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Sonata – Female Bonding (Day 1059)

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Sonata is the psychological exploration of three unmarried women facing a mid-life crisis Aruna Chaturvedi, a banker Dolon Sen, a professor and Subhadra Parekh, a journalist. It is a film about these three friends, their bonding and their gaze in a male dominated society
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Director of the film Aparna Sen says, “I have attempted to explore the various aspects of being feminine and to make the story relevant I introduced two characters (a maid, thereby cutting across class borders, and a transgender woman) apart from the single women protagonists. This was a major decision because these characters don’t exist in the original play.”

That is not the only change Sen has incorporated in the film, she has changed the climax to include a tragedy culminating in an event of global magnitude, confronted with which there is a shift in the personal anxieties and their everyday joys and sorrows pale into insignificance, but also strengthens the bond of friendship.

A HK Studios Film Sonata 103 minute film is based on Mahesh Elkunchwar’s play by the same name. Adapted and directed by Aparna Sen and starring three remarkable actresses Aparna Sen, Shabana Azmi and Lilette Dubey, the music is rendered by Neel Dutt.

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Durgeshwari Alias Baisaab (Day 1058)

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ZEE Theatre, a special offering from the stable of the leading global content company ZEE Entertainment Enterprises Ltd launched Agnipankh in Mumbai.

Directed by acclaimed actor Ganesh Yadav, the play features Mita Vashisht playing the lead role of Durgeshwari along with Satyajit Sharma, Gulki Joshi, Prasad Jawade, Raksha Shetty, Somesh Agarwal, Dinkar Gawande and Sumukha. Premiered on Saturday, March 25 at Bal Gandharva Rang Mandir, Bandra Road Agnipankh is a historical drama set in a newly independent India with the winds of change sweeping across the country.

27.3.17 iiDurgeshwari or Baisaab as she is reverently called by all is a wealthy Brahmin taking over from her husband’s inability of looking after the family heritage. She rules with an iron fist and instills fear in all. Her disdain for the lower castes and her zest for power fail her in her responsibilities as a mother, wife and more importantly, the changing times.

It is only when the father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi is assassinated by a Nathuram Godse that Durgeshwari accepts that her time to play Baisab is over. It is a role of a lifetime and Mita Vashisht says she is delighted to be chosen for Agnipankh because her role as Durgeshwari, shows not only the struggle of a woman with societal obligations, but also portrays her struggle with the family.

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Movie Review: Swara Bhaskar shines as Anarkali Of Arrah

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Cast: Swara Bhaskar, Pankaj Tripathi, Sanjay Mishra
Director: Avinash Das

For a film that was long stuck in its battle with the Central Board of Film Certification, it is credible that Anarkali Of Arrah has made it to the theatres in almost the same avatar as it was made.

This is a story of a small town in Bihar where Anarkali /SwaraBhaskar is an orchestra singer, celebrated for her double meaning songs and provocative dance performances.

Dharmendra Chauhan /Sanjay Mishra is the Vice Chancellor of a prestigious university and one of the many admirers of Anarkali.

On Ram Navmi celebrations, Dharmendra molests Anaarkali in an inebriated state during a show and Anarkali is forced to put him in his place.

The incident predictably takes an ugly turn and Anarkali has to leave town in order to save her life.  She stays and works briefly in Delhi but there is no peace and decides to return home and settle scores with her oppressors.

I have to warn that the double meaning lyrics and the vulgar choreography in the first half is discomforting but necessary to establish the story.

What works in favor of the film is the controversial subject and the bold message. Shot in real locations, Anarkali Of Arrah is energetic and melodious, superbly cast and excellently performed, particularly by Sanjay Mishra.

Swara Bhaskar is the heart beat of the film, she sings, dances, fights and wins your heart. Full-throated and uninhibited, Swara lives Anarkali and makes sure you never forget her.

Anarkali of Arah is powerful, passionate and unsettling, it comments on the socio- political conditions of Bihar and also on the changing India.

In Queen we saw Kangana Ranaut finding her own path… In Pink the three girls collectively told us that ‘No means no’… and now in Anarkali of Arha underlines that not  ‘Don’t touch without permission’.

I rate Anarkali Of Arrah with 4 stars.

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Movie Review: Phillauri Redefines Ghost in Hinfdi Films

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Film Review: Phillauri

Date: 24 March 2017

Producer: Fox Star Studio, Clean Slate Films

Director: Anshai Lal

Cast: Anushka Sharma, Diljit Dosanjh

Rating: 3 stars

Everyone in Chandigarh is waiting for the groom/Suraj Sharma to return from Canada to begin celebrations but the groom is clearly distracted, says he is not ready for the responsibility of marriage.

Nobody pays any heed to him because there are more serious issues to be addressed like performing a puja as a solution of him being a manglik and so is coerced into marrying a tree in order to live happily ever after.

But there is a problem, a friendly ghost residing on the ancient tree becomes homeless after the tree is axed, a part of the worship ceremony and follows her groom to his home.

Anshai Lal directed Phillauri is a story of two centuries intricately woven together with poetry, music and shades of love. This is not a regular ghost story and is vastly different from any spirit film you have watched on Hollywood or Indian screen so far.

Anushka Sharma is far from the sad and lonely Hindi film ghost who walks into the night holding a candle or sings songs sitting on a swing and mysteriously disappears when the hero wanders into the frame.

What works about the film is the intricate screen play, writer Anvita Dutt details the contrasting centuries with adequate textures and appealing characters. Both love stories Anushka – Diljit and Suraj – Mehreen travel beyond the regular terrain and draw surprises.

Painstakingly designed Phillauri has refreshing music and a haunting background score.

The minus is that the film is unusually stretched post interval, some sequences like the wedding preparations are unnecessarily repetitive and the climax freezes for longer than necessary.

There are other serious issues as well. To talk about horoscope and marriage with a tree in present times is regressive. Also, a thought crosses your mind, how come Phillauri does not come in search of Shashi all these years? Why does he wait for Shashi to find him?

Understandably it is not a film to look for logic, so leave your mind at home and watch Phillauri with your heart and applaud actor-producer Anushka Sharma, who not just plays a  refreshing spirit but changes the image of ghost in Hindi cinema.

I rate Phillauri with 3 stars.

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Dance Like A Queen (Day 1057)

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Kumudini Lakhia is the visionary who created Kadamb School of Dance and Music in 1967 with the sole purpose of promoting the appreciation of Kathak Dance in Ahmedabad and in the state of Gujarat.

Now over 35 years old the school has the reputation of an institution that imparts training in Kathak dance and offers a holistic view of dance education. Kumudini has often said in her interviews that when she is on stage she feels like a queen and this is a lesson she has imparted to all her students that on stage feel like a princess.

Often described as the Queen of Kathak, her dance academy has produced over 70 dance productions which have been staged all over India. Kumudin Lakhia is unique because of  her extra-ordinary style comprising creative innovations and refreshing dimensions to the traditional technique that leaves the audience mesmerized.

Today she is 87 and not performing but her school and her productions are still going house full.

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Once Upon A Time In India Again (Day 1056)

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‘Considering this is your 13th book you have been extraordinarily lucky’, said a friend of mine. ‘Look at the number of book launches you have had in the last three months’. She was right.

Beginning with the TV Asia launch in New Jersey followed by Mumbai launch at the hands of Amitabh Bachchan, I have had the fortune of releasing Once Upon A Time in India in Delhi a two prestigious events, The first at an academy IIMC amidst students and later at the popular Rekhta Festival in the capital where Sharmila Tagore did the honors.

23.3.17 iiLast week I was fortunate to be invited and felicitated by Gramophone Club in Ahmedabad and my book released at the hands of  Kathak exponent and legendary dancer/ choreographer/ director Kumudini Lakhia.

The interesting about a book like Once Upon A Time in India is that because it captures the history of Indian cinema, every state and region feels a connect with the music and the milestones. That is the magic of memories!

And my role as an author is to revive old images like the bioscope we watched in childhood, to create illusions and in the process tell a timeless story that everybody knows and wants to hear/ read it again and again.

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