Monthly Archives

October 2021

Trauma, guilt and healing – Day 2082

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Distance sometime changes perspective, when you look back would you say Morning Raga was a film about guilt? Dattani reflects for a moment and replies, “I would say it was about trauma, something untoward happened in Swaralatha’s life and after that nothing was the same. She was unable to connect with her loved ones, herself and her music. Shabana absorbed Swaralatha to an extent that she owned her and her music. It is remarkable how she did that. She suffered during the process and all of us sensed her anxiety and her nervousness to get her music right…”

What is the best thing about Shabana as an actor I ask. “Azmi lent an intensity to her character that was admirable and more important, she mastered the swarams like a professional singer. She is a consummate actor with the discipline of both, theatre and cinema and uses it to her advantage.  When she was shooting the singing scenes, she was anxious all day but, in the end, it was all more than worth it ”.  Today, majority of the content on the OTT platform is in English, but a decade ago to make a film  about a village in English was unheard of. Do you feel the film came a little before time? Dattani shakes his head, “It happened at the right time, it was unique because it was in English. Hindi is not my language and Telugu was never in consideration. I chose Andhra Pradesh because my characters belong to that village. Films are made out of conviction and Shankarabharnam proved many years ago that music connects souls. Morning Raga will connect with the audience in every decade and every platform”.


Traditional singers and Carnatic Alaaps – Day 2081

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“We were recording the background music of Mango Souffle and felt we needed Carnatic alaaps as interlude” continued Dattani. “We invited a traditional singer for a recording to our studio and it was while watching her interact with our jazz musician that an idea crossed my mind. I wondered how it would be to have an old-world singer jam with a modern artiste. That at is how Morning Raga was conceived. I first sounded the idea to my friend and musician Prakash Kovelamudi, my hero in the film. Prakash was excited and took me to meet his dad, Raghavendra Rao, big time filmmaker in Telugu cinema. When Raghvendra Rao sir also approved of the idea, I knew I was on the right track so I confirmed Rajiv Menonmy absolute favourite as my DOP and went to Andhra Pradesh for a recce”.

A  young mumbai director attracted to Carnatic music and  wanting to shoot in Andhra Pradesh,  don’t you think it sounds a bit odd I ask Dattani? “Well, I’m originally from Gujarat, but my heart belongs to South. I am a Bangalore boy in my mind and this reflects in  everything I create. I have studied Bharata Natyam for six years and have been connected with Carnatic music through my dance gurus.  Morning Raga is my first film and it refects my interest. I  was super excited about the subject but very clear that I will only make the film if Shabana Azmi agrees to play the protagonist and when she agreed, I was relieved.” What made you choose her considering she is not a trained singer? “Swaralatha is more than her voice, there is a lot is happening to the character. Yes, she is not a trained singer but Azmi is our greatest living actor and I was confident she could live up to any challenges” concludes Dattani.

to be continued

Music, Morning Raga and more – Day 2080

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Cinema changes every decade, so does technology and when we move from one to the other, suddenly, the old appears outdated. When colour came into movies, there were no takers for Black and White films and when the trend of big budget, multi-star films began in the 70s there were suddenly no takers for single star projects. This happened with the single screens as well when the multi cinemas mushroomed in the city.  Hyderabad Blues would not have been a hit had it not been for the multi-screen concept and Vinay Shuklas’s Godmother would have received rave reviews had the film released after the multi screens came about.

Today, all kinds of subjects are released on the OTT platforms. We are living in adventurous times when every aspect of entertainment is being explored and indulged. Often, I watch old films on television and feel that they should be re-released on the OTT platform only to get a refreshing perspective One such niche film that comes to my mind was released around this time in the year 2004. Written and directed by Sahtya Akademi awardee playwright Mahesh Dattani, revered for his powerful plays Mango Souffle and Dance Like a Man. Morning Raga featuring Shabana Azmi and Perizad Zorabian was a story about music, traditional and modern and also about friends and trauma. I had interviewed Dattani and asked him if the story was based on a true incident and he shared that the idea came to him when he was composing the music of Mango Souffle.

To be continued

Gearing up for Gangubai – Day 2079

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Bhansali recalls that when he was older and went to watch movies, he was fascinated with the projector fascinated and the beam of light falling on the big screen, “I wondered how it happened and told myself that one day, I will tell my story too. I shot nine films and a few songs, created music for my movies and have enjoyed the process. This year is special because a film I enthusiastically look forward to Gangubai Kathiawadi makes it to the cinema halls and there is more…

Netflix will showcase the ambitious Heeramandi a subject close to my heart. My friend Moin Baig presented the story to me 14 years ago but I had to wait because it had to be presented on a grand scale. Then OTT happened and I knew that the time had come and Netflix is the perfect platform for the extravaganza. Stories are forever wandering in my head and I never know which one I will pick to make my next film. Twenty-five years have gone by and years have gone by and more decades will pass, but my love for cinema can never diminish. I always say you don’t need money to make films, you need passion.”


Bhansali celebrates jubilee – Day 2078

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This is a special year for Sanjay Leela Bhansali who completes 25 years in cinema. Bhansali recalls that he was four- years-old when he visited a film shooting for the first time with his father. “My father had to meet some friends and seated me on a chair from where I could watch the shooting. He said he would come and collect me, so I sat there, watching people, camera, props move from one place to another and I was fascinated.

When father finished his work and came to fetch me, I did not want to go home. I wanted to be inside the studio forever, it was more exciting than going to school, being with my friends and cousins. It was only when I turned much older, did I understand that they were shooting a cabaret dance on that day. It was all so colourful, so enchanting that I was captivated in the world of the dancer and knew all the steps because it was so many times.”

To be continued

Yash Raj and festival time – Day 2077

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Somehow, the only South director Hindi cinema is attracted to is Mani Rathnam and when news came around that Aishwarya Rai was shooting with Ratnam again, they were all the more curious. Ratnam’s next is based on Tamil celebrated book Ponniyin Selvan portraying the Chola dynasty and Sobhita Dhulipala of Made in Heaven fame, a trained classical dancer, plays the pivotal role of a princess who is a master of Kuchipudi and Bharatnatyam. The film is a multi-lingual project and also features Vikram, Aishwarya Rai and others.

The coming months are promising for Yash Raj Films because Bunty Aur Babli is due for a Diwali release while Prithviraj starring Akshay Kumar as the king and directed by Dr Chandraprakash Dwivedi a new year opening and Ranbir Kapoor’s Shamshera directed by Karan Malhotra is scheduled for March 2022.

Autobiographies and bubble shoots – Day 2076

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To those who allege that show business is changing rapidly, I will respond that opportunities are too many. What was not okay just a few years ago, is perfectly fine now. When Masaba told her story with mother Neena Gupta, many were horrified. Then came the Bollywood Wives and now suddenly everyone is telling their stories. Legendary tennis players Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhuppathi have shared their conflicts in Breakpoint and allegedly Salman Khan and Prabhu Deva are next in the line. 

There is so much content to absorb on the small screen that it is a refreshing to read about projects coming on big screen. Rani Mukerji after shooting for a month in a bubble has just wrapped up Mrs Chatterjee Vs Norway, story of a mother who fights a nation for the sake of her child. Interestingly, South star-director Revathy has roped in Kajol also for the story of a mother titled The Last Hurray.

Movie Review: Sardar Udham – Day 2075

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Film: Sardar Udham

Date: 15.10.2021

Sardar Udham is well intended but unusually slow

by Bhawana Somaaya

Shoojit Sircar directed Sardar Udham is the story of revolutionary freedom fighter who shot General Michael O Dwyer in the presence of all at Caxton Hall, London. Dwer was the man to give fire orders in Amritsar’s Jallianwala Baugh that killed 20,000 Indians. When the massacre occurred in1919 Udham Singh was only 20 years old and it became a life transforming event in his life.

The film touches upon all those landmark years: 1913 -1929 -1921 -1927- 1931 -1933 and 1940 and we travel all these cities, Punjab-Rawalpindi-Scotland-USSR-Lahore where Udham walked the streets, markets, spent happy times in the field, stable, picked by police stations, at times hiding in dingy lodges haunted by recurrent nightmares and the pall of gloom during his long imprisonment.

The camera exposes you to all his demons, not an easy film to shoot because it is tough to compress so much information within just two hours. The research is detailed, authentic and excels in sound, cinematography, locations, language. The problem is the pace. All the sequences are long, Udham’s investigation unending and frequent flashbacks-flash-forwards annoying.  

The Jallianwala Baugh massacre is superbly shot, but again never ending. Nobody expects entertainment from a patriotic film but some humour, light moments could have changed the narrative. Vicky Kaushal plays Udham with quiet confidence and repressed anger but the character is devoid of   shades. Watching the film, I kept wondering how Irrfan Khan would have portrayed the role.

It is not easy making a film like this, not easy revisiting wounds. It is 100 years since the massacre but India is yet to receive an official apology from the British. The bigger tragedy however is that the revolutionary who sacrificed his life for the nation has been forgotten.

Thank you, director Shoojit Sircar, for reconnecting us to our hero Sardar Udham. Jai Hind.