Friday, December 30, 2011

From Film India Worldwide’s latest December issue …

The latest issue of Film India Worldwide highlights the 16th International Film festival of Kerala held in Thiruvananthapuram over December 9 to 16. What follows below is one of the articles in this special year-end issue of Film India Worldwide.
As we enter 2012 we urge you to consider subscribing to Film India Worldwide. This quarterly magazine brings you the latest news and happenings in the Indian film scene, both in India and abroad. The magazine lists recent and under production films made in India or films that connect with India. It also covers Indian films that have been selected in film festivals all over the world. The cost is Rs 400 for four issues, starting with the next issue that comes out in February.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"Fortnight at Busan Fest?" - "Life Changing!"

By Ridhesh Sejpal

A casual conversation over coffee with a fellow participant at IFFI 2010 made Ridhesh Sejpal aware of one of the best-kept secrets of the Busan International Film Festival. Its Asian Film Academy is one of the world’s biggest talent boot camp, which intends to foster young talent in Asia and create a filmmakers network among the attendees

I was inspired to be a part of Busan's Asian Film Academy. Going quickly through the website, I was amazed to see world renowned directors such as Abbas Kiarostami (Iran), Im Kwon-taek (Korea) and Kurosawa Kiyoshi (Japan) as respective deans over previous years.

The meticulous selection process in the first round required credentials, a filmography and an essay. The second round consisted of a telephonic interview with select applicants.

After an impatient wait of close to a month, I got the acceptance confirmation! It was gratifying to learn that I was among the two Indians selected from 144 applications across 21 Asian countries.

I felt exhilarated seeing the opportunity that lay ahead, spending 17 unforgettable days in South Korea making a short film with 23 other select Fellows from all corners of Asia. This year’s Dean was the father of modern Polish Cinema, Krzysztof Zanussi, the first Non-Asian Dean for AFA. Heading the direction faculty was India’s Camera O’dor winner, Murali Nair. Johnny Jensen (USA) with his 45 years of experience headed the Cinematography Department. Assisting them were production supervisors, the best in their respective fields.

The Fellows were divided into two teams numbering 12 each. Each member was given his/ her individual role. I was in the Direction team.

The program started on September 29. Our script was finalized during the online preparations, so we went straight into a six-day pre-production. We had ample options for our locations, and the best actors to choose from the Korean industry.

Making call sheets till 3 am in the morning and waking up at 6 am for rehearsals was exhausting but worthwhile. What made it unique was the chance to collaborate with other young Asian filmmakers under the supervision and wisdom of world-class mentors.

With thorough pre-production and solid preparation, we got into production. We shot on 35mm Digital and were provided with the best technical resources. The shoot lasted for three rigorous, exciting days. What followed was post-production over the next four days.

While editing, we managed to attend other events such as filmmaking workshops, films playing at the Busan Film Festival, networking parties and master classes by renowned filmmakers such as Luc Besson,Lee Chang Dong, Shunji Iwai and Yonfan.

What was special was our visit to the film pitching sessions at the Asian Film Market, which included introductions to investors at the festival’s Asian Cinema Fund.

Our 17-day program culminated at a graduation ceremony on October 13. Our films were shown to the public at the Busan Film Festival. Walking the red carpet in front of thousands and seeing our arduous work transform into a movie on the big screen was an experience no words can explain. There was also an award for the “Best Fellow” in each team. The AFA staff and mentors chose me from my team for this award, for which I received USD 5000 for my next project. A proud moment for me!

My experience at AFA is by far the best in my entire career. It has made me more confident about the path I have chosen. Apart from the practical experience, what I took back with me are the priceless moments I spent with my fellow filmmakers. Those endless pre-production meetings, night-long conversations, ardent arguments over cinema, will remain with me always. It has helped me rediscover myself. It will have a profound effect on everything I do, here on.

Ridhesh Sejpal is a filmmaker from Mumbai. He runs a film production company called Wise Guy Entertainment. www.wiseguyent.com

Monday, December 26, 2011

From Film India Worldwide’s latest December issue …

The latest issue of Film India Worldwide highlights the 16th International Film festival of Kerala held in Thiruvananthapuram over December 9 to 16. What follows below is one of the articles in this special year-end issue of Film India Worldwide.
As we enter 2012 we urge you to consider subscribing to Film India Worldwide. This quarterly magazine brings you the latest news and happenings in the Indian film scene, both in India and abroad. The magazine lists recent and under production films made in India or films that connect with India. It also covers Indian films that have been selected in film festivals all over the world. The cost is Rs 400 for four issues, starting with the next issue that comes out in February.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

The power of hype

by Saibal Chatterjee

The past two months have represented a phase of great expectations for the Mumbai movie industry. Two big budget releases, Ra.One and Rockstar, arrived at the multiplexes amid much fanfare within weeks of one another. Both made big bucks, but little else. They failed to whet the appetite of the discerning movie buff.

However, Ra.One and Rockstar demonstrated yet again what star power can achieve when backed by a strong and aggressive publicity arsenal. It is pretty clear: the name of the game today is hype and hoopla.

The superstar is still undisputed king. He is probably a bigger force than ever before. And the poor old screenplay continues to be a largely neglected commodity. When packaging overshadows substance, what you get is a film like Ra.One.

When the fortunes of a film are driven by the redoubtable Shah Rukh Khan, everything else falls into place even if the end result falls well short of expectations.

Rockstar, essentially a different kettle of fish, was spearheaded by the youthful Ranbir Kapoor, a Gen-X heart-throb with a fan following that borders on the hysterical. So a bare minimum buzz was guaranteed.

The nature and substance of the publicity blitzkrieg that is mounted when a big budget Mumbai movie is set to hit the screen have undergone a massive transformation in recent years. The spin doctors behind the big Bollywood films never seem to be short of ideas. And with a pliable media ever willing to lap up everything that glitters, life is a cakewalk for a wannabe blockbuster.

The movie-going masses were, in a way, prepared for the all the media sound and fury that preceded the release of the most expensive Hindi film ever made, Ra.One, an actionpacked sci-fi thriller directed by Anubhav Sinha and produced by Shah Rukh Khan himself.

The film promised to take Hindi cinema to “the next level”. Understandably, given SRK’s undeniable box-office draw, Ra.One had a bumper opening. But this overlong, brazenly derivative and rather monotonous video game masquerading as a movie, began to lose steam by the second week. By the third week, it was just another also-ran in a crowded entertainment market.

Yet, Ra.One was never going to be in the red. In fact, it made pots of money. Even before it arrived at the theatres, SRK’s production house had mopped up enough from the sale of the music and other pre-release rights to cover the film’s `160-crore budget.

In Bollywood, superstars are indeed superheroes, and the laws that govern the lesser mortals of the industry do not quite apply to them. Ra.One is proof that SRK does not need to deliver a high-quality product to make a big budget cinematic venture commercially viable. The right promotional strategy, a release date of choice and a crowd-pleasing item number – Ra.One has the peppy Chammak Challo with Kareena Kapoor gyrating to the tune of a cybernetic avatar of the male protagonist, to make the concoction work.

It did not really matter that SRK’s magnum opus garnered mixed reviews and an average response at the box-office. It was a winner all the way.

As was Imtiaz Ali’s musical love story, Rockstar. It was certainly not as vacuous and most definitely not as expensive as Ra.One. Its producers pulled out all the stops to promote the film among its target audience.

Accompanied by lead actor Ranbir Kapoor and debutante Nargis Fakhri, the Rockstar director went from one college campus to another to whip up a buzz for Rockstar. He succeeded.

Rockstar rocked at the box-office in the opening week. Critics were effusive about Ranbir Kapoor’s performance as a simple-minded Delhi Jat boy who aspires to emulate his idol, Jim Morrison. Some went to the extent of describing it as Kapoor’s best star turn to date.

Rockstar is an intense love story inspired by a line from Rumi. “Out beyond the ideas of right and wrong, there is a field/I will meet you there,”the poet had intoned. Imtiaz Ali uses that evocative line as his starting point. Sadly, Rockstar does not have the instant transcendental quality of Sufi poetry to raise it above the mundane level of a Bollywood love story. The film is unconventional in parts all right, but it is rather low on substance to be able to support its lofty aspirations.

Much the same could be said of widely feted character actor Pankaj Kapur’s directorial debut, Mausam. Another languid love story that spans a decade and more, the film is too long for its own good. Despite its many obvious merits, Mausam was dumped rather unceremoniously by movie-goers.

Many other promising titles fell by the wayside for want of either intrinsic quality or sufficient promotional support. Nagesh Kukunoor’s Mod, Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster, Sagar Ballary’s Hum Tum Shabana and Nishikant Kamat’s Force flattered to deceive. So there rests our case: you don’t stand a chance in hell without a superhero or a Rockstar on your side.

Saibal Chatterjee is a film analyst based in Delhi