Posts Tagged ‘malegaon’

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.

White Rice vs. Brown Rice

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


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

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

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

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

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