Irrfan Khan

Review The Master: Shyam Benegal LIFF 2015

Most fans of popular Hindi cinema will be familiar with films like Zubeidaa (2001) and Welcome To Saajanpur (2008) but as The Master: Shyam Benegal shows, Bengal has a formidable body of work before mainstream success; films that won many National Awards, defied convention and were very much ahead of their time – so much so, that today’s cinema will be forever indebted to Benegal’s contribution.

Unfortunately then, The Master has quite a jarring rhythm to it so that the viewer never really gets settled in and feels quite clumsy at times. I also found my attention wandering at one point and at one point, was not sure why we had certain contributors on screen who didn’t offer anything different from what Benegal has already told us. Although the affection Mohammed has for Benegal and his films comes across quite well, I do wish the editing had been more stringent and there was a greater organisation to the material rather than a brisk chronological stroll through Benegal’s filmography.

Thankfully, the subject matter here is fascinating and just about overshadows the flaws- Benegal is a very likeable person who comes across really well as a passionate creative who has conviction in his vision and one gets the sense that his pursuit in making his films really was instrumental in forming independent Indian cinema as we know it today. I felt all of his films could easily fill documentaries of their own, not only because they are rooted in various social causes but also the amazing roster of talent such as Shabana Azmi, Smita Patil, Naseerudin Shah that his films boast.

Out of all the contributors interviewed for The Master, I thought Shabana Azmi’s anecdotes were quite candid and offered a real insight into what it is like to work with Benegal whilst Manoj Bajpayee’s recounting of how Karisma Kapoor asked him not to kiss her on the lips in Zubeidaa is an awkward encounter, especially when Karisma manages to avoid elaborating on the subject. As Neena Gupta points out, most actresses are quite possessive of Benegal after working with him and it is not hard to see why – his films truly offer actresses a wonderful showcase for their talents.

If you have never heard of Shyam Benegal or are unfamiliar with his early work, The Master offers a a guide of sorts of which ones to watch (I had seen Ankur (1974) prior to this and cannot wait to watch Mandi, Nishant and Bhumika as well as a rewatch of Zubeidaa). Hopefully this won’t be the only documentary made on Benegal but it certainly is a starting point to learn more about one of India’s most prolific independent filmmakers.

Directed by: Khalid Mohammed

Narrated by: Naseerudin Shah

The Master: Shyam Benegal played at the London Indian Film Festival.

For more information about the festival and it’s programme, head over to: http://londonindianfilmfestival.co.uk/programme.htm

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/

LIFF 2014 Top Picks The Upodcast team

One of the best UK Indian Film Festivals is upon us again from the 10th to 17th of July.

And since there are a ton of films on offer we roped in some old friends and new to help cover some of the exciting movies showcased.

Here are some of the ones we are really looking forward to and hope to watch/review for you.

Sujoy – @9e3k

SOLD

Opening a film festival has its own pros and cons. Doing the honours this year is SOLD. Directed by Jeffrey Brown, it stars Gillian Anderson amongst other known names from the Indian film industry. The synopsis leads us to believe that it is going to be a powerful movie with a heart-breaking story. It remains to be seen if it can deliver on its promise.L014_NUN_PR

HEMALKASA

Closing the festival is Samruddhi Porey’s Hemalkasa. Starring Marathi cinema’s finest – Nana Patekar, Sonali Kulkarni, Mohan Agashe – the cast itself should be reason enough to lure the audience into the cinema. Revolving around the story of rural development in Maharashtra, I hope Hemalkasa is able to pull the heartstrings of its audience.

Hank And Asha – As the title suggests, Hank And Asha is about the two of them. Judging by its recent Slamdance Audience Award could well be the indie romance movie that you should check out this year.

Barefoot to Goa – Director Praveen Morchhale’s festival darling finally finds its way to LIFF. Set between Mumbai and Goa, the story is a very conventional one that speaks of the bond between grandchildren and grandparents. It is quite inexplicable why this is one of the highlights of LIFF for me. Soon, I’ll let you know why.

Barefoot to Goa – Film Trailer with english Subtitle. from Praveen Morchhale on Vimeo.

Sulemaani Keeda

Everything about this movie screams PRETENTIOUS. When you throw in keywords such as suburban Mumbai underbelly, Tarkovsky, Bollywood – it just comes with a baggage of its own. That is also one of the key reasons why I look forward to this movie. And I wish to be completely corrected on my assumption.

Goopi Gawaiya Bagha Bajaiya – The characters of Goopi and Bagha is not unknown to anyone who has grown up on Satyajit Ray’s cinema. The story of this mischievious duo, previously immortalised by the fantastic Tapen Chatterjee and Robi Ghosh, is now being adapted into a Hindi animated feature. I have great expectations from this version of the magical world of Goopi and Baagha’s adventure.

Sulemani Keeda_01

Ulidavaru Kandante

This movie’s promotional image has men with painted tigers on their face. And the synopsis speaks of the film’s homages to Sin City, Pulp Fiction, Agneepath, Rashomon. Two words – Must Watch, or could be one word – Oversell.

 

Qissa

Festival favourite Irrfan Khan stars in this period piece set during the Partition period. And Tilottama Shome stars too. The story could be a cross between Dil Bole Hadippa and Boys Don’t Cry. And I could be horribly wrong.

Apur Panchali: Not just Ray references, but a whole movie about the actor who acted as protagonist Apu in Pather Panchali. This stars Parambrata Chatterjee, and is directed by Kaushik Ganguly (Arekti Premer Golpo, Shabdo). Sounds like nectar for Ray lovers.

Qissa_01

 

Bhushan- @Bogeyno2

Qissa
Irfan Khan in anything is worth watching (Paan Singh Tomar,The Lunchbox) and Qissa should be no exception. With a flair for making even the most unpleasant of characters seem human (Saat Khoon Maaf anyone?) Khan looks certain to bring another dimension to Umber Singh in a complex role. Much like Khamosh Paani, films on partition tend to make for challenging yet compelling viewing and Qissa looks set to deliver the same.

QISSA – The Tale of a lonely Ghost – Trailer from Heimatfilm on Vimeo.

Million Dollar Arm
As Bollywood and Hollywood look for that elusive pan market breakout film, Million Dollar Arm strikes one as a film that will appeal to a universal audience without trying too hard (a key feature of all the films featured in the London Indian Film Festival). With an interesting cast headed by Jon Hamm and based on a true story, Million Dollar Arm on paper has all the trademarks of a sleeper hit in the making.

 

Asim- @asimburney 

Sold

I am expecting heartbreak from the opening movie of this year’s LIFF produced by Emma Thompson and starring Gillian Anderson, the movie is about “A girl risks everything for freedom after being trafficked from her mountain village in Nepal to a brothel in India.” Director Jeffrey Brown hasn’t directed many feature length movies and is mostly known for his work as a writer and TV director but the names attached and the sincerity to make a movie that has something important to say can not be denied. I will be bringing a box of tissues with me but do hope that we wont be starting the festival by exiting the theater bummed out.

But since there is a live Q&A with actress Gillian Anderson attending maybe I can sneak in some questions about Hannibal season 3 or what profound influence she had on a generation of men growing up and tuning into the X files every week.

Qissa:

Another female issue based film about “Umber Singh, a rural Sikh, dispossessed from his homeland by the Partition. He obsessively focuses on the ‘ideal’ of having a son and heir, but as his fourth daughter is born he hides the child’s true identity, she becomes the son of his dreams, but at a terrible cost.”

Irrfan Khan introduced last year’s Monsoon Shootout and seems to be a name that goes hand in hand with Indian Indie movies, always a thoughtful actor that brings quite a bit to the movies he chooses. A lot of times you don’t know the movies showing in festivals so you end up veering towards the names that are familiar to you even though they might not be the ones you would line up to watch on a regular Friday night.

Hank and Asha

A lighthearted breath of air after those first 2 issue based movies, Hank And Asha seems delightful. I saw the trailer for for the first time when it showed at TIFF last year and I knew I wanted to watch it but didn’t know how to. I’m really glad that this little modern day “You’ve Got Mail” is showing at LIFF. Here is the trailer that made me take notice.

Million Dollar Arm: 

Probably this years “biggest” movie with Disney producing, AR Rahman composing and Jon Hamm starring in this based on real life story, which feels like MoneyBall meets City Of Joy. The movie will be releasing in UK theaters august 29th so it’s quite cool to be able to catch this one before general audiences.

Anima State: 

The only Pakistani movie at the LIFF this year and it looks like quite a kinetic experience: A man with a bandage mask across his face goes on a shooting spree across a Pakistani city, gunning down random people. He soon realises that his actions have no consequences and nobody appears to be interested in his murderous deeds, and so he decides to go on live television with a view to committing suicide on air. And that’s when there is a huge twist in the plot.

Sounds a bit like The Man without a Past meets Network mixed in with a little bit of Falling Down. I missed last year’s Josh at the LIFF which got great reviews, and there seems to be a renaissance in Pakistani cinema which again being in the UK we don’t always get a chance to be a part of.

Anima State from Anima State on Vimeo.

 

These are some of our picks, for the full schedule and more trailers you can hear over to: http://www.londonindianfilmfestival.co.uk/programme.htm

Let us know if you have seen any of the movies above or if you are looking forward to them in the comment sections below!

The 4th London INDIAN Film Festival Launches in July

We’ve been fortunate enough to have been covering the London Indian Film Festival for the past couple of years and we just received exciting news that in July the festivities in London are starting again!

Previous years we chatted with Abhinay Deo and Imran Khan for Delhi Belly as well as Anurag Kashyap for Gangs Of Wasseypur!

Although the full program isn’t out yet. At least we can mark down our calendar with this press release:

Now Europe’s largest platform for Indian cinema London Indian Film Festival returns to the capital celebrating the exploding movement of Indian Independent cinema. The fourth annual festival will run from 18-25 July, bringing to UK audiences a rare selection of cutting-edge films from some of India’s hottest independent talents. Going way beyond Bollywood, the festival presents a kaleidoscope of new films that challenge, shock, generate debate and present a more realistic view of the Indian subcontinent today, in all its diversity.

The festival will stretch city wide, opening in the West End at the Cineworld Haymarket and continue at BFI Southbank, Cineworld Shaftesbury Avenue, Wood Green, Wandsworth, the O2 and ICA. For the second time the festival is also teaming up with the Tate Modern.

The London Indian Film Festival also has films and events for a wide range of audiences and includes industry events at BAFTA, exploring Indian/UK co-production and specially commissioned music and performance pieces.

A diverse range of World and UK Premieres will be screened including red carpet opening and closing nights of the hottest previews.

The latest confirmation is a centrepiece master class by actor Irrfan Khan, one of the very few Indians to straddle Hollywood, British and Indian cinema. Khan has come to world attention over the last 25 years with an impressive range of roles from under-dogs to action heroes, long distance runners and corporate megalomaniacs.
His memorable film roles include Oscar winners Life of Pi, Slumdog Millionaire and Salaam Bombay, BAFTA winner The Warrior, The Amazing Spider-Man, and Bollywood hits Maqbooland Paan Singh Tomar. The festival will be honouring this versatile actor with a dedicated evening at the BFI Southbank on Saturday 20th July.

The London Indian Film Festival’s full programme will be released on 18 June.

We are delighted to announce that our major sponsors this year will include O2 International Sim, and the festival is also grant supported for the first time with Lottery funding through the BFI’s Film Festival Fund.

Cary Rajinder Sawhney, Festival Director says:

“It’s great to be working on the zeitgeist of new Indian cinema and we aren’t just showing Indian films for Indian

audiences, but kicking open the door to the rich diversity of independent cinema emerging across the Indian

subcontinent today. These films are accessible to everyone! It’s also exciting to see some of the best of the

filmmakers we have helped champion, now starting to be recognised on the world stage, where they belong. We

are very proud to be showcasing these new films here, first, in London, surely the world’s number one city of

culture, style and innovation”.

For more information on the festival please visit: www.londonindianfilmfestival.co.uk

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