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Archive for February, 2010|Monthly archive page

Looking for some fast cash?

In DJ Sumie on February 25, 2010 at 3:33 PM

Bollywood filmmaker offers $10,000 to anyone who can watch his movie alone



Courtesy of Gordon and the Whale

By Wilhem Olivia

With so much competition, it can be tough for some movies to make their mark at the box office, so director Ram Gopal Varma from India has thought of a clever way to get some press: pay people to watch. In a statement, he has offered $10,000 to anyone who can sit through his thriller PHOONK 2 alone in a theater. OK, where do I sign up?!

Varma is the producer on the film, which is a sequel to PHOONK (2008). While he directed the original, he only acted as producer on the sequel but remains confident that it will scare the pants off you, though there are a few rules that the person who accepts the challenge has to follow. They “will be wired up to a heart monitoring machine as well as a camera that ensures they keep their eyes open during the whole movie.” Apparently Verma pulled the same publicity stunt with PHOONK, but there were stories that the contest had been rigged, so all the monitoring makes it seem more believable.

I don’t think any movie can scare me more than PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, so I’m up for the challenge! Unfortunately, I don’t live in India. The movie is scheduled to be released there on April 9th and there are no plans to release it here. You can watch the trailer after the jump. If you sit all the way through it, I will pay you $10. OK, not really.

Here’s a trailer:

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Supandi Fans, Get Ready!

In DJ Sumie on February 24, 2010 at 12:53 PM

Courtesy of Bollywood Hungama

By Money Sharma & Mrigank Dhaniwala

ACK Media, owner of the legendary Amar Chitra Katha comics, has acquired a 50% stake in Mumbai based Fable Farm Studios for an undisclosed amount. The studio’s founder Vfx veteran Biju D will retain ownership of the rest of the company.

Speaking exclusively to Bollywood Hungama, Biju D said, “We will share revenue on an equal basis. We are currently developing several story ideas and experimenting with a variety of animation styles, which might be later transformed into TV series and films.”

Prior to the acquisition, the studio was located at an animation institute in Andheri, Mumbai. “We now have four studios all over India which focus on gaming, IP creation, etc,” Samir Patil, CEO of ACK Media added. The studio currently employs 21 artists and will soon shift to a bigger facility.

ACK and Fable Farm also jointly announced a 3D stereoscopic 3D film based on the popular Tinkle character ‘Suppandi’. The film will be launched in November 2010, an official release said.

By

Parvin Dabbas turns first-time director to Anupam Kher

In DJ Sumie on February 24, 2010 at 12:37 PM

Courtesy of Bollywood Hungama

Parvin Dabbas is a name that was on everyone’s lips a few years ago, courtesy his truer-than-thou performance in the by-now-cult film Khosla Ka Ghosla. Readers may recollect that the film had Anupam Kher as the retired simpleton father and his long standing fight with the builder mafia, with his two sons by his side, played by Ranvir Shorey and Parvin Dabbas. Life, now, comes a full circle for Parvin as he turns director and directs none other than Anupam Kher in his directorial venture.

Speaking exclusively about the film to Bollywood Hungama, Parvin said, “My film is set in the rural as well as urban Delhi. It’s an action comedy with a political twist, and centers around a gang of four guys. It’s about a certain situation they get into and how they deal with it. The film stars Vansh Bharadwaj, newcomers Kuldeep and Ashish Nair alongwith a new girl named Tina Desai, who plays the female lead. Besides these, my film has Anupam Kher, Kiran Juneja, Sharad Saxena, Yashpal Sharma, Neena Kulkarani, Vipin Sharma amongst others. I am going to wrap up the shooting very soon. Apart from this, I just cannot reveal anything more at this very stage.”

While the film has been shot in locations across India, the music of the film is composed by two different music composers, viz., Siddharth Suhas and Dhruv Dhalla.

The debutante director signs off saying, “I am still searching for title of the film. The title of the film should revolve around the brief ‘Right Job Wrong Guys’.”

Any suggestions, readers?

Just a minute with Farhan Akhtar…

In DJ Sumie on February 23, 2010 at 12:58 PM

…Actor, writer and producer talks about his new film ‘Karthik’

Courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter

By Shilpa Jamkhandikar

MUMBAI — If your debut Bollywood film is considered an iconic work, chances are you will stick to directing for the rest of your life. Perhaps, try your hand at production or writing. But Farhan Akhtar didn’t stop at just that.

In the last decade, the 36-year-old has tried his hand in every facet of the movie business — acting, singing, writing, producing and even hosting a TV show.

His third film as actor releases this month and work on a sequel to ‘Don’ begins later this year. Akhtar talks about what keeps him going and his role in “Karthik Calling Karthik.”

Q: Are you playing a double role in your latest film ‘Karthik Calling Karthik’ or not? The promos look confusing.

A: “How can you ask me the mystery of the film? I can’t reveal the end. It’s like one of those ads in the papers which say, ‘don’t reveal the end, please.’ It’s like that. I am contractually obligated, to myself, not to do that.

“That’s part of the mystery of the film, as to who the other Karthik is. I have been resisting answering this question for the last two weeks.”

Q: You’ve had three films come out, one after the other as an actor. Is it fair to say acting is taking over from the other roles you have assumed?

A: “No, I don’t think it’s fair to say that at all. ‘Don’ (the sequel) was meant to happen last year but Shah Rukh (Khan) injured his shoulder so we couldn’t do it. I had a year to myself to do what I wanted to, which is how this script came along.

“But I am looking forward to it now, in fact I have already started work on it and we start the film October, and I am really looking forward to it. It’s been a while.”

Q: You were directing and writing before you got into acting. At what point did you start to take acting seriously?

A: “I took it seriously when I started doing it. You can’t take on something and then not do it seriously. Too many people’s careers and livelihood depends on it. What’s interesting is that with every film I am feeling a little more confident to push myself, in terms of playing a character, which is further away from who I truly am. It’s an evolutionary process.”

Q: Did acting ever figure in your scheme of things when you started out?

A: “It is difficult to answer this question with a simple yes or a no. My first attraction towards films was the attraction towards acting which also stemmed from not knowing what else there was. After that, as you grow up and learn what else goes into making a movie, I felt my strengths, my ability to do something about it lay more in writing and direction than it lay in acting, which is why I pursued that a lot more aggressively than I did acting.

“Also, over the years, sensibilities have changed. More directors are veering towards performances being more real and natural rather histrionics. There were times when everything had to be pitched up and you had jump out and shake the audience with every emotion. Now it isn’t like that which makes me comfortable in terms of the acting I would like to do and gives me the strength and the belief to do this.”

Q: So has that belief that you were better at writing and directing changed?

A: “No, I still feel the same. So whether it is writing dialogues for people or working on my own script or even collaborating with someone else on a film, I am giving them whatever input I can. To me, that’s as important as acting in the film. That’s a constant and that won’t ever go away.”

Q: What is different about being an actor now than it was say five or 10 years ago?

A: “What is being demanded from actors is different. It’s a question of the kind of performance that directors are demanding from actors. That has changed. There was a time when every single emotion, whether it be the performance, the way the scene was shot, the background music, everything was heightened. Like shock would be a big, wide-eyed expression, with a camera cut up really close. That has changed.

“Directors have moved towards creating a more lifelike situation and now when some one onscreen breaks some bad news you don’t cut to everyone’s reaction in the room. For me, that’s what works.

“From ‘Dil Chahta Hai’ to ‘Lakshya,’ that’s the kind of performance that I demanded from my actors. Even if I was directing Hrithik in ‘Lakshya,’ I couldn’t get him to scream and shout at the enemy, even though he was playing an army man. People don’t do that in real life.”

Q: Your last film “Luck By Chance” was perhaps the best reviewed film of last year but the boxoffice figures didn’t match up. Does that tell you something about our audiences?

A: “Honestly, I don’t know what I can learn about audiences from it. To me, it is easy to say, ‘oh the audience wasn’t ready for it’ or ‘it was ahead of its time’. It is very easy to have romantic notions but I don’t have these issues. I try to contemplate why this film didn’t work.

“What went wrong with the film was the way we marketed that film, the way we promoted it. There wasn’t a single clear message as to what it is that a person going in to watch this film should expect. If you know that I am going to watch a good versus evil film, like ‘Ghajini’ for example, you know that the good guy will beat up the bad guy in the end. So I know what I am going in for.

“Somewhere we didn’t manage to nail the intrigue factor of the film. If the message was that this was a film that talks about success, perhaps it would have worked. To me that’s a lesson in how to do things differently the next time around. Because there was nothing wrong with the film.”

Q: You are going back to direction after more than four years. Do you think you will have to feel your way around?

A: “Fortunately, I haven’t taken a hiatus from movies. I was always on set, so I haven’t gotten rusty. The one good thing is that I am feeling hungry to go out and do it. I cannot wait to go out there and direct my film. So far everything is on track, touch wood. I am sure as the day nears there will be a lot more nerves.”

Q: Do you ever think of directing yourself?

A: “Not right now, no. The demands of both jobs are very different. As an actor when I am performing I don’t want to be thinking about the camera problems or how long we have to wait. It would be distracting for me to do both, but you never know, there will hopefully be a lot more films in the future.”

A Bollywood song and dance…

In DJ Sumie on February 22, 2010 at 10:13 AM

…In praise of a film star who has seen off the violent mob running India’s commercial capital

Illustration by M. Morgenstern

Courtesy of Banyan’s Notebook, The Economist

LAW-ABIDING Mumbaikars, as residents of India’s tinsel-town are known, celebrated the release of Bollywood’s latest offering with gusto this week. The film, “My name is Khan”, depicts the fictional trials of Rizwan Khan, an Indian Muslim with Asperger’s syndrome, living in California. Shortly after September 11th 2001 Mr Khan’s six-year-old son is lynched in a racist reprisal. This leads him to track down President George Bush and tell him: “My name is Khan and I am not a terrorist.”

Despite mixed reviews, the film generated $18m in ticket sales in its first three days, doubling the previous record for an Indian film. That was also despite a slow start in Mumbai. Of 63 cinemas due to release the film on February 12th only 13 did so. They were deterred, for that day only, by threats from a gangsterish political party, Shiv Sena, which controls the city’s municipal council and is the main opposition in the state of Maharashtra. A Hindu-nationalist outfit, and champion of Maharashtra’s Marathi speakers, Shiv Sena had a grudge against the film’s leading man, Shah Rukh Khan, one of Bollywood’s biggest stars. Mr Khan, a Muslim, and a co-owner of a cricket team, the Kolkata Knight Riders, had offended Shiv Sena’s leader, Bal Thackeray, by speaking up for some Pakistani cricketers disgracefully excluded from the Indian Premier League. Unless Mr Khan apologised, Mr Thackeray swore to disrupt the film’s release.

That should have been enough to make Mr Khan grovel. With an army of ethnic-Maratha hooligans, known as Shiv Sainiks, at his disposal, Mr Thackeray has terrorised Mumbai’s teeming streets for four decades. Non-Maratha migrants, Muslims and foreign cricketers, Pakistani and Australian, have all been targets of his tirades. His followers have been implicated in hundreds of murders, notably in a 1993 anti-Muslim pogrom. Yet Mr Thackeray has hardly been censured. The Congress party, which rules Maharashtra and heads the national coalition government, is loth to upset him. So are Mumbai’s tycoons and film stars. But Mr Khan refused to bend the knee. Then the state government, for once, swore to keep order. And Mr Thackeray backed down.

This excellent turn of events, however, invited a question: how is it that liberal, secular India has suffered Mr Thackeray and his thugs for so long? One reason is an abiding sensitivity towards language-based agitations—after a spate, in the 1950s, that posed the greatest threat to India’s survival. It led to a reorganisation of the state’s provinces into linguistically more homogeneous units: including, in 1960, the creation of mainly Marathi-speaking Maharashtra. Opposed by India’s then prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, the arrangement has proved remarkably effective. Yet Nehru’s fear that the reorganisation would harden regionalist sentiments has also been partly justified.

Mr Thackeray, who founded his party in 1966, began by attacking poor south-Indian migrants to Bombay, as Mumbai was then called. Never mind that Mumbai was barely a Maratha city at all. Almost a third of its population was non-Maratha then; over half is today. Its wealth was created largely by Gujarati, Rajasthani and Parsee traders.

India’s democracy has spawned many opportunist outfits of the Shiv Sena type, fermenters of ethnic, religious or caste-based grievance. But it is also in part self-correcting. No communal interest is big enough to secure state-level or national power. To forge alliances extremists have to moderate. For Mr Thackeray, this meant softening his pro-Maratha oratory; but, alas, not the anti-Muslim slant he shared with his main ally, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). During the 1990s the two parties won power in Maharashtra—which allowed Mr Thackeray to rename Bombay—and, as part of a broader coalition, in Delhi.

Yet their Hinduist scheme now looks stunted: the BJP and Shiv Sena have lost successive state-level and general elections. A firebrand nephew of Mr Thackeray has meanwhile formed a breakaway party, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS). In response, Shiv Sena has resumed its pro-Maratha attack. Mr Thackeray has thundered against India’s greatest cricketer, Sachin Tendulkar, a Mumbaikar who says he’s Indian first, and its richest man, Mukesh Ambani, who says Mumbai is for all. But this cannot disguise Shiv Sena’s slide. Congress has hastened it, partly by turning a blind eye to the crimes of the MNS, which, by splitting the Shiv Sena’s vote, helped Congress win the most recent state election. This reflects badly on India’s ruling party but is in fact grimly consistent with its long reluctance to enforce the law against Shiv Sena—a big reason for the impunity Mr Thackeray has enjoyed.

My name is Gandhi and I am a future prime minister

Prone to communal conniption, India needs enlightened leadership, which Congress has often failed to provide. Instead of defending India’s liberal traditions against the chauvinists, it has tended to copy them. In Maharashtra, for example, it has adopted a less rabid brand of nativism than Shiv Sena’s. In neighbouring Gujarat, torn by Hindu-Muslim strife, it has preached “soft Hindutva”, a milder version of the BJP’s hate-filled creed.

So a recent visit to Mumbai by Rahul Gandhi, Nehru’s great-grandson and Congress’s next leader, was significant. He had spoken up for Mumbai’s battered migrants, prompting the Shiv Sainiks to threaten protests. Yet, unabashed, he came and took a train-ride through the city. For some who dream of Congress improving under Mr Gandhi, this was promising.

But it could not deny Shah Rukh Khan the spotlight. A likeable superstar, he has a record of fighting liberal causes. After Pakistani terrorists ravaged Mumbai in 2008, he sought to avert an anti-Muslim backlash. He is close to Congress, and said to be mulling a political career. Unusually in India, which has a history of venal, useless actor-politicians, that might not be a bad thing.

Sundance: Aamir Khan Talks 3 Idiots, May Release Peepli Live Himself

In DJ Sumie on February 18, 2010 at 1:16 PM

Courtesy of IndieWire

How strange that I should land my first interview with my favorite Bollywood star, Aamir Khan, at Sundance. That’s because he came to town as the producer of an indie political satire, Peepli Live, which is the first film from India to be accepted at Sundance—in the world cinema competition. Khan read the script from rookie director Anusha Rizvi and agreed to back it. She cast the film largely with unknowns, including theater actor Omkar Das Manikpuri. (Here’s a review from The Hollywood Reporter.)

Khan wants it to be seen by a wider audience outside India, and may even distribute it himself. We also talked about 3 Idiots, which has grossed over $100-million worldwide, India’s biggest blockbuster so far, beating not only the Oscar-nominated Lagaan but Ghanjini, which both starred Khan.

Check out Aamir on video about 3 idiots!

Another of Aamir on Bollywood Vs. Hollywood!

And finally, Aamir on Sundance Hopes for Peepli Live!

Ha-ha-ha!!

In DJ Sumie on February 17, 2010 at 2:01 PM

Unintentionally Funny, Must-Watch Bollywood Movies: My Name Is Khan

Courtesy of The Vigil Idiot

Hindi entertainment channel to launch on Sky…

In DJ Sumie on February 17, 2010 at 1:01 PM

…Free-to-air at launch then added to the View Asia package

Courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter

By Nyay Bhushan

NEW DELHI — India’s top rated Hindi general entertainment channel Colors, owned by Viacom18 Media, will launch on the U.K.’s Sky platform according to a statement Tuesday.

Viacom18 is a joint venture between Viacom Inc. and leading Mumbai-based broadcasting group Network18.

Offering a mix of fiction and other programming that also includes Indian versions of “Bingo” and recent seasons of “Big Brother” and “Fear Factor”, Colors will be available free-to-air at launch and then subsequently added to the View Asia package.

The U.K. launch follows the U.S. launch in January of the channel rebranded stateside as “Aapka Colors” (Your Colors) available on the Dish Network.

Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan serves as Colors’ brand ambassador for these launches.

Viacom18 board director and managing director and executive vp of MTV Network’s International’s Emerging Markets group Bhavneet Singh said: “There is a huge appetite for Hindi language entertainment and we’re confident that Colors will quickly become the ultimate family entertainment destination for Asian communities across the U.K.”

Added Viacom18 Group COO and CEO Colors Rajesh Kamat, “After having successfully consolidated our leadership position in India, I have no doubt that we will be able to replicate our success in key international markets like the U.S. and U.K. as well.”

Launched in India in July 2008, Viacom18 claims Colors is distributed to 45 million households here via cable, DTH and IPTV.

Charity seeks Cameron’s help, cites ‘Avatar’ Charity seeks Cameron’s help, cites ‘Avatar’ …

In DJ Sumie on February 16, 2010 at 2:07 PM

…Says tribe facing mining company is in a Na’vi-like struggle

Courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter

By Nyay Bhushan

NEW DELHI — U.K.-based charity Survival International has appealed to James Cameron on behalf of the Dongria Kondh tribe in India’s Orissa state whose story, according to Survival, “is uncannily similar to that of the Na’vi in ‘Avatar.’ ”

In an ad released Monday with the title “Appeal to James Cameron — Avatar is fantasy … and real,” Survival said, “The Dongria Kondh tribe in India are struggling to defend their land against a mining company hell-bent on destroying their sacred mountain. Please help the Dongria.”

The ad also provides a link to a 10-minute film “Mine: Story of a Sacred Mountain” narrated by India-born British actress Joanna Lumley (“Absolutely Fabulous”) that exposes the Dongria’s plight. “We’ve watched your film — now watch ours,” the ad stated.

Survival explained how the Dongria, who live in the Niyamgiri Hills in Orissa state located on India’s east coast, are battling against U.K.-based Vedanta Resources, which is “determined to mine their sacred mountain’s rich seam of bauxite (aluminium ore),” it said in a statement. Vedanta is majority-owned by Indian billionaire Anil Agarwal.

According to Survival — which claims to be the only international organization supporting tribal peoples worldwide — other Kondh groups are already suffering from a bauxite refinery, built and operated by Vedanta, at the base of the Niyamgiri Hills.

“Just as the Na’vi describe the forest of Pandora as ‘their everything,’ for the Dongria Kondh, life and land have always been deeply connected. The fundamental story of ‘Avatar’ – if you take away the multi-coloured lemurs, the long-trunked horses and warring androids — is being played out today in the hills of Niyamgiri,” Survival’s director Stephen Corry said.

Corry added, “Like the Na’vi of ‘Avatar,’ the Dongria Kondh are also at risk, as their lands are set to be mined by Vedanta Resources who will stop at nothing to achieve their aims. The mine will destroy the forests on which the Dongria Kondh depend and wreck the lives of thousands of other Kondh tribal people living in the area. I do hope that James Cameron will join the Dongria’s struggle to save their sacred mountain and secure their future.”

Vedanta has not released any statement.

Survival International recently persuaded the Church of England to sell its investment in Vedanta Resources “for ethical reasons” even though its investment in Vedanta was only for £2.5 million (about $4 million), but its sale last week generated enough media attention for the campaign.

In 2007, a pension fund backed by the Norwegian government also sold its $13 million investment based on recommendations from the funds’ ethics council, which stated that “allegations leveled at (Vedanta) regarding environmental damage and complicity in human rights violations, including abuse and forced eviction of tribal people, are well founded.”

Similarly, another Vedanta investor, Scotland-based Martin Currie Investments sold its £2.3 million stake last year, as did British Petroleum’s pension fund, which reduced its holdings in Vedanta due to “concerns about the way the company operates.”

Keeping It Real

In DJ Sumie on February 11, 2010 at 7:02 PM

Courtesy of Time

By Jyothi Thottam

On a dirt track under the midday sun, Irrfan Khan waits at the starting line. The 42-year-old actor is playing a poor army recruit from a village in central India who runs just to get the extra ration of food allotted to athletes. At his first race, his character doesn’t know what to do when the pistol sounds, so he prays. “You idiot! Run!” the starter screams. That spurs the soldier into action, and the naive confusion on his face turns into determination. Extras from the Bengal Sappers — actual young army recruits who live on the base in Roorkee in northern Uttarakhand state, where the movie is being filmed — crowd around the sidelines as he lowers his head and takes off.

This kind of character — the village boy who succeeds against all odds — is a staple of Bollywood, India’s film industry, the largest in the world. But Khan turns it into something more. In his hands, the true story of Paan Singh Tomar, a track-and-field champion turned mountain bandit, becomes a parable about the frustrated poor. Khan says the film, written and directed by Tigmanshu Dhulia, an old friend from drama school, appealed to him because it follows the hero once he has been forgotten. “It talks about our system,” he says. “It’s a sign for any nation, any society — how much they are prepared to care for a talent.” (See pictures about the business of Bollywood.)

That’s a question that applied to Khan too, but no longer. He has blurred the once sharp line dividing India’s truly gifted actors from its movie stars. He is the one who can do it all: big-budget Bollywood films as well as small independent films in the U.S., Europe and India. Khan’s specialty is adding a layer of unexpected depth and tenderness to an otherwise opaque character — the interrogator in Oscar winner Slumdog Millionaire, a Pakistani police captain in A Mighty Heart, the remote immigrant father in The Namesake. Danny Boyle, the British director of Slumdog Millionaire, believes that as other Western studios try to replicate the film’s success with movies set in India, Khan will be even more in demand — quintessentially Indian, and yet something else besides. “He is a touchstone connecting two worlds,” Boyle says. More than Shah Rukh or Aamir or Salman, it’s Irrfan who is the Great Khan — India’s finest actor, perhaps even Asia’s.

Bridging East and West
The cliché about actors with great screen presence is that they always seem so much smaller in real life. Khan is the opposite. When he’s in a scene on film, it’s almost impossible not to watch him — but in person the effect is magnified, not diminished. He is taller and better looking than you expect from his common-man roles, and he has a way of subtly yet firmly controlling the environment around him. He doesn’t need a big, pushy entourage to do it. When I meet him on the roof of a bland, concrete hotel in Roorkee, he has already charmed and cajoled the manager into opening up the roof terrace, lighting it with movie equipment and fetching a badminton set so he and his crew can amuse themselves in the evenings. (Read “Bollywood’s Viral Videos.”)

Khan talks easily about movies — he loves them with the ardor of a lifelong fan — and almost as freely about his struggle to become an actor. He grew up in Jaipur, a city of crumbling palaces in the north Indian desert, as the eldest son of a conservative, aristocratic Muslim family. The popular movies he watched in the 1960s, such as Mughal-E-Azam and Guide, were pure escape — gorgeous fantasies of epic love and tragedy. By the time he was a teenager in the 1970s, the socially conscious new wave of the 1960s — so-called parallel cinema — began to enter the mainstream, bringing Indians’ everyday experiences to the big screen. Khan was transfixed. He had been an indifferent student at college in Jaipur, but now pursued a spot in the National School of Drama in New Delhi with single-minded devotion. “My father died the same year, and I was the eldest,” he recalls. “Morally and socially, it was difficult to leave.” Withstanding family pressure, Khan reasoned with himself that he would end up demoralized, bitter and unable to support them if he stayed. “So I left.”

Drama school was a new world, but not what he expected. “I thought somebody, somehow, would give me the secret to acting,” he recalls. Indian theater then had nothing like the studios of method-acting guru Lee Strasberg or Stanislavski disciple Stella Adler to give actors tools and techniques. It had its roots in drawing-room melodramas and classical literature, including an ancient text, the Natyashastra, devoted to the theory of drama. “It even tells you where in the audience a critic should sit,” Khan says. “But you cannot learn acting from that.” So he immersed himself in the films of Scorsese, Costa-Gavras and Bergman, and watched Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman and Marlon Brando over and over, trying to work out for himself how they do what they do. (See best movies, TV, books and theater of the decade.)

In his final year, a young director casting her first feature — a cinema verité take on slum life in Bombay — came to the school scouting for talent. “One of the things I’m slightly proud of is kind of discovering Irrfan,” says Mira Nair, who cast Khan as a letter writer in Salaam Bombay! His role was edited down to a fleeting appearance, but Nair says that even then, Khan was different. “I was very, very struck by his being in the part rather than acting,” she recalls. “He wasn’t striving. His striving was invisible. He was in it.”

Eighteen years later, Nair cast him in The Namesake, and he rendered a quietly commanding performance. Khan plays Ashoke Ganguli, an Indian immigrant to the U.S. struggling to connect with his Westernized son. Khan had never been to the U.S. before then, so to play Ashoke he called on an earlier trip to Canada, where he had noticed the many middle-aged immigrants working in shops. “Something stayed in my mind,” he says. “A strange sadness set in them. A rhythm that middle-aged people have.” Nair says he was true to the quietness of the character, but used a light touch. In one scene, he gives his son’s blonde, American girlfriend an appreciative once-over when he meets her. Nair says it wasn’t in the script, but Khan understood what a little humor can do for a serious role. It was only a brief moment, but it cracked Ashoke’s dignified veneer just slightly, letting the audience feel his vulnerability.

Khan’s ability to generate such empathy led to critical praise and also won the attention of Fox Searchlight Pictures, which co-distributed Slumdog Millionaire. Director Boyle says that Khan’s part was crucial. Khan plays the inspector who interrogates Jamal, a young man from the slums of Mumbai, suspecting him of cheating to win a televised quiz show. Everything else in the movie is a flashback, so the suspense hinges on whether the interrogator will release Jamal or keep him in custody. Khan’s way of inhabiting the character is consummate and ineffable — as economical and meticulous as the way he rolls his own cigarettes or asks for a precisely brewed cup of tea. “You can’t put your finger on what exactly,” Boyle says. But he has an instinctive way of finding the “moral center” of any character, so that in Slumdog, we believe the policeman might actually conclude that Jamal is innocent. Boyle compares him to an athlete who can execute the same move perfectly over and over. “It’s beautiful to watch.”

Breaking Out
Khan is not the first indian actor to win acclaim in the West. Before Khan, there was Naseeruddin Shah, a star of Indian parallel cinema’s realism; Om Puri, co-star of City of Joy with Patrick Swayze; and Roshan Seth, who played Jawaharlal Nehru, the foil to Ben Kingsley’s Oscar-winning portrayal of the Mahatma in Gandhi. All had healthy careers as character actors, but their potential as dramatic leading men was never really fulfilled, in Hollywood or Bollywood. “I feel very sad about it,” Khan says. But he seems to have escaped that fate. “Everybody here calls me about him,” Nair says from New York. Khan had a small part in Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited and appears as Natalie Portman’s love interest in New York, I Love You in a segment directed by Nair. And he may star opposite Cate Blanchett in a planned film about the relationship between Nehru and Edwina Mountbatten, wife of India’s last viceroy. Khan says coyly that he is “very eager” to be on the set — but the project is on hold indefinitely until the producers can get past the unease that India’s Central Board of Film Certification has with the idea of the great statesman romancing a memsahib.

Khan’s burgeoning international reputation is perhaps more remarkable because he has established it without leaving Bollywood. During the late 1980s and 1990s, when Indian film went through a particularly low moment, many of Khan’s friends left the industry in disgust. “I was absolutely disillusioned,” recalls one of them, Vipin Sharma, who emigrated to Toronto to work in documentaries. Bollywood had become dominated by “masala movies” — spicy escapades guaranteed to titillate rural masses with increasingly outlandish plots, tawdry lovemaking scenes and bombshell heroines. Distributors would literally call the shots, sitting in on previews with directors and saying, “Let’s add a song sequence here, let’s have a rape scene here,” explains Shubhra Gupta, a film critic in New Delhi. But Khan chose his Bollywood work carefully, waiting for the occasional good story or compelling role. “Irrfan stayed and fought and created his own path,” Sharma says. (See the 10 Indian films to Treasure.)

Television serials were the best refuge for serious actors at the time, and Khan appeared in a good number, including Banegi Apni Baat — a drama that served as an incubator for several big names — and Kahkashan, in which he played the Marxist Urdu poet Makhdoom Mohiuddin. He also married his girlfriend from drama school, a scriptwriter. They had two children, now 6 and 11, and he focused on his craft. Not that such craft was especially valued in a business where there was no freedom for actors to interpret the roles, and where directors dictated every phrase and gesture. “That used to suffocate me,” Khan says. “I used to watch myself and feel embarrassed.” A funny thing happened, though, in those years that Khan toiled in television. The film industry caught up with him, and in the nick of time. Khan was ready to leave the profession when he was offered a part in The Warrior, a 2001 period piece filmed in India by a British-Indian director. It was the first time a director asked him to “do nothing,” and he finally felt free. “That changed my life,” he says. “I couldn’t work in television after that.”

He didn’t have to. Other roles soon followed as the economics of the Indian film industry radically changed. Studios in Bollywood, as in Hollywood, discovered alternatives to the high-risk, high-reward blockbuster. India’s new malls featured smaller, luxurious multiplexes to appeal to the urban middle classes, a far cry from the bare-bones cinema halls and marquees of small towns and villages. “You went from 1,000 seats to 100 seats, where it was easier to show films that did not require 1,000 people to break even,” says Gupta. Studios could make healthy profits with smaller budgets, giving directors the freedom to do more inventive stories, without huge stars or musical numbers. Khan starred in one of the early “multiplex movies” — Maqbool, a 2003 retelling of Macbeth — and the genre has thrived. (Read “Hollywood Meets Bollywood: Finally, a Love Story?”)

Actors, too, have found a new model. There was a time when any young hero longed to be Shah Rukh Khan, the shimmying, flexing, weeping pretty boy who is still the industry’s most bankable star, or Aamir Khan, the slick lead of the recent megahit 3 Idiots. Instead, Irrfan Khan has become the inspiration for all those talented actors who don’t dance and aren’t leading-man handsome. “It’s very deep,” Nair says of his impact. After watching Khan’s performance in Maqbool, Sharma moved back to Mumbai and restarted his career as an actor. He recalls thinking, “This was something different in Indian cinema.”

Khan’s influence is also apparent in younger actors like Abhay Deol. From a family of Bollywood heartthrobs, Deol could have easily followed that path. Instead, he starred in one of last year’s biggest multiplex hits, Dev.D, playing a brooding, drug-addled rich kid in a film with no singing, no dancing and a not-so-happy ending. And in last year’s hit Billu, the shifting balance of artistic power wrought by Khan is on full display. Khan plays the eponymous barber whose world is upended when his childhood friend, a Bollywood superstar, comes to town. That star is played by none other than Shah Rukh Khan, who, in essence, is gently caricaturing his own persona. Irrfan is all praise for his co-star, who he says was “very sincere” in his acceptance and handling of the supporting role. “He wanted the film to be Billu’s story.”

On the set in Roorkee, everything Khan has worked for seems to come together around him. Sharma, the disillusioned actor, plays a sympathetic army officer. Dhulia, a director who once struggled to get his films made, has the backing of UTV, a thriving studio that specializes in multiplex movies. The young soldiers, some with wives and children in tow, follow Khan around the set, taking his picture with their mobile phones. After a few takes at the starting line, Khan has to run against several of the Sappers, who are extras in the film. His pale gangly legs don’t quite match their tanned, toned ones, even after weeks of training. But as Khan runs, arms and legs pumping, his body seems to rejuvenate with the effort. He can’t manage more than one take, but it’s enough, and the camera captures the moment — the lean lines of a born runner, angling into the bend.

with reporting by Madhur Singh / New Delhi

Mayank Shekhar’s Review: Striker

In DJ Sumie on February 11, 2010 at 6:51 PM

Courtesy of Hindustan Times

By Mayank Shekhar

Director: Chandan Arora
Actors: Siddharth, Ankur Vikal
Rating: ***

Abhay Deol, an actor rightly credited with pioneering what’s now termed ‘new Bollywood’ says it’s not that hard to be different in Hindi cinema after all. You put together a film where the hero doesn’t lip-sync a song, and there are no dances, the film becomes different on its own. Deol is right.

I’d add the presence of a believable setting, something that’s conventional for most films, that can immediately mark itself as different for a Hindi movie as well.

This is, by that logic, a different film, as it were. Though a mellifluous Sufi song (Amit Trivedi) does conveniently express the bond between the hero, and his lovely next-door neighbour. The girl’s Muslim; the boy, Hindu. Soon as the father finds his daughter with the boy, the family quietly moves out of the neighbourhood. You can’t quite tell the purpose of this brief romance. Maybe it is to suggest times when segregation between Hindus and Muslims wasn’t complete. Such young love in the ghetto was still possible, or at any rate, imaginable. It isn’t anymore.

The film is set across the late ‘70s, through the ‘80s, until December, ’92 BC (Before Cellphone). The latter being that moment in Mumbai’s history, when the city truly lost its famed innocence. It revealed a communal underbelly unknown to even its residents, and exposed suddenly its sword-wielding rioting mobs that began to distinguish between its own, over a God you privately prayed to. The state was complicit to the crime. The culture and politics of Mumbai (or for that matter, Maharashtra) hasn’t remained the same since. The film latently expresses a similar sentiment.

As a young Hindu boy, Surya (Siddharth) moved from Nagpada into a “10 by 10” (hutment) in Malvani, a large claustrophobic Muslim neighbourhood in the far, northwestern suburb of Mumbai. Such rounding alleys bear few exit routes for the restless and ambitious. I suppose even Dubai isn’t a practical dream anymore.

Surya realises, “Mangne se milta nahin (You don’t get anything when you ask). Chheenna galat hai (Snatching is wrong). Jeetna hi padega — you have to win, to survive, or hope for a better life. The kid’s a bit of a pro in Carrom, a parlour game that we don’t credit enough for being a sport only as indigenously Indian as kabaddi. Surya’s friend (Ankur Vikal, astoundingly real) becomes a sort of a manager. Aditya Panscholi plays the don. Carrom boards double up for gambling tables. Bets are placed on the star striker, the major “kheli” (player). He rarely disappoints. Such dens hide within several booby traps. Surya is bound to fall. He does.

Yet, this is neither a rags-to-success story of a national carrom champion (which it could’ve been). Nor is it a simplistic prequel to Satya’s Bhikhu Mhatre (that it seemed to be). The hero’s complex journey develops over such strong shades of black-gray that you could even shift uncomfortably on your seat as you watch the protagonist rape a girl he could’ve loved. The story is in the grittiness of experience. Judgment isn’t fed; purpose, not expressly defined. This can be a problem for certain audiences who like to be told everything: who’s the loved hero or feared villain, why to empathise, when to emote…

Sure this film is different then. Shouldn’t each be anyway? Worth it, all the way.

New Yorker Films Back in Business

In You Tell Us on February 9, 2010 at 5:05 PM

(February 9, 2010) Aladdin Distribution LLC, a Marina del Rey, CA-based company, has announced the acquisition of New Yorker Films’ library, which has amassed over 400 film titles.

Veteran film executives David Raphel, a former President of Twentieth Century Fox International, Christopher Harbonville, a producer formerly associated with the Cambridge Film Group; and Hani Musleh, a former investment banker, founded Aladdin Distribution LLC in late 2009, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Aladdin Films Corporation, which is an international motion picture development, financing and production company.

New Yorker Films was founded by Dan Talbot in 1965, and became one of the most influential distributors of foreign language and independent films in the US. The principals of Aladdin Distribution LLC announced that Jose Lopez, formerly Dan Talbot’s business partner and Vice-President of New Yorker Films, will remain with the company and has been named President. Peter Marai has been hired as Acquisitions Consultant.

The company will operate out of New York City starting March 8, 2010, a year after New Yorker was forced to close its doors, the pioneer distributor of foreign language and independent films is back in business.

New Yorker Films is committed to continue releasing quality art and independent films from around the world. The company plans to acquire 6 to 8 titles each year for theatrical release. The Non-Theatrical and Home Video departments, both integral parts of the company, will continue acquiring and releasing numerous films.

New Yorker Films has a legendary legacy, boasting a long-standing track record in foreign film distribution, bringing a staggering number of international auteurs to American movie theaters for more than four decades. The company’s crucial role in establishing a lasting film culture in this country cannot be underestimated. An illustrious roster of directors whose films were released by New Yorker Films includes: Akerman, Alea, Bertolucci, Bresson, Chabrol, Fassbinder, Fellini, Godard, Herzog, Kieslowski, Kurosawa, Kusturica, Lanzmann, Malle, Ozu, Rivette, Rohmer, Rossellini, Sembene, Straub-Huillet, Tanner, Wenders, Errol Morris, Wayne Wang, and many others.

Bengali Filmmaker Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury speaks of his National Award win!

In DJ Sumie on February 8, 2010 at 4:56 PM

Courtesy of Kolkata Mirror

By Sonashree Basu

‘I am superstitious’

National Award winning director Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury talks about his Bengali films, his Bollywood plans and future projects
Though two films old, director Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury has done it all, whether it’s working with veteran actors both in Bollywood and Tollywood or be it screening his films in prestigious Cannes Film Festival. His first film Anuranan won the National Award for the Best Feature Film in Bengali (2008) and his second film Antaheen won the National Award for Best Film (2009) and three other awards for best lyrics, cinematography and playback singing.
In a conversation with Kolkata Mirror, Aniruddha shares his experience of winning the National Award and talks about the current Bengali film scenario.
Congratulations…how do feel after winning the National Award?
Obviously, I feel absolutely elated and it’s really overwhelming to get the National Award and that too for four categories. But honestly, when you file your nominations for the award, you have some expectation in your mind. I was sure that I will get at least one. However, I wished Santanu Moitra too would win an award because his music is marvellous.
After receiving the highest honour, will it matter to you if you don’t win popular awards?
An award is an acknowledgement of one’s hard work and popularity so more I get the better (smiles). However, I must admit that there is nothing compared to a National award.
You began as an ad-film maker. Was getting into mainstream cinema always on your mind?
Cinema had cast a spell on me ever since I was a child. I love to read stories and watch every kind of film. Making ad films was like doing homework before taking the big leap, that is, cinema for the 70mm. Ad films infused discipline in me and honed my creativity.
Both your films Anuranan and Antaheen start with the letter A? Is there any reason for that?
You can say I am a little superstitious and I have affinity towards the letter A. Besides that I am a very poetic person, I love to read a lot of poetry. Anuranan means resonance and Antaheen means endless, both the names are very symbolic and I should say that I love working with images.
As a newcomer in the industry, was it difficult getting veteran actors to work with you?
I have to admit that I am very lucky to get actors like Aparna Sen, Sharmila Tagore, Rituparna Sengupta, Rajat Kapoor and others to work with me. I just approached them with my script. Probably it impressed them so much that they agreed to work.
You have screened your films at many film festivals across the globe. How was the experience?
Bengali films are not just a part of a region called West Bengal but they are part of world cinema. Therefore it was a compulsion on my part to reach out to a wider audience. I have seen that apart from the NRIs, people in North America, United Kingdom, and Berlin appreciate Bengali films. I received wonderful reactions from the people out there and it was really a great experience. I especially enjoyed the Mahindra Indo-American Arts Council Film Festival, Bollywood and Beyond Film Festival and the Independent South Asian Film Festival.
You always focus on marketing films. Do you think the Bengali films lag behind in branding?
Absolutely. The directors of today like Ritu Da (Rituporno Ghosh) and others, are making wonderful movies but they are not promoted properly hence awareness about our movies is less. The business of Bengali movies has to grow gradually. You will see that big budget Bollywood film is Rs 30 crores whereas it is Rs 2 crores for a Tollywood film. We need good producers to take our films on the world platform. My production house Mumbai Mantra is also planning to re-release Antaheen in several parts of India because we still feel the film was not distributed properly.
Your films seem to be made only for multiplex audience…
If you are saying that the films were not typically romantic and had the protagonist dying in the end, then I want to let you know that some films need certain techniques. The idea in both the films was to bring the families closer after the death of the central character and I think that was wonderful. However, I want to work on every genre of story be it realistic, romance, drama, comedy or action.
What’s next?
There are two storiesby Sunil Gangopadhyay Ajana Desh and Dui Nari O Haate Talwar, on which I would like to work. However nothing has been finalised.
How much of a Bengali Babu are you?
I am a pukka Bengali and very much a Kolkatan. I have grown up watching films like Kabuliwalla, Shilpi, JaiJayanti and a lot others. I love my daal ,maach bhaja and bhaat. After seeing my films don’t you think that they reflect how much a Bengali I am? I have to confess that I don’t want to leave Kolkata.
No Bollywood dreams?
At this point of time, I want to concentrate on making Bengali movies. However, I will make no bones saying that I don’t want to direct Hindi films. If I get a good script sooner or later you will see my films in Bollywood as well.

Our friend Raghava KK featured in India Today and he shouts out our very own Payal Sethi!

In DJ Sumie on February 5, 2010 at 11:49 PM

Courtesy of India Today

Going Global by Nirmala Ravindran

“Where have you been, Raghava sir? You’ve forgotten us,” says Palani, a waiter at Koshy’s, one of the city’s favourite restaurants. Busy explaining his absence to everyone, from roadside vendors to waiters at his favourite restaurant, is New York-settled artist Raghava KK, who is back in Bangalore for a short visit.

Even though he’s in a rush, Raghava takes time to explain that he’s recently moved to New York and does not live in Bangalore anymore. He admits to missing Bangalore and Koshy’s. However, he isn’t complaining yet, as he’s on a roll after having a very successful solo show at Art Musings in Mumbai.

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Raghava KK started off as a cartoonist at the young age of 17. And since then, he has toyed with various media. A whole generation of Bangaloreans has grown up with his cartoons and art; hence, the popularity. Being considered a child prodigy came with its share of travails, for, while Raghava has many admirers and well wishers, he also has had his share of critics and detractors. “I’m here to work, like everybody else. And it’s okay if I fail. I’ll learn. All I can say is that I’m young and I hope to learn and evolve as an artist. It’s a life-long journey and I’m only 29,” says Raghava.

Raghava himself recalls his tryst with art at the age of six. “I had learned how to copy art from my mother, Leela Kalyanaraman. She copied the master’s nude beautifully and I did the same. When I was in grade two, I got into serious trouble with my teachers because they had found my copybook full of nude drawings of women. I had just copied the bust of a woman by Michelangelo. They were horrified and my parents were sent for,” he laughs, admitting that he had never thought of art as a full-time profession.

“Art is something that brings together all the things that I love doing,” Raghava has said right from the time he came into the limelight. It was cartooning that put the spotlight on him as part of the successful collective-the Cartoonists Unanimous. After a very successful run, the group split. “It was really difficult to leave, because we had done such good work together and I had learnt so much from the people I worked with,” says Raghava.

Post 9/11, he published a cartoon in America, titled Bite Off the Big Apple. The cartoon brought with it, besides hate mail, an excommunication from the American cartoonist collective. “I realised then that freedom of expression was only a token idea.” He stayed away from the quick high of cartooning for many years and it is only recently that it has reentered his oeuvre. “I’ve come full circle, 360 degrees, and am revisiting the medium with new zest. Cartooning for me is very raw. It allows nonbeautiful truths to emerge.”

The next stopover on his artistic journey saw him exploring various media, from paintings, sculptures and installations to performing art. His travels and experiments across the country and abroad put him in touch with the movers and shakers like Kamal Hassan, Pooja Bhatt, Shabana Azmi, and others. Painting was his new high, with big shows and commissioned projects across the country. One remembers his installations at the Caterpillar office and the book on B.K. Birla that he illustrated. “I learned one important lesson from artist Milind Nayak. He taught me not to try to paint a masterpiece, but to enjoy the process itself. Most of my learning came from my interactions with the art world,” says Raghava.

What Raghava did best was to travel around the world, meeting artists all over, paying for his travels and food with his paintings. “My brief encounter with Italian master-artist Luigi Ontani influenced me a lot. I learned from him how spontaneous and crazy an artist’s life can be.” His travels across Europe and Africa led to inspirational meetings with legendary artists like Raza and Shakti Burman in Paris, what he calls ‘magical’.

His trysts with African artist Farid Belkahia, in Morocco, taught him about the life of an artist. “Claude Viallat in Nimes, France, founder of the Surface Art Movement, and the avant garde sculptor Alain Kirili from New York have also influence my thinking about art,” he adds.

Raghava admits that he was extremely nad(ve and the sudden fame and attention that he received from the age of 17 to 21 probably limited his artistic growth. “Only when I decided to forego the attention I had enjoyed earlier did I truly begin the cycle of reinventing myself and enjoying the process of creation,” says Raghava.

This was when Raghava and his young wife decided to leave their success in Bangalore behind and move to New York to start life from scratch. “We moved for several reasons-I did not like the life we were living in Bangalore. My wife got a scholarship to do her masters at Columbia University. Also, I wanted more breathing space besides wanting to spend time with my wife, son and dog.”

The move to New York meant starting life from scratch, sharing housework as well as finding time to work. “With no logistical help, it’s production time whenever I paint. I have to plan my day. I’m responsible for childcare half of the time, so I have to fit my work schedule with my wife’s. In Bangalore, I was spontaneous; in New York, I plan my visits to the studio.”

Inspired by urban aesthetics and graffiti, he created his latest works titled ‘Brooklyn Bound R Train’. “I do love and miss Bangalore very much, especially my parents and friends who are here, but this is just another step in a long journey. So let’s see how it goes.”

And here are some quick facts!

All time favourites:

“Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Waterson is my all time favourite. It’s funny and dark, yet beautiful and hilarious. Nothing works better than comic pathos.”

Career snapshots
  • Took part in a show on art for the city of Nimes, France, at the Carre d’Art Museum of Contemporary Art.
  • Taught at the Ecole Des Beaux Arts in Nimes.
  • Collaborated with flamenco singer, Pepe Linares, to create a flamenco-art experience.
  • Worked with Moroccan painter, Farid Belkahia.
  • Helped in the art direction of a film, Grant St. Shaving Co.-a film on New York City, which was directed by friend Payal Sethi.

  • Showed at Sante Fe in New Mexico during Art Santa Fe.
  • Participated in Purdah 2008 and 2009, a confluence of artists across Asia discussing the relationship of gender, body and sexuality.

And a little something extra…

Ted stopover

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At this year’s conference, he will be the youngest artist.

It started off with the concept of ‘ideas worth spreading’ and turned into a world-wide phenomenon with the annual TED conferences. TED, for the uninitiated, stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design-a US-based private nonprofit foundation best known for its conferences. The speakers put forth their idea or vision across to the world in just 18 minutes in this conference. TED has been holding an annual conference every year for the last 25 years in California’s Long Beach.

Raghava KK becomes the first Indian artist to be invited to TED, and only the second Indian after Nandan Nilekani, to speak at the conference. He is also the youngest speaker at TED this year. The selection process is discreet-people whose ideas can excite the world are invited. Raghava will share stage space with Bill Gates, singer Sheryl Crow, humourist Ze Frank, activist Eve Ensler and anti-slavery activist Kevin Bales, among a host of artists, philosophers, technologists and entrepreneurs.

Raghava will talk about how his life and art are intertwined. “I don’t believe that the art of creating can ever be totally isolated from oneself. I live in art, transforming my entire world into a channel of creative expression.” The time limit of 18 minutes is what has garnered TED a loyal following across the world, especially with youngsters. “At first I thought it was a long time, but 18 minutes is really a short time to relay your entire life-I’m working on it,” Raghava says. TED attendees include the biggest names in the world, from the spheres of glamour, art, technology, science and business.

Raghava admits that his biggest high at TED will be listening to mathematician Benoil Mandlebrot, and chef and activist Jamie Oliver. “I’m more excited about being there among so many big names.”

Hindi Film Kavi in Oscar Race, Rahman Out

In DJ Sumie on February 4, 2010 at 4:28 PM

Courtesy of Dear Cinema

American director Gregg Helvey’s Hindi film Kavi, has been nominated in the Short Film category at the 82nd annual Academy Awards.

Kavi was filmed entirely in Wai, near Mumbai. Kavi is a boy in India who wants to play cricket and go to school, but instead he is forced to work in a brick kiln as a modern-day slave. Unsatisfied with his fate, Kavi must either accept what he’s always been told, or fight for a different life even if he’s unsure of the ultimate outcome.

This low budget film has won various awards at international festivals including the Student Academy Award for the Best Short Narrative. Indian producers Harish Amin and Guneet Monga have produced the film.

While a Hindi film by an English director made it to the nominations, Indian musician A R Rahman is out of this year’s Oscar race after his song ‘Na Na’ from his Hollywood debut movie ‘Couple’s Retreat’ failed to earn a nomination in the ‘Best Original Song’ category. He had won the award last year for his superhit composition “Jai Ho” and created history by becoming the first Indian to win two Oscars.

Welcome to 2010 Karaveners!

In Uncategorized on February 2, 2010 at 5:19 PM

Hot on the heels of a fantastic 2009 FilmKaravan is thrilled to share with you our many exciting projects for 2010. But first, a recap of 2009…

We kick-started last year with the premiere of Anurag Kashyap’s DEV D at the Museum of Modern Art, co-hosted by the film’s star, Abhay Deol. The film then went on to play top-tier festivals, including the Venice Film Festival. In April, we celebrated our two-year anniversary and launched the Karavan Kollective distribution project to give audiences access to quality South-Asian independent cinema on portals such as Netflix, Amazon, Indiepix and Reframe. Next, we released Nina Paley’s award-winning and visually sumptuous SITA SINGS THE BLUES, a DVD which has surpassed even our own expectations in sales and rentals. In mid November, we released the AIDS JaaGO DVD at a fundraiser where we brought together film luminaries such as Mira Nair, Shabana Azmi, Rahul Bose, Sanjay Suri and Tannishtha Chatterjee, to speak up for AIDS awareness in a viral video that we produced to commemorate World AIDS Day.

Finally, at the end of the year, we launched FK’s production division with our first short film, GRANT ST. SHAVING CO. shot entirely in New York City over three days. The shoot was a tremendous success, and we expect the film to be completed by March in time for festivals. We are currently raising finishing funds to complete post-production on the film. You can check out a sneak-peek and help us with a tax-deductible donation of as little as $5 if you’d like.

Twenty Ten also finds us attached to produce several feature-films at different stages of development, and as always, we will be looking for new and exciting projects to take on.

In April 2010, we will be releasing the heartwarming film, SUPERMEN OF MALEGAON theatrically, on DVD and TV. Showcased in June at the MoMA’s New India festival, it is a remarkable film that salutes the spirit of filmmaking and embodies a fanatical love for the movies. Read more about it here.

We invite you to SIGN-UP to receive the latest updates in our quarterly NEWSLETTER on www.filmkaravan.com, follow our BLOG at https://flixmatrix.wordpress.com/, and become a FAN on Facebook.

Thank you for your continued support and here’s wishing you great things in the new year!

The FilmKaravan Team

Avatar and The Hurt Locker Score Nine Each

In Red Hot Carpets on February 2, 2010 at 1:21 PM

Courtesy of ScreenDaily

There were few surprises in the nominations announcement for the 82nd Academy Awards on February 2, with Avatar and The Hurt Locker taking nine nominations apiece.

Jeremy Renner’s best actor nomination for The Hurt Locker was perhaps the main surprise in acting categories, while Cameron’s omission in the original screenplay category was notable.

Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds took eight nominations including best picture, director and screenplay, while Jason Reitman’s Up In The Air took six including best picture, director, screenplay, actor for George Clooney and two in the supporting actress category for Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick.

Meanwhile, the ten best picture field only saw a couple of surprise omissions ­ Clint Eastwood’s Invictus, Star Trek and Nine among them ­and perhaps one surprise inclusion in the Coen Brothers’ A Serious Man, which also won a screenplay nod for the oft-celebrated siblings.

As expected, Pixar’s Up became only the second animated feature to score a best picture nomination (the first since Beauty And The Beast in 1991) and the first to secure picture and animated feature nominations. Up was also nominated in screenplay and score categories.

Lee Daniels’ Precious: Based On The Novel ‘Push’ By Sapphire also got nominations in lead categories ­best picture and director for Daniels, best screenplay, actress for Gabourey Sidibe and supporting actress for Mo’Nique. Precious had a tally of six nominations, also named in the editing category.

Acting favourites Jeff Bridges for Crazy Heart and Sandra Bullock for The Blind Side sailed through to nominations in their respective categories, and The Blind Side also scored a best picture nod.

Meryl Streep, meanwhile, won her 13th best actress nomination and her 16th in total for playing Julia Child in Julie & Julia.

In the foreign language category, the year’s big winners The White Ribbon from Germany and A Prophet from France both got through alongside Ajami from Israel, The Milk Of Sorrow from Peru and The Secret In Their Eyes from Argentina. Sony Pictures Classics has US rights to three of them – The White Ribbon, A Prophet and The Secret In Their Eyes.

European talent scored highly. UK producers Finola Dywer and Amanda Posey were nominated for An Education which also won a nomination for lead actress Carey Mulligan and screenwriter Nick Hornby.

Helen Mirren scored her fourth Oscar nomination for The Last Station, Colin Firth his first for A Single Man, Germany’s Christoph Waltz his first in the supporting actor category for Inglourious Basterds ­ – for which he is runaway favourite to win  -­ and Spain’s Penelope Cruz received her third for Nine.

Meanwhile, Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Ianucci and Tony Roche won an adapted screenplay nod for UK comedy In The Loop, which was released in the US by IFC Films. Austrian cinematographer Christian Berger was also nominated for his black and white work on The White Ribbon.

Tomm Moore’s Irish animated film The Secret Of Kells was a surprise entry in the best animated feature category alongside Disney heavyweights Up and The Princess And The Frog, Coraline and Fantastic Mr Fox. Kells knocked out other studio movies such as Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs and Monsters Vs Aliens.

Veteran Canadian actor Christopher Plummer scored his first Oscar nomination for playing Leo Tolstoy in The Last Station.

Kathryn Bigelow, director of The Hurt Locker becomes only the fourth woman in Oscar history to be nominated in the best director category. Having won the DGA prize last weekend, she could easily become the first to win.

Ironically Peter Jackson was nominated as a producer of best picture nominee District 9 directed by Niell Blomkamp; his own film The Lovely Bones took only one nomination for Stanley Tucci’s supporting performance.

In the documentary category, favourites The Cove and Food Inc were nominated alongside Burma VJ, the Danish film from Anders Ostergaard, Rebecca Camissa’s Which Way Home, which is a Mexico/US co-production, and Judith Erlich and Rick Goldsmith’s The Most Dangerous Man In The World: Daniel Ellsberg And The Pentagon Papers.

Actor in a Leading Role

Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
George Clooney, Up in the Air
Colin Firth, A Single Man
Morgan Freeman, Invictus
Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker

Actor in a Supporting Role

Matt Damon, Invictus
Woody Harrelson, The Messenger
Christopher Plummer, The Last Station
Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones
Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds

Actress in a Leading Role

Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
Helen Mirren, The Last Station
Carey Mulligan, An Education
Gabourey Sidibe, Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire
Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia

Actress in a Supporting Role

Penélope Cruz, Nine
Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air
Maggie Gyllenhaal, Crazy Heart
Anna Kendrick, Up In The Air
Mo’Nique, Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire

Animated Feature Film

Coraline, Henry Selick
Fantastic Mr. Fox, Wes Anderson
The Princess and the Frog, John Musker and Ron Clements
The Secret of Kells, Tomm Moore
Up, Pete Docter

Art Direction

Avatar, Art Direction: Rick Carter and Robert Stromberg; Set Decoration: Kim Sinclair
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Art Direction: Dave Warren and Anastasia Masaro; Set Decoration: Caroline Smith
Nine, Art Direction: John Myhre; Set Decoration: Gordon Sim
Sherlock Holmes, Art Direction: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer
The Young Victoria, Art Direction: Patrice Vermette; Set Decoration: Maggie Gray

Cinematography

Avatar, Mauro Fiore
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Bruno Delbonnel
The Hurt Locker, Barry Ackroyd
Inglourious Basterds, Robert Richardson
The White Ribbon Christian Berger

Costume Design

Bright Star Janet Patterson
Coco before Chanel Catherine Leterrier
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus Monique Prudhomme
Nine Colleen Atwood
The Young Victoria Sandy Powell

Directing

James Cameron, Avatar
Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds
Lee Daniels, Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire
Jason Reitman, Up in the Air

Documentary (Feature)

Burma VJ, Anders Østergaard and Lise Lense-Møller
The Cove Nominees to be determined
Food, Inc. Robert Kenner and Elise Pearlstein
The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers, Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith
Which Way Home Rebecca Cammisa

Documentary (Short Subject)

China’s Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province Jon Alpert and Matthew O’Neill
The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner, Daniel Junge and Henry Ansbacher
The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant, Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert
Music by Prudence Roger Ross Williams and Elinor Burkett
Rabbit à la Berlin Bartek Konopka and Anna Wydra

Film Editing

Avatar, Stephen Rivkin, John Refoua and James Cameron
District 9, Julian Clarke
The Hurt Locker, Bob Murawski and Chris Innis
Inglourious Basterds, Sally Menke
Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire Joe Klotz

Foreign Language Film

Ajami, Israel
The Secret In Their Eyes, Argentina
The Milk of Sorrow Peru
A Prophet, France
The White Ribbon, Germany

Makeup

Il Divo, Aldo Signoretti and Vittorio Sodano
Star Trek, Barney Burman, Mindy Hall and Joel Harlow
The Young Victoria Jon Henry Gordon and Jenny Shircore

Music (Original Score)

Avatar James Horner
Fantastic Mr. Fox Alexandre Desplat
The Hurt Locker Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders
Sherlock Holmes, Hans Zimmer
Up, Michael Giacchino

Music (Original Song)

Almost There from The Princess and the Frog, Music and Lyric by Randy Newman
Down in New Orleans from The Princess and the Frog, Music and Lyric by Randy Newman
Loin de Paname from Paris 36, Music by Reinhardt Wagner Lyric by Frank Thomas
Take It All, from Nine, Music and Lyric by Maury Yeston
The Weary Kind (Theme from Crazy Heart) from Crazy Heart, Music and Lyric by Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett

Best Picture

Avatar James Cameron and Jon Landau, Producers
The Blind Side Nominees to be determined
District 9, Peter Jackson and Carolynne Cunningham, Producers
An Education Finola Dwyer and Amanda Posey, Producers
The Hurt Locker, Nominees to be determined
Inglourious Basterds, Lawrence Bender, Producer
Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire, Lee Daniels, Sarah Siegel-Magness and Gary Magness, Producers
A Serious Man Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, Producers
Up Jonas Rivera, Producer
Up in the Air Daniel Dubiecki, Ivan Reitman and Jason Reitman, Producers

Short Film (Animated)

French Roast, Fabrice O. Joubert
Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty, Nicky Phelan and Darragh O’Connell
The Lady and the Reaper (La Dama y la Muerte) Javier Recio Gracia
Logorama, Nicolas Schmerkin
A Matter of Loaf and Death, Nick Park

Short Film (Live Action)

The Door, Juanita Wilson and James Flynn
Instead of Abracadabra, Patrik Eklund and Mathias Fjellström
Kavi, Gregg Helvey
Miracle Fish Luke Doolan and Drew Bailey
The New Tenants,Joachim Back and Tivi Magnusson

Sound Editing

Avatar Christopher Boyes and Gwendolyn Yates Whittle
The Hurt Locker Paul N.J. Ottosson
Inglourious Basterds, Wylie Stateman
Star Trek, Mark Stoeckinger and Alan Rankin
Up, Michael Silvers and Tom Myers

Sound Mixing

Avatar, Christopher Boyes, Gary Summers, Andy Nelson and Tony Johnson
The Hurt Locker, Paul N.J. Ottosson and Ray Beckett
Inglourious Basterds, Michael Minkler, Tony Lamberti and Mark Ulano
Star Trek, Anna Behlmer, Andy Nelson and Peter J. Devlin
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers and Geoffrey Patterson

Visual Effects

Avatar, Joe Letteri, Stephen Rosenbaum, Richard Baneham and Andrew R. Jones
District 9, Dan Kaufman, Peter Muyzers, Robert Habros and Matt Aitken
Star Trek, Roger Guyett, Russell Earl, Paul Kavanagh and Burt Dalton

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

District 9, Written by Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell
An Education, Screenplay by Nick Hornby
In the Loop Screenplay by Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche
Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire, Screenplay by Geoffrey Fletcher
Up in the Air, Screenplay by Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner

Writing (Original Screenplay)

The Hurt Locker, Written by Mark Boal
Inglourious Basterds, Written by Quentin Tarantino
The Messenger, Written by Alessandro Camon & Oren Moverman
A Serious Man, Written by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
Up, Screenplay by Bob Peterson, Pete Docter, Story by Pete Docter, Bob Peterson, Tom McCarthy

Indian Themed Comedies a New TV Trend…Exec: ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ effect has ‘a lot to do with it’

In DJ Sumie on February 1, 2010 at 10:19 PM

Courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter

By Nellie Andreeva

They are the two comeback stories of this pilot season, projects developed years ago that have been resurrected and have landed orders at the broadcast networks.The two comedies — “Nirvana” at Fox and “Outsourced” at NBC — have something else in common: They both are ensemble shows about Indians and Indian Americans.

A third project, a U.S. version of popular British comedy “The Kumars at No. 42,” about an immigrant Indian family, also is poised for revival. Eight years after NBC took a stab at the format, the show’s British producers are shopping it to U.S. networks, including FX.

Is it a coincidence or a delayed “Slumdog Millionaire” effect?

“I do think that ‘Slumdog’ had a lot to do with it,” a TV studio executive said of India’s rapid emergence on the U.S. pop culture scene. “It was boiling, hovering there, with the increasing popularity of Indian clothing, food and Bollywood movies, but with its mainstream acceptance and critical success, ‘Slumdog’ pushed it over the tipping point.”

In Hollywood, consciousness grew exponentially last year with Danny Boyle’s runaway hit and Oscar winner as well as the $1.2 billion deal between Indian conglomerate Reliance and DreamWorks.

Reliance also is bidding for MGM and has signed production pacts with eight A-list Hollywood actors, including George Clooney and Brad Pitt.

On the small screen, India’s growing impact has been dramatic as well, albeit more slowly developing.

When producer Gavin Polone brought “Kumars” to the U.S. in 2002, its Indian roots were stripped away and it was remade as “The Ortegas,” a show about a Mexican American family. (The project eventually migrated to Fox, which ordered it to series but never put it on the air.)

In 2004, when NBC shot two pilots of “Nirvana,” one starring then up-and-comer Kal Penn, and one starring creator Ajay Sahgal, there were only two Indian actors in primetime, Sahgal recalls: Ravi Kapoor on NBC’s “Crossing Jordan” and Parminder Nagra, who had just joined “ER.”

That is not the case anymore. Most successful shows launched in the past five years feature a prominent Indian actor: “The Office,” “The Big Bang Theory,” “30 Rock,” “Parks and Recreation” and three hot freshmen: “Community,” “Glee” and “The Good Wife.”

“24” also has regularly featured Indian actors, including one of Bollywood’s biggest stars, “Slumdog’s” Anil Kapoor, who has a major role this season. Additionally, Penn co-starred on Fox’s “House” until he left to pursue a career in Washington.

“There are far more Indian actors today that can do this kind of thing than there were six or seven years ago,” Sahgal said.

To find them, he is launching an international talent search for “Nirvana,” an ensemble multicamera comedy about grown-up Indian American brothers and their Indian immigrant parents, with casting taking place in Los Angeles, New York, Toronto, Vancouver, London and Mumbai.”

“Outsourced” — a single-camera office comedy about an American shipped off to India to manage a ragtag group of customer service reps — has hired casting consultants in Toronto and India.

There was some luck involved with the comebacks of “Nirvana” and “Outsourced.”

Sahgal ran into Fox Entertainment president Kevin Reilly while accompanying his wife, “Lie to Me” co-star Kelli Williams, at a Fox event last year, and Reilly, who originally greenlighted the project at NBC, encouraged Sahgal to revisit it.

Meanwhile, NBC approached Ken Kwapis, the driver behind “Outsourced” in its first incarnation during the 2007-08 season, to direct another pilot for the network. Instead, he urged the network to revisit “Outsourced.”

That the film and TV industry are seizing on the growing popularity of Indian culture isn’t surprising, according to TV historian Tim Brooks.

“Hollywood, and TV in particular, always tries to jump on a trend,” he said.

Another ethnic comedy making a comeback is ABC’s “Funny in Farsi,” about a family of Iranian immigrants living in Newport Beach. The single-camera project directed by Barry Sonnenfeld earned a green light this season after failing to secure a production order last year.

Cultural momentum notwithstanding, “Nirvana, ” “Outsourced” and “Farsi” all face long odds.

There been only a couple of successful ethnic comedies on American television, mostly with Mexican American characters, including the 1970s “Chico and the Man” and ABC’s “George Lopez.” Even with the phenomenal boxoffice success of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” the film’s Greek American-themed series offshoot on CBS lasted only seven episodes.

“American audience is very American-centered and not interested in other cultures for their own sakes,” Brooks said. “For a show such as these to succeed, it can’t be just about an (exotic) culture. Americans want things that they can relate to.”

“Nirvana” has what it takes to do it, said Polone, who attended the taping of the project’s second pilot in 2004.

“That show is the one that would work; it transcends the India-centered idea and is very accessible,” he said.

Kwapis believes “Outsourced” will have no problem connecting with American audiences either.

“This is really a show about America as seen outside of America,” he said. “It is unique and, at the same time, relatable. Unique, because how often do you get to see a comedy set in another country? And relatable because we all have experience talking with a call center worker. It’s an important aspect of our lives but we don’t see what is on the other side of the phone.”