Thursday, February 16, 2012

Latest on books - Film India Worldwide February-April 2012 issue


The Best Thing About You Is You!

Anupam Kher

Published by Hay House India

228 Pages  Rupees 399 (hardbound)

Acclaimed actor of Bollywood Anupam Kher plays a new role as the author of the book, The Best Thing About You Is You! A well presented hard-bound book, it has a picture of a smiling Kher on the cover against a black background. The book opens with a preface written by him. Using examples from his own life and experiences, he provides a handy guide for self-discovery and peace of mind in these chaotic times. Starting on the premise, “We are all unhappy”, his answer to the negativity in life is a positive outlook. The book covers his views on several subjects such as anger, thought control, stress, dealing with relationships and most of all, realizing the power within oneself - discovering the best thing in life - yourself. The book is divided into50 short, easy-to-read chapters. The versatile actor has a repertoire of over 450 films in a career spanning more than 25 years. He is a reputed theatre actor and his one-man play, ‘Kuchh Bhi Ho Sakta Hai' has been acclaimed as a unique experiment. Winner of several national and international awards, he runs the acting school, Actor Prepares.

Opening Night

Diksha Basu

Published by Harper-Collins

279 Pages  Rupees 250 (paperback)

Opening Night tells the story of Naiya Kapur, a Princeton University graduate who comes to Mumbai to chase the big Indian dream of Bollywood, a search for fame, fortune and fun in the new India. The book follows her as she navigates through the labyrinthine lanes of Mumbai, where lines are meant to be crossed. As she battles her demons and tries to deal with her increasingly tangled life, the stage is set for high drama, and her ‘Opening Night’.
The author, Diksha Basu is a student of economics. But she decided to move to Mumbai for an acting career. Four years, two plays, an English film and a TV show later, she finds herself working as a full-time author and enjoying every minute of it. Basu’s debut novel, Opening Night, was launched recently at the bookstore Crossword, Juhu, Mumbai, by author Chetan Bhagat. Basu has already moved on and is working on her second book.

Travels of Bollywood Cinema – From Bombay to LA

Edited by Anjali Gera Roy and
Chua Beng Hunt

Published by Oxford University Press

Pages 352 `795 (hardbound)

Bringing together essays by eminent scholars of anthropology, history, and cultural media, communication and film studies, this volume shows that Bollywood cinema has always crossed borders and boundaries. The book argues that Bollywood has had a century-long history of travelling to the British Malaya, Fiji, Guyana, Trinidad, Mauritius, East and South Africa with the old diasporas, and with and without the new diasporas to the former USSR, West Asia, the UK, the US, Canada and Australia. It looks at the meaning of nation, diaspora, home and identity in cinematic texts and contexts, and examines the ways in which localities are produced in the new global process by broadly addressing nationalism, transnationalism, regionalism, politics and aesthetics, and spectatorship and viewing context. Anjali Gera Roy is a Professor in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Kharagpur and a Senior Research Fellow, Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore. Chua Beng Huat is concurrently Leader, Cultural Studies in Asia Research Cluster, Convenor, PhD Programme in Cultural Studies in Asia, and Professor, Department of Sociology, National University of Singapore.

Niranjan Pal: A Forgotten Legend & Such is Life - An Autobiography by Niranjan Pal

Edited by Kusum Pant Joshi
and Lalit Mohan Joshi

Published by South Asian Cinema Foundation (SACF), London

Pages 261 `900 (India), £15 (UK)

This is a seminal work on Niranjan Pal (1889-1959), brought to UK as a rebellious 19-year-old, by his father, Bipin Chandra Pal. The young man became involved with an anti-British revolutionary crowd but then steered into writing. His plays were performed in the West End. He then moved into film especially after meeting Himansu Rai and this led to writing film scripts for Light of Asia (1925); Shiraz (1928) and A Throw of Dice (1929). Pal returned to India in 1929 and began writing for film journals, continued writing scripts and was the backbone of Bombay Talkies, a film studio which produced great films. The book offers a fascinating narrative of this master storyteller in his own words. It has a section of essays where scholars analyse his life and work. The Foreword is by eminent film scholar/archivist P K Nair. Kusum Pant Joshi is a Social Historian and author of The Kashmiri Pandit – Story of a Community in Exile (1988) and Kaleidoscope – South Asian Women in UK (2001). Lalit Mohan Joshi is a BBC broadcast journalist-turned-film historian and documentary filmmaker. Since the year 2000, he is the Director of South Asian Cinema Foundation, London, and the editor of a thematic journal, South Asian Cinema.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


by Saibal Chatterjee

If the script pans out the way the Mumbai movie industry’s leading lights would want it to, 2012 will most likely be yet another year dominated by glitzy but flimsy yarns designed for easy mass digestion. But you might ask: what’s the harm if the game hinges on raking in the big bucks?

The path of least resistance is usually paved with box-office gold, but for moviegoers who yearn for creative surprises and breakthroughs, Hindi commercial cinema sans any purpose other than instant profit can get a tad dreary and predictable.

Big-grossing films are no doubt the propulsion the Hindi movie industry needs in the short term. However, in order to climb to the next level, it is imperative for Mumbai cinema to actively and consistently encourage its risk-takers as part of a long-term strategy. Where have all the prospective path-breakers gone? And where pray are the breakout films?

The last major Mumbai film of 2011 was Farhan Akhtar’s sequel to 2006’s Don, which, in turn, was an updated remake of the iconic 1978 Amitabh Bachchan starrer of the same name. Don 2 hit the ground running, as any film top-lined by Shah Rukh Khan is wont to do.

If 2011 ended with a sequel, 2012 opened with a remake. First off the Bollywood blocks this year was Players, Abbas-Mustan’s official– yes, official – remake of the 1969 British action-comedy hit, The Italian Job.

It’s quite another matter that Abhishek Bachchan lacks the chutzpah of a younger Michael Caine and Omi Vaidya, despite his game efforts, is no Benny Hill. Be that as it may, the principal trend for the year has pretty much been set. Expect a flurry of remakes and sequels from mainstream Mumbai in the weeks and months ahead.

Even before January could end, yet another big-budget remake, Agneepath, starring Hrithik Roshan in a role famous for the fact that it fetched Amitabh Bachchan a National Award 22 years ago, opened in India’s multiplexes. Needless to say, it generated quite a media buzz.

Talking of two-decade-old films being reworked for the new generation of movie fans, several other such remakes are being readied for release this year.

A follow-up to Rajkumar Santoshi’s action film Ghayal is on the way. Ghayal was released in the same year as the original Agneepath (1990). The new film, Ghayal Returns, starring the same old Sunny Deol, has been helmed by Rahul Rawail, who, incidentally, crafted the feisty Arjun (1985), one of the most memorable cinematic sign posts of the actor’s chequered career.

Sai Paranjpe’s cult comedy Chashme Buddoor (1981) is being remade by David Dhawan, a director of comedies who seems to have gone off the boil of late if the disastrous Rascals, released in late 2011 to empty movie halls, is anything to go by. The purists are understandably worried!

Many sequels to more recent Bollywood hits like Dabangg, Krrish, Once Upon a Time in Mumbai, Housefull, Rock On, Kya Kool Hai Hum, Race, Jism, Jannat and Raaz, among others, are also in the pipeline. The industry is taking no chances and tried-and-tested franchises are in overwhelming favour.

What’s more, even off-mainstream Hindi films like  Abhishek Chaubey’s Ishqiya and Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Saheb Biwi aur Gangster will have sequels this year. Why not? All the big box-office stars of Bollywood have either jumped on to the sequel-making bandwagon or are pursuing projects that are cast in the genre movie mould. Aamir Khan, who backed off-mainstream films like Dhobi Ghat and Delhi Belly in 2011, will be seen on the big screen this year in what is billed as a suspense thriller, Reema Kagti’s Talaash.

While Talaash has the makings of another success story, it also promises to tread a different track. For one, it is a thriller directed by a woman (and one who made the lively Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd at that); it is jointly scripted by her and Zoya Akhtar, and it has Aamir Khan in the lead with Kareena Kapoor and Rani Mukherji as co-stars. Talaash has much going for it.

Salman Khan will unleash Ek Tha Tiger, Ajay Devgn has Son of Sardar in the works, Akshay Kumar has all but wrapped up Rowdy Rathore and Saif Ali Khan’s home production, Agent Vinod, a spy thriller, is ready for release. By the end of the year, Shah Rukh, too, will be in the multiplexes again in what is being touted as an epic love story to be directed by Yash Chopra after a long hiatus.

So, it seems to be going pretty well for the mainstream industry. But who is going to serve the cause of Hindi cinema that has something to say? This writer will be keen to check out Anurag Kashyap’s take on rural crime lords in Gangs of Wasseypur, Dibakar Banerjee’s political thriller Shanghai, Tigmanshu Dhulia’s long-awaited Paan Singh Tomar and Gyarah Chalis Ki Last Metro, Sanjay Khanduri’s sequel to his 2007 film Ek Chalis Ki Last Local.

The last-named film, like many other releases in Bollywood’s 2012 line-up, is a sequel. But it could well be a great new ride in the right direction.

(Saibal Chatterjee is a film analyst based in Delhi)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Looking back… India at Rotterdam


41st Rotterdam International Film Festival

January 25 to February 5, 2012

Two films that link with India feature in Rotterdam’s Bright Future category, which showcases the first film of the maker and encourages experimental films


Madhuja Mukherjee

India, 2011, 61 mins, colour/Black-White

No dialogue (with English intertitles)

World Premiere

Carnival is set during the Autumn festival of Durga Puja, which each year, for the people in Kolkata and Bengalis elsewhere, transforms every day spaces. Magnificent temporary structures redefine the ways in which the city is navigated. The film, however, is not about any festivity. It charts the unfortunate return of Babu (Shayan Munshi) and his uneasy encounter with his father (Dhritiman Chaterji), as well as his fragmentary past. Carnival brings forth a caricature of daily routine and communicates through a grotesque realism. This experimental film explores the shadows of the ember, as it were, along with the subversive elements of ‘Carnival’. The lower strata of self and life resurge with great vitality and exuberance using oversaturated colour shots of the city, along with well composed black and white stills of the characters. In this film, the cast and crew worked for free. First-time director Madhuja Mukherjee has written the script and handled the film’s production design. The music and sound design is by Prabuddha Banerjee. The cinematography and editing production is by Avik Mukhopadhyay.

Kolkata-based Madhuja Mukherjee is an intermedia author who writes, creates graphic stories, makes experimental films and executes media-installations with archival objects, historical material and junk, collected through her research conducted at various locations of the media industry. She teaches in the Department of Film Studies, Jadavpur University. She has written several scholarly articles and is the author of the book, New Theatres Ltd, The Emblem of Art, The Picture of Success, 2009, National Film Archive of India, Pune. Her edited anthology, Voices and Verses of the Talking Stars by the School of Women’s Studies, Jadavpur University and Stree, Kolkata, is under publication. Mukherjee has written screenplays for international projects including that of Anup Singh’s Qissa (produced by Heimat Film, Germany, Augustus House, The Netherlands, Cine-Sud, France and NFDC, India) which is under production. Carnival is her first feature film as director.

Shikarawala - Valley of Saints

Written, directed by Musa Syeed

India/USA, 82 mins, colour, English and Kashmiri

International Premiere

Festivals: Competition, 2012 Sundance Film Festival

The story follows the young, working-class boatman Gulzar during a violent summer in the beautiful Kashmir valley where he is hatching his escape. With the meagre tips he earns ferrying tourists on Dal Lake, Gulzar and journalist friend Afzal (who lost his father in 1993 when a Border Security Force unit killed 55 Kashmiri civilians in Sopore) finally save enough money to run away. But a massive protest that throws the entire valley under military curfew makes them retreat to the safety of Gulzar’s home on Dal lake. Forced to bide their time, they make the most of it, singing songs and causing trouble on the empty lake, until they discover a young woman, Asifa, also trapped, but by choice. A Kashmiri-American, she is braving the curfew to complete her environmental research on the polluted lake. Bored and curious to find out more about this strange but pretty girl, Gulzar and Afzal offer to show her around in their old boat. Immediately, a rivalry forms between Gulzar and Afzal as they compete for Asifa’s attention. Writer/director/editor Musa Syeed also acts in the film as a protester. Lead actor Gulzar Bhat is an actual boatman on Dal Lake. Mohomad Ali Sofi plays Afzal and Neelofar Hamid is Asifa. Nicholas Bruckman is the producer. The music is by Mubashir Mohi-ud-Din (he and his brother Mohsin, fellow Kashmiri-Americans, have an indie rock band called ‘Zerobridge’ based in New York).

Twenty-seven-year-old writer/director Musa Syeed, a New Yorker of Kashmiri origin, received the Alfred P Sloan Feature Film Production Award for the screenplay of Valley of Saints. Syeed also received a New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship and a National Geographic All Roads grant and was named one of the ‘10 to Watch' in 2010 by The Independent. He recently completed the feature documentary, 30 Mosques (on two young American Muslims journeying to 30 mosques in 30 days across America). He co-produced two short documentaries with his producer Yoni Brook: Bronx Princess (on a New York teenager reuniting with her royal father in Africa) which was in competition at the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam and the Berlin International Film Festival, and A Son's Sacrifice (about a father and son who run a halal slaughterhouse in New York) which won Best Documentary Short at the Tribeca Film Festival and the 2007 International Documentary Association Awards. He co-directed The Calling, a documentary mini-series following young people training to become religious leaders in America. Musa also works as an educator in schools, community centres and prisons. He is an alumnus of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and the Middle Eastern & Islamic Studies Department.

Café Regular, Cairo (featuring in Spectrum Shorts)

Direction, script by Ritesh Batra

2011, Egypt/India, 11 mins, Arabic, HD, colour

A relationship is tested in a crowded café in Cairo. A young couple finds itself speaking about things they have never spoken about before, as they try to find their own place in a changing world. The director says, “The players in our story, Mai Abozeed and Alaa Ezzat, are playing themselves in the film. So to a degree, the film is an extension of their real lives. I had the idea for this story before I went to Cairo, but I was fortunate to be influenced by the city and its people to know that as a storyteller, my job was not to impose my conception of Cairo on the story, but to step back and allow the real to marry the fiction we were creating, and even to discover it. The story was enriched by selecting actors or rather non-actors who would play themselves on screen and by shooting it in a live Café in Cairo with real customers and the business of daily life in the background. I had the wonderful opportunity to experience this story come to life with the symphony of the city in the background. In crafting this film, our primary job was to keep it as simple and unadulterated as possible and not interfere with the interplay between the fiction on screen and the reality in the background.” Produced by Alaa Mosbah, Wajdi Elian and Guneet Monga, the director of photography is Islam Abdel Samea and editing is by Wajdi Elian.

Madhuja Mukherjee

(Photographs, Videos, Acrylic, Drawings, Sound Motifs)

Venue: Nieuwe Oogst as part of the ‘Regained, Renewed' event - being presented alongside the restored films of Melies, Scorsese's Hugo and other masters

Kolkata-based Madhuja Mukherjee's “Crumbled Papers, Fragments of Cinema" is an artist-historian’s attempt to draw upon the cultural memory of cinemas, the fragments which lie outside the films per se, and connect it with various cultural practices including publicity images. It marks an effort to make lost films available to the public, historicize it, and emphasize the theme of ‘romance and cinema’. By using old publicity material, videos and sound motifs, and intersecting it with personal notes, shiny mirror-like surfaces, obscure objects etc, Crumbled Papers creates an interactive environment where the participant/observer may enter into a reverie of sorts to recall personal stories of love, romance and sensuality associated with cinema.

“The idea of audio-visual installations came up from my diverse experiences of writing on films, making films, constantly groping with archival material, interest in history of art, and continuous conversations with other artists in my attempt to mix mediums, challenge disciplines, and produce graphic stories, image essays, videos etc. Moreover, over the years, my engagement with cinema has been connected to its historical significance and the narratives of its making as well as its distribution-exhibition networks. Two media installations emerged from this process, ‘Theatres of Spectacle' (photographs, video, vinyl, acrylic, celluloid strips, drawings and writings) in February 2011; the video ‘Flaneuse' (approximately 28 mins) presented the modes in which women encounter popular melodramas, and connected it with posters and feminist animations. Thereafter, ‘Interiority' (vinyl, acrylic, video, photographs, found objects, drawings) in April, 2011,” says Mukherjee.