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Take 13: Once Upon A Time in India – A century of Indian cinema

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If you are a Hindi-movie buff, karva chauth immediately brings to mind DDLJ, and Easter probably reminds you of Anthony Gonsalves. The book is a celebration of Indian cinema and contains its century-long history in a fun capsule, and includes fascinating facts and milestones. Once Upon a Time in India is conceived as a companion for the year 2017 with its attractive diary pages featuring iconic dialogues and fun trivia…Like the timelessness of Indian cinema, the fifty-three full-page original illustrations in Bollywood poster art style—depicting some of the most memorable scenes from your favorite films— make this a volume to treasure even when the year is over.

The book is for the younger generation to quickly update on the history of Indian cinema.

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Ok Jaanu: 50 Shades of Love – Day 1012

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Director: Shaad Ali

Music: AR Rahman

Lyrics/Dialogue:  Gulzar

Cast: Aditya Roy Kapur, Shraddha Kapoor, Naseeruddin Shah

Stars: 3***

Director Shaad Ali has assisted Mani Ratnam for many years now and remade his Tamil hit as Saathiyaan. Shaad absorbs Mani Ratnam’s sensibility and lends it his own madness which was apparent in Saathiyaan and now even more strongly in Ok Jaanu.

On the surface OK Jaanu is a frothy romance but beneath the cheer and the banter, the recklessness and the madness, is a serious issue that the lovers need to confront.

Unlike other romances on screen which usually blossom in scenic gardens or in the Alps, Adi and Tara glance at each other for the first time at Mumbai Railway Station but before they can blink they are lost in the crowd. They meet again at a friend’s church wedding and exchange numbers. A few days later, they meet again for a coffee date and we all know that a lot happens over coffee, so Tara moves into Adi’s room.

Both are professionals and have a career plan. Tara is an architect and has to leave for Paris and Adi is a game designer scheduled to leave for the apple city to become a millionaire. They are committed to each other but not for marriage.

While it is true that there is nothing new about romance it is also true that Mani Ratnam films have always portrayed a  new shade of love so if Roja was about patriotism, Bombay about religion, Dil Se about terrorism, Yuva about awareness and Saathiyaan about commitment, OK Jaanu confronts the young generation to choose between love and career.

It is not what you express in love; it is how you express that makes the love story palatable and Mani Ratnam’s O Kadhal Kanmani and Shaad Ali’s Ok Jaanu travels you to common spaces like markets, temples, offices and cafeterias via public transport- sometimes buses, trains and taxis which is interesting.

The minus: is the romance becomes repetitive after a point and there are no surprises in the second half.

The plus: is Gulzar’s refreshing dialogues, AR Rahman’s music, Naseeruddin Shah- Leela Samson pairing and Aditya -Shraddha Kapoor chemistry.

There are 50 shades of love and Ok Jaanu is one of them, it is sensitive, realistic and relevant. If you are  in love and unable to resolve your conflict between marriage and career, this film is for you.

 

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Film Heritage Foundation – Day 1011

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As 2016 draws to a close, Film Heritage Foundation (FHF) looks back with satisfaction at a year of growth and accomplishment, building on our efforts and initiatives to save our cinematic heritage. But the year has been tinged with sadness with the passing away of our mentor P.K. Nair, the custodian of India’s film heritage, on March 4, 2016. He will be sorely missed.

Film Preservation & Restoration Workshop India 2016 (FPRWI 2016)

FPRWI 2016 grew out of the success of the first ever Film Preservation & Restoration School India that FHF conducted in Mumbai in 2015. FPRWI 2016 was a 10-day workshop from February 26 – March 6, 2016 that we conducted in partnership with the National Film Archive of India (NFAI) and the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF) in association with George Eastman Museum, L’Immagine Ritrovata and The Film Foundation’s World Cinema Project. The course was certified by FIAF.

This time we were more ambitious. We took the workshop to the NFAI in Pune – the only major film archive in the country. The workshop was longer, more advanced and intensive with a wider scope that covered the preservation of both filmic and non-filmic material with a greater focus on hands-on training.

The goal of the programme was not only to support the government by improving the infrastructure of the NFAI and the skills of their personnel by giving them access to world-class trainers, but also to continue our commitment to building an indigenous resource of archivists and restorers. Clearly our efforts have borne fruit as the NFAI has started on the National Film Heritage Mission with a clear idea of international best practices with inputs from world experts in the field and the awareness of the need to ameliorate their skills and knowledge to complete the mammoth task.

We were fortunate to have a superb faculty that included David Walsh, Head of the FIAF Technical Commission, Paolo Cherchi Usai, Senior Curator of the George Eastman Museum along with a team of personnel from the L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation, Thelma Ross, Head of FIAF’s Cataloguing and Documentation, Davide Pozzi, Director of L’Immagine Ritrovata and his team.

Eminent actor Naseeruddin Shah was the Chief Guest at the opening ceremony and presented FHF’s Award for Outstanding Achievement in Film Preservation and Archiving to Paolo Cherchi Usai and David Walsh. We were fortunate to have legendary thespian Kamal Hassan as the Chief Guest at the closing ceremony and presentation of the FIAF certificates to the participants.

This edition of the workshop had 61 participants from India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. FHF is proud to declare that we have now introduced over 100 individuals to the world of film preservation in a span of just two years. FHF at its first FIAF Congress in Bologna FHF was delighted to participate in its first FIAF Congress in Bologna in June 2016. It was a great learning experience to hear about the challenges and new approaches to film preservation and restoration and to interact and exchange views with fellow archivists from the world over. FHF was invited to participate on a panel titled “Challenges Worldwide: New Projects” along with representatives from archives from Egypt, Africa, Philippines and China where we could share the challenges that we faced as the only private not-for-profit film archive in a country where film preservation has been sorely neglected.

 

Do You Speak Cinema?

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FHF has developed a unique programme of workshops called “Do You Speak Cinema?” aimed at immersing children in the magic of cinema, transforming the experience from mere passive viewing to actively engaging with this art form and teaching them the language of the visual image.

This project created a buzz right away. We kicked off this initiative with a one-hour module with 4-year-olds in the pre-primary class at the Cathedral & John Connon School in Mumbai. Children were introduced to hand-tinted films, early animation and Chaplin. Over a century later, it was clear that the magic of Chaplin remains undiminished.

In May, FHF conducted a two-day workshop for children from the ages of 8-12 at the CSMVS Museum as part of their children’s summer programme. The children were taught about the pioneers of early cinema from Muybridge to Georges Méliès and were shown Lumière films on a 16 mm projector.

In December, FHF was invited to conduct the Do You Speak Cinema workshop at the India International Centre, Delhi on December 17 and 18, 2016. This workshop had a wider age group of children who were shown different formats of celluloid, asked to draw a scene in five frames and taught why we need to preserve films. FHF has already received several queries from across the country to conduct the workshops at film festivals, schools and cultural institutions.

Filmic and Non-filmic Additions to the FHF Archive

It’s been a great year in terms of new additions to our filmic and non-filmic archive. FHF was fortunate to receive all P.K. Nair’s books, film catalogues, correspondence, writings and his famous film diaries from his family.

Our first deposit of the year was the non-filmic material of JBH Wadia, pioneering filmmaker and producer and co-founder of the historic Wadia Movietone. The collection, deposited by his daughter-in-law Nargis Wadia and grandson Roy Wadia is a treasure trove that includes his personal diaries and correspondence, lobby cards, scripts, glass negatives, song booklets, posters, etc. right from the days of the silent era. The Wadias have also deposited the archive of Riyad Wadia, independent filmmaker and the grandson of JBH Wadia with FHF that includes films, photographs, screenplays.

We would also like to thank the Sikand family for donating the personal effects, trophies, paintings and documentation of the award-winning iconic actor of the Hindi film industry, Pran, the “Gentleman Villain” to our archive. negatives, books and Shilpi Bose, daughter of well-known actor Tarun Bose, has generously donated a wonderful collection of her father’s personal effects and film memorabilia that include photographs from his film and theatre days, his costume from the 1969 film “Satyakam”, his Cine Association Card and the original telegram from Bimal Roy Productions to the actor offering him his first acting job.

We were delighted to receive from Kundan Shah, director of the cult film “Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron” (1983), film scripts with notes, photographs, clapboards, film publicity material as well as U-matic tapes and VHS tapes of his classic television series “Nukkad”.

Our film collection has also seen some very valuable additions. The last donation was received from a Mrs. Nirmala Karayi, whose late husband was Wing Commander P.K. Karayi of the Indian Air Force. The Wing Commander served as the Equerry-in-Waiting to Queen Elizabeth and accompanied the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh on their Royal Tour of India in 1961.Warner Bros. had filmed the Royal Tour and Mrs. Karayi has presented two 16 mm reels of this film to FHF for safekeeping.

Our other notable 35 mm film deposits include Govind Nihalani’s acclaimed films “Drishti”, “Deham” and Drohkaal”; Vishal Bhardwaj’s landmark films “Maqbool” and “Omkara” amongst others; Onir’s film “I Am”; Chitra Palekar’s film “Maati Maay” and Amol Palekar’s Marathi film “Aakriet”. We discovered that the original camera negative of “Drishti” was in a very poor condition and have placed it in a dehydration jar as the first step towards its conservation.

Future Plans

FHF will be publishing a book on the writings of P.K. Nair titled “Yesterday’s Films For Tomorrow” that we aim to release at a function on his birth anniversary on April 6, 2017.

We will be conducting the next edition of the Film Preservation and Restoration workshop India in September 2017 in association with FIAF and other partners. This time we will take the workshop to South India – home to the Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam film industries that are responsible for over 50% of the films produced in India.

We have moved forward with our vision of building a world-class film centre in India. Our architects have drawn up the plans and we will soon launch a fund- raising campaign to make this vision a reality. FHF renews its commitment to saving India’s precious film legacy and requests your support and patronage in the year ahead.

The Master & The Maestro – Day 1010

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So what can master blaster Sachin Tendulkar and Tabla maestro Ustad Zakir Hussain have in common? Well, brilliance is the only answer and of course respect for each other is mutual.

The geniuses came together for the first time to be in conversation on cricket, music, passion and life and it had to be in Mumbai’s largest auditorium the Shanmukhhanand Hall. If the photographs are anything to go by you can imagine how inspiring the evening was in reality.

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Magical Makrand – Day 1009

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Maverick Makarand Deshpande is yet again blurring the definitions of art collaborations. His latest project – Patni will deliver a monologue with situational music lent by Niladri Kumar. Deshpande describes the play as a celebration of love and the crisis of letting go. He says, “When I wrote the concept of my new play, I could only think of one name for music, Niladri and I’m fortunate that for me he is always just a phone call away. Niladri adds that while many creative artists make magic on the big screen Makarand was a maverick on stage.

It is interesting how Makarand is using the platform to perhaps complete his own karmic cycles. His another hugely successful play Mother In Transit is a tribute to his mother.

Both plays can be watched this week at Prithvi Theatre

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Bhawana Somaaya at Junoon by Mumbai local

Memories of Mumbai Local – Day 1008

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On Sunday I had a talk session organized by Junoon Theatre and it was my first experience of addressing an audience at the Dr Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum. I shared insights into the life and work of a film critic and author and the impact and the influences of people I met during my career.

Excerpts of the conversation:

My career has been a series of unplanned victories. As the youngest in the family, I had no ambitions of a career leave aside becoming a working woman. I didn’t want to do a job because it would entail making mistakes and getting fired and I didn’t want to be in any uncomfortable situation. But destiny has its own plans and one day, while my parents were traveling abroad I read an ad in the paper inviting college students with a flair for writing, I went for the interview, one thing led to another and rest is history.

I was unsure at every turning point but took the plunge and embraced the challenge. When I was offered editorship way back in 1985 I felt I was inadequate for the post and discussed it with my mother. She said take the challenge, if you deliver you have a career, if you don’t they will sack you and by the time they do this, you will have some bank balance.

From reporter to editor to columnist to author to critic has been a long and fascinating journey, a journey that has enriched and evolved me. The books I wrote have evolved me as a writer and a person. Writing is a lonely process but also fulfilling. My books are like my children and it is difficult for me to choose my favorite. Parents never have a favorite child so how can an author have a favorite book? Yes, there are special memories and that is acceptable but more about this in a separate blog soon…

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