innumerable disagreements this has never come in the way of
my relationship with her daughter.

To be continued
@bhawanasomaaya

Aruna Irani: Replay Saaz Day 1749

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Just in the way a familiar fragrance triggers a special memory, an old film replayed on
the television revives specific recall. It happened to me last night when surfing late night
I came across Sai Paranjpye’s telefilm Saaz and could not resist watching the entire film.
Saaz revived memories of how the film was conceived /cast and shot, all the stories and
controversies associated with the film came gushing back. The Mangeshkar family was
upset because word had got around that the story was inspired from the life of Asha
Bhosle played by Shabana Azmi and Lata Mangeshkar played by Aruna Irani.
When the film was released both the actresses were inundated with compliments but
while Shabana had the author backed role, Aruna Irani sparkled in her slightly negative
role of the elder sister. Call it a coincidence but I bumped into Aruna Irani soon after and
asked her if she expected such an overwhelming response? “I didn’t frankly, because
after so many years before the camera I still feel that no artiste, no matter how talented is
capable of a good performance without the guidance of the director. The actor projects
the character but his understanding of the role is always limited as compared to the
filmmaker who sees it as a complete picture”.
To be continued
@bhawnasomaaya

Lohanas researched by Subhash, Hasu Day 1748

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Of the many theories floating about the community, one of them is that the Lohanas are a warrior class and believed to be the descendants of Raja Ram, who was also known as Lord Raghu and his descendants called Raghuvanshis. So another description of Lohanas is Raghuvanshis. Lord Ram had two sons; Luv and Kush. The descendants of Luv were known as Luvanas and from that evolved Lohanas which the youngsters are shortening it to ‘ Luees’!

The warrior Lohanas or Kshatriyas reveal traces in places like Kabul and even Kandahar which can be split in to Kanda ( onions or dungri) and ahar (eating) because unlike the Jains the Lohanas  are associated with dungri/onion eating!

Another theory is that Lohanas migrated from the North to what is now known as the Multan region of Pakistan where a place called Lahorghat existed. Lohanas were the protectors of Lahorghat and therefore named Lahoranas which slowly turned into Lohanas and which is why Lohanas look distinctively different from the other Gujaratis. To begin with they are fairer skinned; the men have more hair on their body and are broad shouldered. Their speech is more aggressive reflecting the warrior blood and the most important, the community is the biggest carriers of a blood disorder called Thelesimia which no other Gujarati community has any trace of and there is story behind it.

According to the legend Alexander the Great also known as Sikender was invading and conquering the world but by the time he reached the Indian shores he died in the process and many of his soldiers never returned to Greece and settled in the northern region. There must have been interactions between Lohanas and the Greeks which is probably the reason why Greeks are even bigger carriers of Thelesimia and Lohanas picked up this strain from them. This may also be the reason why the physical features of many Lohanas resemble the Greeks! The other Gujaratis do not have this blood disorder.

Old residents of Multan region of Pakistan reveal that there  re many who remember being Lohanas earlier but are now converted to Muslims given that Pakistan is a Islamic state and it would be isolating to live there as a Lohana Hindu community.  In the same way the Ismailis/ khojas are converts from Lohanas which is why there is a striking similarity in the customs and ceremonies of the two communities including their surnames like Somani, Lakhani etc amongst Ismailis.

There is a possible theory that a number of Hindu Punjabis were Raghuvanshis earlier and hold surnames like Sachdeva and Thakral similar to Lohana surnames. It is believed that some of the Rahuvanshi settled in the present day Punjab instead of Multan, in fact story has it Guru Nanak Singh was a Lohana and his original surname was Chandarana. He started a new Sikh army by calling for the eldest son of every family to join him in the fight against insurgencies from the Muslims. 

After the Indian partition, many Lohanas moved to nearby Saurastra and Kutch regions of today’s Gujarat and India and since then considered to be a nomadic community. After settling in Saurastra in the 18th century, many travelled by sea and settled in East Africa and South Africa, this was in late 1800s and early 1900s. A lot of them settled in Africa moved to UK, US, Europe and Australia and some young Lohanas from Gujarat and Europe to Africa. 

Some of the notable Lohanas in the past include Saint Jalaram Bapa who was a Thakker, Guru Nanak who was a Chandarana, Yogi Maharaj, the founder of Swaminaryen movement, Mohamed Ali Zina, the first president of Pakistan, who belonged to a Thaker family in Gondal but converted. Then Nanji Kalidas Mehta, one of the great business entrepreneurs and philanthropists, Muljibhai Madhavani, a highly successful business entrepreneur and founder of the Madhvani Group in Uganda. Of course the most famous royalty amongst Lohanas was Dada Jasraj. Many Lohanas still revere him during their religious ceremonies.

The modern day Lohanas are made up of success stories but lack the community spirit visible among other communities like the Patels. The Lohanas are moving in to high levels of professionals, politics are seriously involved in philanthropy but not in helping their own community.

Waiting to hear from you Subhash Thakrar and Hasu Maanek…

@bhawanasomaaya

Movie Review: Love Aaj Kal (Day 1747)

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Film: Love Aaaj Kal

Release: 14.02.2020

Writer/ Director: Imtiaz Ali

Music: Pritam

Cast: Kartik Aryan, Sara Ali Khan, Randeep Hooda, Arushi Sharma

Director Ram Gopal Verma once told me that he reworked on his old subjects till he had conquered all the flaws which explains why he made so many films on the underworld. Filmmaker Imtiaz Ali probably weaves complicated love stories because he is forever in the process of decoding love.

In 2009 Ali served us a difficult watch called Love Aaj Kal where Jay/ Saif Ali Khan and Meera/ Deepika Padukone part ways and celebrate their breakup with a big bash inviting all their friends.

Now eleven years later, Ali brings another film with the same title and almost similar story where a software engineer Veer/ Kartik Aryan is madly attracted to a struggling event manager/ Sara Ali Khan and cannot stay away from her.

In 2009 Saif Ali Khan played a double role as Jay and as Veer/ Rishi Kapoor’s youth and in 2020 Kartik Aryan plays Veer and Raghu/ Randeep Hooda’s youth. Then, Jay was young and restless and Meera, more mature and composed, this time Veer is self-assured and Zoie is high strung.

It is not just the character names and personality traits that are confusing, the major problem is the complicated screenplay. There are parallel tracks of past and present intercutting scenes with frequent flashbacks and flashforwards which is not just distracting but also annoying. It is unfortunate because Imtiaz Ali is a champion of relationships and all his films (Rockstar or Tamasha) are a reflection of the complex, fragile, insecure characters and the nervous energy they bring to the scenes. His stories are about hope and despair, expectations, disillusionment and desolation.

Ali loves cafeterias, his love scenes and songs are usually around the cafes/ Tamasha, loves strangers becoming beloveds/ Jab We Met, thrives on incomplete communication/ Highway. He loves the mountains, the snow, soulful music and it is all there in Arijit’s voice and Pritam’s composition but you don’t connect to the film, cannot understand what is the issue.

Sometimes, when there is too much to tell you are unable to tell anything and probably that’s what has happened to Imtiaz Ali.

All the actors do their best, Arushi shines as a newcomer, Sara is a natural and Kartik emerges as a dependable actor.

I rate Love Aaj Kal with 2.5 stars.

Bhawana Somaaya