By UMA DA CUNHA
Tue June 10, 2014
Arriving in New York from the Cannes film festival, where India was minimally represented, I was delighted to find India flying high in this world capital of great happenings. Within days, one met A.R. Rahman, recording music for a major international film, listened to an excited Mira Nair juggling completion of a first-of-its-kind project in Doha and creation of a Broadway musical based on her own ‘Monsoon Wedding’ and attended the premiere of an applauded documentary about baseball in Manipuri – multi-faceted India presenting the many hues of its talent and cultural content in the city where the world’s eyes are always focused.
While Disney’s ‘Million Dollar Arm’ was hitting big screens nationwide (about an American sports agent who gets two talented Indian cricketers to play major league baseball), another very different film on a similar subject, the documentary “The Only Real Game,” opened on June 6 at Cinema Village.
In it, director Mirra Bank spotlights the passion for the game in the poor and war-torn state of Manipur, now under martial law. She depicts the devotion and skill of all in the State, especially the women who are protecting their children and themselves from drugs and insurgent-soldier gangsters.
In a country dominated by cricket and football, isolated Manipuri was first captivated by baseball in the 1940s, as played by the American pilots who used their kingdom as a strategic spot for air war against the Japanese. The title comes from the game’s legendary Babe Ruth who called baseball “the only real game in the world.” While everybody sees it as an American game, it has become a driving sport in Manipur. Today, Imphal, has more than 20 clubs. Manipuris have played baseball for 70 years without any outside assistance until a charitable group, First Pitch: The US-Manipur Baseball Project got involved.
New Yorker Mirra Bank directs film and theatre. Her previous feature documentary, Last Dance, was short-listed for an Academy Award. Her innovative nonfiction feature, Nobody’s Girls, was a PBS prime-time special; and her ground-breaking Indie Feature Enormous Changes premiered at Sundance.
The ebullient and indefatigable Mira Nair works at several film projects and script ideas at the same time. She is currently editing her segment of a massive innovative film concept for a projected museum in Doha. Several leading filmmakers have each been asked to present a 20- minute film on any aspect of Doha’s history and landscape. The film that each is to present is far more than a single screen creation. It will project on three huge screens running along a vast tunnel where, as the viewer walks along, he/she gets a visual narrative on a unique aspect of Doha. Mira has chosen to present Doha’s connection with the pearl industry. For most of the 19th century, Doha was a fairly small, sleepy little village sustained mostly by trading on pearls found off the coast. As soon as this project is over, Mira plunges into the limelight again with a musical saga around her celebrated film, ‘Monsoon Wedding’.
A. R. Rahman and Om Puri
To run unexpectedly into a Rahman recording for a film releasing on August 8 in New York became a unique experience. I found myself ushered into the rehearsal of an orchestra of what seemed to be 50 or more musicians.
The film, titled “A Hundred Foot Journey”, based on Richard C. Morais’s novel about two rival restaurants in France, is a Dreamworks presentation with Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey and Juliet Blake as the producers. Lasse Hallström, of ‘Chocalat’ fame, directs. The film adaptation, scripted by Steven Knight, stars Om Puri in the lead role alongside the incomparable Helen Mirrel, US-based newcomer Manish Dayal, and Juhi Chawla.
The story follows Hassan Kadam (Manish Dayal) and his family headed by Papa (Om Puri), displaced from their native India. They settle in a small French town to open a restaurant. Once the owner of a French restaurant across the street, Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren), hears of it, they face her considerable ire and resistance. But the obstacles become a cultural bonding of a Franco-Indian family.
Winfrey chose the book on which the film is based as a "favorite summer read" in 2010. She said in an interview, “It’s about human beings coming to understand other human beings and more importantly, after you get to experience or step into somebody else’s shoes or see them for real human beings, how you understand that you’re really more alike than you are different". The original motion picture soundtrack and score is by A. R. Rahman
Courtesy: http://thecitizen.in/ - India's first independent on-line daily which was launched on January 27, 2014.reproducing Uma da Cunha's column