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Archive for September, 2009|Monthly archive page

Third World Girl on Mira Nair at IFP

In Uncategorized on September 30, 2009 at 11:27 PM

medium_mira nairSo after the disappointment of getting my dink from Austin, I needed some upliftment. Luckily Mira Nair provided it in spades at the IFP’s Independent Film Conference in New York last week. She described needing elephantine skin to survive the ups and downs of Hollywood. That and amazing self-belief.

With every “No thanks. Not for us,” she told herself, “You’re wrong. I’ll show you.” And it’s turned out pretty well for Mira. That’s the spirit I find myself trying to tap into for the much needed rocket fuel to keep the momentum on crazy Bollywood movie musical going. If making a film is like going to war, it’s a mighty long campaign.

Mira’s keynote also had two pieces of great advice for Third Worlders…stuff I’ve felt but not been able to articulate.

1) Make what you make excellently. Do not apologize for its quality by saying explicitly or not, hey this is from the Third World so cut us some slack. For her first feature “Salaam Bombay” she told the story of blowing the entire movie’s budget in production, leaving nothing for post. She put all the money in the film ($800,000) and then went looking for finishing funds. She just knew it had to look great.

2) Don’t “anthropoligize” or explain too much culturally. If you watch Monsoon Wedding you’ll see how much you’re thrust into the action. There’s no expositional dialogue about why we dress this way or wear this henna, or sing this song. There’s no outsider leading you through the action and the work is all the richer and more authentic for it.

There was only one thing that bugged me about the keynote. The moderator kept trying to bring the focus back to Mira as a woman director/filmmaker and she seemed determined to steer clear of that pigeonhole. “It’s not like I consciously decided that I wanted to make movies about women and walk around wearing orange pants,” she said sitting up on stage at an F.I.T. auditorium, wearing a rather fetching pair of said shimmery orange pants. And then she quoted from what another interviewer said of her work, “I don’t make political films. I make films politically.”

Perhaps making films politically speaks to her commitment to the collective collaboration involved in filmmaking. (She told a charming tale of how she and her crew would perform a ritual at the start of each day’s shooting of The Namesake, breaking a coconut and blessing all the equipment, down to the dolly tracks…since every item is important. “The carpenter has to show up to build the throne for the actor to sit on,” as she put it.) Or maybe it’s a nod to her ultra-realistic, documentarian roots on display in “Monsoon Wedding.”

Whichever it was, it didn’t stop her from plugging “Amelia”, her first big studio movie, starring Hilary Swank, which opens October 23rd.

Of Mice & Young Men: Konkona Sen

In In Your Face on September 30, 2009 at 5:46 PM

Courtesy of Wake Up Sid blog

September 26, 2009

The grass is always greener on the other side, isn’t it? While we were shooting for Wake Up Sid, I couldn’t wait for the movie to be done so I could sit on a cushy chair and watch it on the big screen. And now that it’s almost over, I wish we could delay it a bit, just to stay in this same atmosphere for just a little longer. Because once a film is over, the air just changes, and you can never get that feeling back again. Ok, I think it’s time I stopped being so sentimental. Mostly because Wake Up Sid wasn’t exactly the easiest film to have done! There were lots and lots of days when I was tortured and exploited too!

Seriously, everyday started with Ayan coming into my van and asking me to lose weight, and be healthy and eat right and work out, etc etc. Then, what seemed like hours and hours, were spent in picking out my outfit and accessories for the day’s scene. Of course, then there was another hour attributed to doing my hair and makeup. By the time we actually began shoot everyday, I would be exhausted already! Ayan isn’t shallow in the least, which will be clear to anyone who watches Wake Up Sid, but he is obsessed with being healthy. He’s the fittest out of all the crewmembers, and works out more than any of us do, including Ranbir. Eventually, though, I’m glad he pushed me. I’m very happy with my look in the film, and surprised by my own transformation.

Of course, there were far worse horrors that lay in my path during Wake Up Sid, and my look was the least of them. The shoot wasn’t a very easygoing shoot. We shot at all kinds of hours, everywhere around Mumbai, in all types of conditions that I had never shot in before. The worst day I had on this film could go to either one of two days. One – the day I had to do a really emotional scene while being drenched by a mixture of real and fake rain. And two – the day when I had to have a mouse run over my body! Ugggh. Ok the mouse day wins hands down, because Ayan might be able to convince me to shoot in the rain again, but I’m NEVER letting a mouse near myself again! I have no idea how he convinced me to do it the first time. I was almost in tears and scared to death!

Speaking of scared, nobody is a bigger scaredy-cat than Ranbir! That boy is afraid of everything. We had to shoot a song cut with a pigeon, and as soon as the pigeon was let loose he just ran! And he slipped and fell down in the middle of the shot! The whole unit cracked up and we had to stop shoot just to pull ourselves together again. He refused to do another take, but Ayan sweet-talked him into it and I promised to protect him if he were attacked. When we did do the shot, he ran and hid behind me and wouldn’t even look up till we got hold of the bird! We’ve kept both those shots in the film, and they work because that’s how our characters are too. He isn’t a ‘brave hero’ and I’m not a ‘damsel in distress’. We’re both regular people, who laugh and scream and get scared and run away like everyone does. Ayan loves capturing these organic moments and knows how to put them in context. I just wish these real moments involved fewer animals!

Ok if I give away all my memories like this, I won’t have much left for next time!

Until then,

Konkona

Playing the Field

In In Your Face on September 30, 2009 at 1:30 PM

Courtesy of Intent Blog

by Rahul Khanna

rahul-khanna

While I have great regard for commitment and monogamy, I must admit that I, myself, have been rather promiscuous.

New York’s dating scene is notoriously cut-throat but it pales in comparison to the city’s housing market. A few lucky people find their perfect match right off the bat but the majority of us go through several real estate partners before finally settling down.

I have gone from rookie renter to serial subletter and someday I hope to settle down into a long-term lease but for now I continue my wanton wanderings. Below is a lease-and-tell chronicle of some of my more memorable affairs of the real estate variety…

THE FIRST LOVE

The first apartment I ever had of my own was listed as a “cozy” studio in Manhattan’s pierced and mohawked East Village neighbourhood. In New York realty-speak, “cozy” means the size of a small walk-in wardrobe. But, for a wide-eyed, twenty year-old film student, it was a palace. There’s no feeling that comes close to the sense of accomplishment and pure exhilaration of moving into your first apartment.

With this rite of passage one also ends up learning important life lessons. One of the more amusing ones (in retrospect only) was a wild evening with two Norwegian girls whose Basic Instinct style flashes
from the futon were, I later discovered upon getting my phone bill, just to distract me and my friends from the fact that they were using my phone to call every relative they had in Norway.

When I moved back to NYC after a 3-year stint in Singapore, the first apartment my realtor happened to show me was this very same one. It was like reconnecting with an old friend but it looked so tiny I
couldn’t believe I actually lived there. I ended up going with…

THE ONE NIGHT STAND

This brief dalliance with a ground floor studio in a townhouse on the Upper West Side was doomed from the start. The very evening I got the keys, I discovered the apartment came with room-mates. Furry,
four-legged ones. The relationship was over less than 24 hours after it had begun. This led to my first (and hopefully last) legal battle (which I subsequently lost thanks to the fine print on the paperwork
I’d signed) and, although I didn’t get the opportunity to shout, “I’m out of order? You’re out of order! This whole trial is out of order!”, the up side is I now have some experience to draw on if I ever do a courtroom drama.

Although the whole affair was less than pleasant, I was in for a soft landing because I ended up in the vermin-free arms of…

THE FEMME FATALE

This slick little apartment in a modern high-rise with the most unbelievable views of Manhattan and the river was the real-estate equivalent of being in a relationship with a sophisticated, sexy and successful young woman… who, I discovered, had a sordid background.

A few years earlier, the building was the site of one of Manhattan’s most sensational and grisly murders. Often, as I strapped on my rollerblades in the lobby, one of the doormen, shaking his head, would recount how he’d helped two residents load a trunk into a cab, later finding out it contained the dismembered remains of a local bookie.

Apart from that, the building was rumoured to be home to some of the city’s most high priced and exclusive escorts. Although I never was able to confirm this information (that’s my story and I’m sticking to
it), I got to know some of my other neighbours and we are still close friends. My apartment was sandwiched between one of New York’s premier concert pianists and an auctioneer couple with a talent for mixing exquisitely lethal margaritas, which they’d pass me over our balconies every evening. Between the Gershwin from one side and the tequila from the other, it’s no wonder I look back on those years with such great fondness but not too much lucidity.

When I began taking on more work in India, it made sense to sub-let rather than maintain an apartment of my own, so my promiscuity escalated. Next up was an involvement with…

THE OLDER ONE

I’d always been a fan of New York’s indigenous pre-war architecture but had only lived in modern structures until I ended up in this charming one bedroom on the Upper West Side. Full of antiques (and
dust!) the apartment was owned by a flamboyant and uproariously witty 90 year-old. She lived across the hall and would often trick me into taking her out for drinks. Always catching me off guard, her modus
operandi was brilliant and would involve lines like “I’m 90, would you just walk me to the corner so I can pick up some dinner?” When we got there, she’d follow it with “Let’s just have a quick drink while they
pack my food.” An hour later, through a 3 martini haze, I would realise I’d been had – again. In spite of this regular trickery and the delight she took in scandalising me with play-by-play details about her
sex-life, requests to please “knock-up” her daughter and answering the door in nothing but her underwear, we got along famously and I ended up being a frequent guest at parties with her friends that included New York’s most celebrated tycoons, politicians, writers and artists.

When she found out I was an actor, she started showing a picture of me to every Indian taxi driver she came in contact with. She would then excitedly call me wherever I happened to be in the world to inform me that they knew who I was. When I expressed my mortification and asked her to stop, she was clearly offended. The next voicemail from her was a curt, “I showed your picture to a cab driver today and he had no idea who the hell you were.”

I sublet the apartment for a few years before she eventually sold it but she remains one of my favourite people in New York and I still get invited to the parties.

THE TAKEN ONE

In between apartments, a friend offered me his roommate’s section in their large Chelsea 2-bedroom. She was away on a long assignment in South America and I fell madly in love with the unbelievable water
pressure. Every time I turned on the shower, I had to hold onto the hand rail for fear of being knocked to the ground or pinned to the wall with its force. Every shower was an adventure – like whitewater rafting
in the comfort of one’s own bathroom. But this was not my space and I was always aware that it belonged to someone else. And, like when you mess with a committed woman, there’s a good chance you’ll eventually get caught. That happened late one October morning when I emerged from the shower and found a middle-aged Argentinean woman sitting on the bed. Her assignment had ended ahead of schedule and she was home early. That was the end of that tryst. The room went back to its true owner
and I went back to standard water-pressure.

THE THREESOME

I recently found myself in the top floor apartment of a brownstone off Central Park West. It belonged to a feminist writer who was spending time in Europe and the apartment, newly renovated, with great
light and views, seemed perfect. There was one catch, though… the owner clearly thought very highly of her boyfriend’s charms and had a framed photograph of him above the bed. Nothing wrong with that – except that it was a nude. It took some adjusting to (and an amendment to my “One Penis Limit in the Bedroom” rule) but, after a while, I hardly noticed the pale, hairy man hanging (literally) on the wall. It was, after all, a very small price to pay for a great New York sublet.

THE (possibly) DANGEROUS LIAISON

I’m currently in a quirky and Spartan walk-up in the West Village that belongs to an Italian photographer. Thankfully, there are no naked men on the wall but it’s possible I’m living above a serial killer. He has a pallid, gothic look to him and, as I passed him coming into the building, he fixed me with a steely, disdainful gaze and hissed in an eerily Hannibal Lechter-esque tone, “Ah, new meat.” (The friend I was
with claims he said, new “face” but I know what I heard.) I’m going to try my best not to make eye-contact or do anything that might even vaguely annoy him but, if I go missing, check the freezer of apartment
#2R.

‘Dev.D’ Delights at 66th Venice Film Festival

In E. Nina Rothe, Red Hot Carpets on September 30, 2009 at 12:40 PM

by E. Nina Rothe

If it wasn’t fantastic enough that our beloved Anurag Kashyap was chosen to be on the jury at La Biennale 66th Venice Film Festival – it is an honor bestowed only upon the best of the best! – then the proverbial icing on the cake was his film ‘Dev.D’ getting screened out of competition there.

The stars came out to sparkle, with nearly the full film cast in attendance. Kalki Koelchin looked as radiant and pretty, as only she can, in the color of the moment, a sage satin gown. Mahi Gill dazzled in a white and gold sari, while Kashyap and Dev star himself Abhay Deol both wore what looked like matching and dashing tuxedoes.

But the evening could not possibly be the complete success it ended up to be without the presence of that fabulous Greek chorus of Delhi, the dancing brothers trio of The Twilight Players. If the song ‘Pardesi’ is deeply etched in my sense memory it is certainly to their amazing grace, elegance and generosity of spirit.

So, I leave you with some latest news on fantastic filmmaker Kashyap himself. He and Danny Boyle have decided to collaborate on the project ‘Bombay Velvet’ which is going to be directed by AK and produced by DB. The film is also rumored to star Aamir Khan and Shah Rukh Khan and is a project close to AK’s heart. With those four names, I foresee a big success and lines to see the movie that will last through the first 100 days straight! OK, official Ajnabee prediction, you can quote me on it!

So, let me leave you with some special thanks going out to the dashing Sinbad Phgura who was so kind to provide the exclusive shot above, which in turn inspired this post. As always, he is an endless source of inspiration! Thanks!! To find out more about Sinbad Phgura and the Twilight Players, read my interview with him on Chic Today. Rock On!!

Images courtesy ©2009 Sinbad Phgura

Oct 3 – Sita on Thirteen at 11pm!

In In Your Face on September 30, 2009 at 12:16 PM

sita-ninaThis just in from Richard Siegmeister of WNET:

Sita is airing this Saturday at 11pm on New York’s Channel 13!

Roger Ebert’s Review of Sita Sings the Blues
I am enchanted. I am swept away. I am smiling from one end of the film to another. It hardly ever happens this way. I get a DVD in the mail. I’m told it’s an animated film directed by a girl from Urbana. That’s my home town. It is titled Sita Sings the Blues. I know nothing about it, and the plot description on IMDb is not exactly a barn-burner: An animated version of the epic Indian tale of Ramayana set to the 1920’s jazz vocals of Annette Hanshaw. Uh, huh. I carefully file it with other movies I will watch when they introduce the 8-day week. I get an e-mail from Betsy, my old pal who worked with me on The News-Gazette. Did you see the film by the mayor’s daughter? This intrigues me. The daughter is named Nina Paley. I do a Google run and discover that Hiram Paley was mayor from 1973-1977. I am relieved. This means the girl probably didn’t make the film as a high school class project. In fact, by my rapid mathematical calculations, she may have been conceived in City Hall. I used to cover City Hall. Worse things have happened there. By this point, I’m hooked. I can’t stop now. I put on the DVD and start watching. I am enchanted. I am swept away. I am smiling from one end of the film to the other. It is astonishingly original. It brings together four entirely separate elements and combines them into a great whimsical chord. You might think my attention would flag while watching An animated version of the epic Indian tale of Ramayana set to the 1920’s jazz vocals of Annette Hanshaw. Quite the opposite. It quickens. I obtain Nina Paley’s e-mail address and invite the film to my film festival in April 2009 at the University of Illinois, which by perfect synchronicity is in our home town. To get any film made is a miracle. To conceive of a film like this is a greater miracle. How did Paley’s mind work?

sita-hanumanShe begins with the story of Ramayana, which is known to every school child in India but not to me. It tells the story of a brave, noble woman who was made to suffer because of the perfidy of a spineless husband and his mother. This is a story known to every school child in America. They learn it at their mother’s knee. Paley depicts the story with exuberant drawings in bright colors. It is about a prince named Rama who treated Sita shamefully, although she loved him and was faithful to him. Of course there is a lot more to it than that, involving a monkey army, a lustful king who occasionally grows 10 heads, synchronized birds, a chorus line of gurus, and a tap-dancing moon. It coils around and around, as Indian epic tales are known to do. Even the Indians can’t always figure them out. In addition to her characters talking, Paley adds another level of dialogue: Three voice-over modern Indians, ad-libbing as they try to get the story straight. Was Sita wearing jewelry or not? How long was she a prisoner in exile? How did the rescue monkey come into the picture? These voices are as funny as an SNL skit, and the Indian accent gives them charm: What a challenge, these stories! Sita, the heroine, reminds me a little of the immortal Betty Boop. But her singing voice is sexier. Paley synchs her life story and singing and dancing with recordings of the American jazz singer Annette Hanshaw (1901-1985), a big star in the 1920s and 1930s who was known as The Personality Girl. Sita lived around 1000 BCE, a date which inspires lively debate among the three Indians discussing her. But when her husband outrageously accuses her of adultery and kicks her on top of a flaming pyre, we know exactly how she feels when Annette Hanshaw sings her big hit, Mean to Me.

Read more here at blogs.suntimes.com

–Rogert Ebert

Kaminey | Chetan Roy

In Uncategorized on September 29, 2009 at 10:25 PM

kaminay2

I’ll admit it. I did have high expectations going in to see Kaminey. And despite getting yet another dose of Mumbai gangsterism, my expectations for the next Vishal Bhardwaj movie remain high.

The Bombay mafia has been depicted in Bollywood as early as Awaara (”it was called Bombay then” just as Guddu articulates on our desperate behalf), and there’s been a steady dose since. The frequency ratcheted up after Nayagan came out in the 80s. Since then we’ve gotten Zanjeer, Don, Deewaar, Parinda, Satya, Company, Sarkaar, Munnabhai, Godmother, Waisa Bhi Hota Hai, Vaastav, and perhaps many more that I’ve never heard of. Do we really need another Mumbai gangster movie?

Obviously, Vishal Bhardwaj and his brothers in arms believe so. As a result, we’re treated to Mumbai slang, incessant rounds of firing, shootouts, crass dialogue, guts and glory, greed, family values among thieves – the usual smorgasbord that makes up this weary genre. But since this is Vishal, we get a movie that’s pretty damn good, with moments of brilliance, some great music and background scoring, and a couple of clever send-ups.

We could start with the satirical insertion of the twins genre twinned with the gangster genre. But it’s not brothers separated at birth. It’s brothers that have drifted apart because they are different. Each of them has frailties, physical and mental, that make them hero and anti-hero at the same time. Thus, the layers begin, and we get a movie enriched in its underpinnings.

There are send ups of Maharashtrian zealots, politicians, rogue police officers – all the usual suspects we have seen before. But the quality of the acting, the development of the characters, and the tightness in script differentiates this movie from its many predecessors. Amole Gupte is excellent as Bhau, Priyanka Chopra is almost unrecognizable when she actually acts, Shahid does a reasonably good job, and all of the supporting cast are very good.

What stands out is the attention to detail. All speech defects and accents are maintained, the story retains continuity even as it hops back and forth. Perhaps the only tenuous moment was when Bhau speaks English with an impeccable accent. Yet, In today’s India, that may be a possibility.

There are some brilliant scenes. The interrogation of Guddu is one of my favourites. To explain what happens would give away the scene, but it is extremely funny, sad and scary at the same time. The shoot outs are superbly executed. And the first song during the titles is Vishal Bhardwaj doing what he does best, composing and arranging music. It is an excellent rendition of a folksy tune with a superlative musical arrangement. As Sukhwinder sings the song with gusto, one feels that it resumes from where the title song of Omkaara left off.

There are hints of Reservoir Dogs, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Layer Cake, and a general whiff of Quentin Tarantino’s “influence” in many scenes. No copying however, or sincere flattery, just influence.

There are a couple of scenes though that really feel like run of the mill. It was Dil Chahta Hai Redux or Yuva II (the Fanaa song) during the nightclub song scene. Nightclub song sequences seem to have become a template, like the hero and heroine running towards each other in slow motion with a Kenyan runner’s stamina on open hillsides. The shoot out, although well done, is also a template. The ending is a bit of a cop out, but you have to wait to the end to see it. And while you’re waiting, it’s a rock and roll’r.

However, one hopes that this is the last Mumbai gangster film that Vishal Bhardwaj makes. It’s a waste of his calibre to add yet another nine pin in the bowling alley of gangster movies. It would have been interesting if he had made the Hyderabad or Bangalore underworld his subject rather than Mumbai. Whatever happened to his idea of creating a legacy of children’s movies? He’s only made two so far, Makdee and The Blue Umbrella. He could even take some other relevant topical story, whether it be the ineffective judicial system or the many million stories of success against the odds, and make a smashing film out of it. He is one of the few movie makers who can pull it off, and the movie industry would be all the better for it.

The Journey on the Road

In Aseem Chhabra on September 29, 2009 at 12:25 PM

Courtesy of Mumbai Mirror
roadmovieSep 27, 2009 by Aseem Chhabra

There is a story about Buddha when, as Prince Siddhartha, he set out on a journey during which he encountered three men – one old, the other two sick and poor – and then a corpse. This led him to give up his riches and seek the meaning of life. In Walter Salles’s The Motorcycle Diaries a young Ernesto Guevara de la Serna set off on a similar journey, with the intent of having fun, especially experiencing the company of women. But along the way he encountered poverty and the harsh realities of the underprivileged in Latin America. This discovery made him change the course of his life, leading him eventually to become the hero of the Cuban Revolution.

I thought of these two journeys last week, while watching Dev Benegal’s haunting and visually stunning film Road, Movie at the Toronto International Film Festival. In the film, Benegal’s protagonist Vishnu (Abhay Deol, in a far quieter and introspective role after his showy performances in Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! and Dev D) travels through a mythical landscape in India, traversing across the desert in Rajasthan and the salt lands of Kutch.

dev-benegal-1But Benegal (English, August and Split Wide Open) does not start the film with lofty and visionary goals for Vishnu.  The man is escaping his father’s dying hair oil business and finds something else to preoccupy himself – a favour to drive a broken down truck with old movie projectors and film reels. Along the way Vishnu meets several colourful characters – including a young boy (Mohammed Faizal), an old man (Satish Kaushik in his career best performance) and a gypsy woman (the seductive Tannishtha Chaterjee, who is fast becoming the leading lady of the Indian indie cinema).

They set off on a colourful magical mystery tour in the truck, and share experiences that may not happen in the realm of reality. There is reality in the film and then beyond, but it is all very satisfying for the senses. Benegal’s travellers stop to show movies to villagers, allowing them to dream and escape from their harsh state of poverty and desperate shortage of water.

Vishnu’s three travelling companions play diverse roles in his journey. The child reminds him of simple pleasures of life, innocence and the importance of a sense of humour. The old man, a fatherly figure who helps guide him through the rough terrains of his internal and external journey, gives him advice on life lessons. And the woman shows Vishnu his caring, sensitive side, in addition to seducing him.

roadmovie_03Also during this journey Vishnu sees a group of women walking long distances in search of water. The women are like a Greek chorus, or the Goddess of Rajasthan, appearing in the film in the far-off landscape, but watching and never letting Vishnu get completely lost. He is tested but never allowed to fail completely. Vishnu does not become Buddha in the end, but he certainly feels in control of his destiny.

Life lessons apart, Road, Movie is a very funny film. It has a terrific and a witty script written by Benegal and is tightly directed. Benegal’s narrative is aided by bright upbeat soundtrack by Michael Brook (a collaborator with Nusrat Fatah Ali Khan, who also composed for a number of films, including Sean Penn’s Into The Wild), and stunning camerawork by Michel Mathieu. The film is full of so many visual wow moments – large expanse of landscape, the overbearing desert and the magical truck, peppered with the colourful costumes of the characters.

roadmovie_04There are moments when we feel the truck is within us and the audience is on the same journey with Vishnu and his co-passengers. And then there are moments of stillness, such as when the four characters first step on the salt land in Kutch. That single shot takes your breath away.

Finally Road, Movie is Benegal’s homage to the magical world of cinema. The film is full of charming and sometimes hilarious movie clips, and a playful version of a classic Bollywood song that will surely have the audience smiling as it leaves the theatre.

D’Arcy visits The Waiting City

In Uncategorized on September 29, 2009 at 9:12 AM

Courtesy of Screen International

waitingcity

28 September, 2009 | By David D’Arcy

Dir/scr. Claire McCarthy. Australia, 2009, 108 minutes

An Australian couple seeking to heal what’s wrong in their lives by adopting a child in India run head-on into a stolid bureaucracy in The Waiting City, Claire McCarthy’s second feature which is a tender look at loss and self-knowledge.

Parents thinking about adopting a foreign child might do well to take look at The Waiting City

A poignant, perceptive tale of one couple’s effort to have a child to give their lives meaning, The Waiting City can draw on a sizeable Australian audience (the story is based on a number of Australian adoption experiences in India), and with noted Indian actor Samrat Chakrabarti playing the couple’s hotel guide and driver, this could also do well in the Indian market.

In McCarthy’s own script, Fiona, an irritably ambitious corporate lawyer (Radha Mitchell), arrives in Kolkata with Ben, her failed singer/guitarist husband (Joel Edgerton). With their luggage lost, their strained relationship frays afresh as agency clerks announce new delays to see the child whom they have waited two years to adopt. The appearance of a pretty musician friend (Isabel Lucas) from Ben’s past compounds the stress.

waitingcity_04Culture shock becomes culture clash as their bemused guide, Krishna (Chakrabarti), offers an Indian’s frank and unwelcome reflections on adopting a child from another culture. Fiona and Ben quarrel and part company before finally reaching the baby’s orphanage. The daughter whom they are to adopt, little Lakshmi, is adorable, but gravely ill. In attending to the child’s suffering, the two reconcile, although worse news is yet to come.

In The Waiting City, McCarthy finds a balance between lampooning local annoyances and probing the real motivations of would-be parents longing for a child.

As Fiona and Ben, Mitchell and Edgerton are so convincing as self-involved adults stumbling into a huge responsibility (and a foreign labyrinth) that McCarthy needs no exegetical scenes about problems inherent in the adoption process.  Mitchell rings true as a ballsy lawyer, fused to her computer, negotiating deals as she prepares to be a mother. Edgerton oozes with the vulnerability and frustrated anger of the weaker half of their partnership.

Playing Krishna as a young father beset with his own stresses, Chakrabarti brings an agility to the film’s encounter of two cultures, particularly regarding raising children. Parents thinking about adopting a foreign child might do well to take look at The Waiting City.

waitingcity_01That colourful crowded city is not over-exoticised by McCarthy. With DP Denson Baker, the director has shaped her film to begin with those unsettling aspects of a noisy metropolis that first strike visitors, and then shift gently into a gradual revelation of sounds and images, most of them intimate, that come with a longer stay.  By the time Fiona and Ben adopt a country, McCarthy makes sure you see and feel why.

Chopra named as PIFF’s Asian Filmmaker of the Year

In Uncategorized on September 28, 2009 at 11:04 PM

Courtesy of Screen International

Yash_Chopra

3 September, 2009 | By Jean Noh

The 14th Pusan International Film Festival (PIFF) has announced that legendary Bollywood director-producer Yash Chopra will receive its Asian Filmmaker of the Year award.

PIFF stated: “As the most influential producer and director in India over decades, Chopra has made remarkable contributions to establish Bollywood cinema on the global stage. His tireless five-decade long devotion has made considerable contributions to enhance the global status of Indian films as well as Asian cinema.”

Chopra also founded Yash Raj Films in 1970 which has churned out more than 40 films. Chopra directed 12 of these, starring Bollywood icons such as Amitabh Bachchan and Shahrukh Khan.

Yash Raj Films has also joined with Walt Disney Studios to create a series of animation films and premiered the first co-production Roadside Romeo last year.

PIFF is curating a commemorative section of four films directed by Chopra and/or produced by Yash Raj Films:

  • Lamhe (1991), dir. Yash Chopra
  • Dhoom 2 (2006), dir. Sanjay Gadhvi
  • Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (2008), dir. Aditya Chopra
  • New York (2009), dir. Kabir Khan

Previous awardees of PIFF’s Asian Filmmaker of the Year since it was inaugurated in 2003 include Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Hou Hsiao Hsien, Andy Lau and the late Edward Yang.

The 14th Pusan International Film Festival will run October 8 -16.

Mumbai police make arrests in piracy crackdown

In In Your Face on September 28, 2009 at 10:55 PM

Courtesy of Screen International

whatsyourrashee_02

25 September, 2009 | By Udita Jhunjhunwala

Mumbai police have arrested employees of UFO Moviez, Reliance Big Cinemas, Adlabs and Shemaroo Entertainment in connection with a plot to pirate UTV Motion Pictures’ What’s Your Rashee?, which is being released today.

UTV has since demanded compensation of $10m (Rs500m) each from UFO Moviez and Adlabs for “abetting piracy and infringement of copyright”, to be paid up within seven days.

The persons arrested included UFO Moviez associate vice president, digital mastering, Rajesh Chowdhry (who has since been sacked), Big Cinemas manager of overseas distribution Neerav Shah, Adlabs Processing manager Durgadas Bhakta and Kalapi Nagda, who heads overseas distribution for Shemaroo Entertainment.

The master print of What’s Your Rashee?, directed by Ashutosh Gowariker, was allegedly stolen from Adlabs processing lab on Monday. This week’s other release, Fast Forward, was also stolen.

Reliance Big Pictures issued an official statement saying: “Anybody found guilty of any wrong-doing as far as the law of the country is concerned, will be strictly dealt with.”

The piracy racket is believed to cross borders between India and Pakistan. A meeting of producers, distributors and lab owners is scheduled for early next week.

Khushwant Singh on Nandita Das

In In Your Face on September 28, 2009 at 12:57 PM
Courtesy of Outlook India
NanditaDas.JoshSiegelShe is the best example of an Indian’s perception of a beautiful woman: brown complexion, chiselled features, fawn-like eyes and a gentle smile on her lips. She uses no make-up like eye shadow, powder, rouge or lipstick to enhance her beauty. Even so, her face leaves an indelible stamp on one’s mind which can be brought alive anytime you think of her. She is Nandita Das—actress, director and producer of films which carry a message. She is the daughter of the eminent Oriya painter Jatin Das and Gujarati Hindu-Jain mother Varsha. She was born, brought up and educated in Delhi and may rightly be described as Nai Dilli ki beti. She did her schooling in Sardar Patel Vidyalaya, took a degree in geography from Miranda House and MA in social work from Delhi University—getting firsts in all of them. With her academic achievements she could have made it to one of the central services. She toyed with the idea of becoming an Odissi dancer but her stunningly photogenic looks and talent for acting drew her into the film world.

I have not been inside a cinema hall for over thirty years and rarely switch on my TV except to catch up with the latest news. I am not qualified to write on a film personality. However, I had a couple of sessions with Nandita Das in my home. The first was after the success of Firaq, based on the anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat in 2002, directed by her. It won her nation-wide acclaim and drew huge crowds when shown in Pakistan. It also brought her a lot of hate mail from Hindu fundoos. The second and longer session was soon after the release of Before The Rains, about an illicit love affair between a married English coffee-planter and his maidservant, also married. It got some good as well as some critical reviews. I gathered whatever material I could find on her on the net—acted in 30 films, directed four and details of her life. I asked everyone who had seen her films how they rated her—and felt compelled to put my conclusions on paper.

I went through the biodata she had sent me after our first meeting. I noticed something strange: she had lots of nice things to say about her father whom she calls Baba, but there was nothing about her mother. I knew her parents had a messy divorce when she was barely eight years old. I also heard her father had a roving eye and remarried more than once after divorcing Varsha. I told her what I had noticed and asked if her parents’ divorce had left any scars on her mind and if she had been forced to take sides. She was on the defensive. “No,” she assured me, if there were any scars, they had healed and she loved both her mother and father equally. She admitted her father was a bit of an eccentric and much misunderstood. It was her duty to set the record straight. She is very protective about her father’s reputation. I came to the conclusion it was a case of father-fixation. For her, Baba can do no wrong.

Nandita’s own forays into matrimony were also of brief duration. The first lasted a bare three years, ending in divorce by mutual consent. “We remain the best of friends,” she assured me. I changed the subject. “What do you think of marriage as an institution?”
She relaxed. “Not much. People fall in love and get married. Then they get bored with each other. They hang together for family considerations or for the sake of children. But the fun is gone. Few have the guts to get divorced.”

“And religion?”

“I don’t have any. I don’t even know what caste I belong to. In our home we had no pooja room or idols of deities. We lit diyas on Diwali, squirted coloured water or gulal on people if any came visiting. When my aunt wanted me to go with her to the Jagannath temple in Puri, I went along to keep her company. No one in the family bothered whether a person was Hindu or Muslim—or whatever.”

“And God. Do you believe in a divinity?”

“If you don’t believe in any religion, there is no place for God or divinity in your mind. No, I don’t believe in God.”

“Do you plan on spending the rest of your life making films?”

“No, if I was I would not be living in Delhi, I’d be in Bombay. I’ll make films when I have something to say. I want to make a difference in people’s way of thinking.”

“Many people say you make only art films meant for the educated elite?”

She protested. Firaq had made an impact on the common people. She quoted what her driver had to say about it. He was very moved.

So why has Nandita not made it to the top in Indian films? I answer the question myself. She is not willing to compromise on her themes. She is not willing to take part in films which have a set number of songs, acrobatic dances and mock fights which the gullible gobble up with relish and are rated by what they rake in at the box office. It is not manoranjan (amusement) she is after but chintan (thinking). She wants to make an impact on the minds of people.

Nandita lives in Gulmohar Park with her younger brother who is a creative designer. She does not go to parties. She has a busy schedule of work. She gets up at 6.30 am and gets down to it. She does not waste time reading newspapers: at one time she subscribed to three, now she only reads The Indian Express. She has no time to watch TV or indulge in idle gupshup. She loves travelling and is on the hop most of the time to distant places in the country and abroad. She reads a little and retires around 11 pm. I asked if she slept soundly. “I used to,” she replied. “Not so soundly these days.”

She is a teetotaller. In the two sessions she had with me when I was sipping Scotch with soda and ice, she kept sipping uncooled mineral water.

– Khushwant Singh

Phalke to attend Oscars

In Red Hot Carpets on September 28, 2009 at 12:47 PM
paresh_mokashi_20091005As the end credits of Harishchandrachi Factory (Harishchandra’s Factory) roll, the only question that strikes you is: Why did no one ever think of making a film on this subject before? The story of the birth of the world’s largest film industry is a riveting one, and debutant director Paresh Mokashi does it ample justice. His Marathi film, on the making of Dadasaheb Phalke’s Raja Harishchandra—India’s first film—is entertaining, absorbing and affecting to the core; truly worthy of its selection as the Indian entry at this year’s Oscars.“We know Phalke as the father of Indian cinema, the guy  after whom the country’s most prestigious film award was named,” says Mokashi, but, as he points out, we know little else. His affectionate tribute to the man who, with 95 movies and 26 short films to his credit, laid the foundation of our booming film industry, more than fills the void.

“We want to see our historical figures portrayed seriously. Gandhi never has a sense of humour.”

Mokashi portrays Phalke in all his complexity, focusing on his life between 1911—when he was first introduced to motion pictures—and 1913, when Raja Harishchandra was released. Phalke, the film tells us, got hooked to cinema after a show at Picture Palace, and captures his fascination for it rather tellingly, in a single shot. While the audience is busy watching the film, Phalke is shown with his back to the screen trying to figure out how images are being projected onto the screen. He does everything he can to learn the craft—from selling off household goods to almost losing his sight. Driven, obstinate and dogged, he brings a Williamson camera home from London, where he goes to learn filmmaking. And then uses it to shoot a film on the growth of a pea plant, which wins him investors for his maiden feature.Craft apart, Mokashi’s Phalke also seems to have a prescient understanding of the medium’s potential. He makes a strong case for India courting cinema, warning if it doesn’t, “The country will lose a profitable business.” And he seems to know all about the power of marketing, offering, as he does, nine-yard saris to winners of a “lucky” Harishchandra movie ticket!

Lead actor Nandu Madhav’s Phalke is mad yet utterly loveable; a refreshingly buoyant portrayal of a cinema veteran usually associated with staid sobriety. “We have an obsession with portraying our historical figures seriously. Gandhi had a sharp sense of humour but we never want to show that,” says Mokashi. Phalke’s family is just as winsome. His wife Saraswati, who gamely tries her  hand at cinematography, and his two good-natured, playful boys stick with him in his endeavours, despite financial ups and downs.


A scene from Harishchandrachi Factory

A light-hearted spirit permeates the entire film; the scenes dealing with the shooting of Raja Harishchandra are especially hilarious. Phalke can’t find women willing to act; even prostitutes are offended by his offer of roles. Much humour is generated as Phalke is compelled to pick actors off the streets, and force men to play women by shaving off moustaches and donning saris. On an outdoor shoot, he has to convince the police that his cast consists of actors, not thieves. And he advises his actors to tell anyone who doesn’t know what cinema is that they work in a factory. Thus, the title.

Mokashi’s film is straight and simple and a trifle old-fashioned; the director, who is primarily a theatre person, prefers to avoid what he calls the “larger than life” approach of Bollywood and Hollywood. To an eye attuned to the zip and energy of contemporary cinema, Mokashi’s shots might seem static and stagy. But not his layered narrative, which skilfully weaves in the politics of the times.

A neighbour jokes with Phalke that the British will banish him to Mandalay, like Tilak, for stealing their cinema business. But it’s not just business: Mokashi’s film makes it clear that Phalke’s choice of subject is a political act—his films have to reflect Indian culture and sensibility. Shortly after Raja Harishchandra releases, we are told Tilak is out of prison and a world war has begun. And Phalke? Well, he is on to making Bhasmasur Mohini and Satyavan Savitri.

Abhay Deol picks up the Breakthrough Talent Award at GQ

In Red Hot Carpets on September 28, 2009 at 11:33 AM

Abhay-Deol-GQ

From Saif and Kareena to the Bachchans, from Katrina Kaif to Karan Johar, it was a starry starry night on Sunday evening in Mumbai where celebrities from every field including Bollywood turned up in large numbers for an award ceremony for a leading men’s magazine. They walked in hand in hand and walked out with an award each. It’s not everyday that Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor make public appearances like this. But even before their latest film Qurbaan has hit the big screen, the couple are lapping up honours together.

normal_Kareena Kapoor, Saif Ali Khan at GQ Man of the Year Awards in Mumbai on 27th Sep 2009 (12)

Bollywood’s hit couple clearly stole the thunder from most other stars present at the GQ awards.”Saif has won GQ Man of the year and I think he truly deserves it,” said Kareena, towhich Saif replied, “For me at the moment Kareena is my Man of the Year.” Kareena Kapoor also won the Women of the Year award. She said, “Being called Woman of the year is a lot different from receiving a film award. It’s a great honour.”

Next best in line was Big B and family in all their style and glory. Amitabh Bachchan, who received the Lifetime Achievement award said, “Well, now I’ll have to make more space to fit in yet another award.” But for some of the younger stars just being appreciated meant a lot. Abhay Deol who picked up the Breakthrough Talent title.

Here’s the complete list of winners too…

Writer of the year  – Neel Mukherjee
Artist of the year  – Atul Dodiya
Designer of the year – Rajesh Pratap Singh
Breakthrough Talent of the year  – Abhay Deol
Excellence of the year – Vishal Bharadwaj
TV Personality of the year – Sreenivasan Jain
Businessman of the year – Aditya Puri
Excellence of the year – Kareena Kapoor
Outstanding Achievement of the year – Irrfan Khan
Sportsman of the year – Leander Paes
Excellence of the year – Karan Johar
Inspiration of the year – Shashi Tharoor
Ultimate GQ Man of the year – Saif Ali Khan
Global Indian of the year – Dr. Rajendra Pachauri
Woman of the year – Katrina Kaif
Young Leader of the year – Omar Abdullah
Lifetime Achievement of the year – Amitabh Bachchan

White Rice vs. Brown Rice

In Uncategorized, You Tell Us on September 25, 2009 at 7:01 PM

qgm

Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina opens with the line “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”. Like tragedy, comedy too can be quite contextual.

A few weeks back I saw two movies screened at MoMA’s The New India exhibition. The audience for both the screenings was fairly similar, mostly brown with a smattering of white, but the response was dramatically different.

Superman of Malegaon tells the tale of self-trained filmmakers in a small textile town on the outskirts of Mumbai. The audience is all equally amused as they see our 90-pound movie star suspended on wooden planks, pretending to fly. Sometimes we laugh at their amateurish efforts. At times we are amazed by their ingenuity. Though mostly we smile with them as they try to escape the miseries of their real world. The audience in the theatre has no experience of this life, there are no inside jokes so we are all in harmony.

Contrast this with Quick Gun Murugan where two arguments broke out during the screening. Why? Well certain sections of the white audience felt the brown were laughing too hard and too frequently.  And rightly so, for what is funny about a dude with thick foundation and eyeliner muttering “Come out, I say” in a thick accent? The movie is replete with humor that winks at Tamil cinema, and unless you have experienced it the movie seems more bizarre than comic.

The two movies bring out an interesting choice that filmmakers face – should I amuse everyone, or should I make a few laugh their heads off. I enjoyed both the movies – but I am sure the elderly lady snoring in the row behind me felt QGM had been a total waste of her waking hours.

New York Film Festival 2009 Opens Tonight!

In Uncategorized on September 25, 2009 at 4:52 PM

NYFF for HP

Tonight, the 47th New York Film Festival opens in the newly renovated Alice Tully Hall!

This weekend, don’t miss these incredible premiere events and critics’ picks:

SWEETGRASS: Sat 9/26/2009 2:15PM

“Made by Ilisa Barbash and Lucien Castaing-Taylor without supplemental commentary and with great attention to beauty, this observational documentary focuses on Montana sheepherders who run their flocks up mountains in the summer to graze, grindingly difficult work that only looks romantic,” -Manohla Dargis, The New York Times.

VINCERE: Sat 9/26/2009 8:30PM; Sun 9/27/2009 6:00PM

Mussolini’s “secret” marriage to Ida Dalser, afterward completely denied by Il Duce, along with the son born from the relationship, becomes the springboard for Marco Bellocchio’s visually ravishing meditation on the fascist manipulation of history. “Sensationally acted,” raves the New York Times.

ECCENTRICITIES OF A BLOND HAIR GIRL: Sat 9/26/2009 5:30PM; Sun 9/27/2009 9:15PM

A “gem,” says the New York Times. One hundred years young, director Manoel de Oliveira returns with another gem: a wry, moving tale of a pure if frustrated love adapted from a novel by Eça de Queiroz.

KANIKOSEN: Sun 9/27/2009 11:30AM

One of the Festival’s most memorable and singular selections! This vision of shipboard revolt may not be Potemkin redux, but, its postmodern gags, manga influences and spikey haired actors notwithstanding, it’s not so far away.

These extraordinary special events will bring you closer to the filmmaking process, and expose you to Masterworks rarely screened.

APPROACHING THE WIZARD- Flying Monkeys, Ruby Slippers and Yellow Brick Roads in American Cinema and Culture: Sun 9/27/2009 11:00AM

In conjunction with the Special Presentation of the magnificently restored The Wizard of Oz, this panel discussion will focus on the place and continuing impact of the film even seventy years after its initial release.

HBO FILMS DIRECTORS DIALOGUES: MARCO BELLOCCHIO in conversation with Phillip Lopate: Sun 9/27/2009 2:00PM

Marco Bellocchio (Vincere, NYFF09) has been one of the most perceptive and provocative chroniclers of all things Italian, from the Church to family values. Mr. Bellocchio will discuss his development as a film artist, the important focus on “outsiders” that has proved a constant theme in his work, as well as his thoughts about the future of Italian cinema.

(RE)INVENTING CHINA: A New Cinema for a New Society, 1949 – 1966: September 26 – October 6

This film series presents 20 films from the so-called “Seventeen Year” period-from the founding of the People’s Republic of China to the outbreak of the Cultural Revolution-that sought to respond to debates about what kind of cinema this “New China” should have.

Get tickets here: http://www.filmlinc.com/nyff/program.html

Dev Benegal Introduces the Road, Movie at TIFF

In Uncategorized on September 25, 2009 at 1:50 PM

The Indian Films – Studio 18 presented Road, Movie had a grand premiere at Toronto’s historic and cavernous Winter Garden Theatre on September 18. The Dev Benegal-directed drama, the only Indian feature to be invited as a special presentation at the recently concluded Toronto International Film Festival, was incredibly received by the media and audience alike, culminating in a standing ovation from a diverse audience.

Abhay Deol, acclaimed Brick Lane actress Tannishtha Chatterjee, Satish Kaushik, production designer Anne Siebel, cinematographer Michel Amathieu, editor Yaniv Dabach, costume designer Amba Sanyal, producer Susan B. Landau, co-producers Fred Berger and Sopan Muller, director Dev Benegal, presenters Sandeep Bhargava and Vandana Malik, and senior officials from the international operations team of Studio 18 emerged from the jet black limos that rolled outside the illuminated venue.

After the movie’s pre-screening introduction by festival co-director Cameron Bailey, Benegal introduced his cast and crew saying, “making the film was a delightful discovery of sorts celebrating life for all of us.”

“I am extremely honored at the selection and to have found a place among the best of world cinema,” added Benegal. “The festival has been really kind to me in the past as well.”

Elaborating on the film, he explained, “From early childhood, we would go on these long drives and visit different parts of the country, both North and South (because my mother is from the North and my dad from the South)… that is something, which has stayed with me – something I obviously wanted to make a movie about. Road, Movie is really about my journey.”

Several pre-screening activities by the producers, including celebrity parties, media interactions and giveaway contests around Road, Movie, created a weeklong buzz in the festival circuit, enabling the premiere to be sold out days in advance. Studio 18’s after-screening party held at a plush vodka bar was a smash success, attended by leading society and media figures from Toronto city.

Road, Movie tells the story of Vishnu, a restless young man, who rejects his father’s faltering hair oil business and hits the road with a travelling cinema. Colorful and full of unforgettable characters, the film celebrates India’s open road and the pure love of movies.

In a bid to augment the curiosity around the film, the producers abstained from revealing the film in public domain, and unveiled its first look and website just days before the premiere.

At The Atelier, Cannes 2006, the script of Road, Movie was an official selection, and at Cannes 2009, Indian Films-Studio 18 inked a major deal with global sales giant, Fortissimo Films, to represent Road, Movie internationally, the latter’s first Indian take-up.

Sign Up for Karavan Film Club!

In Uncategorized on September 25, 2009 at 1:24 PM

parambha

SIGN-UP NOW TO RECEIVE AIDS JAAGO, SITA SINGS THE BLUES, VIA DARJEELING & THE BONG CONNECTION IN YOUR MAILBOX

Karavan Film Club is a quarterly DVD club that delivers cutting-edge South Asian cinema, from festival favorites to critically acclaimed releases, straight to your mailbox, anywhere in the US. A partnership with Film India Worldwide provides members access to the premiere South Asian film commentary magazine, edited by Uma Da Cunha, and available now for the first time to US readers. Premium benefits include VIP invitations to premieres, parties and panels, with cast & crew in attendance in cities such as New York, Chicago, Detroit, San Francisco and more. Subscription to the Film Club provides DVDs of Karavan Kollective titles as well as additional films only available through Film Club subscriptions.

Line-up: MIAAC Film Festival 2009

In Red Hot Carpets on September 24, 2009 at 6:30 PM

Tahaan

Courtesy of MIAAC Film Festival

* NOV 11th: AASIF MANDVI, NASEERUDDIN SHAH AND MADHUR JAFFREY HEADLINE “TODAY’S SPECIAL” THE OPENING FILM AT THE PARIS THEATRE

*NOV 13th: VIJAY AMRITRAJ TO PRESENT SATOSH SIVAN’S FILM “TAHAAN’ SET IN KASHMIR AS FESTIVAL CENTERPIECE AT THE SMITHSONIAN MUSEUM OF THE AMERICAN INDIAN

* NOV 15th: SHARMILA TAGORE AND APARNA SEN STAR FOR THE FIRST TIME IN THE CLOSING NIGHT FILM, “THE ENDLESS WAIT (ANTAHEEN)” AT WALTER READE THEATRE, LINCOLN CENTER

New York, NY September 17th, 2009: The Mahindra Indo-American Arts Council (MIAAC) Film Festival announces the Opening, Closing & Centerpiece Films for its 9th Annual Festival in New York City.

Following hot on the success of the 2008 festival, which saw a stellar line up of films and talent including the NY premiere of Oscar-winning film “Slumdog Millionaire,” this year’s opening film is “Today’s Special.” Directed by David Kaplan, the film is written by and stars Comedy Central star Aasif Mandvi; accompanied by renowned Indian actor Naseeruddin Shah as well as author and actor Madhur Jaffrey.

Tennis celebrity and media executive Vijay Amritraj will present Santosh Sivan’s “Tahaan”, set in Kashmir, as the prestigious Festival Centerpiece.

The festival this year packs a bang with the closing film “Antaheen – The Endless Wait” starring two film luminaries discovered by Satyajit Ray – Sharmila Tagore and Aparna Sen – both of whom will attend this U.S. premiere at the Walter Reade Theatre, Lincoln Center.

MIACC 09 will run from November 11-15, 2009 and all public screenings will be at the Quad Cinemas, New York City. MIAAC Film Festival once again sets the stage for some of the most highly anticipated films of the year. Presented by the Indo-American Arts Council in collaboration with the Mahindra Group, MIAAC showcases the best of Indian cinema from India and the Diaspora.

Opening film “Today’s Special” is a heart warming food comedy based in New York with Aasif Mandvi sharing the spotlight with Naseeruddin Shah and Madhur Jaffrey. Aasif Mandvi who also co-wrote the film says, “I am very excited that my film ‘Today’s Special’ has been invited to open this year’s MIAAC Film Festival. It’s an honor to be in the company of the films and filmmakers who make up this year’s festival.  Having had a relationship with the Indo-American Arts Council for some years now, it’s exciting to see not only how they have grown over the last decade, but how their support and promotion of the work of the Indian American artist has never been distracted.”

The centerpiece film is Santosh Sivan’s film “Tahaan” and is about the adventures of a little boy and his pet donkey in militant Kashmir. It has won myriad accolades at international film festivals and will celebrate its NY Premiere at the MIAAC Film Festival.

Closing film “Antaheen – The Endless Wait” by director Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury brings Satyajit Ray’s two actresses’ – Sharmila Tagore and Aparna Sen together on screen for the first time. Set in modern day Kolkatta, the film crisscrosses between the loves, passions and relationships of these two actresses.

These three films represent the festival’s focus, genres, and themes – from independent films to Diaspora artists; from New York to the new Global India; from social concern to romantic comedy. Celebrities who will represent these three films at the festival include the entire New York cast of ‘Today’s Special’ led by Aasif Mandvi, Naseeruddin Shah and Madhur Jaffrey; Santosh Sivan, Vijay Amritraj, Aparna Sen, Sharmila Tagore, Kalyan Roy and Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury. MIAAC 09 will announce the complete lineup of films, programming and celebrities in the first week of October.

“I am thrilled that ‘Today’s Special’ will open MIAAC 09″, says Aroon Shivdasani, Executive Director of the IAAC. “We have seen the film grow from its play reading to its staging with Aasif Mandvi, a long time friend and family member of IAAC. We are thrilled to see its development into film and delighted to present a New York film set in our phenomenal diverse city- home of the MIAAC Film Festival.”

Tickets for 2009 Festival

Tickets prices will be $15 general admission; $12 IAAC members & students w/ID.
Public screenings of the films will be at the Quad Cinemas.

Nov 11th: MIAAC 09 Opening Night Film: TODAY’S SPECIAL

Directed by David Kaplan.
US, 2009, RT. 90 mins. NY Premiere.

Inspired by Aasif Mandvi’s Obie Award winning play Sakina’s Restaurant, “Today’s Special” is a heartwarming food comedy set in New York City. Samir (Aasif Mandvi) is a Sous Chef who dreams of being Head Chef of his boss’s hot new restaurant. After being passed over for the promotion, he abruptly quits and hatches plans to go to France and study under a legendary Chef. But when his estranged father, Hakim (Harish Patel), has a heart attack, Samir’s life takes a detour back to his parents home in Jackson Heights, Queens, where he takes over the failing family business: Tandoori Palace. With one foot out the door, Samir must come to terms with the loss of his older brother a few years back, and the sadness that engulfs his parents.

Luckily, his paths cross with Akbar (Naseeruddin Shah): a taxi driver, former chef in Mumbai, and irrepressible raconteur who lives in the moment, breaks conventions, and inspires Samir to embrace life, save Tandoori Palace, and his family along the way

Nov 13th: MIAAC 09 Festival Centerpiece: TAHAAN
Presented by Vijay Amritraj.
Written and Directed by Santosh SivanIndia, 2008, 105 min. Hindi with English subtitles

Tahaan lives with his family in the Kashmir valley. The eight-year-old’s father has been missing for over three years. The local moneylender takes away the family’s assets including Tahaan’s pet donkey, Birbal. The boy is determined to bring Birbal back home but is told that an old man (played by Anupam Kher) bought the donkey. Tahaan goes in search of the old man but finds he has to do a teenager he meets a favor to get Birbal back. Director Sivan, who had previously shot Mani Rathnam’s Roja in Kashmir, developed his fable-like screenplay after reading a story in an Indian newspaper. With Purav Bhandara, Anupam Kher, Rahul Bose, Rahul Khanna, Victor Banerjee. Santosh Sivan and Vijay Amritraj in person.

Nov 15th: MIAAC 09 Closing Night Film: THE ENDLESS WAIT (ANTAHEEN)
Story and Direction by Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury.
India, 2009, 120 min. In Bengali with English subtitles. NY Premiere

A new Kolkata glitters to life, all intelligence and smooth surfaces, as loves, passions, and relationships crisscross in a shifting web brought to the screen. Abhik, a police officer, loses faith in the real relationships and seeks solace in the virtual world where he develops an online relationship with Brinda, a journalist. Ranjan and Paromita, an older estranged couple, become the bridge between the two younger lovers, nursing as they do their own separation and tenderness. The Endless Wait brings to the screen some sterling performances, including Satyajit Ray’s legendary discoveries, Sharmila Tagore and Aparna Sen, in their first film together. Also with Rahul Bose, Kalyan Roy. Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury, Aparna Sen, Kalyan Roy and Sharmila Tagore in person.

First Marathi film to get a US arthouse release

In Press Play on September 24, 2009 at 1:28 PM

Courtesy of Passion for Cinema

gabhricha-pausGabhricha Paus (The Damned Rain) gets its US release at Facets in Chicago. First Marathi film to get a arthouse US release. Probably the first Indian film to be shown at Facets. I don’t know if they showed the The Terrorist there. Nevertheless a moment of pride for India and Indians and Desi’s. An achievement that i envy and i wish some day i will be able to make a film that shows at Facets.

Spread the word and make this a success. Following is the schedule.

US Premiere at Facets Cinematheque, Chicago
Showtimes: Saturdays & Sundays, Aug. 29-30 & Sept. 5-6 at 12:30 pm
Link for more info — http://www.facets.org/pages/films/aug2009/damnedrain.php

Rest of the schedule –
Sept 11- Chicago
Sept 18- Edison
Sept 25- San Jose
Oct 2 – LA
Oct 9- Dallas
Oct 16- Detroit
Oct 23- Boston
Oct 30- Atlanta

Here is hoping that it does well. Spread the word.

– Anurag Kashyap

Tan C Won’t Have Coffee With You

In In Your Face, Press Play on September 24, 2009 at 12:18 PM

tannishtha-chatterjee-01

Its a pleasant fall afternoon in New York. We’re sitting down with Tannishtha Chatterjee, just days before the premiere of her new film in Toronto. Conversation flows, humor brimmeth over, but the coffee stays untouched. Amongst other things, we learn that this leading lady was once a Chemistry major. And with four incredible indie films out this year she’s also an MBA in what it takes to make it on your own terms in this filmi industry! So listen up…

FK: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
TC:
It follows Heisenberg’s uncertainty priciple. At the rate at which I am travelling these days the images are a little blurry.

FK: Your greatest asset is…
TC:
What asset…Dude, there’s a recession

FK: London or Mumbai?
TC:
Both. London for its awesome weather, Mumbai for its cleanliness…

FK: In how many languages can you say ‘Get Lost’?
TC:
Get lost……

FK: Performance or Trance?
TC:
My personal preference is peek sports performance with deep trance hypnosis. Did you hear about that?

FK: What do we not know about you?
TC:
What you shall never know!!

FK: Who is more funny – Dev B or D?
TC: Are you kidding…. obviously Dev B… I mean D Actually Tan C

FK: What’s playing on your ipod right now?
TC:
Nobodys fault but mine…

Interviewing Naseeruddin: The Lion Roars

In In Your Face on September 23, 2009 at 10:53 AM

Courtesy of Sepia Mutiny

naseeruddin-shahAP

Well, he was really incredibly nice…but he certainly had little patience for stupid people asking stupid questions, so the possibility that he would lose his temper lent a certain charge to the proceedings.

I’m talking about Naseeruddin Shah, of course. The yin to Big B’s yang, the iconoclast, the evergreen, the lion of Indian cinema with over 150 films to his credit. From Umrao Jaan to Monsoon Wedding to Omkara, he disappears into a role so thoroughly, I usually have to check IMDB frequently to make sure it’s really him.

It’s just so refreshing when famous people turn out to be intelligent and really engage in a conversation. All too often it’s just rote PR fluff. Many mutineers seemed to like the Vik Sahay interview for that reason, so I thought I’d bring over these two Naseerudin Shah interview clips:

http://www.mtviggy.com/desi/innerview-naseeruddin_shah_Bollywood

Anurag Kashyap’s got “testicular strength” and first time directors make for the best experiences:

The Air in Telluride

In Aseem Chhabra, Red Hot Carpets on September 23, 2009 at 12:17 AM

by Aseem Chhabra

telluride-aseem1

The summer is finally over, but for movie lovers it is sign of hope and excitement, since it is also the beginning of the fall film festival season. And heralding the season is the Telluride Film Festival — held each year over the Labor Day weekend. There are world and North American premieres before the films make it to bigger and flashier events in Toronto and New York, revivals of classics and even lost silent treasures. Last year the Telluride audience was the first in the world to see Slumdog Millionaire.

It is a spectacular setting to see films – the pristine San Juan mountain range in Colorado, a former mining town, where Butch Cassidy first robbed a bank and Tom Cruise makes a home. Cruise has never been spotted in the town during the festival, but there was enough star power at this year’s event – from Viggo Mortensen and the French legend Anouk Aimée (both honored at tributes to their careers), Nicolas Cage, directors Alexander Payne and Jason Reitman, and the radiant Helen Mirren.

Nicholas cage and Jason Reitman on a panel

Nicholas Cage and Jason Reitman on a panel

In the recent years Indian cinema and film personalities have received the rightfully deserved recognition at Telluride. Shyam Benegal and Om Puri have been saluted with tributes to their careers, and in 2001 Salman Rushdie was a guest programmer at the festival. And the festival has shown films ranging from The Namesake, Firaaq, and The Mystic Masseur to classics like .

This year the festival picked up veteran Bengali director Buddhadeb Dasgupta’s new film Window. A quiet, poetic film Window follows the journey of a young man who buys a new window for his rural high school only to find his good intentions ridiculed and rejected. The film has an ironic tone, but the supporting cast is uneven and somewhat theatrical and that defeats Dasgupta’s efforts.

Aseem Chhabra at the Telluride Film Festival

Aseem Chhabra at the Telluride Film Festival

There were two other films with the South Asian flavor. France’s Rachid Bouchareb has directed a heart-wrenching film — London River, a story of two strangers, a British mother and a French African father, searching for their children, lost in the aftermath of the 2005 London bombings, caused by immigrants of Pakistani origin. Brenda Blethyn is terrific in the role of a clueless mother who over the course of the film learns so much about her missing daughter’s life.

And finally we saw an oddly constructed, rambling Australian documentary The Miscreants of Taliwood, in which the filmmaker George Gittoes travels through the Taliban-controlled parts of Pakistan as he explores the regions so-called film industry. The actors he meets are crude performers and their films are very amateurish and uninteresting. The Miscreants of Taliwood is very disappointing and certainly not festival material.

Celebrate Sikh Heritage with Cutting-Edge Films and Party Hopping

In Uncategorized on September 17, 2009 at 12:03 AM

September 18-19, New York City
After a sold-out festival last year, the Sikh Heritage Film Festival is back to celebrate the rich heritage, traditions and culture of Sikhs and the immigrant experience through a diverse mix of features, shorts and documentaries. Come and be a part of this experience, which promises a weekend of great films, fabulous parties and an eclectic mix of guests and supporters.

FilmKaravan is proud to be a partner of this amazing event!
Use special code FLK2009 for discounted tickets. Selected films from the program highlighted below.

MY MOTHER INDIA by Safina Uberoi
Feature Program – Friday September 18, 7pm @ Asia Society
My Mother India is a passionate film told through the eyes of a child from a mixed marriage, set against the tumultuous backdrop of modern Indian history.

NINETEEN EIGHTY FOUR AND THE VIA DOLOROSA PROJECT by The Sikh Twins
Feature Program – Friday September 18, 7pm @ Asia Society
This semi-autobiographical art documentary film explores the making of and inspiration behind Nineteen Eighty Four – one of the most celebrated paintings produced by internationally acclaimed contemporary British-Sikh artists, The Singh Twins, which depicts the Indian government’s military attack on the Sikhs’ holiest shrine – The Golden Temple — in Amritsar in 1984 and presents a very personal perspective on what many regard as one of the most tragic and misrepresented events in modern Sikh history.

BHANGRA GENERATION by Raj Paul Dhillon
Short Program – Saturday September 19, 10:30 am @ Asia Society
Bhangra Generation is an electrifying, entertaining and enlightening documentary on the fast-growing phenomenon known worldwide as Bhangra and how it has influenced the young generation of South Asians in the West.

STREET SMARTS by Vandana Sood
Short Program – Saturday September 19, 10:30 am @ Asia Society
Yellow cab drivers from South Asia navigate the chaotic urban terrain of New York and talk about their experience post-9/11 as they interact with people from all walks of life. In particular, Sikh taxi drivers speak of racial profiling and how their appearance leads to discrimination, while Muslim drivers echo this sentiment when they say that terrorism is not linked to religion.

Wet Your Feet with Samrat Chakrabarti!

In Payal Sethi, Uncategorized on September 15, 2009 at 4:25 PM

Samrat

He’s a man on the move with nearly ten films in pre-production, production or close to release in 2009 & 2010. Each time we watch Mr. Chakrabarti in his latest performance we’re charmed by how much he’s grown as an actor, whether he’s playing a no nonsense love-terminator, a smooth talking call-center operator who wins his girl over while trying to collect on her father’s or any number of diverse roles he’s been taking on in films such as The Waiting City (with Radha Mitchell) or Behind the Bodice (with Tanishtha Chatterjee).

FK: Kissing Cousins was…
SC: A film I did…NOT an autobiography.

FK: Favourite Director?
SC: Satyajit Ray

FK: Favorite Cocktail?
SC: A gallon of water, the morning after, to nurse my hangover.

FK: Who is Amitabh Bachchan?
SC: The reason I wanted to become an actor and the reason I am one.

FK: The last movie I saw was…
SC: Yes Madam, Sir, an inspiring documentary about Kiran Bedi, the first Indian woman police officer.

FK: Your take on Bengali cinema?
SC: When it’s done right, it’s the best. (see Favorite Director)

FK: Bollywood smells like…
SC: Like Hollywood but with onions.

FK: Crazy things happen when…
SC: You’re shooting in Kolkata…and you have a moustache.

FK: If I won the lottery, I would…
SC: Give it to my parents, they deserve it.

FK: Amusement Park or Center Stage?
SC: An amusement park, on a rollercoaster, so I can experience that moment of weightlessness.

FK: Karma is…
SC: Calling. pick up. and take action.

Breakout Gal Pooja Kumar

In In Your Face on September 14, 2009 at 2:38 PM

pooja-kumar

She won the Miss India USA pageant and she won our hearts. From the sultry posters of Bombay Dreams she landed on yellow cabs and metro buses as the no-nonsense film producer who steals Chris Kattan’s heart in the brand-new IFC mini-series, Bollywood Hero. Keep your eyes on Pooja Kumar in the upcoming films Drawing with Chalk, Bollywood Beats and more, and get personal here as she opens up to FK…

FK: Life turned out to be…

PK: …much better than I expected – a roller coaster ride!

FK: Love at first sight…

PK: …is a myth.

FK: Rum or coke?

PK: Depends on the occasion and the company

FK: Bollywood Hero is..

PK:…a three part TV mini-series in which I play the main lead opposite the witty and charming famous comedian, Chris Kattan (Saturday Night Live, A Night at the Roxbury).

FK: Breakfast is…

PK: …always underrated

FK: Mantra for staying cool

PK: say thank you 25 times a day and be grateful for what you have – breathe in and breathe out.

FK: Today is …

PK: …a Gift, that’s why its called a Present. Yesterday is History and tomorrow is a Mystery

FK: My first memory of watching a movie

PK: was at the age of 5 – I was invited to perform an Indian dance at a Chicago TV Station, Chitrahaar. I watched Silsila and emulated all of Rekha’s dance moves!

FK: What is your coping mechanism?

PK: Doing Yoga and exercise.

FK: Wouldn’t be caught…

PK: …without my clothes off!

FK: Watch out for…

PK: …my upcoming projects: “Bollywood Hero”, “Drawing with Chalk”, “Hiding Divya”, “Bollywood Beats”, and a romantic comedy currently being shot in New York.

FK: I love …

PK: …being an artist!

I wish I wish I could see

In You Tell Us on September 12, 2009 at 9:00 AM

Loveleen Tandan’s Lucky Charms

In In Your Face on September 11, 2009 at 1:05 AM

Loveleen_Tandon

We just caught up with the lovely Ms. Tandan, co-director of Slumdog Millionaire, over the cyber waves. She’s already had her say with the Wall Street Journal, Times UK, Times of India and KhabarBollywood, who have variously coined her the ‘co-pilot’, ‘unsung hero’ and ‘pretty cast-master’ of Slumdog. We now bring you an exclusive peek at the lighter side of the lady behind the tramp.

FK: How many steps to the Oscar stage?

LT: Non-existent. Took us a split second to get there as soon as we heard the name of the film we were dying to hear.

FK: Person you enjoyed meeting most at the Oscars?

LT: Little Pinki Sonkar from Mirzapur on whom the documentary “Smile Pinki” is based.

FK: What you had for dinner the very first night after you wrapped Slumdog?

LT: Butter Chicken and Butter Naan.

FK: Which side of the bed do you sleep on?

LT: Centre.

FK: Standard set outfit?

LT: Kurta and Jeans.

FK: Lucky charm?

LT: My hair after a shampoo.

FK: Bombay or Delhi?

LT: Bombay for work and Delhi for sleep.

FK: Earliest film memory?

LT: Gabbar Singh in Sholay.

FK: PC or Mac?

LT: Mac hee Mac.

Dev D’s Italian Intervention

In Payal Sethi, Red Hot Carpets on September 9, 2009 at 11:13 AM

Abhay-Deol-and-Mahi-Gill-at-66th-Venice-Film-FestivalWe’re gutted that we couldn’t personally make it out on the red carpet at the 66th Venice Film Festival (2-12 Sep), but felt very well represented by the fresh faced cast of Anurag Kashyap’s 2009 hit DEV D. Kashyap served on the main jury this year, along with cine greats such as Ang Lee, although his films (Gulaal being the second, but not our favorite)  screened out of competition. That’s one small step for Kash, and a giant leap for Indian cinema.

Is Sita in Your Shopping Bag?

In Payal Sethi, Press Play on September 9, 2009 at 11:00 AM

sita-hanumanNew Yorkers can pick up their shiny copies of Nina Paley’s crowd pleasing animated treasure, SITA SINGS THE BLUES, at the Rubin Museum (150 W 17th Street) for $18 a pop.

The film is also available for rental or purchase on Netflix or Amazon so get your copy and make sure your cousin in Ohio gets his too!

Anuvab Pal on Elevators and Fame

In In Your Face, Payal Sethi on September 9, 2009 at 10:57 AM

1-888Yes, India is more than its outsourcing, but laughter is still the best medicine, so take a look at the new play from funny-man Anuvab Pal, 1-888-DIAL-INDIA

FK: Describe Manish Acharya
AP: Manish Acharya, is, as Churchill said of Russia, a puzzle wrapped in an enigma, surrounded by a mystery. Except funnier.

FK: New York or Mumbai?
AP: New York filled with people who know everything about India or Mumbai, filed with people who know everything about New York.

FK: Who do you look like?
AP: One person told me the love child of Muamar Quaddafi (President of Libya) and Jhumpa Lahiri.

FK: Fast Cars, Movies or Women?
AP: I don’t know how to drive and I’m married so I’d go with movies.

FK: The President is…
AP: …only 87 minutes.  And pirated I hear.

FK: Spiritual belief?
AP: I believe in spirits. Especially Jack Daniels and Coke.

FK: Wonder why…
AP: …some slum kids in Slumdog Millionaire had crisp British accents.

FK: Sex is…
AP: …not invented by Indians.

FK: Pal is to Soda as
AP: Woody Allen is to Scarlett Johanssen.  Consumed.

FK: What next?
AP: A film about some Indians in Calcutta taking a French Class.  Called French Class.

FK: Any past life experiences?
AP: If one believes in rebirth, I assume I committed some crime to be punished in this life as a playwright.

FK: Plays vs. Films
AP: I’d like to see an actual fight between playwrights and screenwriters and I’d support whoever won.

FK: Favourite person to be stuck in an elevator with?
AP: An elevator repair man.

FK: Fame is?
AP: The name of the distributor in India of both my movies and I am very grateful to the