Month: July 2016


Although Shekhar Kapur was at the BFI Southbank to talk about making Elizabeth (surely this would have sat better at the London Film Festival than the London Indian Film Festival? #justsaying), I was not so secretly hoping that he would talk about Mr India, one of my all-time favourite films; pleasingly, he did. In fact, I could have listened to a whole talk on the film, such is my devotion to it and the gems he gave did not disappoint – that there was no bound script for the film, many insiders tried to dissuade him from making the film and explained to presenter Nick James (editor of Sight + Sound) how Sridevi’s Seema was based upon Lois Lane from Superman.

He also spoke of how producers felt Sridevi could not be presented as “sexy” (which was immediately disproved by a 10 second clip of that iconic song) or how Amrish Puri stated that he would never escape the shadow of being Mogambo. The most interesting insight was Shekhar talking about metaphorically narrating the film to his 14 year old self and basing his narrative on those reactions – which perhaps explains why it resonated with so many young children (including myself) at the time of release.


by @bogeyno2


by @bogeyno2


by @bogeyno2

The other film that was discussed at length was Bandit Queen which Shekhar called his most instinctive film to date. With no commercial pressure or investors to satisfy, he was able to make his interpretation of the events that led to Phoolan Devi’s incarceration. Surmising the essence as the film of being about gender inequality, he also spoke how he wanted to show “the difference between nakedness and nudity” when filming the graphic sexual violence depicted on screen that survived being cut by the ever snip happy censor board of India.

Then it was time to talk all things Elizabeth. After Bandit Queen brought Shekhar to Cannes, the initial offer of a “frock film” did not appeal. Confessing to Working Title producer Tim Bevan that he was bored of British period dramas, he stipulated he wanted to make the Trainspotting equivalent of a period piece – and to his surprise, Tim agreed. Interestingly, Shekhar also insisted on casting the then relatively unknown Australia actress Cate Blanchett despite every top British actress vying for the role and after threatening to leave the project, he was able to get his way. Drawing parallels between Elizabeth I and Indira Gandhi, he also revealed that Elizabeth was actually a trilogy and was waiting for Cate to age before making the third and final instalment, teasing the theme: “if you think you are divine, how do you face your own mortality?”

Finally, the floor was opened for questions which ranged from what it was like to work with Amrish Puri (a great deal of fun -Mogambo was based on a Shakespearian villain and Amrish was directed to perform as if he were scaring 12 year old children from a rural village) to whether Paani (Water) was still going to be made (it is – has not been shelved but Yashraj Films are no longer producing due to creative differences) to using women editors so that he can redress the gender balance in his cinema and ensure a male viewpoint does not dominate.

Wrapping up the talk, Shekhar elaborated on how films allow one to discover oneself in ways an individual is previously unaware of and the struggle of how to make something relevant to the self is where his source of creativity and inspiration lies. With a candid demeanour and lots of wisdom, Shekhar Kapur not only made for a fascinating speaker but also one of the highlights of LIFF 2016.

Bhushan Kumar is a film obsessed amateur fashionista who lives in London.You can read more from him at or follow him on Twitter: @bogeyno2

For more about the London Indian Film Festival head over to their website or twitter feed!

Let us know what you thought of the review in the comment section below and do continue to check out Upodcast for more coverage of the LIFF!

For The Love of a Man Review LIFF 2016

The devotion some fans have towards their favourite superstars can be witnessed on a daily basis on many a Twitter thread but as this insightful film shows, the dedication some Rajnikanth fans have for him not only dictates the course of their lives but also has the potential to influence the world’s largest democracy, commanding a loyalty and devotion that an average public figure can only dream of.

Divided into three chapters with an introduction and epilogue, we see three different perspectives – one of a businessman/aspiring politician, a lookalike (who cheekily confesses he is actually a Kamal Hassan fan) and a family man who thinks nothing of mortgaging his wife’s jewellery to pay for a fan event whilst his wife struggles to make ends meet and care for her family. All are united by Rajnikanth who plays a central part in their lives; whilst the superfans seek to emulate and do what they think their idol would want them to do, the lookalike finds Rajnikanth may hold the key to his own dreams being realised.

The authorial voice is objective throughout, ensuring it never judges and tries to present a balanced viewpoint; explaining how Rajnikanth reinvented the hero for Tamil cinema from aristocratic model citizens to the working class man who had empathy and charisma, the creation of the superstar stemmed from a political movement that wanted to move people away from religion as their primary source of inspiration and in the process created a behemoth.

At the same time, Rajnikanth fans form an impressive community that look out for one another and pay back to society; organising food for underprivileged children, raising money and installing water tanks in villages as well as regularly convening to think up marketing for upcoming Rajnikanth films and ensuring the films always make their money back, showing a philanthropic side to the world.

For The Love Of A Man reminded me a lot of Being Salman Khan, a documentary which looks at Salman fans who are similarly obsessed with their idol. Both are sympathetic and try hard to show how these fandoms are an outlet for groups of men who feel this is a platform to express their masculinity on and truly is a fascinating world that is not what it appears to be on first glance. Moving and compelling in turn, For The Love Of A Man is worth a watch, whether you are a fan of Rajnikanth or not.

Bhushan Kumar is a film obsessed amateur fashionista who lives in London.

You can read more from him at or follow him on Twitter: @bogeyno2

For more about the London Indian Film Festival head over to their website or twitter feed!

Let us know what you thought of the review in the comment section below and do continue to check out Upodcast for more coverage of the LIFF!

Song of Lahore Review LIFF 2016

Before we even start talking about Song of Lahore, do yourself a favour. Go and watch the following video.

This was the video that started it all. Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and Andy Schocken’s Song of Lahore is a documentary that chronicles the surprising journey of an ensemble of classically trained Pakistani musicians – from the troubled streets of Lahore, to the their moving performance at Jazz at Lincoln Center, New York. It is moving, touching, and even educational as we the audience join the musicians of Sachal Studios as they embark on their quest for excellence.

For the first 20 odd minutes, I admittedly found myself struggling to find a focus in the material. Too many individuals were introduced into the narrative, without any context to explain to me why I should care about them. But before I could even begin to prematurely dismiss any story, I was hooked in by the sincerity in their music. It is by means of these different individual tales coming together cohesively in a flourishing moving music piece that the “Song of Lahore” blossoms into its own melody. Like the jazz music the documentary is centered on, Song of Lahore is about the unwavering spirit of these Lahore musicians coming together against all odds of oppression, religious fascism, and even tyranny that almost killed their existence.

Lahore has been one of the cultural landmarks of Pakistan, housing great musicians, artists, writers, poets and painters for thousands of years, until the late 70’s when Pakistan’s political atmosphere drastically shifted to become one of an Islamic republic. Since then, most art, particularly music, has been considered sinful. As a result, Pakistan’s once rich culture of art has diminished, as artists struggle to even make ends meet, and have resorted to doing other jobs. And yet, as Song of Lahore reminds us, the art hasn’t completely died – it has simply changed from being people’s careers to becoming a passionate hobby among those who are still trying hard to pass on their knowledge to the new generation, and even attracting new audiences by fusing traditional sounds with modern ones. Sachal Studios decides to drum up attention by posting a Youtube video playing Dave Brubeck’s Take Five with Pakistani instrumentation. The clip goes viral, and gives them the chance to perform in New York alongside Wynton Marsalis. Thus, the Sachal Jazz Ensemble is born.

Originally content to remain obscure bearers of the Pakistani musical heritage, this opportunity brings the Sachal Jazz Ensemble to gain worldwide attention and truly hit its stride. It is Sachal’s chance to finally find the recognition they’ve missed out on, and also shows how a love of music transcends any barrier. It is heart-warming to see these men who are clearly past their prime, with their withered faces and grey hair, and still smiling wide with a passion so infectiously inspiring. And at the same time it is heartbreaking to think of how they have been deprived of what could have been. Born into a family of musical geniuses, and in a broken nation that looks down upon art, it has not just deprived these musicians from their future; it has deprived their nation of endless possibilities and the world of music greats. As neighbouring India almost takes cultural freedom for granted and takes pride in its geniuses – be it Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Ustad Zakir Hussain, Pt. Ravi Shankar, Pt. Shiv Kumar Sharma, or even A.R. Rahman, Pakistan has only lost this opportunity to nurture its talented sons and daughters. As the Sachal gang walk down Times Square and enjoys street performers, one of them comments – “They are poor musicians, just like us”. It hit me hard.

And then we see them singing “Country Roads, Take Me Home” with New York’s infamous Naked Cowboy. And it instantly brought a smile on my face, and surprised me how musical unity can come through in the most unpredictable of places.

The final performance at the Lincoln Center acts as the culmination of all their struggles and their pure and unadulterated love for music. Even with all the tension of rehearsals and adapting a new genre of music, the performance is sensationally tremendous, impactful, and echoes with applause. But I found it a little too short, as I was left wanting for more (I was quite relieved to find out that some of the performances are available online on Youtube). The performance provokes tears of both pride and relief. I was left dazzled by these courageous seniors, and the melody stuck in my head. I felt spiritually refreshed and joyous, and with eyes full of tears. The optimism is consistent in Song of Lahore‘s overall tone and interest in perseverance. I cannot recommend this enough.

Song of Lahore will stir you to the core.

A Song of Lahore is part a double bill by South Asia’s only double Oscar winning director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy. Based in Karachi, her documentaries capture key social issues and great moments of contemporary Pakistani culture.


Check out more of Sujoy‘s work at OneKnighStand and Bollypop!

For more about the London Indian Film Festival head over to their website or twitter feed!

Let us know what you thought of the review in the comment section below and do continue to check out Upodcast for more coverage of the LIFF!


“Are my answers too long?” Sharmila Tagore asks halfway through her answer to the first question about her esteemed lineage (her great grandfather was responsible for bringing Cubism to India whilst her grandfather was the poet laureate Rabindranath Tagore). The truth is one could listen to Sharmila talking all night; eloquent, polished and engaging, whether it was recounting her time in regional cinema or as one of the reigning superstars at a time when art house and commercial cinema were two different worlds, this Q&A was full of amazing anecdotes and stories that as director Sangeeta Datta put it “evoked lost worlds“.

A large portion of the Q&A centred on Sharmila’s work with Satyajit Ray; after a clip from Apun Sansar (The World Of Apu) was shown (which also saw Sharmila rightly questioning why a subtitled version was not shown for all the non-Bengali speakers), she described in detail the direction she had been given and also quoted key dialogues, commenting how economical the words used were but their impact was devastating when delivered under Ray’s direction. A clip from her next film Devi was equally fascinating, especially when Sharmila pointed out they had been shown out of order and presented the context herself. Sharmila

However, it was her work in Hindi cinema in the 70’s that seemed to really get the audience interested – what it was like to work with Rajesh Khanna (did you know Roop Tera Mastana was shot in one take as they only had a few hours to shoot it in), Shammi Kapoor (unpredictable; he would do one thing in rehearsal and then improvise in the actual take) and how Deewana Hua Badal from Kashmir Ki Kali was the first song Sharmila lip synched to and found it challenging as Hindi was not her first language but living in Bombay helped her learn fast.

Then came questions from the audience which Sharmila took on with aplomb – praising Priyanka Chopra, Deepika Padukone, Kangana Ranaut and Vidya Balan when asked about current heroines whilst also reiterating she herself had taken roles where her characters had “agency till the end“. She also spoke about her recent visit to the Lahore Literary Festival as well as her time on the Censor Board, telling how she tried and failed to rebrand it as the CFBC rather than just the “censor board” as well as (in what was the line of the night) “politics divide but Hindi films unite“.

Finishing on the notion that “films are a wonderful profession” and how she had managed to juggle motherhood and work at a time when it was not the norm, one audience member commented how Sharmila was like a representative for women now as much as she was at the height of her star power. With an incredible body of work behind her, felicitated with Festival Icon Award as well as being invited to be a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, it will be interesting to see what Sharmila does next.


Bhushan Kumar is a film obsessed amateur fashionista who lives in London.

You can read more from him at or follow him on Twitter: @bogeyno2

For more about the London Indian Film Festival head over to their website or twitter feed!

Cinemawala Review LIFF 2016

It does sound ironic that the film industry across the world has chosen digital media over film as its preferred future, even though it’s named after it. Much has been already said about this deviation, and only a select few filmmakers in the world continue their struggle to keep the torch burning. Digital media makes it easier for films to be released in more screens simultaneously, with a cleaner print and an almost flawless archiving process. It also has single-handedly spelt the doom for the art of film projection and the traditional single screen cinema which takes pride in that “larger than life” quality of the big screen. It is the struggle of letting go of this attachment to the glorious past that Kaushik Ganguly’s Cinemawala tries to explore. It brilliantly juxtaposes this struggle with the strained relationship between a father and his son. The parallel drawn between the two – the older generation set in their own ways and strict moral code, and the successor who just wants validation and success by all means, is brought to life by some brilliant performances.


The father of the Das family – Pranabendu Das, played exceptionally well by veteran Bengali actor Paran Banerjee, runs his family fish whole seller business with his only son Prokash (Parambrata Chatterjee, Kahaani). He also owns a failed single screen cinema, Kamalini, named after his separated wife. His cinema has seen better days, and along with his old confidante Hari, he dwells in the glorious days of the past – the days of Uttam Kumar, the days of CINEMA as it was meant to be. Prokash on the other hand, is the opportunist son, who reluctantly helps his father with the family business, but is more keen on making a quick buck by selling pirated DVDs. While Das senior’s life revolves around movies of the past, he realises that his son has a similar obsession, albeit an illegal way to be a “Cinema wala”.

There is a certain quality of ache and loneliness in Ganguly’s framing of the character of Pranabendu. And Paran Bandopadhyay just slips into this character effortlessly. His eyes and droopy face portray a defeated old man, who is struggling to give up what he holds so dear. His embarrassment from his own blood is painful to watch, and his love for cinema is inspiring. Parambrata plays the greedy son Prokash quite well, and at times can be quite slimy. Prokash’s wife played by Sohini Sarkar supports the two leads seamlessly. And there is even some comic relief. But my favourite character, surprisingly is Hori – played by Arun Guhathakurta. His loyal demeanour towards Pranab from the start reel makes one feel very attached to him. I won’t go into spoilers – but there is a scene where Pranab has sell of his big projection machines. Hori is cleaning it before the new owners come to pick it up, and he asks Pranab if he can spend some time with it alone. He has been in that projection room since he was 23, and to me it felt like Hori considered these machines to be his daughters, and now it’s time for their ‘bidaai’. It is a heartbreaking scene and I am sure there won’t be a single dry eye at the cinema when you watch it.


With the cinema industry finding newer ways to distribute movies, battling piracy and illegal downloads, and single screens becoming a thing of the past, what choice does the older generation have than to let go. The swan song of the single screens has not yet been sung, but people continue to be besotted by the swanky new multiplexes. Nostalgia is a dangerous thing. CinemaWala, in a not so subtle way, tries to pose this age old problem of accepting or resisting change. Go watch it, and give this piece of cinema a big hug. Cheers to the Golden Jubilee years!

Starring : Paran Bandopadhyay, Parambrata Chatterjee, Sohini Sarkar & Others
Presented by : Shrikant Mohta & Mahendra Soni.
Produced by : Shree Venkatesh Films
D.O.P : Soumik Halder
Art Direction: Dhananjoy Mondal.
Music & Background Score : Indraadip Dasgupta.
Edit : Subhajit Singha
Story, Screenplay & Direction : Kaushik Ganguly.

CinemaWala, directed by Kaushik Ganguly is playing at the London Indian Film Festival this weekend.

16 JULY | 18:00 | ICA


Check out more of Sujoy‘s work at OneKnighStand and Bollypop!

For more about the London Indian Film Festival head over to their website or twitter feed!

Let us know what you thought of the review in the comment section below and do continue to check out Upodcast for more coverage of the LIFF!

Sultan Review: Bhaicot, Feminism and Muslim Superheroes Upodcast

For this week’s major Bollywood release Sultan, directed by Ali Abbas Zafar and starring Salman Khan and Anushka Sharma, we are joined by Sujoy (@9e3k)  and Anisha (@jhavanis) to  break down a myriad of topics:

We gingerly discuss the topic of “Bhaicot”
The stand out supporting characters
Diversity and inclusion in Bollywood
We discuss Pradeep Menon’s article about Anushka’s feminism which you can find here
Ali Abbas Zafar and the stable of YRF directors
Sultan’s soundtrack
Spoiler section
What are hopes are for Dangal

You can listen/stream/download the episode below.

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