Month: July 2014

Kick Cast Interviews

A Copy/Paste job of some PR Media interviews we received from the Kick Cast (Sajid Nadiadwala, Nargis Fakhri, Chetan Bhagat, Mithun)

Usual Questions and quite bland answers but in a weird way, i’m having a very sanitized feeling about Kick in general. Maybe I don’t want to get my hopes up but the marketing of the movie has just made me feel a bit iffy about it.

Sajid Nadiadwala (Director)

Q: Kick marks your directorial debut, what made you step into your director shoes?

A: I think it was fate really; it happened so fast! It’s funny how things turn out in life. I was in a meeting with Salman, narrating the script to him, when all of a sudden he said, ‘Why don’t you direct it!’ I didn’t even have time to consider the offer, before I had even nodded he was jumping and hugging me and shouted across the room ‘Grandson is turning director.’  Before I even had time to share the news he had already written in his planner that a new director was coming. It’s been a wonderful experience and I felt right at home doing it.

Q:   Did your experience as a producer help you in your debut?Sajid Nadiadwala - Kick

A:  Absolutely! As a producer I have worked with extremely talented directors and have gained knowledge and experience from working side by side with them. One becomes seasoned after so many films.

Q: What was your most memorable day on the set of Kick?

A: My first day on the set, definitely. I was calm and ready to don my director’s hat. I felt completely at ease on set and was lucky to have a very professional foreign crew. I decided to start with an action scene, as I feel most comfortable with it. Everything went down smoothly, and as we were wrapping up I thought to myself I am a director now!

Q: What makes Kick unique?

A: I had a clear and unique vision for Kick and thanks to my amazing team it has come together far beyond my expectations. The script is great, the high-octane stunts are gripping and the locations where we shot are stunning. Salman and I were set on creating something new. It’s very different to his earlier films.
Q: We’ve heard you spent more than 72 hours at a stretch buried in the editing room

A: I can’t help it I’m a perfectionist. When you are dedicated to make a project succeed you forget everything else around you, including the time!

Q: Has Salman been a help to you on this adventure?

A: Absolutely. It was great fun discussing our ideas, brainstorming and working out the scenes together. He’s been very helpful and completely supportive of my vision. All in all, it has been a great experience.

Q: How do you feel about the release of Kick?

A: I am very excited. It has been a wonderful ride and now we have to enjoy the result of all our hard work. The trailer received five million views in 59 hours, so I expect great things for this film.

 

 

 Chetan Bhagat (Screenwriter)

Q:  Did you enjoy writing the screenplay for ‘Kick’? Does it mean that you are becoming more and more involved in the film-making process?

A: I did enjoy it. It was fun, plus Salman Khan was in it, so it was an honour too. But it doesn’t mean that I will become a screen writer. Occasionally, I might get into all this again, but I am more than happy with just being an author. I am comfortable with my books, giving motivational talks and writing columns. Those are the areas I want to dedicate my time to.

Q: When you’re writing a book do you automatically think of how it would pan into a film?

A: No, not really. I can’t think of it that way. Writing books was, is and will be my passion; it doesn’t really matter if it will be made into a movie or not. Moreover, if my book is good, then the filmmakers would approach me anyway. I wouldn’t have to do anything extra to get my books made into a movie.

Q:  What inspired you to start writing?

A:To be honest, I just wanted to do something different. I always liked writing and I thought it could be a great hobby. The only thing I did not know is that there would be so many people who would like my writing.

Q:  When is your next book coming out? What is it about?

A: It will be coming out in October this year (2014). I don’t want to spoil the book for you, so I won’t say a lot about the plot, except that it is a rural Indian love story. It is slightly different from the other books I’ve written so far, but I hope that my readers will enjoy it.

Q: Why did you agree to write the screen-play for ‘Kick’?

A: I’ve known Salman from the time of Hello, the movie version of my novel One Night At The Call Centre. But I never had a chance to work with him. So this was a perfect opportunity. Also, when I saw the original version of Kick, I loved it, but I felt like there is potential to take the content deeper. Sajid [Director] is debuting with Kick too and he has a huge vision for it – hopefully I will be able to make it come true.

Q:  What is ‘Kick’ about?

A: Kick is about a guy who lives life only for his kicks, a powerful concept and a perfect recipe for a Salman-Nadiadwala blockbuster.

 

Nargis Fakhri (Actress) Q&A

Q:  Were you excited to work with Salman Khan?

A: I was nervous! He’s such a big Bollywood star, I was afraid I’d mess something up. When I went to the set and met him, all my fears faded away. Salman is a very positive person and his sense of humour is amazing! I had such a great time working with him and the whole team.

Q:  You had some problems with your knee whilst shooting the song ‘Yaar Na Mile’. Did it affect your performance in any way?

A: Yes, I suffered from a ruptured knee and it was extremely painful, but I pulled myself together because I know that opportunities like this don’t appear very often. I have no idea how, but I managed to complete it in just four days.

Q:  It’s your second item number. Do you think there will be more?Nargis Fakhri & Salman Khan - Kick

A: I really enjoy dancing, but I don’t want to be seen as just an item dancer. Acting is my passion and I want to do some good meaty roles. I am currently talking to different directors, but nothing has been finalised just yet.

Q:  You will be making your Hollywood debut quite soon. What do you prefer Bollywood or Hollywood?

A: I think it has to be Bollywood. I am feeling more comfortable in Bollywood because I have spent more time here and I do have a much better understanding about it. Besides dancing and music is my passion, this is why I prefer to spend more time here [Bollywood].

 Q: Tell us a bit more about your dance number?

A: It is a very urban, edgy yet sexy dance number. There was a lot to learn. At first I thought I might miss some steps, but everything went brilliantly well. Salman has a great energy and I think that is what made me so comfortable around him.

 

Mithun Chakraborthy (Actor) Q&A

 Q:  You are known for being very particular about the roles you accept, what was so special about Kick that made you sign?

 A:  After 375 films, I would say I’m fortunate to be able to consider carefully which roles I take on. I don’t accept a role for the sake of it, there has to be something special about the character that draws me to the film.  When I read the Kick script I thought my character was hilarious, so I said yes. I thought it was a great project to be a part of.

Q: Your success as an actor and disco dancer has made you an icon of Hindi cinema, did you ever think you would make it this far?

A:  When I started out I was hopeful and determined, and took my career one step at a time. When you are an actor there is no point in predicting your success, I always say that luck plays a very big role in an actor’s life. It’s not easy being discovered, you have to be at the right place, at the right time.

Q: As Bollywood’s disco king, how important is dance in your daily life?

A:  Dance has and will always be a part of me. Whenever I’m sad the dance floor is my escape. I get positive energy through dancing. I am so lucky to be able to make my hobby an important part of my career and I don’t hesitate to accept projects that allow me to dance.

‘KICK’

Releasing worldwide through UTV Motion Pictures on 25th July 2014

Hemalkasa Review Liff 2014

In true tradition, the closing night of the 5th London Indian Film Festival featured one of the biggest and highly anticipated movie premieres of the festival – Samruddhi Porey’s biopic Hemalkasa. Based on the life of renowned social worker and Magsaysay award winner Dr. Prakash Baba Amte, the highlight of this feature was not just its subject matter, but also its top notch star cast – Nana Patekar and Sonali Kulkarni in the title roles of Prakash and Mandakini Amte. And there’s veteran actor Mohan Agashe as well, portraying the role of Prakash’s father, Baba Amte. With such big names, and a big story to tell, one would expect nothing less than a spectacular closing to the festival. Unfortunately, all of that expectation comes crumbling down pretty soon, right after the movie begins.

It was quite unfortunate, that the screening began with a short – Director Shubhashish Bhutiani’s Kush selected by the Satyajit Ray foundation as this year’s Best Short Feature). I say unfortunate, because as soon as that short concluded, and the opening titles of Hemalkasa rolled onscreen, I could tell that it wasn’t going to be at par with any of the movies I had seen in the festival, including the short that preceded it. Blame it on the extremely disturbing choice of font styling for the titles (which made me think if the director had got her young nephew to do it, who had just learnt about WordArt on PowerPoint). Or perhaps it was the unnecessary addition of laughably awful CG explosions. But wait, there is more.

The intro scene of Nana Patekar features him doing a sheersasan, with his upper half submerged. The director chooses this scene to be the best moment to let us know that Prakash Amte is perhaps a cross between Singham and Doctor Dolittle. So, just next to Patekar, there is a tiger washing himself. I love tigers. Onscreen ones to be precise (read my review of Ulidavaru Kandante). But this tiger, my friends, is the worst CG copy-pasted tiger to have ever existed. Patekar rises from underwater and walks out like a Bond girl. And accompanying him, is CG-Tiger. And in that moment, I knew that Hemalkasa is not going to be a movie that I’d like. And this was just the first 10 minutes of the movie.

In the course of its unbearable 117 minutes, Porey depicts the tale of this relentlessly generous man, and his many struggles and how he overcomes them. The narration is mediocre at its best, and extremely irritating at its worst as it jumps through the different stages in Amte’s life. I can see Porey trying hard to squeeze in as much detail as she can, as if she is begging for the audience to applaud at how unreal Amte’s sacrifices are in comparison with the cynical world we live in. But she hardly leaves any breathing space on a specific event for the audience to feel connected. The editing could be the culprit here. There are way too many events jam-packed into this, and yet, each one feels stretched out, or sometimes repetitive. I felt like I was compelled to watch an episodic TV series, albeit a boring one.

I can understand the underlying sentiment of the filmmaker might have been to genuinely show her reverence for Prakash Baba Amte. And nothing that I say here will take away from what Baba Amte’s influence is on people in India and all across the world. Neither does it undermine his efforts in any shape or form. But there is a clear distinction between the story and the story-telling. When asked in the Q&A section, what the real Prakash Amte’s reactions were on watching his own biopic, director Porey responded that Amte’s reply was – “I felt as if a camera was left on from my childhood to my present day, and I was watching it all on the big screen”. As a cinema lover, I cannot translate that to be a compliment.

This is a classic case of a filmmaker falling too much in love with the source, and failing to say “Cut”. There are numerous attempts by its stellar lead pair – Patekar and Kulkarni, who give earnest performances, and try to save this sinking ship. But it is too late by then. There are “Gods must be crazy” inspired scenes featuring the local tribes of Hemalkasa. You know the kind where they discover modern medicine, radio etc. But even these scenes failed to charm me. And the amount of bad-acting provided by its extras could put Farah Khan’s extras to shame. By the time the director decides to make Sonali Kulkarni and Nana Patekar give one-last-push with a breakdown scene when their domestic pet Leopard passes away, I was rolling my eyes. Looking at the audience around, I could see most attendees staring at their watches, or fast asleep. It is hence ironic to see that this feature won the runner up Audience Award.

 

This journey to Hemalkasa had the entertainers on the list, but was boring all the way.

 

For more info head on over to http://www.londonindianfilmfestival.co.uk/

@9e3k

OneKnightStands Bollypop | 9E3K | @9E3K

Santosh Sivan MasterClass BFI LIFF 2014

London Indian Film Festival brought with it the golden opportunity to spend an evening with ace Indian cinematographer/director – Santosh Sivan. As a fan of his work, this was something not to be missed, and I went in with high expectations. Held at the BFI Southbank, the Santosh Sivan Masterclass was being conducted by BBC Radio Presenter Nihal.

It started off as a QnA session on Sivan’s early inspirations that drew him towards the visual medium. Sivan’s stories clearly depict his childlike enthusiasm at nature’s offerings. And unsurprisingly enough, that enthusiasm is still alive, and is quite obvious in the way he narrated his stories, and also from the fondness that is conveyed. Most of his quirky experiences have somehow translated into his cinema.

Later on, we moved to the milestones of his career. To name a few, Mani Ratnam’s Roja, Iruvar, Thalapathi, and Dil Se, and his own directed features – Asoka, Terrorist, and Before the Rains. Sivan’s passion for storytelling, whether in feature film format, or documentaries was also one of the discussions in this masterclass.

His latest work – Ceylon, was met with a few controversies, and was pulled from the cinemas. Hopefully, we should get to see Ceylon in the near future. Here are 15 quotes from his masterclass.

On his early inspiration: My grandma always use to narrate me stories in a very cinematic way. The moon rose, then the night lit. So that has been my visual inspiration.

On why he chose cinematography: I used to love taking black and white pictures. If I wasn’t a cinematographer, I would be a farmer. Because I’d be very close to nature.

On how he deals with child actors: You don’t try to change child actors, but adapt yourself to them. Otherwise  you’d be changing the reason why you took them in the first place.

On Chhaiya Chhaiya: Sharukh Khan was the fastest thing on that train.

On his favourite scene: The complexity and lighting of the scene in Iruvar when Mohanlal wave shis hand and there is a crowd cheering loudly, that reminds me of the hard work we put in to achieve that. So that scene is special to me.

On actors and their insecurities: I often tell actors to act as if the camera is their best friend. And put as less makeup as possible.

On whether it is possible to be a director without being a cinematographer:
I disagree with that. Because it is not good too much of everything. A director can have a visual sense, and an idea of his end product, without knowing cinematography.

On his favourite international film: Bicycle Thief is one of my favourite films. Because it is a very little, and very real film.

On perceiving beauty visually: I wake up in the morning at 5 am, and see the world in monochrome. Then the first rays of sunlight appear, and you see the world in soft light. Then the bright light starts to appear. It is like the universe is putting on a show for you.

On how he handles his sensory overload when he sees beauty all around you: Smoke some cigarettes and a drink.

On Asoka: Even now I feel very proud of that film. It was inspired by my school teacher, who wanted to be a theatrical actor. And he used to teach us of Asoka.

On his collaboration with Mani Ratnam: He is an old friend, and a creative ally. We do have differences on set, and even fights. But at the end of the day, we just want to make the best film we can.

On why he chooses to make documentaries: It is like telling a real tale of how it was set in time somewhere. That excites me.

On his most embarrassing work : I don’t have any such list of work that I should be ashamed of. In the same way, I do not have a favourite project. I cannot sit on my past achievements. My best is always coming next.

On the controversy surrounding his next feature Ceylon: It got pulled because I did not want any tension around the election period. I am releasing it again, after getting an approval from those who objected to it without even seeing the film. I will be showing it to them.

For more info head on over to http://www.londonindianfilmfestival.co.uk/

@9e3k

OneKnightStands Bollypop | 9E3K | @9E3K

Daawat-e-Ishq Title Song and Trailer

Yash Raj has just released the first song promo from Daawat E Ishq starring Parineeti Chopra and Aaditya Roy Kapur, releasing in theaters september 5th.

Here is the synopsis of the movie from the YRF website and to be honest I have read it several times and I still can’t make head nor tails of what the story is about:

Meet Hyderabad ki tez Gulrez (Parineeti Chopra) and Lucknowka aashiq Tariq (Aditya Roy Kapur) in a love story from Yash Raj Films’ kitchen, where Love gets Spicy, Love gets Sweet, Love gets Bitter!

A shoe-sales girl, disillusioned with love because of her encounters with dowry-seeking men and a cook, who can charm anybody with the aroma and flavours of his biryani and kebabs, come face to face in the clash of diametrically opposite but equally spicy cultures of Hyderabad and Lucknow.

In her quest to find her Mr. Universe, she comes up against “Big Boss Hyderi Kebab” and in the process of arriving at a “tuning-setting”, Gullu and Taru rewrite traditional recipes of love, crush old-fashioned world-views and make their own masaledaar albeli pichchar… a deliciously romantic Daawat-e-Ishq!

YRF continue it’s streak where the city is the 3rd character yo! so  there seems to be a lot of Lucknow and Hyderabad flavors. (somewhere I blame Vicky Donor for this trend but it might have started earlier, I just hated Vicky Donor).  I’ve had trouble telling  their movies apart for the last decade or so, for my money this looks the same as Dil Bode Hadippa but with interchangeable actors or backdrops (Now he’s a cook, now she’s a crook!).

This must be the way YRF conceives their properties now:  Put in random ideas in a cookie box, pull 3-4 cards out, put them on a white board, lock some writing interns in until Habib Faisal is happy to sign off on the result and Adi Chopra approves the budget. Pour over standard YRF Art design and marketing, top it of with a shitty poster.

It almost makes me miss the mountains of Switzerland!

Since I was unaware that Aashiqui 2 was an actual movie and not just a super addictive music album, I still haven’t gotten round to watching it. So I was quite unaware that Afro Dork from London Dreams and Guzaarish has grown into a full on hearthrob. Ironic, when the character he played was an abusive alcholic in that movie, maybe some of people feel they can “save” him. I think there is a psychological term for that which I’m too lazy to google.

Parineeti Chopra is the main reason I would want to catch this on Netflix. She has been consistency the light of any project she has been in, and honestly I feel she deserves top billing now. There is a bit of criticism that she plays the same role over and over again but she’s quite a young actress still finding her feet and excelling whilst doing so. And might I say those are some very fancy hair extensions she has on.

Here is the full trailer again if you missed it, gives you a chance to see more Parineeti.


DEI_Poster3

Daawat-e-Ishq celebrates its worldwide release on 5th September 2014

@asimburney

HERCULES – NEW ‘ARMED FOR BATTLE’ FEATURETTE : The Rock throws a horse!

I’m trying to rack my brain when I was last excited for a Brett Ratner movie, it might have been Kites, how young and innocent were we back in those days? But Hercules has me totally psyched, The Rock can do no wrong and he has been preppring this movie and pushing it on Social Media for what seems ages.

Here they are both talking about some of the weapon and action choices:

 

1401801723-HerculesIntlTeaserOnline

 

Synopsis:
Paramount and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures’ film HERCULES, starring Dwayne Johnson, bows on July 25. Based on Radical Comics’ ‘Hercules,’ this ensemble-action film, featuring an international cast, is a revisionist take on the classic myth set in a grounded world where the supernatural does not exist. HERCULES also stars Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell, Joseph Fiennes, Peter Mullan and John Hurt.

HERCULES muscles into cinemas in the UK and Ireland on JULY 25th 2014

Farhan Akhtar LIFF Screen Talk at the BFI

That Farhan Akhtar is a multi-talented being is beyond doubt – just look to his amazing body…of work as an actor, director, writer, singer, lyricist, producer and general Mr Congeniality of Hindi cinema. But damn it, he is rather likeable too – at least I felt I wanted to hang out with him a bit more after a screen talk at the BFI Southbank. As part of the London Indian Film Festival 2014, (which is fast going from strength to strength and now a major event on the South Asian cultural calendar in London) and hosted by editor of Sight + Sound, Nick James, the evening quickly felt like spending time with a friend of a friend who you want to be friends with.

In front of a packed audience which also included filmmaker Vidhu Vinod Chopra (whose presence was the surprise of the evening; when Farhan named the Munnabhai series as having a great social impact on society, the audience were alerted to Chopra’s presence and broke into spontaneous applause), his wife Anupama Chopra, who is perhaps the most sanguine film reviewer in India today, Bollywood casting powerhouse Mukesh Chabbra  and director of recent superhit Queen, Vikas Bahl, Farhan charmed with tales of how he started as an assistant director to avoid being thrown out of home and how he would cut class at college to watch films.

Photo Credit: London Indian Film Festival 2014
But there was also lots of unexpected fun – Farhan managed to make Nick James lose his calm composure and corpse into uncontrollable laughter a few times as well as delighting the audience with an impromptu snake dance (an interest he shares with Shah Rukh Khan) as well as singing the title song from Rock On! It was also interesting to hear Farhan talk about Dil Chahta Hai and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (including being unable to look at a tomato for a good six months post the Ik Junoon song filmed at the Tomatina festival in Spain). One did miss the inclusion of Lakshya which was a significant film in his career but with time of the essence, there was lots to get through.

When finally it was time for the audience Q&A, there was lots of enthusiasm and whilst a request for a hug from a determined fan was not quite appropriate, only the stoniest heart would have denied a two year old girl a hug and kiss from her favourite actor (though Farhan didn’t take a selfie with a fan who had come from New Zealand which felt unfair, especially as her question regarding how he worked with Zoya was one that seemed to pique his interest). All too soon, it was time to wrap the session up but not before a clip showing Farhan in his career defining role as Milkha Singh in Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. What added to this was how Farhan shared how he embraced the grueling process to achieve that amazing athletic look.

As I left the Southbank feeling inspired and pleased, fans had thronged all the possible exits hoping to get a photo with Farhan as he made his way to the after party. Inspiring that kind of affection and keeping it is not easy but then this is the very talented Mr Akhtar we are talking about here – and there is no doubt that as he forges ahead with anything he chooses to do, it will be with a degree of class, dedication and a disarming and endearing sense of humour.

Bhushan Kumar is a Hindi film and fashion obsessed being living and working in London.

Follow Bhushan on Twitter: @bogeyno2

Blog: http://bogeyno2.wordpress.com/

Anima State Review LIFF 2014

AnimaState_01The moment I was walking out of the screening of Anima State I was accosted by an elderly Pakistani gentleman. He asked me if I was from a TV channel (I said no) then he started a 15 min diatribe about how a movie like Anima State is an embarrassment to Pakistan, it is un-Islamic and why do “our” film makers feel the need to “make themselves look good” in front of the whole world by making “our motherland” look bad. Although I was trying hard to contain my laughter at the absurdity of the situation, I did truly feel bad for this poor uncle. He had walked into the movie theater hoping to see a Pakistani movie (an Industry which has never reached it’s true potential and doesn’t get the distribution to reach its audiences) in his local Cineworld, he had no notion of what Anima State was about before swiping his Unlimited card and was ready to walk out as soon as the main lead started to masturbate in front of a cricket match.

So just as a disclaimer for any other uncles possibly walking in, Anima state directed by Hammad Khan is not a Pakistani movie but a movie made by a Pakistani Londoner set in Pakistan, it is more of an art installation than a movie for general audiences and the frustrations it speaks about could honestly be set in any country but here the film makers deals with some personal issues he has with Pakistan. This is quite a big difference and something that wasn’t clear to many of the people attending screening and the Q&A after the screening (or even to the moderator leading the Q&A).

Anima State isn’t linear or plot driven and might have may interpretations but here is what I could understand (with minor spoilers).

The first ¾ of the movie we follow, The Stranger, a traveller whose face is covered in bandages, as he goes on a killing spree of the people he feels are morally corrupted: the urban youth, the corrupt police and media as well as the people that choose to be happy even when there is misery around, culminating in a Network styled- “I am mad as hell and I won’t take it anymore” monologue after shooting his way into a news studio.

The moments of introspection during this killing spree are when he is faced with Pakistani womanhood in 4 different forms: the wife, the beggar, the teacher, the whore (all played by actress Malika Mufti). It is also the last of these encounters that allows him to wake up from his nightmare and realize that he is not this Stanger but (SPOILER START) a filmmaker who has returned to Pakistan after many years. (It was all a dream people!)

A film maker who gets ridiculed and beaten up by twitterati hipster for that last movie he made and when questioned by the police at a random street corner, escapes the country, leaving his camera to a local boatman so that he can make movies ” of his wife and children” which might be of better use than being a film maker in Pakistan and trying to make an actual change when the ones in power are holding all the cards in their hands.

Anima State is a movie isn’t entertaining and can’t be measured in words as good or bad. It’s not a fun time and it requires the audiences to engage with it, as the movie of David Lynch or even Indian director Qaushiq Mukherjee (AKA Q) but lacking the hypnotism or visual flair of those film makers. The movie serves the director Hammad Khan more than by being his catharsis more than audience’s as there are no answers, and some of the questions raised might be pointless.

Quite a few of the metaphors are very much on the nose ie the dancing monkey, the masturbation scene, and the cell phone story. It also want to have it’s cake and eat it where it wants the Pakistani audience to wake up but refuses to fight with or for them, where it pre-emptively mocks the potential online reviews and backlash he gets for this or his previous movie.

But Anima State is still commendable as a sophomore effort and what I imagine must have been a tight budget that required quite a bit of guerilla filmmaking.

A very interesting movie and one of which visuals; themes and even the music create a lasting impact if and only if you aren’t turned off by the visual thought dump Hammad Khan projects on screen. His previous movie Slackistan was banned in Pakistan and Anima State is probably going to go down the same route.

And that is a shame as a lot of frustration on screen is what day to day Pakistani’s feel and unlike the bandaged protagonist of the movie, do not have the luxury to run away the moment they realize that they have been living a nightmare.

@asimburney

Ulidavaru Kandante Review LIFF 2014

Ulidavaru Kandante_01[Disclaimer: Due to messed up scheduling at the screening venue (for London Indian Film Festival), I missed the first 30 minutes of Ulidavaru Kandante, as I was still watching Goopi Gawaiya Bagha Bajaiya (review link here). This post is hence, more of a rant on the remaining 4/5th of the Ulidavaru Kandante experience.]

So, as I walked in straight into the world of Ulidavaru Kandante (UK, As Seen By The Rest) at 00:30:00, I was met with the end of Chapter 1, and a journalist called Regina (Sheetal Shetty) talking about something that went wrong, referred to as “the Incident”. I was left confused, and yet curious about what this incident was, and if I had missed it in the first 30 minutes. But at the same time, I was glad I that I came in just in time for the beginning of Chapter 2 – the story of Richi. Cue smoke machines, theatrical spotlights on, and through the smoky mist, enters our hero – director Rakshit Shetty as Richi, the cocky cop who oozes testosterone in every frame. This is one of those alpha male leads that’s part Tony Montana, part Vijay Dinanath Chauhan, and part Chulbul Pandey, sans the Sonakshi pyar-thappar angle, or the drunk sillyness. At first glance, Shetty looks like a long lost brother of Mahakshay ‘Mimoh’ Chakraborty, but one who can actually act, and commands attention, and minus 20-30 kilos (to be confirmed). Richi is not a do-gooder or a Robin Hood. He has a reputation to take care of, and even in a lungi, gulping down on local desi-daaru, with an unkempt moustache, that reputation brings broken noses for the unlucky ones. And that tiger dance, oh yes, I get that Singham metaphor. Richi does not walk, he has the gait of a lion, make up or not.

Coming back to the story, or stories rather, the trailer is quite spoilerific in my opinion. There is an incident, which we don’t know of, until the climax i.e. There are multiple witnesses, and their multiple/conflicting point-of-views, a Pulp-Fiction-esque MacGuffin red bag with shiny contents, and many bullet shots. There’s tiger-painted people dancing(I like tigers). If that sounds like UK borrows a lot from cinema pop-culture, yes it does. Does it look like a copy? No, it does not. Shetty’s influence is visible, but UK is a beast of its own. You can smell the authenticity in the environment, and it is quite obvious how comfortable it is in its own skin, and yet does not shy away to flash its influences – from Kurosawa’s Rashomon, to Scarface, to even Frank Miller’s Sin City. The director expertly hides the details, and patiently peels off each layer. With cliffhangers at the end of each chapter, and each chapter serving as a teaser for the final reveal, UK works because of its sharp editing, its crisp script, and the believability of the world that surrounds these characters.

Kudos to the DOP Karm Chawla to have presented Malpe in its most stunning onscreen version – from the warm views of the washed clean sea and sandy beaches, to the amber nights lit with fire. Painted tiger faces never looked this great. The hustle and bustle of Janmashtami festival in temple city Udupi errupts with its vibrance and is a colour overload of sorts. And that entry scene of Richi through the smoke (mentioned above), as he says “Phata Poster Nikla Hero” is a wolf-whistle worthy one. Coupled with a loud drum-heavy background score, UK does not go easy on your senses.

Donning the acting jobs, the supporting cast do pretty well. Worth mentioning are Tara as Ratnakka – that scene when she sees her son after 15 years, and bursts into tears, gave me goosebumps. Little Sohan Shetty as street-smart kiddo Democracy steals the show in many scenes. And Kishore as Munna, is the missing piece in the whole puzzle. He provides the much needed gravitas, the heart that glues the tale. His wide-eyed dreamy stoner romance makes you chuckle, and also leaves you sad. But of course, above all, this movie belongs to Rakshit Shetty. Not only as the onscreen lead dude, but also as the offscreen one.

On the surface,it looks like yet another South-Indian alpha male hero rescuing damsels-in-distress. But UK is not content with that template, and breaks the norms. It is a tall rebel, heck it’s the “Rebel Alliance” on its own, which even though has a vernacular language, its speech is loud and global in all respects. Shetty’s attempt at marrying the two, often looks effortless, but only shows the confidence in his craft. It is nothing short of groundbreaking. I am highly curious of what is coming up next on his filmography. If this is what the new wave of Kannada cinema has to offer, count me in. I will drive that hype train.

This has been the best of the London Indian Film Festival’s offering this year.

5 Tigers Out of 5. ROAR!!!

[Footnote: I have deliberatley tried not to tell you much about this movie, and would rather have you check it out for yourself. Ulidavaru Kandante is available as PPV on ReelBoxTV.com. However, it does not have any subtitles, but they are working on it. Follow them on twitter @ReelBoxTV to find out when this would be done.
 
 The subtitles at my screening were quite funny. The swear words such as bastard and the like, had the vowels replaced with corresponding Greek symbols. That probably is because Director Rohit Shetty has not been able to completely get over his Engineering past!
 
Contact the director @rakshitshetty on twitter, make some noise, and probably he will bring this to a screen near you. It is definitely one to be experienced on the bigger screen, with booming sound. Or for you influential people out there, make Netlfix pick this gem up.]

The London Indian Film Festival has screenings all over London until the 17th of July.

For more info head on over to http://www.londonindianfilmfestival.co.uk/

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OneKnightStands Bollypop | 9E3K | @9E3K

Goopi Gawaiya Bagha Bajaiya Review LIFF 2014

Goopi_01Before I say anything about the movie, can I just applaud director Shilpa Ranade first, to have thought of remaking a Satyajit Ray classic that has been loved by generations. The classic short story by Upendra Kishore Rowchowdhury has already been immortalised onscreen by the inimitable pair of Tapen Chatterjee and Rabi Ghosh as the crazy duo – Goopi and Bagha. And such a mammoth task of re-doing it for the current generation – why would one do that? The only answer to that is immense love for the source. And that love shows in Ranade’s adaptation of Goopi and Bagha’s tale, titled Goopi Gawaiya Bagha Bajaiya.

The world of Goopi and Bagha have now been translated from the black and white images of Ray’s version to a world filled with shimmering colours. The style of animation here is nothing like the 3D cell animation that we are accustomed to from the likes of Pixar, Disney, and Dreamworks. The word I am looking for here is quirky. I know use that word a lot. It sort of reminds me of a few PS3 games such as Media Molecule’s Little Big Planet, or Sony’s own – Puppeteer. Produced by the Children’s Film Society of India, it brought back memories of the many indie short animation features that used to be screened on Doordarshan on Sunday mornings in the 80s and the 90s. And having watched Ranade’s adaptation, I am compelled to say that perhaps, there couldn’t have been a better remake for this tale.

Of course, with the target age-group of this feature being the little ones, there are plenty of fart jokes and a few slapstick pranks thrown in. But it being an animated movie, I was instantly transported into that world of innocence, and I couldn’t stop myself from laughing at those silly fart jokes. I did miss the original voice of Bhuter Raja which has now been replaced by an ultra autotune processed monster voice. But those are minor complaints. The music, which was one of the highlights of the original, in this version of the tale, has been composed by the band “Three Brothers And a Violin”. And to say the least, the music brings this whole movie together.  There was a French family watching this movie at the same screening that I was in. And as the end credits rolled, the little kid, in his most French accent, was humming “Shundi ke Raja ko Salaam”.

I think that says a lot. Some stories never age. Some stories never get lost in translation.

The London Indian Film Festival has screenings all over London until the 17th of July.

For more info head on over to http://www.londonindianfilmfestival.co.uk/

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OneKnightStands Bollypop | 9E3K | @9E3K

Sulemaani Keeda Review LIFF 2014

Sulemani Keeda_01Director Amit Masurkar’s slacker bromance ‘Sulemaani Keedha’ (SK) on the surface is pretty much what one of its characters wants a movie to be like. That character is Gonzo, a producer’s son, a big fan of out-of-the-box ideas and who plans to make a paradoxical movie with a story that has no story. This is a movie, which on the surface has no real story to it, and speaks to Gonzo’s sensibilities of having no real hero, heroine, villain in its tale. And yet, by the end of its run, you cannot help rooting for its struggling protagonists and their fight against their own banal lives, and to rise from the crowd. I feel Sulemaani Keedha (Hindi street slang for pain in the ass), does not necessarily translate to the negative meaning that it may imply. In my opinion, it may be the royal itch to prove something – to yourself, and to the world.

We are introduced to these two slackers – Mainak and Dulal (debutantes Mayank Tewari and Naveen Kasturia), who are drowned in their own torn scripts and unpaid rents, and are dejected from every corner of Bollywood. But even with such amount of rejection, they refuse to give in to the temptation of a comfortable paycheck by writing for daily soaps. In their free time, which they seem to have a lot, they aimlessly and unsuccessfully attempt at hitting on girls, in the bookstore, in the clubs, and everywhere else. SK is about these perennially hungry and horny struggling writers, who juggle their struggles, opportunities and love.

Shot exceptionally well by Surjodeep Ghosh, SK captivates the spirit and the sparkle of Mumbai. The guerilla style shooting used to shoot this movie to keep costs low, actually works in its favour to make it look real and authentic, and often as silly as real life can be. The dialogue is spunky, and emotes the angst and the ferocity of all creative strugglers who come to this mad city looking for that one shot to make it in the big bad world of Bollywood. There are plenty of nudge nudge wink winf references to the Rohit Shetty’s 100 Cr Club formula, there’s a chuckle-worthy animated sequence involving Gonzo and his cat, and the music by Arfaaz and Anurag needs to be released on iTunes pronto.

For its warm hearted spirit, and its giggly jokes, SK left me feeling happy. You shouldn’t be surprised if this lands up on your Netflix queue soon. Until then, it is worth travelling that distance if it is playing at a festival near you.

3.5 snorts out of 5.

The London Indian Film Festival has screenings all over London until the 17th of July.

For more info head on over to http://www.londonindianfilmfestival.co.uk/

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OneKnightStands Bollypop | 9E3K | @9E3K

Sold Review Liff 2014

Sold_01The London Indian Film Festival started with the UK premier of Sold, directed by Jeffrey D. Brown, Oscar winning director for best short film (Molly’s Pilgrim -1985) and starring Niyar Saikia, a 13 year old girl Lakshmi who under the guise of a job in the city gets sold to a brothel where she is forced into prostitution. The movie is produces by Emma Thompson and based on a Patricia McCormick novel.

Sold isn’t just a movie but is tied up with a few charities and a social media campaign hoping to make an actual change to the problem of child trafficking globally.

The message of the movie is something we can’t turn a blind eye to so before I dig into the movie, do check out www.soldthemovie.com or search #TaughtNotTrafficked on twitter if you want to contribute.

The movie is a tough watch, but it needs to be, the topic of the movie is so bleak that although the full horror is never shown, the implications are enough to make you want to avert your gaze many times from the screen, even more so for the Niyar Saika’s expressive eyes and naturalistic performance and so much pain to what we’re watching.

She is aided by some wonderful supporting Indian actors, Tillotama Shome, Sushmita Mukherjee who plays the main madame’s at the brothel. Tillotama has really been knocking it out of the park in term of performances this year in both Sold and Qissa which both played at the LIFF. There are a host of actors of all ages who were wonderful, I especially liked Priyanka Bose who I had noticed earlier this year in Gulaab Gang and who in some ways is playing a similarly street savvy woman again.

 

The movie also has some fleeting appearances by Seema Biswas, Gillian Anderson and David Arquette who have pretty much have non-consequential roles to support the cause of the movie by appearing in random scenes that probably didn’t take a long shooting schedule but when working in indie’s having these names attached to a property, does help attract audience.

 

One of the aid workers who tries to get these girl out of these horrific situations is played by Parambrata Chatterjee pretty much reprising his role from Kahaani, charming out of town ladies with his smoothness but this time with added facial hair.

Sold is shot beautifully both in the open skies of Nepal to the seedy streets of Kolkata. The movie has heart and great intentions but unfortunately it might have worked better and had a greater impact if Jeffrey Dean had made this as a short film instead of a feature.

The editing in quite a few scenes is jarring and even the pacing seems off. There are fleeting moments that would need to be delved into a bit more like the men that visit these brothels or the people that manage or traffic girls and although I can understand that these are evil people, there were moments where there was doubt or regret on their faces that could have been explored.

As a topic it’s something that has been explored many times in Hindi cinema, in more (Baaghi, Sadak) and less glamorous (Chandni Bar) ways, it is interesting to see a western point of view and although the movie ends with a positive note, (and even a Great Escape style climax) any straight thinking person would understand that is the point in the movie where fantasy takes over and just how sad the reality of so many Laxmi’s really is.

 

For more information about Sold’s release date, go to www.soldthemovie.com

#TaughtNotTrafficked
http://www.childreach.org.uk/TaughtNotTrafficked/

Million Dollar Arm Review Liff 2014

Million Dollar Arm_01I’ll let the product speak for itself” declares actor Madhur Mitthal enthusiastically when introducing the screening of Disney’s crossover offering Million Dollar Arm at the London Indian Film Festival. And that is precisely what Million Dollar Arm is – a product, neatly wrapped in cellophane, slotting obediently into an awkward space between mainstream Hollywood and what Hollywood thinks will sell to its own domestic market as well as to a primarily Indian audience.

Based on a true story, US sports agent JB Bernstein (Jon Hamm) travels to India to find a cricket player to turn into a major sports star and secure his own business/career in the process. Of course, the process is not as simple as JB thinks and as he brings his two finds back to LA, he finds his life changes in an unexpected but Hollywood kind of pleasing way.

There are some fun moments in Million Dollar Arm – throwaway lines (bribing in India is described as “bypassing the system“), small set pieces which wryly observe culture clashes (when the boys tease JB about his walk of shame the night before) and of course every scene the wonderful Alan Arkin is in as a retired and grumpy talent scout. The cast also share a nice chemistry which the script doesn’t necessarily cater for and it almost feels like these moments take everyone by surprise (in a good way) before reverting back to auto pilot as the film veers towards its inevitable destination.

But overall, Million Dollar Arm feels clinical and felt like any other sports film where the underdog comes out on top against all the odds, only this time, the twist is the Indian influence is conveniently moulded from inspirational to comical to alien to familiar as per the needs of the story. This is a shame as if the script had gotten its hands dirty or dared to explore the more uncomfortable questions it manages to avoid, it may have been closer to that pan market hit it seems determined to be.

Thankfully, the cast are all rather good – Madhur Mitthal and Suraj Sharma portray Dinesh and Rinku’s journey well from overwhelmed young boys to finding themselves as sportsmen. Pitobash gives a good account of himself as Amit as does Lake Bell whose Brenda is like a breath of fresh air each time she appears on screen. Jon Hamm makes for a suitably rugged lead with a charm and ease that endears the audience towards him.

Whilst Million Dollar Arm does not really push the so called “crossover” canon forward in any way, the fact that it has some likeable and truthful moments shows the potential that this film has and if it had been allowed to find a space of its own, it may well have reached a wider audience that it seems to be aiming for. For now though, Million Dollar Arm entertains but ultimately does not fulfill. This is a Eat, Pitch, Love for a family audience.

Million Dollar Arm is on general release in the UK from 29th August 2014.

Million Dollar Arm

Directed by: Craig Gillespie

Starring: Jon Hamm, Suraj Sharma, Madhur Mitthal, Lake Bell, Pitobash

Bhushan Kumar is a Hindi film and fashion obsessed being living and working in London.

Follow Bhushan on Twitter: @bogeyno2

Blog: http://bogeyno2.wordpress.com/

Qissa: The Tale Of The Lonely Ghost Review LIFF 2014

Qissa_01There are some films that remain with the viewer long after the fade to black – Qissa: The Tale Of The Lonely Ghost one of them. This haunting tale tells of Umber Singh (Khan) who is uprooted by the Partition of 1947 along with his wife and three daughters. Displaced from the newly created Pakistan to the Punjab in India, Singh believes having a son will bring the stability he has lost. So when his wife gives birth to another daughter, Singh creates an elaborate delusion that has far reaching and tragic consequences for all.

There is so much to talk about in Qissa that it is impossible to know where to start. Whether is the debate of nature versus nuture, the unforgiving nature of patriarchy or the search for one’s true self, all these issues are neatly referenced without feeling laboured or clumsy. Anup Singh (the writer and director) manages to weave a very complex story that insists on keeping its characters at the heart of the action and even has the audience colluding with Umber’s vision (no spoilers here).

Mention must also go to the cinematography and original score; there are some stunning visuals here, with the lighting and composition giving an eerie feel – at times, one feels they are looking at a magnificent oil painting in a deserted haveli (mansion). Similarly, the score is subtle and underplayed, yet the way it heightens the dramatic impact is at once impressive and moving.

Performance wise, Khan does the impossible again; playing an unpopular character with a sympathy and dignity which leaves the viewer conflicted but with a grudging understanding of the circumstances that lead to the character’s motivations. Chopra is very restrained as the mother who suffers for her children whilst Raskia Dugal is a revelation as Neeli, fully embracing the journey that Neeli goes on and pitching it with conviction.

However, it is Bengali actress Tillotame Shome who astonishes here as Kanwar, the girl brought up as a boy – it is rare to see someone imbibe a role so fully and make something that could easily go wrong with one nuance seem so effortless and natural. Everything from her expression to her body language is faultless and she is the true nucleus of Qissa which is no mean feat.

Qissa is the perfect film to watch as part of a festival but it is also heartening to know it will have a general release in India. Not only are the LGBT themes handled with sensitivity and tact but also with a timely relevance for today’s audiences. In fact, though this is a period piece, there is no doubt Qissa has a modern sensibility to it and deserves to be seen and appreciated by diverse audiences across the world. Quite simply, hauntingly beautiful.

Qissa: The Tale Of The Lonely Ghost is now playing at the LIFF,  will have a limited release in Germany in July 2014 and a general release in India from September 2014 (TBC).

Qissa: The Tale Of The Lonely Ghost

Directed by: Anup Singh

Cast: Irrfan Khan, Tisca Chopra, Tillotame Shome, Raskia Dugal

Bhushan Kumar is a Hindi film and fashion obsessed being living and working in London.

Follow Bhushan on Twitter: @bogeyno2

Blog: http://bogeyno2.wordpress.com/

London Indian Film Festival 2014 starts with Dhol Dhamaka!

It was the opening night of London Indian Film Festival 2014. Now in its 5th year, the festival has become a major platform to showcase the best of what the Indian indie cinema scene has to offer. Running from the 10th to the 17th of July this year, this year’s programme not only features entries from India, but also other countries of South Asia viz. Pakistan and Bangladesh.

It being the opening night at London’s Cineworld Haymarket, the venue was star studded to the brim with familiar celebrities walking the short but shiny red carpet. The celeb list is long, but I have to mention two big names.
Firstly, Gillian Anderson, promoting and supporting her movie – SOLD, which opened the festival this evening.
And secondly, veteran Indian actress Kamini Kaushal.
Gillian looks exactly like she does in The Fall / Hannibal. I know, that’s an obvious statement. But she does. I was lucky enough to be seated just a few rows behind her. Unfortunately selfies weren’t even a remote possibility because she was surrounded by black suit wearing, bald and stout guards. Quite the stereotype for a Hollywood biggie, but there you go. I wonder what kind of guards J-Law has.


Kamini Kaushal on the other hand, was seated not so far from us. She looks like she hasn’t aged a single day from the last time I saw her in a movie – perhaps in a Dadijee role in Har Dil Jo Pyar Karega.

The opening night movie of the festival was Academy Award winner, director Jeffrey Brown’s SOLD – based on a real stories, is about a girl called Lakshmi who falls prey to a child-trafficking gang, and is smuggled into Kolkata. It is expected that with a subject matter like this, the movie is going to be a hard watch. It did make me feel very uncomfortable in a few portions. And it made me wonder whether this was a good choice as the opening movie for the festival. Previous years have seen such movies such as Gangs of Wasseypur and Monsoon Shootout as the one’s opening LIFF. Having said that, it is a compelling movie which tells it tale with little dashes of humour, and yet doesn’t shy away from punching you in the gut with its harsh imagery. More on the movie will be discussed on the Upodcast review.
10526065_10152132078792191_766652475416624002_n(1)
And as the lights came up after the end credits, the hall errupted with a loud applause for the makers of this movie. There was a Q&A session held after the movie. And to say the least, it was the most awkward public situations I have ever witnessed. Not because of the topic of child trafficking being discussed. But because of the level of stupidity and banality of the questions that were being thrown at Jeffrey Brown and Gillian Anderson. The usual keywords of “vision”, “preparation”, “feel” were thrown around. Let’s just say, the Q&A pretty much drowned any impact the movie had.

And as we walked out of the auditorium, a good friend of mine introduced me to ace cinematographer and director – Santosh Sivan. And yes, I have been making plenty of noises about that on social networks. And on my way out, I did catch a glimpse of Amy Jackson looking very yellow (because she was wearing a yellow dress), and (if you remember) popstar Raageshwari (of Duniya fame), looking very white (because she was very pale, and wearing white and shimmery). There was some noise about an afterparty being held, but in the words of the great Sweet Brown, “Ain’t nobody got time for that”.

That wraps up opening day of London Indian Film Festival for me. I am looking forward to a feast of good cinema, and you should be looking forward to a barrage of coverage of LIFF from us.

The London Indian Film Festival has screenings all over London until the 17th of July.

For more info head on over to http://www.londonindianfilmfestival.co.uk/

@9e3k

OneKnightStands Bollypop | 9E3K | @9E3K