Restless Ram Gopal Varma – Day 1989

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I was strolling in the market and in a tiny book shop, found filmmaker Ram Gopal Varma’s book Guns and Thighs, a strange title I thought but then he is the man who titled his adaptation of Sholay as Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aaag. Call it vanity, or heady success but failure knocked on his door, Varma was quick to fled home, to Hyderabad and Telegu films.

My mind rewinds to my several conversations with the director. He often said that he cannot sustain interest in any project beyond six months, “I am restless by nature and if I don’t move fast, I get bored”. Don’t you fear burning out, I asked. “Productivity has so far not destroyed any filmmaker and prolificity isn’t the only evil in creative field. I’d stagnate if I’m unproductive and between the two, I choose burning out”.

To be continued

Movie Review – 99 Songs – Day 1988

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Film: 99 Songs

Date: 16.04.2021

Director: Vishwesh Krishnamoorty

Music: ARRahman

Cast: Ehan Bhat,Edilsey Verghese

Ratings 4 stars

A constant tune plays in his head, makes him restless, he senses music all around him, in nature, in his surroundings, in isolation and at gatherings. As a little boy, he charged towards his window, every time a wedding band passed by. He wandered on the street, followed a flute player, observed his moving fingers on the bamboo stick. He was drawn to the sound of the mridung and rushed to make it in time for the aarti, attracted to the sound of Sufi song rendered in the mosque. He found peace inside the church humming with the choir.

From the beginning, little Ehan was different. On his birthday, his father escorted him to a toy shop and said he could pick whatever he liked. The little boy unearthed an old guitar hidden in the rear shelves that amused the shop keeper but the boy’s father was furious! ‘Out of all the vices in the world, melody is the worst, music is a curse in the family’ and he warned his son to stay away from it.

The child promised to obey, but melody haunted him, followed him; from the clouds, from the waves, from the clanging bells and the chirping birds in the sky. Director Krishnamoorty’s narrative unfolds amidst dry trees fluttering with orange fabric in the breeze and a little boy stringing kites onto an ancient boat parked at the seashore.

99 Songs is about music but also about imageries, of skylines, art and architecture that intermingle and dissolve into sensual frames as if the cinematographer and the composer strike a symphony in silence. The aesthetics are breathtaking and the wounds caused by distrust crackle like crystals. Pain is expressed in charcoals on canvas and when anger overtakes, melodies turn into flames.

The film is the journey of a creator and his creation, about the people who touch his life, the demons he has to fight and strangers who rekindle faith. A tutor taught him that feeling is more important than vision, another music lover said, music is truth. Ehan remembered both!

The darkest emotions, deception, drug or death unfolds like a symphony and through the maze of conflicts, Ehan finds himself. resolves that music isn’t a curse, but the only magic in this world.

99 Songs is not a regular film and the review cannot be regular. This is a cinematic, sublime experience, a must watch for all Rahman lovers and released in Hindi, Telegu and Tamil.

Bhawana Somaaya

Day Number – Day 1987

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What was noteworthy was that Baburao’s writing did not restrict to cinema. He authored six books, prominent among these are Grey Dust and Burning Words and showed a keen interest in politics, and in time to come launched another magazine, Mother India in 1960 that unravelled the powerful. Balancing two magazines, Film India and Mother India was not easy and Baburao had to take the difficult decision of shutting down Film India. It was a big loss and the readers missed his regular dose of juicy dope on show business. The bigger loss were the filmmakers turning complacent in the absence of an erudite watchdog.

It was now time for the politicians to tighten their seat belts and lived-in fear of Baburao’s fiery editorials.  Few people remember this that Baburao Patel was the first critic to be invited as a delegate to read a paper on cinema and culture, the first to protest against anti-Indian productions in Europe, UK and USA and also the first journalist, much before Arun Shourie, to be elected as the Member of Parliament.

In the year 1967 he was presented a Rajya Sabha seat and it was impossible to pipe him down because he had a counter argument for everybody! So many years have gone by but none has been able to match the spirit and sparkle of Baburao Patel who lived king size, is said to have written more than 8 million words in his 30-year-old career.

Remembering Baburao Patel – Day 1986

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As long as actor, producer, singer, music director Sushila Rani Patel lived, she dedicated the month of April to the memory of her husband, Baburao Patel, India’s pioneering film journalist, who dared to unmask the dream-merchants, a trend gradually picked up by future glossies. Baburao launched India’s first film magazine Film India in 1935 and it was the most popular publication of its time, widely appreciated for its bold stand and his saucy style of writing. It was said his columns made and broke careers and filmmakers dreaded his acid reviews because they invariably proved true at the box-office. He was the most hated and the most sought-after journalist in show business that time.

Born to an illustrious advocate at the Bombay High Court Baburao due to personal reasons was unable to complete his schooling but spent all his time browsing in his father’s library at home. He was self-taught and adventurous. After becoming an adult, he dropped his original surname Patil and altered it to Patel without consulting anyone in the family.

A few years after launching the publication, Baburao forayed into film production. He wrote, produced and directed Kismet in 1929, Mahananda, Bala Joban, Maharani and Chand Ka Tukda between 1932-35 and made Draupadi, and Gwalan starring his wife Sushila Rani in 1944 and 1946 respectively.

 To be continued

Show goes on – Day 1985

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It is a bleak time for all businesses but despite uncertainty, the adrenaline is certainly flowing. Producer Jayantilal Gada better known as Pen India Ltd, in news because of Bhansali’s Gangubai Kathiawadi has struck another big deal in this difficult time. Pen has obtained the North India theatrical, electronic, satellite and digital rights of SS Rajamouli’s RRR (after Baahubali) showcasing a fictionalised story of Alluri Sitarama Raju and Komaram Bheem and starring stalwarts from Hindi (Ajay Devgn and Alia Bhatt), Telegu and Tamil cinema, releasing in three languages simultaneously. Trio language is the new mantra of the box-office and which is how even music composer AR Rahman is releasing his debut film 99 Songs.

The virus has many positive effects too, it has made space for all kinds of projects and all kinds of platforms. Abhishek Bachchan suffered a rough phase when we did not watch him on the big screen but he was preoccupied with football, Kabbadi, web series and more and now suddenly, the clouds have cleared and his plate is full again. The Big Bull the story of Harshad Mehta has released on Disney Hot Star and Dasvi is in the final schedule of production.

Old songs, new projects – Day 1984

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The covid situation is not improving and it’s very difficult for artistes to sit idle, all of them are trying their busy to remain busy, writers/ potential writers/ filmmakers/ potential filmmakers are quietly working on new projects irrespective of when it gets launched. Those who have finished their first drafts are pitching the subject to actors over zoom meetings and those who have finished casting are announcing virtual mahurats.   

Ekta Kapoor just did, she posted her childhood picture with Amitabh Bachchan sharing that this is how the dream began and finally, she is being able to fulfil her dream.  After so many years of being in the film fraternity Jeetendra will be producing a film starring his friend and colleague Bachchan in Balaji Telefilms’ Goodbye.

Archaeologist & Hindi cinema – Day 1983

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The first time a hero played a tourist guide was in the 1965 released Guide, and at that time the distributors were worried that the film will not run for a day. How can a handsome hero be reduced to playing a guide, a financier asked director Vijay Anand? Vijay Anand not only deglamourized but introduced him like a guide not a superstar in his entry. The same with Waheeda Rehmnan, this was probably the first time that a heroine in the sixties film was introduced as a wife where she is not married to the hero.

As the film unfolded there were many surprises, bonding between a guide and his guest, we were introduced to an archaeologist, a profession so far unexposed on the Hindi screen.

Waheeda Rehman’s husband, Marco, played by Kishore Sahu is researching the Ajanta- Ellora caves and is therefore in the big city and delegates a guide to keep his beautiful, young wife engaged.

 Now almost 40 years later, writer-director Abhishek Sharma has cast Akshay Kumar in the role of an archaeologist and that for me that is the bigger attraction. 

Bhawana Somaaya

Ram Setu in Ayodhya – Day 1982

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A year ago, on Diwali, Akshay Kumar announced his new film Ram Setu sharing a poster of the film on social media. A month ago, Kumar flew down to Ayodhya for the mahurat. A true story based on the life of an archaeologist; the director is gearing to shoot across multiple locations. He shares this is the best time to narrate a story entrenched in the cultural fabric of the country because, “Today, the youth own responsibility to preserve our heritage and Ram Setu is the bridge between our past, the present and future”.

Sharma who has earlier directed Tere Bin Laden reveals that he was first struck by the idea when he first read about the court case on the shipping canal between India and Sri Lanka. “I was struck by the magnitude of the project and the courage and felt an urge to tell the story. I wrote the screenplay during the lockdown and pitched the idea to Akshay Kumar. Once Akshay Sir agreed I roped in Chandraprakash Dwivedi as creative producer to guide us on the research and narrative because his perspective on history and religion is unmatched”.

(To be concluded)

Meghna Malik as Usha Rani – Day 1981

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Saina Mirza’s family has not stopped smiling ever since they’ve watched Amol Gupte’s film Saina (released in cinema halls and soon to stream on amazon prime). It is unusual for a subject to ever be completely satisfied with his/ her biopic but Saina is that exception. The Nehwals phoned Meghna Malik, who plays Saina’s mother to express her appreciation for her performance, said, “Your every emotion, expression, gesticulation, made her feel that I was watching myself on screen, how could you get it so right?”

And to think that Meghna almost did not do the film. She appeared for the audition when she was down with malaria and when she did not receive a call from Gupte’s office after weeks, she feared she had lost the role. She had spent a lot of time researching the character, watching Nehwal videos and felt depressed that she will not play Usha Rani and so on an impulse, dressed in salwar kurta, tied her hair in chotti and landed at the director’s office unannounced. When she was led into his cabin, she took off in Haryanvi dialect just as Usha Rani had done on the badminton court. The director was initially zapped but recovered instantly and confirmed Meghan for the part. 

(To be concluded)

Cinema halls shut again – Day 1980

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It has been a stressful week for everyone with covid cases rising all over India. In Maharashtra, just when the cinema halls were all set to get the ball rolling, the fear of lockdown has spread a pall of gloom again. Theatre owners collectively worked to pressurize producers not to release movies on OTT platforms.  Some of them supported, Rajkumar Rao- Jahanvi Kapoor starrer Roohi for instance and surprised all with its box-office collection, Sandeep Aur Pinky Farrar though appreciated by the media, unfortunately, opened to empty cinema halls.

Not surprising therefore, that Haathi Mere Saathi and a few Hollywood biggies have postponed releases. Not Anand Gupta, producer of Chhehre scheduled for April end release. Director Rumi Jaffery feels privileged that he had the opportunity of working with Amitabh Bachchan both as a writer/ Bade Miyan Chotte Miyan and as a director/ God Tussi Great Ho. Jaffery shares that Bachchan is the easiest actor to work with and makes everyone around him comfortable. This is the first time Bachchan and Emran Hashmi are coming together and the first film where music composers / Vishal-Shekhar have collaborated 107 musicians, across globe united in Prague to record live symphony exactly like the olden times.

(To be concluded)