LIFF

Bridge: review

The debut feature from Amit Ranjan Biswas, Bridge, draws together a lot of big questions, into a relatively small setting.

Bridge

In summary, a simple story; two strangers, both at the end of their tether, encounter each other on a bridge while attempting to commit suicide.  We have no idea why and this is slowly revealed as the film unfolds.  Little by little, like layers of an onion being peeled back, we understand more about the two main characters, played by Soumitra Chatterjee and Sandhya Mridul.  Bridge is a very still film, shot in a very patient and tranquil way, with a lovely eye to photography.  And this establishes the platform for things such as: love, loss, mental illness, and more importantly, hope, love, happiness.  Forgetting his own suicide attempt, Soumitra’s widower, prevents a young woman from taking her own life and, upon taking her home with him, discovers there is far more to her story than simply wanting to kill herself.  Clearly traumatised, to the point she cannot walk properly, communicate or even eat, Soumitra repots the incident at the bridge to authorities, who show a very establishment reaction – log the incident, take names, locations, add it to the catalogue they’re already investigating and then send the woman to a hostel.

The reality of mental illness is such that there is no procedure that will magically make the problem go away – and this is reflected in Soumitra’s character, who it transpires is battling his own demons and depression, following the death of his wife and the loss of his daughter.  As we discover more about both of the stories, it’s the little things that make the big impacts – be that the starting to eat again, going to have a shave and a haircut, or simply changing the clothes worn.  Whilst not at all a difficult or depressing film to watch, I did fear for Mridul’s character when the clumsy attempts by the authorities nearly send her back over the edge again, undoing all of the hard work and perseverance of Soumitra and his staff.  I am sure this is all too common in cases of mental illness but thankfully in his instance we see common sense, love and patience rule the day.  However at this point we finally understand the true horror of her past and it is quite sobering indeed.

A lovely sense of serenity came over me at the end of Bridge and it was not at all saccharine, fitting in perfectly with the tone the film had already established.  There are a few minor things i had an issue with – the story of his daughter I never quite understood, for example – but throughout there are lovely touches such as the flute player, or the shots of birds in the city.  I think a western production would have zeroed in one one or two of the biggest themes and tried to explain them somehow, with a conclusion of sorts, but this is the joy of watching foreign films and seeing a different take on a universal theme.  Quite possibly not the film you think it is or could be, I recommend this for anyone looking to Asian cinema and wanting something outside the traditional Bollywood offering.

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!

Ep 224: LIFF 2017 Preview – What To Watch?

The London Indian Film Festival (LIFF), regarded as Europe’s largest Indian film festival returns for its 8th edition to London and Birmingham and we are joined by Josh Hurtado from Screen Anarchy to help us navigate through broad choice of movies.

On this episode, we pick out the movies that excite us or intrigue us.

For the entire program, dates and tickets head over to www.londonindianfilmfestival.co.uk

 

You can listen/stream/download the episode below.

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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 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!

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!

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

17 JULY | 18:00 | 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!

Nirbashito Review LIFF 2015

Debutante director and lead actress Churni Ganguly’s semi-biographical take on controversial writer Taslima Nasrin is absolutely soul stirring. In Nirbashito (Banished), even though the protagonist has no name, and is always referred to as Lady, or Madam, the resemblance to Nasrin is unmistakable. The story circles around this controversial figure – a female writer who has caused a stir amongst the powers to be with her literary works that question the patriarchal society that is deeply rooted in religion. As a result, she has been deported from her residence in Kolkata, to the cold and dreary interiors of Sweden. Her exile away from home, and her struggle against the loneliness that comes to haunt her is what Nirbashito is all about.

On paper, that does sound like a very uncomfortable and miserable watch. But Churni Ganguly’s portrayal of “the Lady” turns it into an unforgettable and personal journey that makes for compelling drama. She conveys the complex layers of this real person effortlessly. The dark circles under her smokey eyes show the lethargy in her – the sort that you perhaps get after a strenuous long flight. In this case, she is tired of being dragged from port to port, of having no home to call her own, and with no clear sign of where it all ends. And the constant irritation of not being able to speak with someone in one’s own language or eat the food that one likes in a foreign land – her banishment punishes her every day in a new way. And yet, against all odds, she continues to channel her struggle and turn it into the most lyrical prose. Ganguly’s portrayal is absolutely note perfect.

And on the other side of the spectrum, are the ones who are handling “The Lady”s cat – Baaghini. Saswata Chatterjee (Kahaani, Bhooter Bhabishyat) plays the compassionate friend who is looking after the cat, and is also juggling his own daily drama – a pregnant wife who feels deprived, and the circus of bureaucracy. This parallel story line provides the much needed comedic relief in this otherwise bleak tale. Supported excellently by the ensemble cast that includes Kaushik Ganguly (Churni Ganguly’s husband in real life), Raima Sen, and Martin Wallstorm (Mr. Robot), Nirbashito received the National Award for the Best Bengali Film, and much deservingly so.

Nirbashito’s empty wide shots of nothingness conveys the deafening silence of loneliness, and leaves you feeling the pain that one goes through when freedom of choice, and speech are snatched away from you. Amongst all the human drama, it highlights one of the most burning topics of today. The Lady says to her friend, “It is a fight between the pen and the sword. And the sword always wins”. Truer words were never spoken.

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

Follow Sujoy on Twitter: @9e3k

Nirbashito still has a screening on the 22nd of July at the London Indian Film Festival.

Head over to http://londonindianfilmfestival.co.uk/programme.htm for more info and tickets.

 

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!

LIFF 2014: Europe’s Largest South Asian Film Event is Back!

Emma Thompson’s Sold, Million Dollar Arm & Bollywood Stars at London INDIAN Film Festival

Executive produced by actor Emma Thompson, Sold will be the red carpet European Premiere opening night film of the Fifth annual London INDIAN Film Festival (July 10-17). This film is a powerful, survival against the odds tale about a young Nepali girl who is trafficked to Kolkata, India. Gillian Anderson stars with a great Indian and Nepali ensemble cast including Seema Biswas (Bandit Queen). Central highlights of the festival will be the UK Premiere of the true story Million Dollar Arm, from The Walt Disney Company, starring Jon Hamm (Mad Men) and Suraj Sharma (Life of Pi). Bollywood’s hottest actor Farhan Akhtar and South Indian cinematography supremo Santosh Sivan will be giving rare screen talks at the BFI Southbank. Closing the festival will be the World Premiere of Hemalkasa, an homage to the revolutionary human rights leader Prakash Baba Amte, starring Bollywood hero Nana Patekar. Many other special guests are expected to a packed week of UK first screenings.

Now Europe’s largest platform for Indian cinema, the London Indian Film Festival returns to the Capital, in association with Pure Heaven, the British Film Institute, and official Hotel Partner Grange Hotels, celebrating the exploding movement of Indian Independent cinema and bringing to UK audiences a rare selection of cutting-edge films from some of the Indian subcontinent’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 India and the subcontinent today, in all its diversity. The festival will stretch citywide, opening in the West End at the historic Cineworld Haymarket, and continuing at BFI Southbank, Cineworld cinemas Wembley, Wood Green, Wandsworth and O2 in Royal Greenwich and ICA near the Pall Mall, so there is a screening near you.

The first weekend of this high-impact festival launches with Sold, on 10th July which explores the controversial theme of child trafficking; one school girl’s battle against the odds and the dangerous journey to liberate her from the Kolkata mafia; expect a glamorous line up of celebs to follow X Files and The Fall actress Gillian Anderson down the red carpet.

On 12th July Rotterdam Film Festival headliner Qissa: Tale of a Lonely Ghost, has its UK Premiere, Irrfan Khan (Slumdog Millionaire, Life of Pi) plays a rural Punjabi father hell bent on having a son and heir, no matter what the consequences. Apur Panchali, based on a true-life story, is an emotionally charged homage to Satyajit Ray’s impoverished child character Apu and the real-life person who played one of the most famous child roles in world cinema. It screens on 13th July. By contrast Slamdance audience winner Hank and Asha explores a new generation of trans-global online romance, at ICA and Cineworlds across London. The festival’s Central Gala is the inspirational true story Million Dollar Arm that follows the uplifting journey of two Indian boys whose lives are transformed by a national TV contest and against the odds end up going to the US to train to become major sports stars.

As well as films in the Hindi, Punjabi, Tamil, Kannada and Malayalam languages, and UK/Pakistani film Anima State, in Urdu, the festival previews its first Bangladesh based film Shongram (Struggle) directed by Munsur Ali. In terms of special talks, India’s most celebrated cinematographer and acclaimed director Santosh Sivan gives a unique Masterclass at BFI Southbank, 11th July. The multi-talented singer, actor and director Farhan Akhtar rocks into town on 15th July and offers an insight on his high-octane career so far, including his iconic recent role as muscle rippling athletics hero Milkha Singh in Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. Expect lots of female fans! Bollywood icon Nana Patekar stars in the festival’s uplifting closing World Premiere of Hemalkasa. Directed by Samruddhi Porey it’s guaranteed to make you cry and smile at the same time.

London Indian Film Festival also includes industry events at BAFTA, exploring UK and Indian subcontinent co-productions. The winner of the annual Satyajit Ray Short Film Competition will be announced at the end of the festival, with short-listed contenders battling it out at the ICA on 15th July. We are delighted to announce that our Major Sponsors this year will include Queen’s Award for Enterprise International Trade winner Sunmark Ltd, producers of Pure Heaven brand and founding sponsor Grange Hotels. The festival is also grant funded for by the BFI Film Festival Fund.

Emma Thompson comments: “It is wonderful to have our film premiered at London Indian Film Festival, to raise awareness of child-trafficking, which is an issue close to my heart and is shockingly on the increase world-wide. We hope that this film will make people think and highlight the support for key charities such as The Helen Bamber Foundation and others working in this difficult area in India, Nepal and elsewhere”.

Says Farhan Akhtar: “At its heart, Cinema is about sharing ones culture with the world. Be it on screen or in representation of ones work. I look forward to sharing my experiences, memories and motivations.”

Cary Rajinder Sawhney, Festival Director comments: “We are delighted that the festival is now firmly established on the London and international scene after five amazing years. If you want to find out more about South Asian cinema, come to London and soak yourself in a week of magnificent, world class cinema”

For more information and how to book tickets head over to:

www.londonindianfilmfestival.co.uk

Join their on social media:

www.facebook.com/LondonIndianFilmFestival | www.twitter.com/LoveLIFF

 

 

Gangs of WasseyPur Review At LIFF 2012

Right from the 6 minutes uncut first shot which has enough guns blazing to make Tarantino proud, Gangs of Wasseypur (GoW) sets out on a journey that will leave you gasping, shaken and stirred to the core. We are thrown right in the middle of the action, in the smokey and dark alleys, and you feel that despite of its length, Director Anurag Kashyap’s two-parter 5 hour long gangster magnum-opus, has a kineetic sense of urgency. Set in the land of coal mafia hub Wasseypur and Dhanbad, GoW  is rocking, grim, real and yet poetic somehow. It deserves all the praise that it has garnered from every possible film festival out there, to the last drop. I was at the London Indian Film Festival Premiere of the first part, which sees the rise of Sardar Khan and the genesis of the coal mafia of Wasseypur, and what I witnessed, might just be one of the best works from the auteur.

 

The story of GoW is nothing less than a Greek tragedy; immersed in revenge, betrayal, loyalty, and blood – lots of it. Spanning across generations, and overflowing with characters which will leave an indelible impression on your minds, this epic gangster story begins with Shahid Khan, who is oucast from Wasseypur by the Qureshis. He leaves for Dhanbad to work for the British coal mines. Post independence, these coal mines become the property of Ramadhir Singh. Shahid Khan, being the hot-blooded Pathan, plans on taking over Ramadhir Singh, and is murdered by Ramadhir Singh. Shahid’s son – young Sardar Khan, shaves his head, vowing not to grow his hair until he has Ramadhir Singh destroyed. And this sets the whole course for a story so bizarrely engulfed with bloodthirsty elements, that you’re compelled to wonder if the events have been exaggerated to some extent. Director Kashyap’s movie has no disclaimers stating the events depicted are fictitious, although he does point out that some timelines, and characters have been juggled around to make it more cinematic.

 

In a gangster film, you might assume that the males would be the ones who cast a shadow, and the women are left in the corner, beaten up and shut down. There are only four female characters in this male-club. But even then, when the males are comparable to ruthless animals, the female characters sometimes outperform their male counterparts, with the aid of a broom, or a ladle. Nagma, Sardar Khan’s first wife is the strongest of the lot. She’s the mother of four, and although she might be wearing the compromising wife exterior, her core is of a relentless fighter. Played brilliantly by Richa Chadda (Dolly from Oye Lucky Lucky Oye), we find shades of the Nirupa Roy mother to even a “HunterWali“. Sardar’s second wife Durga, played by Reemma Sen, is the Bengali sexy siren in the tale, y’know – deep neck blouse, sari drapes and all that. She can be a mute at times, and she belatedly contributes to the other branch of the Khan family, quite surprisingly called – “Definitive” Khan (to be played by writer Zeishan Quadri in part 2).

 

Amongst the males, of course male lead Manoj Bajpai stands out as the centre-stage character Sardar Khan. Bajpai is flawless, and breathes life into the persona of Sardar Khan, a man who always has sex on his mind, does not flinch a bit when it comes to stabbing someone on and on. And yet, he fears going back to his wife’s nagging and beating. Tigmanshu Dhulia (director of Haasil and Paan Singh Tomar) makes his onscreen debut as the older Ramadhir Singh and gives a commendable performance. There is not a single note of artificiality in his portrayal, and his transformation from the coal mine contractor to corrupt minister, and staying true to his gangster roots is all reflected in his speech and mannerisms. But the true icing on the cake is the brief round-up of the story of Sardar Khan’s second son, Faizal Khan, played brilliantly by Nawazzudin Shaikh. Faizal will be the focal point of part 2, and I cannot wait to see where his story takes us.

 

Faizal’s courtship with Mohsina might just be the most naturally funny and romantic scene that has been on the Indian screenspace in recent times. And with Mohsina and Faizal, we also get introduced to one of the omnipresent characters of the movie – Bollywood. Throughout the narrative, Bollywood serves as a quite witness to the unfolding of the events, often present as scraps of posters on walls, or tunes on a radio in a tea-stall. From “Trishul” to “Kasam Paida Karne Waale Ki” to “Maine Pyar Kiya“, the influence and reach of Bollywood almost aids as an indicator of the shifting times. Amidst all the gun-cultured gangsters, like in Ishaqzaade, we do get a taste of rural entertainment as well. But instead of a gyrating Gauhar Khan, we have a Yashpal Sharma cameo singing “Salaam-E-Ishq” in both male and female voices, accompanied by the world’s most horrible orchestra ever. Just cinematic gold!

 

No review of GoW is complete without mentioning the cracking soundtrack by Sneha Khanwalkar. From the folk sounds which capture the rural backdrop of Dhanbad and Wasseypur, to the moody tunes of Kehke Loonga, to the “Super-Heroic” Jiya Ho Bihar Ke Lala, the soundtrack offers adrenaline shots at regular intervals. Hunter is already a runaway hit, and deservingly so. Offering the more poetic side to the violence, and the ongoing gut slashing, is the background score which switches from western spaghetti acoustic guitars and trombones, to metal riffs in a flash. Take a bow Ms Khanwalkar. I am ready to get drowned in the second soundtrack CD for Part 2.

 

To conclude, go watch this epic of a movie, and be a witness to the unveiling of a story of Mahabharata proportions. The language is colourful (like in a X-Rated way) and the humour will leave you giggling. The violence, though is not gory (most of it is suggestive), yet is shot in a continuous format, and is more effective. The cinematography by Rajeev Ravi leaves you with numerous painting shots, and I cannot say any further about how much I loved this movie without revealing any further plot details (although the subtitles were a bit disappointing – they translated “Saale” as fucker). We have been promised a climactic showdown in Part 2, which releases in a month. And I’ll definitely be back to the land of Wasseypur, hungry for more.

 

Verdict: A Slashing Five Star Out of Five

 

This review was written by Sujoy Singha also known as @9e3K on twitter, to check out more of his amazing work, head over to his blogs OneKnightStand and BollywoodLife

 

Gangsters, Queens and Rappers: 3rd LIFF serves up an explosive cocktail

The 3rd Edition of the London Indian Film Festival (20 June – July 3) is a feast for the senses, featuring circuses, mobsters, cockfights, transvestites and kite-flying, set in some of the world’s greatest cities and some never before seen virgin locations.

With funding from Film London and supported by the BFI and BAFTA, and sponsored by Western Union, the festival brings to UK audiences a selection of cutting edge films from some of the hottest independent talents from India, UK, US and Bangladesh.

The UK Premiere of Anurag Kashyap’s Gangs of Wasseypur, right after its full house screenings at the Cannes Directors’ Fortnight, opens the festival, at Cineworld, Haymarket on 20 June. British director Danny Boyle has cited Kashyap’s Black Friday as an inspiration for Slumdog Millionaire. The film is produced by Viacom 18.

The festival hosts World Premieres of two British films. Tooting Broadway featuring Elizabeth Henstridge,who has been touted the next Keira Knightley, from her beginnings in the TV series Hollyoaks, to her new status in Hollywood, where she will be seen in the upcoming horror film by the Butcher Brothers’, The Thompsons. Arjun and Alison has a storyline with parallels to the murder of British teenager, Stephen Lawrence and is a film that tackles racism in British society.

The festival will go on to showcase the work of the new wave of independent South Asian and British Asian filmmakers, including a director only named as Q, Rajan Khosa and Srijit Mukherji, whose thrill a minute whodunit Baishey Srabon (Seventh August) will close the festival on July 3, alongside a Q&A with its beautiful actress, Raima Sen.

The festival will stretch city wide, in venues like the Tate Modern, Cineworld O2 and ICA for the very first time and returning venues like the BFI Southbank, Nehru Centre, Watermans and Cineworlds Trocadero, Wood Green and Wandsworth.

Delhi In A Day engages the British writer of All God’s Creatures, Billy Fox, as the storyline consultant. US film A Decent Arrangement stars Adam Laupus (Law & Order) and Shabana Azmi (Kathyrn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty, Mira Nair’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Deepa Mehta’s Midnight’s Children).

Festival Director Cary Rajinder Sawhney says:

“As part of the festival we are undertaking several exciting new commissions, mixing film and arts, one of these is Gandu Circus – a live Jungle – rap rock performance by Kolkata based rapper and revolutionary film director, Q. This performance will be performed on stage at BFI Southbank on 21st June after a screening of Q’s film Gandu, a compelling story of a young Bengali teenager addicted to rap and sexual fantasies. Expect some special guests on stage including Asian Dub Foundation’s Steve Chandra Savale, joining Q for this one-off, unforgettable performance!”

Glamour, dancing and fabulous saris; award winning Queens! Destiny of Dance is set in a palace owned by head transvestite Ammu, played by Seema Biswas (of Bandit Queen fame). Pride London will be cross promoting this event. A definite family favourite will be Busan International Film Festival audience award winner Dekh Indian Circus with Q&A by Tannishtha Chatterjee (BIFA nominated for Brick Lane).

London Indian Film Festival is supported by Film London’s Cultural Film Exhibition Fund through the National Lottery on behalf of the BFI. Partners include Arts Council of England, Cineworld Cinemas, Western Union, Incredible India, Grange Hotels, Skillset, The Nehru Centre, BollySpice, Asiana.tv, Zee TV, Sanona and Eastern Eye, amongst others.

The Satyajit Ray Foundation’s Short Film Competition has joined the Festival with the winning filmmaker receiving a £1,000 Award on 3 July at Cineworld, Haymarket.

All audiences at the festival will be encouraged to vote for this year’s Western Union Audience Award and the winning feature film will be announced at the close of the festival.

Tickets are currently on sale at the BFI and Watermans and sales will commence at Cineworld and other venues from 1st June.

@asimburney

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