London Indian Film Festival

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.

Screen Talk: Mani Ratnam – London Indian Film Festival 2015, BFI Southbank

Mani Ratnam is pretty much how I expected him to be – unpretentious, likeable and a man who doesn’t waste words. When he does speak, there was much to inspire and after the hour and bit talk, I am sure I was not the only who felt charged up to go out and make a film of my own.

With an audience that included Ratnam’s wife Suhasini (an accomplished actress in MalayalamTamilTelugu and Kannada language films) and ace cinematographer Rajiv Menon (who was sat next to me with his wife and Suhasini next to her), the talk was guided by Peter Webber (director of Girl With A Pearl Earring and all set to make his next venture in India) and held at the BFI Southbank which was the perfect place to host this afternoon event as part of the London Indian Film Festival 2015.

When asked about how he became a filmmaker, Ratnam described himself as a “disillusioned management consultant” who was passionate about cinema and wanted to see if he could make a career out of filmmaking. When Webber asked him if anyone had influenced his work, Ratnam mentioned Akira Kurosawa as a favourite but admitted he was generally inspired by anything he had read or seen (as indeed all creatives are).

There was also some good natured ribbing about songs in Indian cinema with Webber saying he admired Ratnam and Indian filmmakers for directing songs in their films. Ratnam explained how directing a song was a “liberating process” and was like making a mini film, with a story arc, choreography and sensibility all of its own. “Songs let you travel emotions in an abstract fashion” said Ratnam before joking that he felt sorry for Western cinema that does not have songs as part of its narrative.

Ratnam also spoke about his working relationship with A R Rehman who has scored the music for many of Ratnam’s films. Naming Bombay as his favourite Rehman soundtrack, Ratnam noted that Rehman was a very special composer who had a unique ability to find his own level in his music as well as achieving what had been asked of him when composing music and that the experience of working with him was a great one.

I was not surprised but interested by Ratnam’s revelation that he doesn’t really understand Hindi in the way he does Tamil. Ratnam went on to explain how he wrote in Tamil, then worked with a Hindi writer to translate the dialogue and then trusted his actors to enact their character properly as Ratnam felt he is unable to control nuances of word in Hindi as well as he would want to and for this reason preferred to work in Tamil.

Webber then took questions from the audience which ranged from what Ratnam does to make a set come alive (“have a good team and work with people better than you”), his inspiration for the strong female roles in his films (all based on the women he has met and his admiration for their amazing strength in character), his favourite director (“Guru Dutt”) and how he offered his first film to his wife but she refused it (“so I married her!” which delighted the audience). All too soon, time was up and Ratnam was presented the London Indian Film Festival icon of cinema award, the first ever recipient of the award to mark the conclusion of the talk.

My favourite anecdote came near the start, where Ratnam talked about how he saw his approach to film as “reinventing what is written on paper”. A simple sentiment that could easily be lost in the process of filmmaking, it struck me that this was exactly what Ratnam has done in each of his films and perhaps is instrumental in making him one of Indian cinema’s greatest filmmakers and a very worthy candidate for a truly fascinating screen talk.

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

Follow Bhushan on Twitter: @bogeyno2

Blog: http://bogeyno2.wordpress.com/

London Indian Film Festival (16 – 23 July 2015)

Rama (Suraj Sharma) & Lalu (Tony Revolori) UrmikaThe Bagri Foundation London Indian Film Festival kicks off with Sundance winner Umrika with hard-hitting cricket documentary Death of a Gentleman to close the festival.

Prashant Nair’s Umrika, winner of the Audience Award at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, starring Suraj Sharma (Life of Pi) and Tony Revolori (The Grand Budapest Hotel), will be the opening night gala of The Bagri Foundation London Indian Film Festival (July 16-23). The festival is now in its 6th edition and firmly established as Europe’s largest showcase for South Asian cinema. Nair’s debut film Delhi in a Day was a great success at the festival’s 2012 edition. Prashant Nair, writer/director of Umrika, said:

“I’m so excited to hear that Umrika will open the London Indian Film Festival this year. We’ve heard such great things about the audiences at LIFF and can’t wait to share our film with them. We’re hoping the film’s nostalgic portrayal of 1980s India, its themes and the many cross-cultural references will resonate with LIFF’s audiences.”

The festival is pleased to announce that the Bagri Foundation, a charity whose aims include the advancement of literacy, education and the arts, with an emphasis on those of India, and the appreciation and understanding of Asian cultures, is on board as the Title Sponsor. Alka Bagri of the Bagri Foundation said:

“Cinema has a vital role to play in exploring lives, sharing emotions, investigating social issues, and expanding horizons. Given the explanatory power of this medium, we are absolutely delighted to be supporting the London Indian Film Festival as title sponsors. The Bagri Foundation is committed to promoting rich cultural endeavours, fostering dialogues and providing platforms for creativity to blossom. In line with this, the Bagri Foundation London Indian Film Festival offers a fantastic opportunity for art lovers to embark on an exciting journey and to immerse themselves in South Asian culture.”

This year, the dynamic festival is also expanding to UK’s second largest city Birmingham with a selection of highlight screenings at Midlands Arts Centre and Cineworld Broad Street.

Sachin fans at Chennai 110320 Photo by Philip BrownThe festival will close with hard-hitting cricket documentary Death of a Gentleman, featuring Ravi Shastri, Kevin Pietersen, Lalit Modi, N Srinivasan and Giles Clarke. Director Sam Collins said:

“Death of a Gentleman has been four years in the making, and we are hugely excited to be chosen as the closing film at the 2015 LIFF. This is a very human story about passion, money and power, and we hope to make a persuasive case to cricket fans and non cricket fans alike that the greatest game in the world needs to change its ways.”

Other programme highlights include: a rare Screen Talk by one of India’s most acclaimed mainstream filmmakers Tamilian giant Mani Ratnam, Berlinale winner Dhanak, Venice winner Court, Toronto doc. Monsoon and also Bengali art-house hit Labour of Love. UK premieres continue with Slumdog-like The Crows Egg and 31st October starring Soha Ali Khan. Nepalese Bollywood actress Manisha Koirala attends to support a charity event for the Nepal Earthquake Appeal. Actress Konkona Sen Sharma will present her films Saari Raat and Gour Hari Dastaan: The Freedom File, with the latter’s director Ananth Mahadevan also in attendance.

The festival includes the coveted Satyajit Ray Short Film Competition & Award, supported by the Bagri Foundation.

Major Partner Sun Mark Ltd returns with its Pure Heaven brand. Other returning partners include Grange Hotels, British Film Institute, Asian Single Solution and Technicolor. Cinema venues include Cineworld Cinemas, BFI Southbank, Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), Picturehouse Central and Midlands Arts Centre.

The full programme will be announced 18th June.

LIFF’s Executive & Programming Director Cary Rajinder Sawhney said:

“It is wonderful that the festival is expanding so rapidly in stature and reach, proving there is an un-tapped market for Indian independent cinema with UK audiences.”

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

Join us on social media: www.facebook.com/LondonIndianFilmFestival & www.twitter.com/LoveLIFF

 

UMRIKA | UK PREMIERE
Hindi with English subtitles | 98 min | India 2015 | Dir. Prashant Nair | with: Suraj Sharma, Tony Revolori, Adil Hussain, Smita Tambe, Prateik Babbar.
This year’s Sundance Audience Award winner is an uplifting, rights of passage tale about two brothers from a small village who have dreams of making it big in Umrika (America). Udai (Pratiek Babbar) is the eldest and adored by his hard-working mum. He leaves their hamlet on a bullock cart to pursue his dream after he says he has received an invitation to work in the US.

Torn between pride and grief his mum waves him off. Months go by but there is no word from Udai, family pride turns to concern. Younger son Rama (Suraj Sharma, Life of Pi), shares the family’s increasing grief and then suddenly letters start to arrive. His parents cheer up again as amazing pictures of the USA fill their lives. All seems well until Rama discovers that the kindly local postman has forged the letters. Rama runs away from home to discover his brother’s true fate.
Q&A with Dir. Prashant Nair and other special guests.
OPENING NIGHT | 16 JULY | 18:00 | CINEWORLD HAYMARKET

DEATH OF A GENTLEMAN | CLOSING NIGHT | LONDON PREMIERE
English | 90 min | Australia, UK | Dir. Sam Collins | with: Kevin Pietersen, Ravi Shastri, N. Srinivasan, Lalit Modi, Giles Clarke.

A hard-hitting documentary of interest to cricket and non-cricket fans alike. Cricketing journalists Jarrod Kimber and Sam Collins set off on a journey to report on the current state of health of Test cricket and to investigate the impact of 20:20 cricket on the five-day game. They end up in something more sinister than they could ever have imagined. During their thrilling three-year journey they criss-cross the globe from London to Australia, from India to Dubai and back again, during which they meet players, the game’s administrators, fans and controversial cricket financiers, resulting in a film that is about much more than cricket. This is a film about passion, about money, about power and it’s a film about standing up for what you care about before it is too late.

Q&A with Dir. Sam Collins and other special guests.
The Bagri Foundation supports documentary films as a powerful medium to raise social awareness.
CLOSING NIGHT | 23 JULY | 18:00 | BFI SOUTHBANK

Ulidavaru Kandante Review LIFF 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 Tigers Out of 5. ROAR!!!

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

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

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

@9e3k

OneKnightStands Bollypop | 9E3K | @9E3K

Goopi Gawaiya Bagha Bajaiya Review LIFF 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

@9e3k

OneKnightStands Bollypop | 9E3K | @9E3K

Million Dollar Arm Review Liff 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Million Dollar Arm

Directed by: Craig Gillespie

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

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

Follow Bhushan on Twitter: @bogeyno2

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

Qissa: The Tale Of The Lonely Ghost Review LIFF 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Qissa: The Tale Of The Lonely Ghost

Directed by: Anup Singh

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

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

Follow Bhushan on Twitter: @bogeyno2

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

London Indian Film Festival 2014 starts with Dhol Dhamaka!

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

@9e3k

OneKnightStands Bollypop | 9E3K | @9E3K

Sold Will open the 2014 London Indian FilmFestival

We look forward to the London Indian Film Festival and this year they seem to be bringing in the big (although maybe slighlty downbeat) guns for this year’s premiere.

Sold will have its red carpet European Premiere at the opening of the Fifth annual London INDIAN Film Festival (10 – 17 July). Based on the bestselling novel Sold by Patricia McCormick, the film is a powerful drama based on real life events, and tells of a young Nepali girl’s struggle for survival after being sold into prostitution in Kolkata, and an American photographer (Gillian Anderson), who, against the odds, attempts to rescue her and other young women. The X Files and The Fall star Gillian Anderson is expected to participate in a Q&A in London at the film’s opening night amongst other talent.

Director Jeffrey D. Brown, Executive Producer Emma Thompson and Producer Jane Charles have worked tirelessly to bring this film to the screen researching every aspect of the story in depth with charities which deal directly with child trafficking in India including: Apne Aap, New Light, Sanlaap, Prajwala and in Nepal: Maiti Nepal, Shakti Samhua and Childreach International. Emma Thompson, president of the The Helen Bamber Foundation, works with survivors in London which is why she is informed on this issue and cares deeply about it.

The film is a collaboration between US and Indian production teams and includes supporting cast David Arquette (Conception) and Indian actors Seema Biswas (Bandit Queen), Parambrata Chatterjee (Apur Panchali), Tillotama Shome (Monsoon Wedding) and Susmita Mukherjee (Dostana). Debutante Niyar Saikia plays the central role of Lakshmi, the young girl from Nepal.

Now Europe’s largest platform for Asian cinema, the London Indian Film Festival returns to the Capital, celebrating Independent cinema and 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 India and the subcontinent today, in all its diversity.

The festival will open in the West End at the historic Cineworld Haymarket, and continue at BFI Southbank, ICA and Cineworld Cinemas around London. The festival is grant funded by the BFI Film Festival Fund.

About the screening, Executive Producer 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”

About the film, Actor Gillian Anderson states: “Working on this sensitively told film and with young women who have themselves experienced the un-believable trauma of abduction and trafficking has opened my eyes to the horrors these young people face on a daily basis as well as the often life threatening danger those working at the charities put themselves in to free these innocent victims from modern day slavery”

Gillian Anderson has been on a roll with some amazing performances in the past few years like The Fall and Hanibal, and being a huge fan and spending a large chunk of my adolescence watching her as Scully in X-Files, I am quite excited to see Sold, even though the subject is such an important one, I do wonder if it might be a depressing start to such a colorful festival.

Guess we’ll have to wait and see what the rest of the programme looks like, every year they manage to show some great movies, we so have faith in the team led by Cary Raj Sawhney.

 

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

Shahid Review at LIFF 2013

Everyone that listens to UPodcast knows that my tastes veer towards massy entertainers that have had some thought put into it. I don’t need added sound effects to punctuate punch lines but I cant’ stand slow, dreary movies that only get praise from other movie directors (usually friends) or snobby critics.

So when we received the line up of films at this year’s London Indian Film Festival, I naturally try to find the ones I have some connect with, be it an actor or director whose name sounds familiar or a story that would connect with me somehow.

Shahid was high on my list of movies to watch at this year’s LIFF as it starred Raj Kumar Yadav (now shortened to just Raj Kumar as the statute of limitations have surely expired on that foot fetishist from Pakeezah) who had the stand out performance as the lecherous pervert in Love, Sex Aur Dhoka as well as the goody goody in Kai Po Che. The other vague familiarity was that the movie was directed by Hansal Mehta (Does anyone own Woodstock Villa on Dvd except me?) and appreciated his short in Sanjay Gupta produced Dus Kahaniyan starring Jimmy Shergill.

 

Shahid is based on the story of Muslim human rights lawyer Shahid Azmi who (SPOILERS for Real LIFE) was shot dead in his own office after trying to defend people wrongfully incarcerated under terrorism charges in India.

 

One of the reasons I have yet to see Bhaag Milka Bhaag is that autobiographies in my book just have the same “inspirational” story arc and a movie about an interesting person, doesn’t necessarily make an interesting movie.

Shahid doesn’t avoid all “inspirational biography” trappings but gives the audience enough in Raj Kumar lead performance (who looks a bit like Shahid Kapoor’s more talented but less buff older brother) , it’s the tight screenplay and fiery courtroom scenes. The story starts with Shahid’s murder and then in flashback mode we jump in a linear fashion through the major chapters that lead him to his end.

 

After seeing the slaughter first hand in the ’92 Mumbai communal riots, Shahid tries to get some sense of vindication as wayward youths do by joining an Islamic Militant group in Kashmir but very soon he finds out that it’s not the right place for him as he doesn’t have any interest in the physical training or the stomach for beheadings (as one would). Unfortunately, when he finds his way back home, the Bombay police pick him up and he is sentenced under TADA (now defunct anti terrorism law) and ends up serving 7 years hard time.

In jail he picks up a law degree and wants to make sure he can do all he can to help people who suffered the same faith as him when he is released.

 

Shahid has some excellent supporting mostly unknown actors (his older brother (who was Imran Khan’s friend in Mere Brother Ki Dulhan), the female lawyer in his final case, his prison mentor) and quite surprising cameos by Kay Kay Menon (who almost pulls a Kosmo Kramer the way he appears in the movie) and Tigmanshu Dhulia (who in my mind will always be Romance Singh thank you Qtipya’s Gangs of WasseyPur Spoof).

 

It was also refreshing that Shahid isn’t mythologized and is shown with real human flaws and weaknesses without resorting to clichés. He is a weak man when it comes to his small family and avoids confrontation but when it comes to the fighting for his defendants he is on fire. His passion for his cause is undeniable in the courtroom scenes, which seem to be done quite realistically, so there are no “Dhai Kilo Ka Haath” monologues that illicit wolf whistles but illustrates the frustration of bureaucracy and process very well.

The movie is shot beautifully from the small alleys to the middle classes houses and offices in Mumbai to the majestic beautiful vistas of Kashmir.

 

Some of the editing can be jarring because of that some of the chronology can be confusing but these are minor issues with an overall satisfying movie without screaming it’s own importance.

 

Shahid has been picked up by UTV Films so will be getting a wide release. And for my money it was one of the best movies at the London Indian Film Festival that I saw this year.

 @asimburney

Enhanced by Zemanta

Monsoon Shootout, Bombay Talkies to bookend Fourth London INDIAN Film Festival

What an amazing line up that LIFF has in stall for London Audiences! Some of these movies you won’t be getting a chance to see in the UK anywhere else.

The London Indian Film Festival will be running from the 18th to the 25th of July this year.

Here is the full press release:

Amit Kumar’s trigger happy Monsoon Shootout will be the red carpet UK Premiere opening night film of the Fourth annual London INDIAN Film Festival (July 18-25), Together with O2. This film is a version of Sliding Doors meets a hyper-real cop thriller, which will have you on the edge of your seats. Closing the festival will be a special UK premiere of favourite Bombay Talkies with four magical stories by acclaimed directors Karan Johar, Zoya Akhtar, Dibakar Banerjee and Anurag Kashyap exploring 100 years of Indian cinema, studded with top independent and Bollywood stars. Both films had a triumphant reception at the recent Cannes Film Festival and special guests are expected to both screenings.

Now Europe’s largest platform for Indian cinema, the London Indian Film Festival returns to the Capital, celebrating the exploding movement of Indian Independent cinema and 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 India and the subcontinent today, in all its diversity. For the first time, the festival is going on tour to Bradford and Glasgow.

The festival will stretch citywide, opening in the West End at the historic Cineworld Haymarket, and continuing at BFI Southbank, Cineworld cinemas, Shaftesbury Avenue, Wood Green, Wandsworth, Staples Corner, and the O2 in Royal Greenwich, the Peckamplex and ICA near the Pall Mall, so there is a screening near you, traversing iconic sights and sounds of the city of London like a Monopoly game board.

The centrepiece ‘In conversation’ on Saturday 20th July at the BFI Southbank, will be with Actor Irrfan Khan, one of the very few Indians to straddle Hollywood, British and Indian cinema, talking to  award winning director of Senna, Asif Kapadia. Khan’s memorable film roles include BAFTA winner, The Warrior and Oscar winners, Slumdog Millionaire and Life of Pi and Hollywood biggies like The Amazing Spider-Man, The Darjeeling Limited and The Namesake, and Bollywood hits Life In A Metro, Mumbai Meri Jaan, New York and Paan Singh Tomar.

As well as films in the Hindi, Gujarati, Punjabi, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi languages, and our first Pakistani film Josh, in Urdu, we will be having a rare ‘Life in Pictures’ Masterclass, by the great South Indian Director Adoor Gopalakrishnan, on 19th July at BFI Southbank.

London Indian Film Festival also has films and events for a wide range of audiences and 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 at The Nehru Centre in Mayfair.

We are delighted to announce that our Major sponsors this year will include O2 International Sim, and the festival is also grant funded for the first time, by the BFI Film Festival Fund.

Cary Rajinder Sawhney, Festival Director comments, “We are delighted that the festival is growing from strength to strength. If you want to find out more about South Asian cinema come and soak yourself in a week of magnificent films in London, or catch the festival tour in Bradford and Glasgow.”


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

Join us on social media: www.facebook.com/LondonIndianFilmFestival & www.twitter.com/LoveLIFF

London Indian Film Festival is supported by partners including: O2 International Sim, BFI, Satyajit Ray Foundation, Cineworld, Grange Hotels, Zee TV, BBC London and BBC Asian Network.

@asimburney

Enhanced by Zemanta

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

Enhanced by Zemanta

Dekh Indian Circus Review at LIFF 2012

Our intrepid reporter Sujoy (@9e3K) continues his coverage at the London Indian Film Festival with a review of Dekh Indian Circus.

What do you expect from a movie, which has a poster showing a young boy, with the fluttering Indian tricolour on a bicycle decorated with CDs and bottle caps. Also, a golden brown sandy background with the sun shining beneath, and a fun red font for the title of the movie, all point towards a fun, charming and innocent “children’s film”, well suited to please Film Festivals and Sunday afternoon TV slots. Director Mangesh Hadawale‘s second feature “Dekh Indian Circus” is a crowd-pleaser no doubt, with its child actors providing enough smiles that remain with you throughout the movie. But by the time the lights come up, that pre-assumption of it being yet another “children’s film” goes straight out of the window, as we are left with characters, metaphors and pointed statistics which leave an indelible impression.

 

Dekh Indian Circus has a rather straightforward storyline depicting the struggle of a family of four, somewhere in the middle of rural Rajasthan. The father of the family, Jethu (Nawazzuddin Sidiqqui, Gangs of Wasseypur, Kahaani) is one of the many who struggle hard to earn the daily bread for their family. Being illiterate, member of the minor class, and mute leaves him  struggling to make ends meet. This makes his wife Kajro (Tannishta Chatterjee, Brick Lane), the head of the family, who despite being a rural woman, is progressive-minded and ambitious. She holds strong opinions on everything, be it morality or politicians, and is fiercely determined to secure proper education for her kids – the naughty Ghumroo (Virendra Singh Rathod, the boy in the poster), and his younger sister Panni (Suhani Oza).

Set during a political campaign, it shows how rival candidates host huge rallies and promote electoral candidates – each promising to bring change, prosperity, as well as bribery in exchange for votes. This political “circus” is clearly taking advantage of the economically disadvantaged, who are manipulated, threatened and even beaten up. Meshed smartly within this political subtext, is the story of an innocent desire of the family to watch a traveling Circus. Little Panni is entranced by a flyer of the circus which has a stilt walker, she fondly calls “Lamboora Kaka” (Bamboo Man, literally translates to Very Tall Man). She begs her parents to make her only dream come true.

 

The story then takes us through the trials and tribulations of this circus visit. Hadawale smartly weaves various references to subtly convey the larger picture of how a nation, which is rising and shining as a leader of world economy, has poverty in its roots. India is the bigger “circus”, which has its “ringmasters” whipping the lions and making elephants dance, and then there are the “midget clowns” to be laughed at as well.

 

The performances by lead actors Nawazuddin Sidiqqui and Tannishta Chatterjee are top notch. Although Nawaz plays a mute, his angst, embarassment, and anguish comes alive with his expressive eyes. With Kahaani, and Gangs of Wasseypur, we have come to expect more and more out of this wonderful actor. And it was a bit disappointing to see him muted. But that is hardly a complaint. Tannishta Chatterjee might have been a bit “glammed” up for cinematic reasons, but brings authenticity in her role through mannerisms and genuine love to the role of Kajro – the ever sacrificing mother, and the relentless well spirited woman. And if young and naughty Ghumroo’s antics make you giggle and chuckle uncontrollably, little Panni’s sad face and precious tears are just heartbreaking.

 

Dekh Indian Circus is a competent film when it comes to depicting the story it intends to tell. It doesn’t take the route of portraying a third world environment via means of showcasing grinding poverty or sickening tragedy of rural India. It rather shows it in the light of ethnic beauty, of a communal presence of a society, which despite the dire circumstances they live in, derive happiness from the sounds of nature, the open landscapes and the simpler things in life. There is neither any didactic labeling when it opts to hint the political subtext. And enveloped with widescreen landscape images from Laxman Utekar, Wayne Sharpe’s effervescent score, and Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy and Prasoon Joshi handling the music and lyrics department, Dekh Indian Circus oozes of optimism and leaves you with a smile, even though your eyes might or might not be dry. It deserves the mainstream release it is getting in India.

Verdict: 3 Splashing Stars Out of 5

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!

@asimburney

Enhanced by Zemanta

Anurag Kashyap chats with Upodcast at LIFF 2012

Anurag Kashyap, the firebrand director, was at the London Indian film Festival which is going on this week and took the time to speak to Upodcast! Sujoy discusses the differences between his brother and his approach to masala cinema, the music of Gangs Of WasseyPur and much more in a pretty short chat!

The movie as well as the Festival which runs until 3rd of July has been setting the city in a blaze of excitement with celebrity appearances and the whose who of Londontown.

You can head over to the Official website for more information as well as the programme of amazing movies they are showcasing by clicking here.

Here is an excerpt from the Press Team about what went down at the premiere!

The third edition of the hugely popular London Indian Film Festival (June 20-July 3) got off to an explosive start with the sold out UK premiere of director Anurag Kashyap’s Gangs of Wasseypur. It was standing room only at the Cineworld Haymarket as film buffs from across the world jostled for space at the glittering red carpet arrivals. Anurag Kashyap arrived looking natty in a Narendra Kumar creation. Actress Tannishtha Chatterjee, whose film Dekh Indian Circus plays June 23 at the Watermans Arts Centre and June 24 at BFI Southbank, glittered in a Khubsoorat outfit as did Rang Rasiya (Colours of Passion) stunner Ferena Wazeir.

The celebrity wave continued with acclaimed British Asian actors Riz Ahmed (Ill Manors, Trishna), Upen Patel (Namastey London) and Shiv Jhala (whose Arjun & Alison will enjoy its World Premiere at the festival on June 30), walking the red carpet and obliging screaming fans with photo opportunities. Directors Asif Kapadia (Senna), Michael Winterbottom (Trishna) Q (Gandu), Sidarth Sharma (Arjun & Alison), Devanand Shanmugam (whose Tooting Broadway will World Premiere at the festival on June 22) and Sarovar Banka (A Decent Arrangement) were just some of the high-octane talent present on the occasion.

Bollywood royalty arrived in the shape of Pamela Chopra, the legendary Yash Chopra‘s wife and the Associate Producer of one of Indian cinema‘s all time biggest hits Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. Anushka Sharma who is currently filming in London for Yash Chopra’s next, along with Shah Rukh Khan, sneaked into the cinema anonymously. She enjoyed Gangs of Wasseypur enormously and is looking forward to working with Anurag in Bombay Velvet.

 Anurag Kashyap said: “The London Indian Film Festival is lucky for me. My Dev D played in year one. That Girl In Yellow Boots premiered in year two and got UK distribution and now I’ve opened the festival. It’s a great platform.”

Festival Director Cary Sawhney said: “We are delighted that this year’s London Indian Film Festival has opened to such a tremendous response. We have a diverse range of events scheduled for the next two weeks, including the brilliant collaboration of director Q’s Gandu Circus along with Susheela Raman and the Asian Dub Foundation’s Steve Chandra Savale at BFI Southbank on June 21, and many World and UK film premieres. And for those who couldn’t get tickets for Gangs of Wasseypur, there are two more screenings scheduled on June 28 at the ICA and on June 30 at Cineworld Shaftesbury Avenue.”

Here is a short podcast interview with our good friend Sujoy Singha (@9e3k)

Let us know what you thought of our chat in the comment section below!

@asimburney

Enhanced by Zemanta