Monthly Archives

September 2018

Movie Review: Manto (Day 1452)

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Film: Manto

Date: 21.09.2018

Writer-Director: Nandita Das

Cast:  Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Tahir Raj Bhasin, Rasika Dugal

Background Score: Zakir Hussain

Editor: Sreekar Prasad


We have watched many biographies and many films on the partition but what makes writer-director Nandita Das’s biopic on Manto special is that it’s a biopic on a writer and that the film focuses on the most tumultuous four years in the writer’s life and that of the two countries he inhabits – India and Pakistan.

Manto is a widely read short story writer in Bombay who pens scripts for movies and disrupts shooting if changes are made in his script without approval. He also writes columns for newspapers and disconnects with editors who ask him to tone down his columns or negotiate on his fees.

He refuses to be a part of the Progressive Writers Association but relishes the company of other radical writers like Ismat Chugtai over endless cigarettes and whiskey pegs discussing burning issues.

Superstar of silent cinema Shyam dotes on the writer but as violence engulfs the nation there is a crack in their friendship and Manto makes the difficult decision to shift to Lahore, Pakistan but his heart aches for his friends and as time goes by, he is unable to find takers for his controversial writings.

His addiction to alcohol leads him to disaster but the great thinker even in abject poverty will not compromise on his writing.

Manto is lovingly cast and that stalwarts like Vinod Nagpal, Javed Akhtar, Rishi Kapoor and Paresh Rawal appear for a single scene speaks of their faith in the filmmaker.

Diligently researched and delicately designed the film travels you across two countries and many heartbreaks, gives you insights into Manto’s personal and professional relationships, his anger, empathy, pride, and pain.

From fiction to reality and back to the characters that consume Manto’s imagination Nandita Das weaves a seamless narrative of stories within stories skillfully conceived by an extraordinary man who in the worst calamities remained unbroken in spirit!

There are innumerable images that haunt you long after the film is over…The handwritten papers signed with Parker pen and sometimes pencil, the empty trains, desolate platforms of vintage India, the old media offices and the crowded bars filled with smoke and agitated conversations.

Innumerable moments that bring a lump to your throat…. When Manto shares that he would like to remain indebted to Bombay, when Shyam arrives in Pakistan and when Safia finally breaks down pushing the swing for her daughters.

Nawazuddin Siddiqui lives Manto with alarming honesty and Safia/Rasika Dugal and Shyam/ Tahir Raj Bhasin are the perfect foil for the volatile maverick.

Nandita excels in portraying the predictable as special so freedom by midnight is fireworks in the sky watched from Manto’s bedroom window and poetry/songs stumble quietly into the frame when Manto’s mind brims over with memories.

The only minus is the pace and the mood because even though there are flashes of the family man, the writer’s life is clearly devoid of color or cheer and after a point, the melancholy overwhelms you and perhaps that’s the intention of the filmmaker.

The first and the last scene stay with you for a long, long time…

Sensitive and achingly sincere Nandita Das at no point underestimate her audience and communicates with Manto devotees on a level she finds herself.

I rate the full of intrigue Manto with 3.5 stars.

Bhawana Somaaya/ @bhawanasomaaya



Evening Shadows (Day 1450)

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Today is Shaban Azmi’s birthday and the actor has stuck her neck out to support a film that brought tears to her eyes.  Evening Shadows was the opening film at the Lonavala International Film Festival 2018 held at Triose Plaza attracted a houseful audience comprising media, students and general public.

Post the screening a visibly emotional Shabana revealed that watching the film has made her into a better human being and she feels that the film should be presented as a family drama so that everybody watches it. “I hope that a big studio will embrace this film because it has all the potential of becoming a successful release at the box office”.

Azmi starred in the controversial Fire directed by Deepa Mehta, says that Evening Shadows is presented with sensitivity, honesty, and tenderness.

Director Sridhar Rangayan is over joyed that his film has made an impact on the actor and is all geared up for the film’s theatrical screening on Sept 13th at Cinestudio Theater in Connecticut, USA. “This is a first step in distribution for the film and we hope there will be many more successes”.

Before USA the team stops at Hong Kong for the film’s premiere at the Hong Kong Gay & Lesbian Film. The film has already won 3 awards and has been an Official Selection at 35 international film festivals.

The film is also scheduled to premiere at Chicago South Asian Film Festival supported by the local South Asian LGBTQ group Trikone.


Ganesha makes no discriminations (Day 1449)

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In Mukul Anand’s Agneepath/1990, the underworld don hails from a small village called Mandva and it’s been a family tradition to bring the idol home. The film featured Amitabh Bachchan in a dramatic climax where he is stabbed by his enemies amidst excited crowds bidding farewell to the deity at the seashore.

In Satya 1998, the hero is exposed amidst the festival, dragged on a noisy street dramatically shot by Ram Gopal Varma.

The ten-day celebration exudes boundless energy. In cinema, it has portrayed myriad moods – pathos, triumph, drama and in some instances, courage. In Dil toh Pagal Hai /1997 Aroona Irani gifts identical silver idols to Shah Rukh Khan and Madhuri Dixit who are unable to express love for each other.

In My Friend Ganesha a little child bonds with the deity and keeps him a secret from his parents. In the remake of Don Shah Rukh Khan dances a robust number on the streets and in the new Agneepath Hrithik Roshan and Priyanka Chopra dance and dabble in color to celebrate the elephant lord.

In Bajirao Mastani it is an occasion for Peshvibai Priyanka to invite Mastani to join the celebrations and since it is a Sanjay Leela Bhansali film it is also an opportunity for the two women to dance in navvari.

Mumbai will be going crazy for the next ten days and after that, it will be time for the Goddess to come home.


Ganesha fulfils wishes (Day 1448)

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In Takkar, the villains hide the temple treasures inside the idol and hopes to escape with the loot, but the trio heroes – Jeetendra, Sanjeev Kumar and Vinod Mehra sing ‘Murti Ganesh ki, andar daulat desh ki…’ and expose the villains.

In 1981, Filmwala’s Kalyug was among the early films to portray the immersion procession in all its glory. The film’s hero Shashi Kapoor is driving home and gets caught in a traffic jam. The chaos on the street reflects the turbulence in his heart beautifully captured by director Shyam Benegal.

Ajanta Arts’ Dard Ka Rishta 1983, supposedly inspired by Sunil Dutt’s personal life, delved on a young girl’s obsession with the elephant God. Baby Khushboo is in a coma but hears echoes of the Lord coming home. To fulfill the dying girl’s wish, her father brings the idol to her hospital bed and she dies in peace.

To be continued…


Ganesha in Hindi cinema (Day 1447)

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Ganpati festival is a busy time for the film fraternity because a lot of them bring the deity home. Salman Khan, Rishi and Ranbir Kapoor, Ekta Kapoor, Nana Patekar, Shilpa shetty, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Anil Kapoor, Raveena Tandon, Padmini Kolhapure, Sonu Nigam, as long as Rajesh Khanna and Sunil Dutt lived they never missed bringing Ganesha home.

At public pandals decorated all over the city singers like Shankar Mahadevan, Sukhwinder Singh and Anup Jalota are invited to perform live before the deity and celebrities from all walks of life are invited for a special darshan of Lalbaug ka Raja. For all the attention film folk’s shower on the Elephant God, the deity has limited presence in our movies and it is difficult to think of ten memorable scenes projecting the God of wisdom on the big screen.

I will try and recap some moments and on top my mind is Humse Badhkar Kaun/ 1980 that told the story of families living in a colony and collectively celebrating the festival. The haunting number ‘Devaa ho devaa…’ singing paeans to the Lord proved a chartbuster and is even today chanted at all the pandals.

To be continued…


Movie Review: Manmarziyaan (Day 1446)

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Date: 14 September 2018

Director: Anurag Kashyap

Cast: Abhishek Bachchan, Tapsee Pannu and Vickey Kaushal

First things first, Manmarziyaaṅ is unlike any Anurag Kashyap film you have watched so far.

There are no dark frames, dark thoughts or dark deeds in the entire narrative, no violence, no abuse and no cuss word either.

The premise is the bright and colorful Amritsar, so there is the Golden Temple naturally and also chunri sangit, salwar sweater romance on terrace, hockey stick references and tall glasses of lassi.

Some characteristics continue though. As always Kashyap film is non-judgmental. There are no good/ bad characters that do right/ wrong things and are strong /weak in different circumstances but they are accepted as they are.

The passion sustains too and as always is illogical and fearless. So every morning when Vickey/ Shyam Kaushal  wakes up, he jumps over walls to meet his beloved Rumi/ Tapsee Pannu and does what he desires uncaring of being caught.

It is not just the passion, it is the expression. In an unusual moment in the film Rumi tells Robbie/ Abhishek Bachchan ‘Mujhe pyaar chaḍha hai’ before the couple make it to the bed, this is definitely a new line from a woman to a man.

All Kashyap films are unconventional and Manmarziyaaṅ is no exception.

Apparently a love story between DJ Vickey/ Vickey Kaushal and Rumi/ Tapsee Pannu, Robbie/ Abhishek Bachchan is the banker who arrives from UK and takes away the dulhaniya. 

Manmarziyaan addresses multiple issues that range from moral/ social/ family/ gender to generation issues without getting preachy. Vickey suffers from commitment phobia and Rumi with red hair is a free spirit nobody can control. Robbie returns to roots and agrees to arrange marriage but the problems are far from over.

Sex is never a mystery in Kashyap films and the characters freely discuss virginity. Nor is religion fortunately as Robbie grabs a puff and a drink remaining respectful to the turban.

Relationships are always complex and writer Kanika ushers the happy and sad moments unobtrusively. Manmarziyaan deconstructs marriage/honeymoon, introduces us to new age parents/in-laws who know when to take a back seat.

We have been watching love stories from time immemorial so what’s different about Manmarziyaaṅ? Well, it is spunky, frothy, breaking stereotypes and presenting a new gaze which is liberating!

Tapsee Pannu and Vickey Kaushal are sparkling and share terrific chemistry while Abhishek Bachchan returns in a mature, refined performance as a dream husband.

Director Anurag Kashyap proves that he is as effective in bright, happy frames as in the dark alleys and what he chooses is his manmarziyaan.

I rate the thoroughly entertaining Manmarziyaaṅ with 3.5 stars.

 @Bhawana Somaaya

Movie Review: Love Sonia (Day 1445)

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Date: 14 September 2018

Director: Tabrez Noorani

Cast: Mrunal Ṭhakur, Freida Pinṭo,Richa Chaḍha, Manoj Bajpayee, Adil Hussain, Rajkumar Rao.

The opening shot of the film has a schoolboy in a remote village trying to capture a butterfly in a glass jar; he opens the jar briefly and as the butterfly flutters to escape, it is trapped into caressing his cheek referred to as a ‘kiss’ the boy’s face tightly pressed against the jar.

The image is a metaphor for what the story has to unfold.

Preeti/ Riya Sidodiya and Sonia/ Mrunal Ṭhakur are cheerful as long as they at school because once home, they are the mercy of their angry father/Adil Hussain, an impoverished farmer who makes them slog on the field all day and curses them for being born as daughters at night.

Misfortune propels him to sell his older daughter to Dada Ṭhakur/Anupam Kher and when Sonia learns that Priti has been taken to Mumbai she escapes home to find her sister and is inevitably trapped into the flesh trade herself.

Love Sonia is about the tragedy of global sex trafficking in helpless minors. Director Tabrez Noorani who has been line producer for Hollywood films set in India aided by his writers (Shah/ Vaja/ Caplen) through a stirring tale of siblings’ journeys us to the inner working of a brothel. This isn’t the first time we are exposed to the cruel side of humanity but what sets apart Noorani is his intention to use cinema to lend a voice to the oppressed.

In a jarring scene, Richa Chaḍha describes the brothel to a Chakla – a place without doors and windows and we can sense the claustrophobia of the underbelly through dark streets and darker deeds.

New girls unwilling to obey orders are burnt, beaten, chained to the bed, locked in the dungeon and pushed to clean filthy toilets. After a police raid, the girls are drugged and cooped inside a container and smuggled to Hong Kong and further, their misery beautifully captured via never-ending flyovers and neon lights in different cities combined with a heart-rending score from Neils and A R Rehman.

The negative is that the pace slows down in the second half and the climax is unrealistic.

The positives are the performances – Adil Hussain, Anupam Kher, Manoj Bajpayee send shivers down your spine while you empathize with Riya Sisodiya, Richa Chaḍha and Freida Pinṭo but the film finally belongs to Sonia/ Mrunal Ṭhakur whose expressive face and eyes haunt you long after the film is over. Brave of her to choose this as her debut!

Love Sonia is stifling, disturbing, immensely depressing but the cruelties are understated. Watch it despite the melancholy to feel gratitude that you don’t know and never know any Sonia in your life.

I rate Love Sonia with 3.5 stars.

Bhawana Somaaya/ @bhawanasomaaya


Want to live in the moment (Day 1444)

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It was evident then that both were well versed with each other and it came out of spending a lot of time with each other, which happens in this profession and particularly at their age.

So who between the two of you is the director’s favourite?

Janhvi: Me because my hero bullies me and he feels I need to be protected.

Ishaan: That’s true, Janhvi is the director’s favorite but these days the equilibrium is changing.

 Who is the producer’s favourite?

Janvi: He likes both of us equally.

Ishaan : That’s true Karan sir is nice to everybody

How is the family taking the pre-release pressures?

Janhvi: Dad is stressed but not showing it, he has been a producer all his life so he is more preoccupied with the logistics of the film, he is anxious about me as well but we prefer not to talk about it. My sister Khushi knows what’s going on within me, so there is excitement all around.

Ishaan: My mother was nervous before Beyond the Clouds and emotional after the screening, it is the same now. Brother Shahid is my bro and my friend; he has been through the grind himself and tells me to stay grounded.

Are you prepared for comparisons with your bloodline?

Janhvi: It happened all the time and now that I am coming into films, they will compare me to her as an actor, I am prepared.

Ishaan : Shahid is my brother and  it is natural that we have a resemblance, but I cannot match his caliber so comparisons are unfair.