Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Watch Rani on itunes – through the decades..

In Uncategorized on July 29, 2013 at 9:30 PM


Kuch Kuch Hota Hai 

In Karan Johar’s signature style, Rani sparkled in this blockbuster with Shahrukh and Kajol. If you haven’t said this to someone in person ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’, let’s just say, watch it again, and there is still time to express yourself!

Watch it now





Not much can be said except if you see this dance number, you will want to watch the full film. Nothing surpasses this in our books as the item number of the year!

Watch it now




Bombay Talkies

When Dibakar Banerjee, Karan Johar, Zoya Akhtar and Anurag Kashyap come together to pay homage to the 100 years of India Cinema, Bombay Talkies is born as 4 distinctly different stories but all ties together with the essence of what cinema means to the common man in India. Rani’s seen here as “Gale main mangalsutra aur ankhon main kamasutra”

Watch it now (only available in India)



Also available for Rani fans

Bunty Aur Babli


Dil Bole Hadippa




Hum Tum


Mujhse Dosti Karoge!


Tara Rum Pum


Laaga Chunri Mein Daag


Thoda Pyar Thoda Magic


Stay tunes – lots more coming soon!

Tanuj Chopra’s Films – Package Deal for a Good Cause

In Uncategorized on May 4, 2011 at 8:01 PM

Last year, I wrote a little comic titled S.O.S. for the graphic novel SECRET IDENTITIES. Today. the creators of the book are working hard to host an online auction featuring things made by SI’s contributors. All proceeds are going directly to disaster relief.

They’ve made a little package deal available for Clap Clap, PIA and Butterfly -This is a good time to cop these films together if you dig the work.


Tanuj Chopra

Grant St. Shaving Co. screens at SFIWFF – April 10, 2011

In Uncategorized on March 25, 2011 at 2:24 PM

If you missed the screenings for Grant St. Shaving Co. at the recent CAAM’s SFIAAFF, there is another one coming up at the 7th Annual San Francisco International Women’s Film Festival

More info and tickets here – http://sfiwff.slated.com/2011/films/grantstshavingco_payalsethi_sfiwff2011

An elderly widower wanders through New York City to replace his favorite razor, a first anniversary present from his late wife. Along the way, he meets a friendly delivery guy who takes him on the scenic route down memory lane, back to the same shop.

Watch it I say – FK on VoD

In Uncategorized on January 5, 2011 at 9:39 AM

For the first time, FilmKaravan present two documentary films on Video on Demand that show two very different culturally advanced and creatively gifted groups of people in India.

Beware Dogs

Watch it Now

$1.99 to rent $2.99 to buy

Premiered at The Rotterdam International Film Festival, Beware Dogs captures the popular music band, Indian Ocean. Indian Ocean is one of the most exciting music groups of the contemporary South Asian scene exploring an intriguing crossover of eastern and western styles through folk, rock, fusion. The film is a witness of the struggle the four eclectic musicians go through as they create new material. They are together in their artistic journey in an inspiring house in old Delhi, sharing their inner joys, fear, thoughts, and putting it all in their music. With a lyrical pace, in a cinema verite manner, the film shares with us the excitement and the inner battle of the process of creating music

Supermen of Malegaon

Watch it Now

$2.99 to buy

Malegaon, a small town tucked away near the heart of India geographically, is wrought with communal tension and economic depression. To escape the harsh reality of their world, its people seek refuge in the fantastical world of cinema. This passion for cinema has spurred a group of cinema enthusiasts to make their own films–quirky, low budget, socially aware and notoriously funny spoofs of Bollywood films.

Now, we follow them on their latest venture as they take on for the first time a Hollywood classic: Superman. As the film begins to take shape through schemes and approaches that are sublimely ingenious, simply bizarre, and purely hysterical, we also slowly discover Malegaon itself. Occasionally hilarious, occasionally tragic, and always heartwarming, Supermen of Malegaon is a tribute to the undefeatable spirit of filmmaking.

Jason DaSilva’s When I Walk at the BAVC Conference in NYC – BRAVO!

In Uncategorized on January 4, 2011 at 12:31 PM

Join Tribeca Film Institute at the BAVC Producers Institute for New Media Technologies Public Conference Day! January 8 in NYC

Those of you who are familiar with the Bay Area Video Coalition (BAVC) know that BAVC inspires social change by enabling the sharing of diverse stories through art, education and technology. One of the many ways BAVC helps filmmakers explore their ideas through new medium is the Producers Institute for New Media Technologies, which will bring six selected documentary teams to develop interactive web, mobile, multimedia, and game projects. We’re proud to announce that BAVC has partnered with the Tribeca Film Institute (TFI) and Hunter College Integrated Media Arts Program to host the first East Coast version of this exciting event in New York City this January 2011.

The six projects selected for the 2011 New York Institute include stories from NYC-based producers on a wide range of topics including HIV/AIDS, the global housing crisis, disability rights and access, environmental crisis management, racial equity in education and LGBT rights in communities of faith. Platforms being developed include games, interactive maps, augmented reality & locative media tools, mobile applications, interactive story archives, and more. Three of the six projects were previously supported through TFI’s Tribeca All Access program.

On Saturday, January 8, 2011, there will be a public Conference Day held at Tribeca Cinemas featuring panel discussions and presentations on emerging tools and platforms that are changing the face of filmmaking and empowering social change movements around the world:

BAVC Producers Institute for New Media Technologies Public Conference Day

January 8, 2011
9:30AM – 5PM, cocktail reception following

Tribeca Cinemas
54 Varick Street
New York, NY 10013
(at Laight Street, one block below Canal Street)

See the complete schedule online or in PDF.


Buy tickets now


January 8, 2011
Tribeca Cinemas
54 Varick Street
New York, NY 10013
(at Laight Street, one block below Canal Street)

Coffee & Muffins
10AM – 12PM
Plenary Panel “Can You Handle The Truth? Ethics and Trends in Documentary Innovation
The field of documentary has exploded in recent years, taking the nonfiction feature film into new and uncharted territories. Games, virtual worlds, web and mobisodes, augmented and alternate reality, fiction hybrids, collaborative, micro and subjective storytelling, video blogs, immersive journalism, interactive mapping, data visualization — this multiplicity of tools, styles, platforms, and points-of-view have stretched the boundaries of what we know, feel and understand about traditional nonfiction film form. In this non-panel discussion, participants will each present a project that blew their minds in the last year – their own or someone else’s – and we’ll talk about the changing nature of documentary storytelling, the impact of collaborative and visual technologies, the value of traditionalism, and the ethics of digital manipulation of cultural data.  How will the next generation of documentary filmmakers handle the truth?
Moderated by Wendy Levy, Director of Creative Programming, BAVC
Panelists include:
12 – 1PM
Box Lunch/Networking
1 – 5PM
Technology QuickFire: New Tools
These fifteen-minute, PopTech-style presentations will provide an extraordinary overview of emerging interactive technologies that have implications for today’s storytellers. Five minutes for one-sentence questions at the end of each presentation, followed by leisurely cocktail-infused networking with presenters.
Subject To Change:
  • 1:10 – 1:30             Data Mining and Mapping: Eric Doversberger
  • 1:30 – 1:50             Open Video: Ben Moskowitz
  • 1:50 – 2:10             Collaborative Editing: Nonny de la Pena
  • 2:10 – 2:30             Social Media: Baratunde
  • 2:30 – 2:50             Immersive Production: Peter Sung & Danfung Dennis
  • 2:50 – 3:10             Break
  • 3:10 – 3:30             Gaming: Tony Walsh
  • 3:30 – 3:50             Interactive Cinema: Kat Cizek
  • 3:50 – 4:10             Mobile Tools: Mark Belinsky
  • 4:10 – 4:30             Augmented Reality: Anselm Hook
  • 4:30 – 4:50             Virtual Worlds: Rik Panganiban
  • 4:50 – 5:00             Wrap-Up
5 – 7PM
Cocktails and Appetizers at Tribeca Cinemas

About BAVC Producers Institute for New Media Technologies

Generously funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation with additional support from the Corporation for Public BroadcastingNathan Cummings FoundationJames Irvine FoundationWilliam and Flora Hewlett FoundationKeith Campbell Foundation for the Environment, the BAVC’s Producers Institute for New Media Technologies is an intensive lab designed to build prototypes of new storytelling models and interactive tools for social change to deepen the impact of documentary film.
Over the last five years, documentary production teams from around the world have spent ten days at BAVC working with technologists, game and web designers, social media strategists, computer programmers, and interactive media artists, to develop new models of participatory storytelling and civic engagement.  Projects from the Producers Institute have been presented at the United Nations, Sundance Film Festival, Skoll World Forum, and numerous global venues. Videos about the work of the Institute can be seen at http://bavc.org/producersinstitute.

Mentors from leading technology and design companies, including Apple, Adobe, Google, The Project Factory, Tomorrow Partners, MCommons, Free Range, Pentagram, Mobile Active, Phantom Compass, Thinkwrap, Flax Media, and others, work with teams to design and develop project prototypes, which are then presented at the close of the Institute to potential funders and partners. Each project is also paired with a nonprofit organization or global NGO that works in tandem on project development and sustainability in a collaborative effort to maximize the social impact of the work.

The Projects

25 to LIFE
By Mike Brown
William Brawner was infected with HIV before he turned two and kept it a secret for over twenty years. Now he struggles to confront his promiscuous past and embarks on a new phase of life with his pregnant wife, who is HIV Negative. 25 to Life is a startling and critical look at HIV and AIDS in America, through the intimate perspective of a family and community that has been affected by one man’s diagnosis. At the Producers Institute, in collaboration with the Black AIDS Institute, the 25 to Life team will create a searchable mobile web story gallery, powered by collaborative browser-based editing, along with an interactive Q&A forum for HIV-impacted youth. Both tools will riff off the transformative power of sharing secrets to help seed a new generation of outspoken young people reclaiming a healthy future.
An American Promise
By Michele Stephenson and Joe Beyer
In 1999, filmmakers and parents Joe Brewster and Michele Stephenson decided to turn the camera on themselves and their family to document the twelve year journey they take as their effort to provide the best education possible for their African American son, Idris.   He along with his friend, Seun, start kindergarten together at a prestigious independent prep school in New York City.  Their parents had high hopes for what this school would mean for Idris and Seun’s future, but also a keen sense of what they might be missing in a predominantly white environment.  As the years unfold, we catch a rare glimpse into the complex universal issues that challenge African American boys from their earliest experiences in school, set against the backdrop of the nationwide racial achievement gap in education, when more than 50% of African American males do not graduate high school. At the Institute, in partnership with the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, the American Promise team will develop a networked web Initiative that includes mobile persuasion technology and an Achievement Mapping Mobile Tool designed to empower parents of any at-risk student, regardless of race.
By Judith Helfand
Cooked, a feature documentary film and engagement campaign, uses the 1995 Chicago heat wave to explore the politics of disaster. In her signature serious-yet-quirky style, Peabody award-winning filmmaker Judith Helfand takes the story from Chicago, 1995, when 739 people died in a single week, most of them poor, elderly and/or African American — to the present and into the new world of disaster preparedness, a new growth industry. The film asks big questions and imagines best-case scenarios, the kind every U.S. city should be asking and striving for.  What if poverty were treated as an emergency? At the Institute, Judith and her team will utilize the Ushahidi API and Google Earth to design and build a new kind of crisis map, one that integrates interactive video stories and demographics from neighborhoods in transition and provides data-based tools for growth and resilience. Based in the South Side Chicago community that lost a disproportionate number of residents during the heat wave, the map’s hyper-local interface will be customizable for any neighborhood in any city across the country.
Dear Mandela
By Christopher Nizza and Dara Kell
When the South African government tries to ‘eradicate the slums’ by evicting thousands of shack dwellers from their homes, three young friends who live in Durban’s vast shantytowns refuse to be moved. Dear Mandela follows them from their shacks to the highest court in the land as they invoke Nelson Mandela’s example and become leaders in an inspiring social movement. In a world where over 1 billion largely forgotten people live in slums, Dear Mandela is a window into the untold stories of shack dwellers and provides new perspectives on resisting eviction and reclaiming dignity. At the Producers Institute, the team will partner with the Poverty Initiative to build a web-based, video-enabled docu-game for housing activism. On a platform designed in HTML5 for web, iPad and Android, players will experience forced eviction and shack demolitions based on real life current stories. As they rebuild their virtual community and navigate a video-rich environment that simulates life in a shantytown, they have the opportunity to engage with on-the-ground movements both in South Africa and in their area who are working against evictions and foreclosures and towards the Right to Housing.
The Truth Will Set You Free
By Macky Alston and Sandy Itkoff
The Truth Will Set You Free focuses on Bishop Gene Robinson and a host of others whose lives hang in the balance of the church/state battles for LGBT equality. Gene is the first openly gay partnered person to be consecrated a bishop in the three largest high church traditions of Christendom (Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Anglican).  His historic elevation by the Episcopal Church in America in June 2003 has caused controversy within the worldwide Anglican Communion and a constant stream of death threats to Bishop Robinson and his family.  It has also changed the global landscape of religion and public life and the change continues daily.  At the Institute, the team will be designing a mobile web video “help desk” for coming out in communities of faith. The platform will offer tools and stories to help young people and others speak to their families and congregations about being LGBT. Integrating the YouTube Direct API and instant messaging, any one looking for support or strategies to start conversations about being LGBT will be able to access services and real-time support
When I Walk
By Jason da Silva
When I Walk is a point-of-view feature-length documentary about how Jason’s world changed after he was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2005. The film paints a picture of what it is like to live with MS – from the symptoms, day-to-day challenges and available support systems — to the challenging, complicated personal experiences faced by the filmmaker living with a disabling chronic illness while pursuing a creative career and a busy, full life as a working artist.  At the Institute, the team will build a prototype for AXS, a voice and video-enabled mobile mapping tool of all accessible businesses in New York City, utilizing the Yelp API and the partnership of the National MS Society. This team intends to seriously change the face of accessibility, and create a story-activated tool for next gen mobility.

“That whole past tense thing is so troubling. :)” – Manish Acharya

In Uncategorized on December 7, 2010 at 1:07 AM

In his own words “That whole past tense thing is so troubling. :)”


As you may know, filmmaker Manish Acharya (Loins of Punjab) passed away on Saturday. We are trying to get an initial head count for the venue and catering for a memorial service.

Please RSVP here if you would like to attend.


Sunday, December 12, 2010


Venue TBD

Off the Couch, Into the Multiplexes: Irrfan Khan on His New Big-Screen Roles

In Uncategorized on December 7, 2010 at 12:28 AM
Courtesy of New York Times
Irrfan Khan
Richard Perry/The New York Times Irrfan Khan portrays a reluctant patient on the series “In Treatment.”

Viewers going through withdrawal as time runs out on Sunil, the patient on HBO’s “In Treatment” played by the Indian actor Irrfan Khan, can breathe easier knowing there will eventually be an end to their pain. (Sunil’s final session will be shown on Monday night at 9:30.) Mr. Khan, whose interpretation of a grieving Bengali widower won critical accolades, has just been cast in two high-profile film projects: Marc Webb’s reboot of the “Spider-Man” franchise and Ang Lee’s adaptation of “Life of Pi.” Both films are to be released in 2012.

In the untitled “Spider-Man” film Mr. Khan will play Nels Van Adder, one of the villains, alongside Rhys Ifans’s Lizard, who has designs on Peter Parker. In “Life of Pi,” adapted from the fantasy novel by Yann Martel, he will portray the adult version of Pi, a 16-year-old zookeeper’s son shipwrecked in the Pacific and cast adrift in a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger.

In an early morning telephone interview from Egypt, where he is serving as a juror at the Cairo International Film Festival, and with the sounds of salah resonating in the background, Mr. Khan spoke with Kathryn Shattuck about what happens when Hollywood comes knocking. Following are excerpts from their conversation:


In “Spider-Man” you’re playing a character not that many people have heard of. What can you tell us about Van Adder?


Is that his name? These science-fiction names don’t mean a lot to me. He’s a character who, I think, was not in the comics or perhaps a minor character. I’ve read some pages, but the whole script hasn’t been made available to me.


How did you get the role?


My manager told me that the director Marc Webb was approaching us. I spoke with him, and he sounded very engrossed, and I was interested. I’m expectant and really looking forward to it.


Have you had to do any training in preparation for the part? And what about being in 3-D?


You don’t do training for action. You’re waiting for action. You just strap yourself into a harness and go. Two dimensions, three dimensions — “Avatar” really made a difference in terms of 3-D, but beyond that I haven’t thought about it.


Tell us about “Life of Pi.” How did that come about?


“Life” is almost happening. I’m about to leave for Taiwan from here, to go into pre-production. It’s a challenging part, and Ang Lee is directing. He approached me while “In Treatment” was going on, but I didn’t have the mental space to really think about it. When he came to India he contacted me, and it started sinking in that this was happening, and I should prepare myself to be a part of his story. The way he sees the story will definitely throw challenges. I will never be able to guess the kind of texture he needs from the character. That will be my experience, what he demands from me, how I will cope with it. That’s what the approach will be about.


You’ve spoken about how you weren’t sure whether your time filming “In Treatment” in the United States had any positive impact on your career. What do you think now?


I don’t know whether “Life of Pi” is because of “In Treatment,” but “Spider-Man” definitely is. The thing is, the American film industry is so huge, it penetrates all around the world, and you start feeling viable as an actor. And the kind of work and the kind of challenges it throws in front of you — that’s really engaging. You always want to be a part of a system that gives you the biggest audience.


You’re one of the first Indian actors to successfully cross the divide between Bollywood and Hollywood in films like “The Namesake,” “A Mighty Heart” and “Slumdog Millionaire.” Why you?


I happen to find myself easier with my craft at the right time. The time is that the Indian film industry is changing. We have started these multiplexes, the middle classes are coming in to see what the studios produce, and a new breed of directors is changing the face of the film industry.


So you don’t feel that you have some unique attribute that attracts American audiences?


I would never try to analyze this. It’s a mystery and a fascination for me that something you do here just goes from heart to heart. I don’t want to put it into a mathematical explanation of how it happens. The great thing is that it’s happening, and that’s fascinating: how on earth a boy from a small town in India does something, and it reaches to people in America and they get moved by it.


Has success in the United States changed your image in India, for better or worse?


It does make a difference, but it doesn’t make a difference to a point where it generates work. It doesn’t generate work. It is mine to work. That said, I think it makes people feel proud. When I did “Slumdog,” somebody in Los Angeles came up to me and said, “I’ve been living here for 30 years, and I’ve never felt so proud about myself to be an Indian.”

Grant St. Shaving Co. at SAIFF

In Uncategorized on October 25, 2010 at 3:28 PM


Grant St. Shaving Co. by Payal Sethi
An elderly widower’s journeys through New York in search of his favorite razor, a first anniversary present from his late wife. Along the way, he meets a friendly delivery guy who drives him through the scenic route down memory lane back to the Grant St. Shaving Co.

Find out more at www.filmkaravan.com
Screening on:

Friday, October 29th | 7:30PM

SVA Theater

333 West 23rd Street (between 8th and 9th Avenue)


NBC hopes outsourcing is ‘in’ with TV auds

In Uncategorized on August 2, 2010 at 2:07 PM

Courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter

By Jill Serjeant

Show pokes fun at overseas jobs in India

LOS ANGELES — The controversial practice of outsourcing jobs to India has inspired a new comedy on U.S. TV in a striking departure from the dysfunctional families and romantic entanglements that typically make Americans laugh.

“Outsourced” is centered around a fictional American maker of novelty goods — fake pools of blood, farting garden gnomes and giant fake cheese slices — that has moved it customer service center to the bustling city of Mumbai.

A naive young American is sent overseas to manage the new set-up, proving fertile ground for jokes about everything from differences in food to cultural clashes regarding sex, dress and attitudes toward women.

“We have all had the experience of talking on the phone to someone in a call center in India. That’s what makes the show so relatable. We are trying to put a face on the person at the other end of the line,” executive producer Ken Kwapis told reporters on Friday.

Kwapis brushed aside suggestions from some TV writers who have seen the first episode that the show stereotypes, or is offensive to, Indians. American audiences will get to see the comedy for the first time in mid-September.

“It is certainly not coming from a mean spirited place. A third of the writing staff is Indian,” he said. “I think there is a way to treat cultural confusion without being offensive.”

The comedy has a large cast of British and U.S. actors with Indian heritage but is shot in a Los Angeles TV studio. Producers said it was too expensive to shoot the show in India but said they were sending a small unit to Mumbai to film slices of street life to be incorporated into the show.

“We want our audience to feel they are transported to India,” Kwapis said.

Actor Rizwan Manji, who plays the ambitious assistant manager Rajiiv Gidwani, said he was happy to be part of the show.

“My friends and family have seen the trailer and the show and they are very supportive and find it hilarious and quite accurate,” Manji said.

And actress Anisha Nagarajan, who plays the painfully shy, sari-wearing employee Madhuri, said her relatives were just “excited to see such a large contingent of Indian actors on (U.S.) television.”

India By Song – Film Review

In Uncategorized on July 21, 2010 at 12:14 PM

Vijay Singh, writer and director

Bottom Line: An appealing whirl through modern Indian history, linked by song and dance clips.

Courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter

By Deborah Young

An imaginative attempt to describe the complicated history of modern India from independence and partition to Western-influenced consumerism, Vijay Singh’s “India By Song” is told through a mixture of interviews, newsreels and Indian musical numbers. It targets various audiences, from history students to fans of Bollywood and classic movies; the latter could give the hour-long doc a leg up with broadcasters beyond the shores of the U.K. and France, which produced.

In some ways the doc feels like a natural continuation of Singh’s India-themed feature films “One Dollar Curry” and especially the romantic “Jaya Ganga.”The Paris-based director, who appears on screen as a Western-based narrator splicing the tumult of history together, takes a sweeping overview of the last 60 years of Indian history, from Gandhi’s peace movement through the Indira, Sanjay and Rajiv Gandhi assassinations. It’s a lot to take in, but happily sweetened by tantalizing musical interludes lifted from famous films. These delightful, unidentified song and dance numbers are frequent, but probably not frequent enough for most non-Indian viewers, who will tune out on issues like agricultural problems and the Union Carbide tragedy. Still, as a taste of India, it leaves a hankering for much more.

Production companies: Silhouette Films, Sodaperaga Productions, France Television
Director: Vijay Singh
Screenwriter: Vijay Singh
Producers: Mandakini Narain, Guy Seligmann
Director of photography: Arun Varma
Music: Paban Das Baul, Mimlu Sen
Editor: Benoit Martin
No rating, 64 minutes

Bipasha’s ‘Lamhaa,’ banned in the UAE

In Uncategorized on July 16, 2010 at 4:06 PM

Courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter

By Shilpa Jamkhandikar

MUMBAI — A new Bollywood film that puts the spotlight on the Kashmir issue has been banned in the United Arab Emirates, the director of the film said.

“Lamhaa,” which opens in Indian cinemas on Friday, is a thriller set in the strife-torn Himalayan region at the heart of hostility between India and Pakistan.

“If anyone should have a problem with the content of the film, it should be India or Pakistan, how is the UAE concerned?” the film’s director Rahul Dholakia said.

Separatists in Kashmir began an insurgency against Indian rule in 1989 — a movement almost immediately backed by Pakistan — and since then tens of thousands of people have been killed.

Most fighters want all of Kashmir to become part of Pakistan but many ordinary Kashmiris want independence from both India and Pakistan.

But Dholakia, whose earlier film “Parzania” dealt with the Gujarat riots and their aftermath, said he did not think “Lamhaa” is controversial.

“My film talks about the basic problems of the Kashmiri people, which is a crisis of identity, the armed forces and of course the problem of the Kashmiri Pandits who live in Jammu,” he said.

The director said he spent a lot of time researching the film, interviewing prominent politicians and common people but it was still difficult to make a film that would be unbiased.

“Lamhaa,” which stars Sanjay Dutt, Bipasha Basu and Anupam Kher has been in the making for three years and focuses on the “ground realities” in Kashmir.

In the past, several films have been shot in the region and dealt with the problem of insurgency but haven’t found much success at the boxoffice.

Both Santosh Sivan’s “Tahaan” and Piyush Mehra’s “Sikander” had children as protagonists while Dholakia’s film revolves around a former army official.

Getting To Know 15 LAFF Directors

In Uncategorized on July 12, 2010 at 10:12 AM

A scene from Aaron Schock’s “Circo”

Courtesy of IndieWire

Compiled by Nigel Smith and Emily Kaplan

LAFF ‘10 | “Upstate” Directors Katherine Nolfi & Andrew Luis Talk Collaboration

“We both have day jobs as does our producer, Melanie Pimentel. With all of us working full-time pre-production took a long time. And of course making a low-budget, truly independent film is such a crazy venture. We begged, we borrowed, we stole… We’ll never be able to repay all the favors we incurred while making “Upstate”.”

LAFF ‘10 | Director John Kastner Witnesses a Confession in “Life With Murder”

“When I was 16-year-old actor I played the lead role in a training film for prison guards for the National Film Board of Canada. I spent weeks in a real prison talking with real killers, bank robbers, fraud artists. Intoxicating stuff for a teenage boy. I was hooked. I keep returning to offenders’ stories like an addict.”

LAFF ‘10 | Director Hossein Keshavarz Aims to Show the Real Iran in “Dog Sweat”

“One of our actresses came to set one day and said that her father found out that she was doing the film and that he had forbid her to continue. She told us that in the morning and had to be back home by noon. So we had a couple of hours to do something. I sat down with the DP and the actors and discussed what the characters themselves might do. Then I sat down for a half hour and wrote the scene and we shot it before she had to head back.”

LAFF ‘10 | “A Small Act” Director Jennifer Arnold: “Be Prepared for Anything”

“Kenya fell into unexpected conflict, something which changed the original script completely. So the original approach was “be prepared,” but ultimately the reality was more like “be prepared… for anything.””

LAFF ‘10 | Director Hilda Hidalgo Tackles Taboo Subject Matter in “Of Love and Other Demons”

“A few years ago, during a workshop at the EICTV, I told García Márquez that this was one of his most cinematic works to date and I wondered why no one had made a film based on the book. He then told me that he had actually experimented with several screenwriting techniques while creating the novel and challenged me: “Would you like to make the movie?” I immediately said yes.”

LAFF ‘10 | Malcolm Murray Turns Over the “Camera Camera”

“Watching our film may feel to some people like looking in a mirror- many of us have taken photographs in foreign countries and the film could be about any of us. And we filmmakers are the same as our subjects- people in a foreign country with a camera in our hands.”

LAFF ‘10 | Lisa Leeman and Cristina Colissimo’s Interspecies Love Story “One Lucky Elephant”

“We as humans have been fascinated with the profound inter-species bond that can exist between man and animal since the beginning of time. Today, the popularity of YouTube videos like the emotional reunion of a lion and the two men who raised him, are a testament to this.”

LAFF ‘10 | Director Aaron Schock Delves Deep Into the Heart of Mexico in “Circo”

“It often happens in documentary that you discover your story sometime after you have chosen your subject. When I began filming, I didn’t know I was about to enter a simmering family dispute between a husband and wife over whether they should pass their century-old circus tradition on to their children.”

LAFF ‘10 | Collins Takes On Russian Economics With “VLAST”

“At the end of the day “VLAST” is about what motivates people to do genuinely extraordinary things, the most elevated, noble and intelligent things and the most foolish, self destructive and inexplicable things.”

LAFF ‘10 | Director Brett Haley on his Crewless Film “The New Year”

“Hopefully they like the no-frills approach to the characters and story. We tried to make a film that is honest to it’s characters and situations. At the end of the day, it’s really about people being good to each other and true to themselves.”

LAFF ‘10 | Director Adam Reid on his Low-Budget Multi-Narrative “Hello Lonesome”

“I was a nerdy kid with huge plastic glasses and big fluffy hair. I wanted to be an inventor for a while, which led me to build flame throwers out of super soakers, but once “Back to the Future” came along my brain was irreversibly hard wired for movie making.”

LAFF ‘10 | Director Pernille Fischer Christensen On Her “Family”

“This film started as a very personal journey. I started writing a text when my father died i 2001. It wasnt really a film or a script but more an essay or a pieces of poetry.”

REVIEW | Dull Flame: Shamim Sarif’s “I Can’t Think Straight”

In Uncategorized on July 7, 2010 at 5:33 PM

Courtesy of Indiewire

By Chris Wisniewski

You would think that a cross-cultural, cross-religious lesbian romance should have enough built-in conflict to sustain an 80-minute feature, but Shamim Sarif‘s “I Can’t Think Straight” slumps and stretches its way from its first uninspired set piece, an engagement party for Jordanian-Christian Tala (Lisa Ray), to its mildly embarrassing closing montage, cut to, natch, Jill Sobule‘s “I Kissed a Girl” (hello, 1995!). As with her other feature, “The World Unseen” (released to theaters earlier this month), Sarif adapts and directs her own novel here, with Ray and Sheetal Sheth playing the lead roles. For “I Can’t Think Straight,” she enlists the help of co-writer Kelly Moss, but to no avail: Sarif has crafted a movie with such paper-thin characterizations and so lacking in dramatic incident that it’s frankly surprising that she was working from a novel at all—much less one she wrote herself.

As the movie opens, Tala finds herself betrothed for the fourth time, after having broken three previous engagements on or near the scheduled wedding days. Her wealthy Christian parents throw her an elaborate engagement party, after which she leaves Jordan for London, where she meets Leyla (Sheth), the guarded Indian-Muslim girlfriend of her friend Ali (Rez Kempton). During their first encounter, Tala immediately shakes up Leyla’s world with some banal provocations about religion. The next day, after a breathy, strenuous tennis match, it’s clear the two have kindled a romance—though they remain ostensibly oblivious to their nascent feelings.

Tala reads some of Leyla’s prose and pronounces her a Major Talent; Leyla begs her parents to let her spend a weekend with Tala at Oxford. At this point, Leyla’s spunky sister registers Leyla’s excitement, notices her k.d. lang CDs (seriously), and puts two and two together. Yet Leyla refuses to acknowledge her sapphic desires until her Oxford weekend culminates in a sensual dance turned, in a flurry of rapid cuts and awkward close-ups, to soft kisses and heavy petting.

After their Oxford encounter their roles reverse, with bashful Leyla staking a bold claim to Tala’s affection and her brash lover cracking under the pressure of social propriety. Tala insists on the impossibility of living as lesbians in their respective cultures, and indeed, both women are particularly burdened by unforgiving mothers who seem to embody those cultural constraints. Leyla’s clings to tradition, mostly in the form of food. When one of her daughters makes Ethiopian bread, she counters, “We have Indian bread right here,” while brandishing some naan. Tala’s mother, meanwhile, is essentially the villain. As the movie opens, she snaps at one of her servants, “If I want your opinion, I’ll give it to you!” After the Oxford weekend, she flies Tala’s fiance in to drive a wedge between her daughter and Leyla.

Despite the relative demonization of both mothers, all the talk of the cultural consequences of queerness never actually yields dramatic payoff. Tala and Leyla come out to their parents in fleeting scenes that are played mostly for laughs, and afterwards, Sarif drops those narrative threads almost completely. “I Can’t Think Straight” is pretty much a comedy—albeit not a very funny one—and while there’s nothing wrong, in principle, with the lightness of its touch, its pat comedic resolution, after so much hemming and hawing from Tala, ends up feeling glib. The film’s tone problems are compounded by Sarif’s unimaginitive visual sensibility and heavy reliance on montage to cover dramatic ellipses and elisions. Still, if “I Can’t Think Straight” isn’t very good—and frankly, it isn’t—it is, at the very least, mostly inoffensive.

[Chris Wisniewski is a Reverse Shot staff writer, a regular contributor to Publishers Weekly, and director of education at the Museum of the Moving Image.]

New York’s Asian American Fest Unveils 33rd Edition

In Uncategorized on July 4, 2010 at 1:13 PM

A scene from Raymond Red’s “Manila Sky.” [Image courtesy of AAIFF10]

Courtesy of IndieWire

Asian CineVision’s Asian American International Film Festival 2010 (AAIFF10) announced a slate of 23 features and a hearty list of shorts for its 33rd edition.  The fest, which focuses on films from Asian-American directors or about Asian-American experiences, also features films from other directors of Asian descent and “cutting-edge” work from Asia.

The fest is spotlighting its selection of Southeast Asian films for this year’s edition.  Program Manager Martha Tien noted, “This year, the AAIFF10 looks especially forward to bringing several Southeast Asian films to our audience.  Southeast Asia has such a dynamic cinematic community, but its movies still tend to be underrepresented in most film festivals.”  Included in the spotlight are the Opening Night film, Raymond Red’s “Manila Sky” (Philippines), Malaysian filmmaker Yuhung Ho’s “At the End of Daybreak,” and Thai director Kongkiat Khomsiri’s thriller “Slice.”

The fest will also be screening several other films that have been lighting up the international festival circuit:  the Closing Night film, Quentin Lee’s “The People I’ve Slept With,” has been popular with audiences from San Francisco to Miami to Sao Paulo.  Also on tap is Bruce Beresford’s “Mao’s Last Dancer,” which won the best feature award at this year’s Provincetown International Film Festival.  Stephanie Wang-Breal’s “Wo Ai Ni Mommy (I Love You, Mommy),” which won the jury prize at last week’s Silverdocs, and Taiwanese-American director Arvin Chen’s “Au Revoir Taipei,” which won big at the SF Asian-American fest, will be the fest’s Centerpiece Presentation.

AAIFF10 will screen at the Chelsea Clearview Cinema, the Quad Cinema, and MOCA, the Museum of Chinese America.  For more information, the complete lineup, and tickets, visit the AAIFF10 website here.

Asian CineVision’s Asian American International Film Festival 2010 (AAIFF10) announced a slate of 23 features and a hearty list of shorts for its 33rd edition.  The fest, which focuses on films from Asian-American directors or about Asian-American experiences, also features films from other directors of Asian descent and “cutting-edge” work from Asia.

The fest is spotlighting its selection of Southeast Asian films for this year’s edition.  Program Manager Martha Tien noted, “This year, the AAIFF10 looks especially forward to bringing several Southeast Asian films to our audience.  Southeast Asia has such a dynamic cinematic community, but its movies still tend to be underrepresented in most film festivals.”  Included in the spotlight are the Opening Night film, Raymond Red’s “Manila Sky” (Philippines), Malaysian filmmaker Yuhung Ho’s “At the End of Daybreak,” and Thai director Kongkiat Khomsiri’s thriller “Slice.”

The fest will also be screening several other films that have been lighting up the international festival circuit:  the Closing Night film, Quentin Lee’s “The People I’ve Slept With,” has been popular with audiences from San Francisco to Miami to Sao Paulo.  Also on tap is Bruce Beresford’s “Mao’s Last Dancer,” which won the best feature award at this year’s Provincetown International Film Festival.  Stephanie Wang-Breal’s “Wo Ai Ni Mommy (I Love You, Mommy),” which won the jury prize at last week’s Silverdocs, and Taiwanese-American director Arvin Chen’s “Au Revoir Taipei,” which won big at the SF Asian-American fest, will be the fest’s Centerpiece Presentation.

AAIFF10 will screen at the Chelsea Clearview Cinema, the Quad Cinema, and MOCA, the Museum of Chinese America.  For more information, the complete lineup, and tickets, visit the AAIFF10 website here and get your tickets today!

Check out the 8 films to watch at the upcoming New York Asian Film Festival!

Last call for Telluride Film Festival submissions!

In Uncategorized on July 1, 2010 at 1:34 PM

Courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter

By Jay A. Fernandez

The Telluride Film Festival, which runs September 3-6 this year, is issuing a last call for film submissions.

The deadline is July 1 for any last shorts or student films that want a shot at a slot in the 37th annual fest. The feature film deadline is July 15.

Fest organizers point out that past first-time filmmakers that screened at Telluride include Terry Zwigoff, Richard Rodriguez, Doug Liman, Jon Favreau and Lodge Kerrigan.

10 Tips for Marketing & DIY Distribution

In Uncategorized on July 1, 2010 at 1:10 PM

Courtesy of Indiewire

By Kim Adelman

Kicking off with an “it can only get better” rallying speech from indie film guru Ted Hope and concluding with cautionary “budget for P&A” advice from “Bass Ackwards” producer Thomas Woodrow, the Los Angeles Film Festival presented an extremely insightful marketing and distribution symposium over the weekend. Those independent filmmakers lucky enough to be one of the 200 people seated in the Grammy Museum auditorium heard innumerable words of wisdom from heavy hitters such as Jon Reiss, Peter Broderick, and Kickstarter’s Yancey Stickler.  Here are ten things that particularly resonated.

1. “The world we’re living in is worse than what we’re moving forward to.”  – Ted Hope

In his opening remarks, Ted Hope said people in the independent film business are still nervous about what the future landscape is going to be.  But there is no reason to fear the future.  We are entering the age of the artist/entrepreneur.  “For the first time, we have the potential to establish a broad middle class of creative individuals who support themselves through their art, aligning and collaborating with specifically defined audiences, and not having to conform to the limited dictates of the mass marketplace and its controllers.”

Hope raced through his power point presentation, which he promised to put online at some point in the future.  Two other notes from his speech:

2. “We are no longer in the business of one-offs.”

Hope clarified, “You cannot afford to rebuild the wheel with each project.  Focus on the ongoing conversation with your audience.  You won’t be delivering a single product anymore.  You will be delivering many products in many formats in many variations.”

3. “It will be to your advantage to have a previously aggregated audience base.”

Audience building before production even begins was a key part of many speaker’s presentations.  Hope’s advice was to collect 5,000 fans prior to seeking financing, then gain 500 fans per month during prep, prod, and post.

4. Re: projects raising funds on Kickstarter, “If a project reaches 25% of its goal, 92% of the time it will get funded.”  – Yancey Stickler

Kickstarter cofounder Yancey Stickler rattled off stats and advice regarding how to use Kickstarter successfully to raise money.  The majority of film projects using Kickstarter are documentaries and webseries.  Features have a harder time raising money than documentaries because there isn’t a core group interested in the subject, so you’re selling yourself.  It’s very rare that a film’s full budget is raised, most common is finishing funds.  A shorter time period for raising funds is better than longer – 30 days seems optimal, with $8,000 the average amount raised for film projects.

5. “Personal experience between those who create the film and those who enjoy the film gives the viewer a history with the film and a connection.” Cory McAbee

Filmmaker/musician Cory McAbee of “The American Astronaut” and “Stringray Sam” fame skyped in to have a conversation with Jon Reiss, author of “Thinking Outside of the Box Office.”  Sharing his experiences touring with his films, McAbee pointed out that filmmaker appearances are an important part of the film’s life, so make sure you have in the initial production budget “a small stipend to cover rent” for at least a year of touring your film.

6. “The secret to social media is storytelling” – Sean Percival

In discussing social media tools, MySpace Director of Content Socialization Sean Percival reinforced that social media is just another way of continuing your film’s narrative.  “You’re telling the story of your movie – your successes, your failures, bring your characters to life… You need to adapt your knowledge of storytelling to these new platforms.  Get people on the hook and keep giving them stuff that they enjoy.”

7. “In the final analysis, it’s all about audience” – Peter Broderick

Having recently spent weeks thinking about crowdfunding, consultant Peter Broderick presented his thoughts on the importance of finding audiences, reaching out to them, engaging them, and harnessing their power.

Broderick reminded us that in “old world” thinking, the audience is the last part of the equation. In the new world, the audience comes onboard very early in the process – by financing the film via crowdfunding.  In the old world, there were barriers between you and your audience – filmmakers were not interacting directly with audiences.  Previously, the audience was anonymous; now we know them/have their emails.  In the old world, the audiences were passive.  Now we must engage them.  Previously they were just consumers.  Now we need them to be evangelists and patrons that you can take with you to other projects.

8. “A stunt is no substitute for actual P&A” – Thomas Woodrow

When asked his best advice for filmmakers, “Bass Ackwards” producer Thomas Woodrow immediately responded, “Budget for P&A.  It’s obligatory with these small films.  You’ll be so much happier and you’ll insure release for a film you worked so hard on.”
9. “Film is a face-to-face business.  A filmmaker is the best sales person of the film.”  – Mynette Louie

Producer of “Children of Invention” Mynette Louie warned that DIY distribution will suck up a lot of your time and your other projects will be neglected.

10. “No one knows enough.  You are as much the authority on how to market and distribute your film as anyone.  Ask around within your community.  You will find out information from your peers.  Read Truly Free.  Read indieWIRE.”  Nolan Gallagher, Gravitas Ventures

‘Nuff said

Low-budget film-maker from India flies high with Superman of Malegaon

In Uncategorized on June 25, 2010 at 6:08 PM

Courtesy of The Times Online

By Rhys Blakely

When Slumdog Millionaire wowed audiences having cost a mere £15 million to make, the film industry’s savants foresaw a new era of super-frugal, post-credit crunch cinema.

They did not know the half of it. The latest darling of the festival circuit is a dirt-poor director who learned his trade shooting wedding videos in a backwater Indian town. His latest movie was made for just 0.01 per cent of the budget of Danny Boyle’s movie.

When Shaikh Nasir, 33, a shopkeeper with a unshakable passion for cinema, embarked on his first feature film in the industrial hub of Malegaon in 2000, his measly 50,000 rupee (£650) budget meant a bullock cart had to serve as a camera crane and neighborhood tradesmen were roped in to star.

Even the plot was second hand. The film was a spoof remake of Sholay, a hit 1970s Bollywood action adventure — even if Mr Nasir’s villain’s had to forgo the horses ridden by the original’s bandits, to travel by bicycle instead.

The homage, with its Python-esque eye for the ridiculous, delighted local audiences and won the director a cult following, but its DIY appeal never extended beyond the subcontinent.

Now, six super-low-budget films later, it appears that Mr Nasir is finally on the cusp of breaking onto the world stage. His latest project, Malegaon ka Superman (Superman of Malegaon), made for a relatively lavish 100,000 rupees, is winning international acclaim.

Something of Mr Nasir’s agreeably ramshackle — if slightly loopy — style is gleaned when he recounts his influences. “I learnt my craft from the English classics,” he told The Times. “James Bond, Jackie Chan, Charlie Chaplin, Commando, Rambo.” Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that while Malegaon’s Superman dons the red and blue of his Hollywood namesake, there the similarity ends.

Mr Nasir’s hero is played by Shaikh Shafique, a skinny factory worker who was paid about £1.30 a day in what was his first acting role.

Superman’s lycra outfit hangs from his scrawny frame. He wears flip flops over his baggy blue leggings, threads hang from his billowing shorts, and his asthma means he is not always up to fighting his nemesis, a local tobacco baron.

This may not sound like the type of fare worthy of winning gongs, but a documentary, called Supermen of Malegaon, which records the making of the feature film has clinched awards at film festivals in Los Angeles, Prague, Pakistan and Italy.

When Malegaon ka Superman was shown at a festival in Goa this week, international buyers jostled to snap up the rights. Consequently, a worldwide cinema release is — astonishingly — on the cards.

Such a move would put Malegaon, a gritty industrial town previously best known for ugly inter-religious violence, on the world cinema map — a status it surely deserves given the dedication of its hard-pressed film makers.

The region, about 180 miles northeast of Mumbai, is famous in India as the site of a bizarre parallel movie universe. Home-produced spoofs of Bollywood blockbusters made by a handful of budding amateur directors are more popular in Malegaon than the originals they parody.

The appeal of the spoofs, which are shown on VHS tape in local “mini theatres”, owes much to the incorporation of local idioms and the escape they offer audiuences from the monotony of 14-hour shifts in local factories, Mr Nasir says. There is also the delight to be had in spotting the neighborhood postman hamming it up as, say, an evil henchman.

The Superman film marks the first time Mr Nasir has sought inspiration from Hollywood, but it remains true to his cottage industry ethos. It may have the biggest budget yet and be the first to be edited on computer. But the production process still rests on improvisation.

Superman is only able to achieve the illusion of flight, for instance, because he is held up horizontally above the heads of three of the crew or rolled along on a plank of wood placed on top of a bicycle.

Now, with Superman proving a triumph, Mr Nasir’s fans want to know what source material he will tackle next?

Malegaon ka Dinosaur” — a remake of Jurassic Park — and “Malegaon ka Rambo” have been mooted as “dream projects”. However, a remake of another superhero franchise seems most likely: “Malegaon ka Spiderman“. Unless, presumably, Hollywood’s lawyers consider that an homage too far.

Low-budget blockbusters

• The low-budget zombie film Colin, which featured at Cannes festival this year, was made for £45. Marc Price, the director, said that the budget was spent on “a crowbar and some tapes”

• Robert Rodriguez raised almost $7,000 to make El Mariachi, his first feature film, by taking part in clinical drug trials. He went on to make blockbusters such as Sin City

• Oren Peli’s film Paranormal Activity cost between $10,000 and $15,000 to make and grossed more than $106 million

‘Supermen of Malegaon’: Hooray for Mollywood

In Uncategorized on June 25, 2010 at 2:13 PM

By Piyali Bhattacharya

Courtesy of Wall Street Journal

You’ve heard of Hollywood, you’ve even heard of Bollywood. But have you heard of Mollywood? We hadn’t either until we heard about the film “Supermen of Malegaon” which is coming out in Edison, New Jersey this weekend. Director Faiza Ahmad Khan sat down with us for a chat about his new documentary, which follows the lives of people creating the latest Mollywood film.

So what is Mollywood? It turns out that the people of Malegaon, a small village just out side of Mumbai, India, are very dedicated to cinema. So much so that they have developed their own brand of film: Mollywood. The “M” refers to Malegaon, not to the idea that the films are “by Muslims for Muslims,” as some blogs have suggested.

According to Khan, Mollywood films are spoofs of popular Bollywood and Hollywood films. Movie enthusiasts in Malegaon first started the project with remakes of such popular Hindi movies as “Sholay.” When those were a success, they parodied other big Indian films like “Lagaan.” Their latest endeavor has been to create a spoof on the Hollywood film “Superman.” Faiza Khan first became interested in the project while reading a local newspaper that had covered it. “I was between films at the time,” he told Speakeasy “and was intrigued by the idea of Mollywood.” He and a friend headed out to Malegaon to check it out, and ended up staying with the crew for almost three months.

While he observed the people of Malegaon create their version of “Superman,” Khan found that the key to Mollywood films was humor. “They are always trying to get a message across. Whether it is about the communal violence that happens around them, or the low wages they receive, humor is the way in which they convey it.” Using humor to take the edge off has resulted in Mollywood films being very successful, while at the same time addressing prevalent social issues.

“The most important thing to recognize about Mollywood,” Khan told us, “is that each film is made with a huge community effort. The people in Malegaon are poor laborers. They don’t have money or resources. But they have extreme enthusiasm for film.”

Khan says that the community gets together and decides what kind of film they’d like to make next. Then, each member of the village gets involved in helping out with some aspect of the film. Khan says that with a lot of determination and patience, residents have learned how to use cameras properly and create shots. “It’s a very democratic way of filmmaking,” Khan said. “They are changing the way films are made.”

Supermen of Malegaon is going places

In Uncategorized on June 25, 2010 at 2:02 PM

by Arthur J. Pais

Courtesy of Rediff

Nearly two years since it was made, the witty, poignant and life-affirming documentary Supermen of Malegaon which has travelled to more than two dozen film festivals is getting a theatrical release.

It is being shown at Big Cinemas Movie City Edison, New Jersey for a week through FilmKaravan, a distributor specialising in offbeat films such as Sita Sings the Blues.

If Edison embraces the film, it could be in more theatres in other American cities. In any event, it is also available on DVD. Though the film has been travelling to film festivals across the globe, it is giving a solid nudge for more recognition, and this time by the public, through FilmKaravan.

Set in the city of Malegaon, full of communal tension and economic slump, the documentary chronicles the life of a handful of cinema enthusiasts who make their own films — quirky, low budget, socially aware and spoofs of Bollywood films. When their ambition grows, they are ready to take on Hollywood and Superman.

The film, produced and directed by Fazia Ahmad Khan, has received glowing reviews from the likes of Variety and has been shown at an Asian Film Festival at the Museum of Modern Art.

She said the terribly inexpensive films made in Malegaon, some costing just about $5,000 serves as a community builders, though she confesses Hindus living on the other side of a river dividing the textile town came to hear about these ultra low budget films when they heard of the documentary Khan was making.

Khan is also careful to point out that these films, and movies in general, are important part of the people’s daily lives in this textile city

‘Working at a loom is an underpaying job involving serious health risks,’ she said in an interview discussing the people of Malegaon. ‘They work six days a week for about ten hours a day and they’re on their feet the whole while. So on a Friday, which is a holiday, they go to a movie to forget the drudgery of their lives. For those 3 hours, they are Shah Rukh Khan [ Images ] running through mustard fields or Abhishek Bachchan [ Images ] chasing a beautiful woman around trees.’

Variety called the Khan film ‘An agreeably ramshackle film about the unshakable commitment of an equally rickety group of dirt-poor movie tragics producing a superhero spoof in their Muslim village…Supermen of Malegaon possesses a loopy, energetic charm.’

At the Silverdocs Documentary Film Festival a reviewer declared: ‘Faster than a speeding auto rickshaw, Faiza Ahmad Khan’s film will steal you away and take you sailing joyously into the skies of India [ Images ]… A terrifically fun story of underdogs who rise to the task of being supermen.’

At a recent screening of the film at a festival, an audience member asked Khan how she went around casting her film. “I did not know how to react,” she says with a chuckle. “I though it was obvious it is a documentary.”

She was inspired to make the film after reading an article in an Indian publication on the passionate life of the filmwallahs in Malegaon.

She says though she is willing to try her hand at a feature film, for the time being she is happy making the documentaries. Her next will focus on the tribal people and how developmental work affects their lives for better or worse.

Superman who spits!: How commerce corrupts, and less money means more honesty

In Uncategorized on June 24, 2010 at 7:50 AM


Courtesy of Mumbai Mirror

By Mayank Shekhar

Nasir Sheikh is one of India’s most passionate film-makers. You may not have heard of him. Chances are, you’ve heard about some of his films. He’s made two. As we speak, he’s finishing his third, the most ambitious project yet. They’re certainly the talk of the small town he comes from.

Like many  contemporary directors in this country, Nasir learnt film-making at the films. He did his “rehearsals” with Hollywood, studying “master directing, master lighting….” Hindi movies, he feels have “weak direction”. James Cameron’s The Abyss, it appears, is one of his favourites. It played for a month in the video theatre he once owned. He now runs a clothes showroom in the same space, which is evidently not his calling.

Years before, Nasir had taken up a moving camera to shoot local weddings. He does remakes of popular blockbusters now. They are fresh works still. Only the premise is borrowed. For this, he even names the original movie on the title. Nasir is evidently untouched by the credit-stealing ways of Bollywood, though he only lives about 300 kilometres from Mumbai.

It’s a place called Malegaon, known for many things. One of them, a local says, is its unlimited passion for movies, where a Shah Rukh hair-cut sells for Rs 101, and a Sanjay Dutt one for much more (Dutt’s hair needs better styling at the back).

A river divides this town between Hindus and Muslims. Both live on either side but rarely mingle. The segregation is complete. This is no different from the sub-continent itself, where two upset neighbours, separated by recent history, are still united in their love for Bollywood films.

Malegaon is predominantly Muslim. Faiza Ahmed Khan’s hilarious and tender documentary, warmly called the Supermen of Malegaon, takes you into the heart of this mofussil district. It is clearly the most amusing film you’re ever likely to watch on the making of another movie.

In the film, Nasir says he’s already taken on Bollywood, having directed both Malegaon Ka Sholay and Shaan. This time his ‘takkar’ (battle) is with Hollywood. Computers can make this possible. He will shoot the film on chroma, where actors perform over a green sheet, and the background images are generated digitally. It would cost him Rs 2 lakh at a Mumbai studio. With Rs 2 lakh, he could make four movies, he says. He’d rather do it on his own. Nasir needs to balance his means with quality, instead of the other way round, where budgets seem inversely proportional to content.

Nasir is going to make his hero fly. He is making Malegaon Ka Superman! The first four parts of the American franchise, he says, were commercial successes, but the fifth Superman failed because they’d merely remade the first one. This was unnecessary. There’s so much in the concept to take it forward.

Nasir’s parody takes Superman to Malegaon; dancing in the fields; saving his love from slick goons; flying up to catch better signals when the cellphone network is weak. This Superman, in a rich baritone, says he wants everyone to “thooko” (spit) everywhere, on the streets, in the restaurants… Because, “I louv filth!”

It’s quite a moment in Faiza’s documentary when Nasir finally reveals his Christopher Reeves: a worryingly thin, short, dark man Akram Khan, who appears in a Superman sky-blue suit with M for a new emblem, and the long nada of his boxer-shorts deliberately left hanging. Akram has taken leave to play the main role. He works 12-hour shifts in a power-loom, like most of Malegaon, which hardly gets power for a few hours in a day.

Akram’s underpants have been split from the bottom. He’s made to slide into a log of wood that juts out of a cart. A few people wave his red cape from behind. The cart moves forward taking Akram along. The cape’s flying in the air. Superman tears into an autorickshaw and drags a villain out. You’ll want to clap.

Most other times, Akram remains hung to a horizontal pole pretending to fly. In one scene, Nasir dropped his camera in water. The crew left Superman alone in a pond, floating on an air-tube. The camera was fixed later.

The movie, I hear, is ready. It’s worth looking forward to. You at least know these guys were only honestly making a film, not thinking of everything around it, but the film itself.

‘Supermen of Malegaon,’ on Review

In Uncategorized on June 22, 2010 at 6:41 PM

Courtesy of Variety

By Eddie Cockrell

A Mediacorp (Singapore)/NHK (Japan)/KBS (South Korea) production for the Asian Pitch. Produced by Faiza Ahmad Khan, Siddarth Thakur, Gargey Trivedi. Executive producers, Junichi Katayama, Chung-Yong Park. Directed by Faiza Ahmad Khan. With: Sheikh Nasir, Akram Khan, Shafique, Farogh Jafri, Shakeel Bharati.
(Urdu, Hindi dialogue)
An agreeably ramshackle film about the unshakable commitment of an equally rickety group of dirt-poor movie tragics producing a superhero spoof in their Muslim village, “Supermen of Malegaon” poses no threat to Warner Bros. but possesses a loopy, energetic DIY charm. Pic, which won the jury award for docu feature at Italy’s annual Asian film confab, the Asiatica Film Mediale, is too specialized to support a theatrical campaign, but is bounding along the fest circuit and should show its strength in ancillary.

Like “American Movie” before it, “Supermen of Malegaon” is about dreamers with more ambition than talent or resources. Here, the dreamer is wedding videographer and former videotheque proprietor Shaikh Nasir, who runs a cottage industry making spoofs of Hollywood fare and the Bollywood films produced a hundred miles away in Mumbai. The locals eat these films up, as life in the cotton-mill town of Malegaon provides little other entertainment.

Nasir is budgeted the equivalent of $1,200 for the project, which he explains by saying, “So far, nobody has messed with Superman.” One of his screenwriters, Farogh Jafri, reasons, “You open with a blast, so that you have the audience’s concentration,” while another, Akram Khan, who plays the bad guy, has a weird obsession with filth.

Reasoning that Superman would be “a victim of many diseases” with “asthma from flying through pollution,” they hire a scrawny guy named Shafique (who’s a dead ringer for Charlie Callas) to be their hero.

The shoot isn’t without incident: The helmer drops his camera into a river, Shafique needs four days off for his wedding, the handmade uniform must be washed and dried every day, and a local paper’s coverage repeatedly refers to the production as “Spider-Man.” Finally, the film, with the poster tagline “The Pack of Blasting Comedy,” is preemed at the resuscitated video parlor to much excitement.

Docu helmer Faiza Ahmad Khan is clearly fond of this endeavor and takes a benevolent view toward these passionate cineastes. Seventy-nine-minute version screening at SilverDocs appears to be a pre-existing 52-minute cut with the actual finished product grafted on; as rough as its creation would suggest, the pic sports a subversive humor.

Camera (color, HD), Gargey Trivedi; editor, Shweta Venkat; music, Sneha Khanwalkar, Hitesh Sonik; sound, Gunjan Augustine Sah; sound designer, Niraj Gera. Reviewed on DVD, Sydney, Australia, June 7, 2009. (In Silverdocs Film Festival, Silver Spring, Md. — Silver Spectrum.) Running time: 79 MIN.

Raavan or Not?

In Uncategorized on June 18, 2010 at 3:24 PM

By Anisha Jhaveri for Filmkaravan

As if we didn’t already have enough Ramayan adaptations in the world, Mani Ratnam decides to join in on the fun. Raavan, as the title unashamedly gives away, is the acclaimed director’s take on the epic, with a few plot and character twists thrown in—you know, to be “different” and all.

Known for thwarting power in favor of the poverty-stricken, tribal leader Beera Munda (Abhishek Bachchan) is revered by villagers yet resented by local authorities. Consistently evading capture and arrest, he has gradually grown to unofficially rule the small town of Lal Maati.

Enter Dev Pratap Sharma (Vikram), an accomplished and highly-respected inspector, called upon to rid Lal Maati of the roguish likes of Beera once and for all. With a few strategic attacks on Beera’s world, Dev is at his commanding best—until he learns that his own wife, Ragini (Aishwariya Rai), is the kidnapped victim of Beera’s revenge.

Led by the goofy-but-wise forest guard Sanjeevani* (Govinda—a casting choice I can only explain as a weak effort to simultaneously fulfill the need for a “Hanuman” as well as some comic relief), Dev and his band of trusty colleagues set forth into Beera’s jungle to rescue Ragini. Meanwhile, as Ragini increasingly interacts with her captor and learns of her husband’s hand in his painful past, sides of him emerge that contradict his image as a demonic villain.

I can see where Ratnam might have been going with this. Beera has been endowed with Robin Hood-like qualities and a rather tragic backstory, while it is occasionally the supposedly-heroic Dev whose intentions appear morally questionable. In so doing, Ratnam allows each of them a realistic and relatable, rather than symbolic, function. While this certainly makes for greater character dimensionality, it remains to be seen whether Indian audiences will buy these more sensitized depictions—will they accept such loose interpretations of religious figures, or resent them, arguing that because Ram and Raavan’s mere existence is to signify the battle between virtue and evil, to humanize them would defeat their purpose? Perhaps if the film hadn’t been so blatantly touted as a modern-day Ramayan, and therefore hadn’t weighed itself down with the pressure of adhering to the tropes of the original, the blurring of the lines and somewhat unresolved ending would have worked more favorably.

As for the acting, lackluster performances abound. You already know how I feel about Govinda. The others aren’t much better. Abhishek often appears to be channeling his inner Joker with manic grins and fits of psychotic rage; yet where he truly shines is during Beera’s rare betrayals of vulnerability. Aishwarya has little to do besides emit the occasional shrill shriek and feature in an oddly placed, if not completely unnecessary, song and dance number. It is entirely possible that this production was probably an excuse to get the Bachchans onscreen together again because let’s face it, they’re an unavoidable package deal now.

At 138 minutes, the film is simply too long, especially when one considers that a good half hour could have been saved just by eliminating the excessive shots of Ash peering through dew-laced lashes at her surroundings in slow motion. If you must go, go for music—the score’s unique syncopations and catchy rhythms ooze classic A.R Rahman—and stay for the cinematography. Save for the aforementioned slo-mos, Santosh Sivan puts forth a visually stunning display that not only showcases his mastery of his craft, but justifies watching the film on a big screen, assuring us that despite our misgivings about any narrative gray areas, Raavan is unmistakably a true beauty to watch.

White Rice vs. Brown Rice

In Uncategorized on June 15, 2010 at 2:53 PM

by Karan Malla for FilmKaravan

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

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

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

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

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

Supermen of Malegaon opens for ONE WEEK ONLY at Movie City 8 in Edison

Get your tickets now –Moviecity 8, Edison

Not in the area? Get your DVD straight to your mailbox – www.filmkaravan.com

Tweet! Tweet! Tweet!

In Uncategorized on June 14, 2010 at 1:51 PM

Courtesy of Sun Times

By Roger Ebert

I vowed I would never become a Twit. Now I have Tweeted nearly 10,000 Tweets. I said Twitter represented the end of civilization. It now represents a part of the civilization I live in. I said it was impossible to think of great writing in terms of 140 characters. I have been humbled by a mother of three in New Delhi. I said I feared I would become addicted. I was correct.

Twitter is now a part of my daystream. I check in first thing every morning, and return at least once an hour until bedtime. I’m offline, of course, during movies, and don’t even usually take my iPhone. The only tweeting I’ve done with mobile devices was when our internet went down one day, and when my laptop was lost in Cannes. But you can be sure that before I write the next three paragraphs I will tweet something.

Twitter for me performs the function of a running conversation. For someone who cannot speak, it allows a way to unload my zingers and one-liners. One of the problems with written notes and computer voices is that, by their nature, their timing doesn’t work. I used to have good timing. Now in real life a conversation will be whizzing along and a line will pop into my head and by the time I write it down and get someone to read it, the moment and the context will have disappeared. Often everything will grind to a halt while I remind people what I was referring to.
As for computer voices, yes, it will be great to get the final version from Scotland of the voice that sounds like me. But I will still have to type before I speak. There was a warm response when Chaz and I unveiled the voice on the Oprah program, but unfortunately some people got the wrong message. “Ooh,” I was told, “now you have a computer to speak for you!” — as if the computer could listen and responded on its own. If Cereproc in Edinburgh can do that, they will have perfected Artificial Intelligence.
Also what I do is, I listen, and type on my laptop, and I have a speaker attached, and the voice speaks what I typed. The problem is, the conversation races ahead, and I am forced to (1) wait for my opening, or (2) interrupt people. Of course we interrupt each other constantly in everyday life, even using little strategies like nodding and sneaking in a “but…” as a marker to indicate we have something we need to say. Sneaking in via computer speaker, on the other hand, sounds loud, mechanical, and rude. And I’m still behind the beat. With a Tweet, what you are saying is all right there. Not an interruption. Not late. Not badly timed. Just itself. I can have timing on Twitter that is impossible to me in life.
There are millions of Tweeters, or Twits, as I prefer to think of us, and no doubt many of them are bores. Try reading the real-time stream if you dare. Those I follow give value for time. I’ll get a retweet from someone, and if I like it, I’ll go to that person’s Twitter page and scan 20-30 Tweets and make a judgment call. Some of my discoveries may only have a dozen followers, but I have a sixth sense.
My rules for Twittering are few: I tweet in basic English. I avoid abbreviations and ChatSpell. I go for complete sentences. I try to make my links worth a click. I am not above snark, no matter what I may have written in the past. I tweet my interests, including science and politics, as well as the movies. I try to keep links to stuff on my own site down to around 5 or 10%. I try to think twice before posting.
This has become addictive. I tweet too often. I actually go looking for stuff to tweet. I have good friends who suggest things. I will tweet a link someone suggests on this blog. I will tweet good lines from comments here (with credit). I like to retweet. Sometimes I do a thing called Tweeto, where I retweet three new followers. I was doing this daily, but have scaled back because it was keeping me up too late.
I’ve made a change recently. After writing my blog, “The quest for frisson” and reading two recent articles about internet addiction, I have looked hard at my own behavior. For some days now I have physically left the room with the computer in it, and settled down somewhere to read. All the old joy came back, and I realized the internet was stealing the reading of books away from me. Reading is calming, absorbing, and refreshing for the mind after hectic surfing. Chaz and I have quiet chats where we sit close and she talks and waits for my reply and this is soothing after the online tumult. I like the internet, but I don’t want to become its love slave.
But still I tweet. I am in conversation. When you think about it, Twitter is something like a casual conversation among friends over dinner: Jokes, gossip, idle chatter, despair, philosophy, snark, outrage, news bulletins, mourning the dead, passing the time, remembering favorite lines, revealing yourself.
Now I want to share some of the people I follow. I can’t share them all, and will have to leave out some dear friends. All I can say is, if I follow you, that speaks for itself. One thing you will find is that many of these tweeters are women. I follow a lot of men, but I’m convinced women make the best tweeters. They tweet more about life, and less about facts. Okay, so tell me I’m wrong.
What I look for are people who generate a fair percentage of Tweets while speaking in their own voices. You’d be surprised the number of people who only retweet all day long. I like people who tweet great links. I’m not so much looking for news; I get that in the usual way. It’s more fun to get news indirectly. For example, @caponeAICN tweeted that from his porch facing Wrigley Field he could see four helicopters. You might ask, what did that mean? With my razor-sharp intellect, I intuited: The Blackhawks had won the Stanley Cup, fans had gathered at Wrigley, and TV news was showing the crowd. I already knew about the Blackhawks, and Capone assumed I had: The mark of a good Tweeter.
I find out a lot about television itself the same way. @bleakey, for example, watches TV for me so I don’t have to watch it for myself. Many other Tweeters also do, but I like @bleakey’s intensity. She cares more about “Dancing with the Stars” than anyone on the show. Then she’ll say something that reveals she is smart, funny and not just a couch potato. @kellyoxford tweets so well she was actually flown to Hollywood to meet with TV executives. @oliviacollette always has an unexpected angle on things, and had lots to say about the “Husband Unit” during her recent honeymoon in England and Spain. I look for people like that. @sunsetgunshots is an example of a Tweeter with a high percentage of good links: She’s obsessed with film noir, and has a knack of turning up stuff I didn’t know but find out I always wanted to.
My day follows a familiar pattern. In the morning, I’ll find a poetic tweet waiting from the wonderful @natashabadhwar, who is a filmmaker and photographer in New Delhi and most of all a mum of three. It will have already been today for a long time in India. When you follow one great Indian Tweeter, you tend to come across several more. In the morning they’re all waiting for me. There is @nancygandhi, an American living in India, who says she is a “paragraphist.” I don’t know anything about @RajeshJoshi except he travels widely, injustice makes him mad, and he writes well. @shubhragupta and @anupamachopra are both film critics, often writing about western films.
In America, in the morning, @morningporch sits on his porch with a cup of coffee and tweets mostly about what he sees. @bluegrasspoet says she is a poet and lives in Kentucky. No kidding. @etherielmusings has winsome small observations, and rampant romanticism. When I visit any one of the Twitter streams listed in these two paragraphs, Indian, Canadian or American, I find the others retweeted. From halfway around the world, one degree of separation.
The two most avid sports fans I follow are women: @christylemire, the film critic of the Associated Press, and @joanwalsh, the editor of Salon.com. I had to unfollow one guy because he would tweet every single run, basket, touchdown, goal, etc., of the game he was watching.
One of the best Tweeters on politics is @flipcritic, a Filipino working in Malaysia. @markos is the founder of DailyKos, and tweets tirelessly about state races, polls, scandals and predictions. @margoandhow, who I personally dragged kicking and screaming into Twitter (telling her she was a born Twit, which she didn’t like the sound of), is into politics and gossip. Her mother was Epie Lederer (Ann Landers), and she’s a chip off what she calls the Old Lady. @dustytrice is a Democratiç party strategist from Minnesota and has a deadly wit. @tinadupuy is a liberal columnist Los Angeles.
There are a lot of Tweeters who are funny, in addition to being many other things. @I-am-Ozma can be indignant, sad, passionate, and wonderfully snarky. So can @mozaffar, who teaches Islam and patiently, peacefully, moderately defends his idea of his faith against hate from without and within. One of the smartest Tweeters is @georgelazenby, whether or not he is the George Lazenby. I think there’s a good chance he might be, because he doesn’t make any such claim in his bio.
No one lives her life on Tweeter more urgently than @missbanshee. Every day is an unfolding emergency of panic attacks, searches for blog topics, mourning for a cat, computer emergencies, adoption of three cats, despair, and then things growing so dire that she “*throws self on fainting couch.*” Another life in progress is @DCDebbie, who blogs about a personal life in which she seems clearly heroic, and bitches on Twitter about her sex life and Glenn Beck.
And there are many more. Chicago friends. Movie critics from all over the world. McSweeney’s magazine. Scientific American. Facets Cinematheque. And on and on and on. Funny thing. I’m spending more time in conversation these days than I ever have.

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!

A Rebuilding Phase for Independent Film

In Uncategorized on April 26, 2010 at 8:58 AM

The filming of “East Fifth Bliss” with Michael C. Hall, center. The independent film has a budget of less than $2 million.

Courtesy of The New York Times


Only five years ago, the center of the still thriving independent film universe lay behind the green doors of a converted TriBeCa warehouse from which the Weinstein brothers, Bob and Harvey, ran Miramax Films.

With their possible deal — negotiations continued through last week — to join investors in reacquiring Miramax, which they left in 2005, the Weinsteins are again in the middle of something.

But it is not the business they once ruled.

For more than a decade, the indie film movement centered in New York flourished, at times almost eclipsing the output of the mainstream Hollywood studios in terms of impact and accolades. But the financial collapse and the credit crisis had a deep impact on all of the movie world, which has responded with fewer expensive releases and safer bets.

And that new austerity has decimated the indie film business, ending with the collapse or downsizing of distributors like New Line Cinema, Picturehouse, Warner Independent Pictures, ThinkFilm and Miramax, all in the last few years.

“The world is different now,” Richard Abramowitz, a new-wave film distributor, said last week. While he expressed regard for the Weinsteins, he said of the possible Miramax purchase, “I don’t see it as the kind of game-changer it might have been a few years ago. And I’ll probably get chased down the street for saying that.”

There are, however, signs of life. The struggling indie scene is getting a boost from fleet-footed, penny-pinching guerrilla operations that are trying to resuscitate the business by spending less on production, much less on marketing and embracing all forms of distribution, including the local art house and the laptop.

A result has been a flush of energy reminiscent of early days in the 1990s dot-com boom, with a touch of old-fashioned indie-film spirit thrown in.

“It reminds me of the early years of Miramax, where you had to be disciplined,” Harvey Weinstein said. He declined in an interview on Friday to discuss his attempt to buy Miramax in partnership with the investor Ronald W. Burkle.

Indie experiments are being closely watched in the business because what happens in Hollywood often first happens in New York City. While many in Los Angeles continue to struggle with the studio system and the emerging intricacies of 3-D, New York has locked on a different challenge: how to wring even the tiniest profit from that enormous investment in smaller movies.

According to Mr. Weinstein and others, the New York-centered independent film world faltered largely because companies, flush with cash from a DVD boom that has since played out, put too much money behind too many films for an audience that was never large enough to absorb them in theaters.

At his own Weinstein Company, said Mr. Weinstein, the best model for an era of diminished expectations is “A Single Man.”

That film, written and directed by Tom Ford, took in only $9 million at the domestic box office. But the Weinstein Company acquired the rights for far less and held its promotions in check, rather than spending heavily to chase an audience, and Oscars, as it might have done only two or three years ago. Mr. Weinstein said the film would yield a return both for his company and for its producers.

Independent distributors that survived the great shakeout include Focus Features, a Universal Studios unit that is anchored in Manhattan, and Sony Pictures Classics, a specialty film label based in New York that has consistently released about 20 movies a year with a staff of just 25. Along with the survivors, there are some newly established companies, like Apparition.

For many of these companies, austerity is a given, and that means looking at digital distribution.

At Tribeca Enterprises, a sponsor of its namesake festival, the chief creative officer, Geoffrey Gilmore, in March joined the company’s co-founder Jane Rosenthal and others to announce a new distribution unit focused on video-on-demand — where the dollars are small, but the potential audience is vast.

Already, Rainbow Media, which operates IFC Entertainment, is feeding about 120 films a year to cable television systems, while perhaps 50 of those movies are shown in one or more theaters. The company, led by Joshua Sapan, also operates an independent theater complex.

Producers cannot recoup their investment from the marginal payout from on-demand showings, but a run on IFC’s channels or those of other services brings recognition that helps increasingly entrepreneurial filmmakers make money on DVDs — from foreign release, sales to airlines and, often, at screenings for political, religious or other groups, often with appearances by the writer, director and cast.

“The business is coming back smarter,” said Marian Koltai-Levine, a veteran of Fine Line and Picturehouse, who is now a marketing and distribution adviser through Zipline Entertainment. Zipline is one of the so-called garage companies run by alumni of the studios.

Geoffrey Gilmore and Jane Rosenthal of Tribeca Enterprises, which started a video-on-demand unit.

Mr. Abramowitz’s company, Abramorama, handles about 20 films a year, on marketing and budgets that are counted more often in tens of thousands of dollars than in tens of millions. Ten days ago, he helped the Producers Distribution Agency, a new company started by John Sloss, the past master at placing films like “Napoleon Dynamite” and “Tadpole” to older-style indies like Miramax, to bypass the big players by releasing a movie, “Exit Through the Gift Shop,” directly to a handful of theaters.

The film, an eccentric documentary by the elusive street artist Banksy, took in about $391,000 in its first 10 days. Much of that was attracted by a low-cost Web campaign that drew young viewers so new to indie film that a disproportionate number arrived on Friday evening, thinking the movie, like a Banksy prank, was a one-night event.

The attention surrounding the opening was enough to mark “Exit” as a potential winner. The trick will be to expand the theater audience without spending heavily on newspaper ads, a major expense for indie films in the past.

Producers who routinely spent $12 million on a film five years ago are now being advised by Mr. Sloss and others to keep their budgets to a third of that.

Thus, “East Fifth Bliss,” a romance directed by Michael Knowles, spent last week shooting in New York, with a budget of less than $2 million, a substantial boost from the state’s tax incentive program, and a cast that includes Lucy Liu (“Charlie’s Angels”) and Michael C. Hall (“Six Feet Under”).

For Sri Rao, a one-time Booz Allen Hamilton business consultant who now writes, produces and hopes to direct films from his base in New York and another in Philadelphia, a scaled-down indie world is simply a better place for low-cost operators like him to thrive.

“The independent film landscape is so different than it was, this is not the heyday of the ’90s,” said Mr. Rao. His Sri & Company has made a pair of Bollywood-style films, the second of which, “Badmaash Company,” is scheduled for release by Yash Raj Films of India next month.

Mr. Rao’s company is lean enough that it has no office at all unless a film is in production.

“It’s an overhead-free world,” he said.