BFI

Ep 228: “We are all living stories”- Shubhashish Bhutiani Talks Hotel Salvation (Mukti Bhavan)

We spoke to Shubhashish Bhutiani, director of Hotel Salvation (Mukti Bhavan), at the London Indian Film Festival just before his UK festival premier. The movie is releasing this week through the BFI in the UK so it was the perfect time to post this interview.

We talk about:

  • Opening night at LIFF
  • How to get a movie made
  • Traveling the world and the difference in audiences
  • Dealing with envy and privilege

“Hotel Salvation has already won ten Indian and international film awards including Best Film at the 2017 New York Indian Film Festival, and the Prix Enrico Fulchignoni at last year’s Venice Film Festival (an award given by the International Council of Film and Television at UNESCO to the Venice film that best represents the values of peace and human rights.) It is now a strong contender to be India’s Academy Award entry in 2018.

There will be a full review Upodcast of Hotel Salvation later this week, Shah Shahid from The Split Screen Podcast will be joining us!

Until then,

You can listen/stream/download the episode below.

Or you can subscribe to our iTunes page and never miss a show

We would love it if you can rate or write us a small review on iTunes! Just click here.

 

 

Newton Review LIFF 2017

In director Amit Masurkar’s second feature, we land into the ever so old tussle between idealism and reality. Set in the backdrop of the world’s largest democratic election in India, with an extremely volatile political air, we see our protagonist Newton Kumar (Rajkummar Rao) trying to make sense of the senselessness, find peace in the chaos, resisting the oppression, and eventually submitting to it. Or did he? I don’t remember having met a person like Newton, the idealist who believes in doing things by the book, no matter what the circumstances be. In fact, Newton is an abberation in the times we live in. Newton is honest, to the point of being proud about it and showing it off, as his senior states.

Masurkar’s second feature couldn’t have been more different to his urban comedy debut (Sulemaani Keeda) about struggling filmmakers in the land of Bollywood. With Newton, Masurkar doesn’t limit his narrative to telling the obvious right from the obvious wrong. We see the world of Newton in the span of the very few days leading to election day. And then as he experiences through the people he meets – the army officer (Pankaj Tripathi), the tribal subordinate female chief (Anjali Patil), his associate clerk (Raghubir Yadav) and juniors, the junior Army officer, his own parents, and the burnt world of the tribals. Newton is embodied by Rao in a performance that doesn’t have dramatic lines to express, but you can smell the frustration of the straitjacketed administration that handicaps what would seem like his obvious dutiful behaviour.

There is a particular scene in Newton which beautifully captures the theme of Newton to me. When Newton is lessoned about the harsh reality of how insignificant an election is to the daily lives of the tribals in the village by his junior clerk, an aspiring writer who has submitted to the routine of a cozy government job, he asks Malko – are you also as Niraashavaadi (pessimistic) as them? She simply replies – No, I am Aadivaasi (tribal). Newton maybe idealistic and wants to carry out his duty, but he is also ignorant of the bigger picture. His willingness to go through any means to achieve his duty goal is short sighted. There is hardly anyone of the 76 tribal people eligible to vote who has a clue of the elections – the candidates representing them, or what they promise to be on their agenda. People are busy making ends meet, worrying about basic necessities of life. And when they are not doing that, they are worried about their homes not being burned down by either the army, or the Naxals. Where does the round idea of democracy fit in this irregularly shaped hole?

As Newton fast descends into a more insane and far fetched tale, we do not lose the sense of realism however. And it is Rajkummar Rao’s grounded performance that makes it so. Now here is a movie that is not simply about an obnoxious idealist that you might not completely agree or identify with. It is also a tale of the far from perfect world we live in – a world fragmented by political interests and corruption, where Newton is not an ideal employee, but almost an absurd lunatic. He is one who needs to be kept silenced and consoled by trophies of punctuation awards. The movie however is not mean spirited about any of its characters. Masurkar narrates the film in a tone balanced between drama and suspense, often juggling it with absolute ease, and there are some humorous moments as well. But the laughs often come at the cost of how harsh the truth is.

@9e3k

Director: Amit Masurkar
Starring: Rajkummar Rao, Pankaj Tripathy, Anjali Patil
Run time: 106 mins | Recommended Certificate: 12A
Language: Hindi with English Subtitles | Year: 2017 | Country: India

An award-winner at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2017, this delightful black comedy stars one of India’s top young character actors, Rajkummar Rao, as Newton, an everyday clerk who is selected for election duty in the conflict-ridden Indian state of Chhattisgarh. As local police and Maoists harass the locals and the voting process spirals out of control, the morally driven Newton becomes a reluctant hero in his zest to save the day.
24 JUNE | 18.10 | BFI SOUTHBANK
25 JUNE | 17.00 | CINEWORLD WEMBLEY

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!

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.

18 JULY | 18:30 | PICTUREHOUSE CENTRAL

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!

AN EVENING WITH SHARMILA TAGORE LIFF 2016 Q+A

“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 www.bogeyno2.wordpress.com or follow him on Twitter: @bogeyno2

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

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

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/

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/

Ep 41 Misfits Season 3 premiere and QandA with Cast and Creators at BFI

One of the very best British things around right now, Channel 4‘s Misfits makes a welcome return to E4.  Asim and Martin were fortunate enough to see a preview screening of the first episode from season 3, at the British Film Institute on London’s Southbank.

Not only a preview screening, but an intro from the producer, plus Q&A with creator Howard Overman and cast members AND a sneak peak trailer for episode 2.  Joining Howard Overman on stage were Lauren Socha (Kelly ), Iwan Rheon (Simon), Nathan Stewart-Jarret & Robert Sheehan replacement, Joseph Gilgun (Rudy).  Ahead of the Q&A the audience was told “whatever you ask, just make sure it’s not about what superpower we’d like to have if we could choose one!”  The cast must get this question so often it’s like an IV drip.

Season 3 opens with the gang almost all back together and with new powers.  Nathan, we are told is “in Las Vegas” and we are left to really get to know the replacement, Rudy, played absolutely perfectly, by Joseph Gilgun.  Sadly Robert, Rudy’s character is fantastic and we’re just not going to miss Nathan at all!

Without divulging too much, the show’s a cracker – slightly-comical death and sexual return to our screens – and by the time we’ve been introduced to Rudy’s new character the gang are back doing community service in the safe hands of the same probabtion officer from the previous episodes.

Set your Tivo for 10pm Sundays on E4 and find out who the real Heroes are.

Beware: The Episode contains spoilers as usual.


@martincawley

Enhanced by Zemanta