Archive for May, 2010|Monthly archive page

Udaan Review – It speaks from the heart and goes right through it

In Uncategorized on May 25, 2010 at 4:27 PM

by Fatema Kagalwala Courtesy of Fight club

Some of us were lucky enough to catch a screening of Vikramaditya Motwane’s Udaan. I came back, sat down with my laptop on the writing table, wrote the header for my post – Days Of Being Wild & the Pains of Growing Up. Looked up. The poster of Persepolis, newly framed, was in front of me. I put on the same thinking pose and in my thought bubble went back to the days of that small industrial town where I grew up. Same state, different town. Udaan is  set in Jamshedpur.

The post remains unwritten and is saved as a draft with only the header . Cinema that connects  strongly, has this effect on me. Either I go silent or feel like pouring my heart out. After Vihir, Udaan is the second film of 2010 that I fell in love with. And the best part is, its uncompromised. Who would cast Ronit Roy, Ram Kapoor and  a bunch of new kids to make a film! Producer Anurag Kashyap and Sanjay Singh did. And Vikramaditya delivered. More power to people who dare to make such films! A script which was rejected by almost every producer in Bollylalaland, got made, and made it to Cannes’ official selection. Aur bolo?!

Finally, good friend Fatema Kagalwala came to our rescue. Yes, same Fatema, the girl on the bike (She doesn’t like the description but we feel it sounds cool like the title The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo)! And she drives smoothly even after four pegs! Anyway, back to Udaan. Read on.

There is moment of breaking-free in every teenager’s life. From barriers within or without. And this is a journey that defines the rest of life’s journey. The moment when one takes wing. And flies away to find one’s feet in a world where the present is free from the past and the future a freedom to dream and build.

It is said that the things that we cannot change, in this flux of constantly changing life, are the things that end up changing us the most. But it is also the things we break ourselves to change that end up keeping us together. Rohan finds that out as he sets out to find himself among the pieces of life thrown to him by fate. Thrown out of hostel and college for a breach of (archaic) rules he finds himself in his home with an over-bearing, uncaring, violent father and a step-brother he has no knowledge of. The odds are stacked against him and larger because of his nature.

Rohan is a poet, a sensitive soul…fully well personifed in Rajat Barmecha’s soulful eyes and tender expression. And the poetry he writes is equally touching. He writes of his innermost quests, his need to find his path, his feet in a confusing world of do’s and don’ts that don’t make sense to his simple desires and simple individuality.

Rohan’s dilemma is as special as it is common. A semi-neurotic father with demons of his own to battle clamping down hard on the gentle boy and his harmless dreams forms the core of his life that is now reduced to an empty carton much like the cold, spaceless walls that adorn his house. The only sense of belonging he ever felt is far away in Mumbai, the city of dreams, his bunch of pot-pourri friends that are seemingly very happy and carefree, a life Rohan craves for. A shadow of a loving yet unattainable family in his chachu’s person and marriage gives Rohan the much needed respite from the tyranny and cruelty of his circumstances…

But Udaan needs to be experienced not explained. It’s a simple story, simply told. And like a friend said, a ‘difficult’ simple film to make. As it goes in simple stories what you don’t do is more important than what you do. It is the pitfalls that are avoided that make the subtle milestones achievements. Writers Vikramaditya Motwane and Anurag Kashyap pick and choose moments, shear them of over-emphasis, indulgence and sentimentality and present a coming-of-age story that is as universal as unique.

Of course, there are also moments of glorification that seem out of place…a bit of clichéd representation of conventional thinking…a bit of over-doing of the ‘feel-good’ factor…they make for a few wincing moments…taking away from the absorbing true-ness of the film…somewhere indicating a lack of real depth…but they do not take away from the soul of the film, which is clean and sincere, much like it’s protagonist and his dreams.

The film is Rohan’s story but the other characters complete his picture well. The balance in characterization, a rare treat, is a genuine pleasure to experience, especially the father’s. A brutish tyrant who could have been painted black and explained away, is handled with a touch of grey never justifying his behaviour but by just putting a germ of reason as to why he must have turned out like this. A back story would have killed it. Especially with the diversity of perspective that is brought in by how Rohan looks at him, how his brother looks at him and how the audience looks at him. It clearly makes us take sides but with an understanding. And that understanding is fraught with the knowledge that life is like that. Imperfect and full of tough choices. And it takes the theme (as it may be defined) that either you let your past dictate your present or you dissociate and build a new present for yourself. Beautiful contrasting life choices in the personification of the father-son.

The step-brother (a perfect cute-heart casting) brings out more of this of balancing out of the human-ness of its characters. His fears are matched well with his simple dignity and his silence used perfectly to show his place and role in the scheme of things. His small and limited presence looms large, very telling of the family dynamics and Rohan’s decisions.

Generically, the film is very European in its film-making sensibilities. The use of sound and silence is stark, contrasting. The cinematography captures without drawing attention to itself (the denial of over-weening cine-artistry is actually a pleasure in these times of technology obsessed film-making). The dialogues are conversational, everyday life but never pedestrian. The power of realism rests in every creative choice the director makes to tell his story in the most earthy fashion. And the power of realism shines through a well-told story that speaks from the heart and goes right through the heart. An extremely heart-warming debut by director Vikramaditya Motwane, one that shoots our expectations of his second feature sky-high :-)

Kites – NYT Review

In Uncategorized on May 21, 2010 at 10:00 AM

By Jeannette Catsoulis

Courtesy of The New York Times

On the whole, American audiences remain stubbornly immune to the charms of the Bollywood romance, a fact that “Kites” is determined to change. A carefully calibrated assault on resistant international markets, the movie harnesses English, Hindi and Hispanic talent to an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink plot, replaces dancing with explosions, and choreographers with stunt specialists. The result is a lovers-on-the-lam blast of pure pulp escapism, so devoted to diversion that you probably won’t even notice the corn.

Set in Las Vegas and Mexico and unfolding in three languages, the story follows two gold-digging immigrants engaged to siblings from a powerful Vegas family. J (Hrithik Roshan) is a dance instructor and husband-for-hire; Natasha (Barbara Mori) is a terrified Mexican illegal needing a luxurious place to fall. But J’s limpid hazel eyes and smoking body will not be denied, even if it means dodging a posse of hired killers and an avalanche of special effects.

Directed by Anurag Basu with a finger in every genre jar, “Kites” caroms from car chase to shootout, from rain dancing to bank robbing with unflagging energy. It’s all completely loony, but the stunts are impressive, the photography crisp and the leads so adorably besotted that audiences might as well check their cynicism at the door.

A shorter version of the film (retooled by Brett Ratner) will be released next Friday, but Mr. Roshan requires viewing uncut: writhing on the dance floor or just gazing into space, the man was made to drive women crazy, one movie at a time.


Opens on Friday in Manhattan.

Directed by Anurag Basu; written by Robin Bhatt, Akarsh Khurana and Mr. Basu, based on a story by Rakesh Roshan; produced by Mr. Roshan; released by Reliance Big Pictures. In English and Hindi, with English subtitles. Running time: 2 hours 10 minutes. This film is not rated.

WITH: Hrithik Roshan (J), Barbara Mori (Natasha), Kabir Bedi (Bob), Kangana Ranaut (Gina) and Nicholas Brown (Tony).

Social Dramas and Shimmering Spectacles: Muslim Cultures in Bombay Cinema at Lincoln Center!

In Uncategorized on May 13, 2010 at 9:25 AM

Starts next week! A Vibrant Journey into the Fascinating Influence of Islam on Indian Cinema

A year ago, during our Satyajit Ray series, thousands of film lovers immersed themselves in the work of one of India’s foremost auteurs.

Starting next Wednesday, see Indian cinema in a whole new light through an extraordinary selection of films that chronicle the influence of Muslim culture both in front of and behind the lens.

garam hawaGarm Hawa
The 1947 Partition leaves a middle-class Muslim family suddenly adrift in what used to be home, in this fascinating Indian New Wave drama. Based upon a short story by Ismat Chughtai, Garm Hawa is an early, iconic film of the Indian New Wave that emerged in the late 1960s as an alternative to mainstream cinema. Read more… Fri May 21: 7:15
Mon May 24: 1:30

Against the roiling backdrop of the 1993 Bombay riots, Amaan (Hritik Roshan), his sister Fiza (Karishma Kapoor), and their mother (Jaya Bhaduri) find their lives changed by a single day. Rescued by a leader of group of a violent Islamic militants, Amaan gets caught up in a spiral of violence from which there seems no escape. Read more…
Sat May 22: 8:00
Thu May 27: 2:30
jodhaa akbarJodhaa Akbar
Enlightened rule never looked so good as in this sixteenth-century love story between the revered Emperor Akbar and feisty Rajput princess, Jodhaa (the stunning Aishwarya Rai). Reviving the majestic splendor of the Historical genre, Gowariker unleashes battling armies and grand romance in grand palaces, all set to a score by A.R. Rahman. Read more…
Wed May 19: 7:00

Chaudhvin Ka Chand
Read more…

Thu May 20: 6:30
Sat May 22: 12:00

View the complete line-up and purchase tickets>>

Check out the complete list of events here!

The Hindi New Wave

In Uncategorized on May 7, 2010 at 9:07 AM

*A still from LSD: Love, Sex Aur Dhoka

By Ben Rekh

Published in FILMMAKER Spring 2010

Namaste! Welcome to Indian cinema. The world’s largest film industry, India produces more than 1,100 films per years, roughly a third of which are Hindi-speaking or “Bollywood” films. A world play on “Bombay” plus “Hollywood,” Bollywood is known the world over for stories of true love, its signature bright colors, and its non-stop singing and dancing. But there is a new movement currently underway in the Indian film industry, and it may just be what the subcontinent and the world needs. Similar to what happened in Hollywood in the 60’s and 70’s, Bollywood is undergoing a massive cultural shift in content and consciousness. There are new voices and new audiences that are reinventing Indian cinemas as a major player on the global stage. This is the Hindi New Wave.

“This new generation is making films because they want to make films, not because they want to make money,” says Anurag Kashyap, the undeclared pioneer of the Hindi New Wave. At 37, Kashyap has directed seven motion pictures across all genres – think Steven Soderbergh in the 90’s. Kashyap plays by his own rules. And now, both Hollywood and Bollywood are chasing after him wanted a piece of the action. Danny Boyle hired Kashyap as a consultant on Slumdog Millionaire after seeing the slum sequences of his terrorist-themed film Black Friday. Kashyap recently signed an unprecedented nine-picture deal with UTV Motion Pictures, the most progressive film studio in India. With more than 30 credits to his name as writer, director and producer, Kashyap leads an army of creative rebels behind him. “There are the new voices of the new people.”

In 2009 Kashyap’s Dev. D broke into Bollywood and created mayhem with its revolutionary style and controversial content. A clever reinvention of the classic Bengali tale Devdas, the film explores themes and storyline previously taboo in India. An alcoholic spinster trolls drugs and prostitutes on the dark streets of Delhi. A young schoolgirl is ostracized by her friends and family after her sex video circulate around the country. The film was a forceful punch to the face of Bollywood bubblegum. Kashyap describes the origins with his collaborator and leading actor, Abhay Deol: “Abhay told me a story he wanted to do about a man who falls in love with a stripper, and this guy was self-destructive like Devdas.” Adds Deol, “No one had ever imagined this modern spin on the classical tale. At its core, the film is about addiction, a theme as relevant today as ever.” Made for under a million dollars, Dev. D gave voice to the angst of the country’s youth and became an instant cult classic.

“We went from having only one TV station that would play for only two hours a day to the 24-hour programming of MTV,” explains Deol, citing the opening up of the Indian economy in 1991 as a major influence on the new filmmakers’ credo. “Our generation saw the transition happen in our lifetimes.” In addition to Dev. De, actor- producer-youth icon Abhay Deol stars in several groundbreaking films including the international co-production Road, Movie and the darkly comedy Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! The latter is co-written and directed by the third axis of the New Wave, visionary filmmaker Dibakar Banerjee.

Born and raised in Delhi, Banerjee wowed audiences with his first two films, Khosla Ka Ghosla! Portrays a suburban family terrorized by an underworld landowner who lays claim to their abode. Oye Lucky! Charts the incredible rise and fall of one of Delhi’s more notorious thieves. But nothing could prepare audiences for his last venture, LSD: Love, Sex Aur Dhokha, a shocking portrait of India’s modern youth. The first digital feature produced in India, LSD follows three desperate and disparate tales, all told via the protagonists’ cameras. In the first, an aspiring filmmaker directs a campy Bollywood remake, falls in love with his lead actress, and finds his life in danger when they elope in the real world. The second, shot entirely in the pharmacy from the POV of security cameras, follows the store supervisor as he manipulates his female co-worker into unknowingly starring with him in a sex tape to pay off his debts. Peeking out from hidden cameras, the third film follows a reality-show reporter collaborating with an ex-model to catch a leading pop star in a video sting operation. The genius of the film unfolds in how the stories are woven together, the final disturbing picture becoming clearer at every step. It’s a brilliant cinematic experience, a film whose psychology is as rich as the best of today’s international cinema.

The beauty of the New Wave filmmakers is that though they are provocative in their content, their sensibility is distinctly Indian. There is song and dance in Dev D; it is just under a black light with pop-and lockers from London. There is romance in LSD, but it is manipulative, desperate, and complex. And Abhay’s heroes are disillusioned and angry. India is a young country, with nearly 70 percent of the population under 30. And they are coming out in droves to support the new cinema that reflects a closer reality to their own.

Slumdog kicked open the doors in Indian-themed stories around the world, but it was still a British and American production,” admits Kashyap. Deol adds, “The true change will have to come within.” Like Coppola, Scorsese and Spielberg of the American ‘70’s, Kashyap, Banerjee, and Deol boldly tackle contemporary issues that resonate with their country’s restless youth. And like the Easy Riders and Raging Bulls that came before them, theirs are not art house films. This is the new mainstream cinema in India. While Bollywood’s shimmering glitz fades across the world, the Hindi New Wave is poised to explode onto the global cinema stage. If people around the world think Slumdog Millionaire is the real India, they have no idea what’s about to him them.

Check out this video of “I AM,” maker Onir and his fundraising tactics!

In Uncategorized on May 1, 2010 at 10:15 AM

Onir, director of ‘My Brother Nikhil,’ is back with a new film, ‘I AM,’ a compilation of 4 stories that deal with homosexuality, child abuse, and politics. The film features Sanjay Suri, Rahul Bose, Nandita Das, Shabana Azmi, Juhi Chawla, Boman Irani, Sharman Joshi and Manisha Koirala among others and has approximately 400 owners and co-producers. Check out how here!