Sunday, September 17, 2006

KANK Stank at Toronto

From the NY Times:

India's ``Never Say Goodbye,'' at three hours and 12 minutes, was one of the longest feature films at the festival, and it was the first Bollywood feature to win a coveted Gala showing.

But the audience at the press and industry screening started drifting out after the first hour, and India's DNA Web site grumbled there were only around 20 reporters at a news conference that would have filled a stadium in India.


The Return of Begum Para

From The Hindu, on the return of a siren to Hindi cinema:

It's probably the longest ever break from acting? The news is that Begum Para, the sex siren of the 1950s, is returning to Bollywood. Though the sparkle in her eyes remains, the svelte, sexy figure is gone; so have the quicksilver movements. These do not matter as Begum Para is playing a grandmother in Sanjay Leela Bansali's next film, "Sawariya" starring newcomers, Ranbir Rishi Kapoor and Sonam Anil Kapoor.
Story here.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Amol Palekar and sexuality

I know, sexuality isn't the word that comes to mind when one brings up Amol Palekar. Middle class hero, middle cinema, or ramprasad dasrathprasad sharma and his twin lakshmanprasad dasrathprasad sharma spring readily to mind (revisit Golmaal here). Palekar doesn't make the news often, the hype surrounding Paheli being the sole exception.

But true to his middle-cinema roots, Amol Palekar has been exploring themes that no big-name director in Bollywood would touch. Can you think of anyone who would tackle a relationship between a rural girl and transvestite dancer (Daayra), or the sexual awakening of a queen in 10th century B.C. (Anaahat)? Having done this to critical acclaim, Palekar is now ready to release Thaang/The Quest, which deals with the "sexual incompatibility between an urban married couple."

From Rediff, an interview with Amol Palekar.

Friday, September 08, 2006

TV via

From the BBC:

Backed by top Hollywood studios and TV channels, including Warner Brothers and CBS, Amazon Unbox will offer programmes and films direct to users' computers. Amazon's move into the online media business reflects huge growth in the demand for digital entertainment.

Computer and iPod firm Apple is widely expected due to unveil a similar service on 12 September.
Amazon's new download service is currently only available in the US, and offers TV shows for $1.99 (£1.06) per episode and movies for between $3.99 and $14.99.

Amazon Unbox should work on any personal computer that runs the Windows XP operating system and has broadband internet access.

Story here.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Film History Nugget: L. V. Prasad

This week's Friday Review in The Hindu has a piece on a film personality who holds the "
rare distinction of acting in the first talkie films of three languages." L. V. Prasad, it turns out, has been part of at least 65 films as either the producer, director, actor, or writer, over a span of more than 5 decades! Akkineni Lakshmi Vara Prasada Rao, it turns out, better known as L. V. Prasad, was awarded the Dadasaheb Phalke award in 1982, and a few days back, a postage stamp was issued in his honour.

Excerpt from The Hindu:

Like many aspiring actors, he too nurtured a wish to become a movie star and boarded a train to Bombay with just Rs. 100 in his pocket. He sneaked out of his house leaving behind his wife Soundarya Manoharamma and a toddler daughter. For 21 months, they did not know his whereabouts. Nor was he aware that he had lost his daughter. When nothing happened at the Kohinoor Studio gates and he was robbed of most of his money, he took shelter at a tailor's shop opposite the studios. The tailor got him a job in Venus Pictures but the company neither made any movie nor paid him. He worked during the evenings in a carnival for a salary of Rs. 1.50 per day, acted in bit roles in silent films and did odd jobs of carrying reflectors and camera stands.

He then joined Ardeshir Irani's Imperial Film Company and acted in bit roles in Alam Ara (1931), India's first talkie. H. M. Reddy was an assistant director with Irani then. The same year Irani produced the first Telugu talkie Bhaktha Prahlada and the first Tamil talkie Kalidas, both directed by H. M. Reddy. As a company employee, Prasad had acted in both the talkies, as Chandaamarkulu and temple priest respectively. Thus he had the rare distinction of acting in the first talkie films of the three languages.

More on L. V. Prasad here, and his official website here.

Can you do dethrone King Khan?

From The Hindu, about a new reality show on Indian TV that seeks to find the next big superstar, sponsored by Fair & Lovely Menz Active:

SaharaOne Television is all ready to cash in on dreams. The channel is soon to launch "Super Stars", a reality show that identifies not an actor or a singer or a dancer, but a superstar. One hundred twenty contestants have been short-listed from auditions held in Ludhiana, Delhi, Kolkata, Bhopal, Mumbai and Lucknow. The jury will consist of actress Urmila Matondkar, choreographer Shiamak Dawar, Kishore Namit Kapoor of "Kapoor Acting Lab", designer Anna Singh and guest directors and actors. Viewers will also vote via sms.

When the show launches, 10 contestants will try to convince a studio audience and television viewers that they are more than Amitabh Bachchan.

Whole story here. More about the show here.

Upperstall reviews Lage Raho Munnabhai

In Upperstall's review of Lage Raho Munnabhai, I found this bit particularly interesting:

Remember the times when NFDC and Films' Division continually tried to create and promote socially-relevant films? How that idea transmogrified into (a kind of) parallel cinema and gave birth to many good films by equally good filmmakers (a more recent example in Gowariker's Swades )? But Lage Raho Munna Bhai simply redefines the very concept of such a film. You can have stars, you can have songs and dance, you can bargain with exhibitors and multiplexes (and win), you can have side-splitting humour, your leading men can portray goons and chase girls, and you can STILL make a very effective film with great cinematic value and social relevance! Surely this is genius.

The reviewer is right, I think, in getting us to think about LRM as a film that doesn't fit neatly into categories like "commercial" or "parallel." The broader context within which a film like LRM is being made is important to acknowledge here, particularly the relationship between cinema and the state. The state's relationship to cinema is no longer defined by "developmental" concerns, which is what led to the establishment of NFDC (National Film Development Corporation). If anything, initiatives like FRAMES demonstrate ways in which the state has, over the past 8 years or so (beginning with the landmark 1998 decision to grant industry status), actively sought to reframe its relationship with cinema. And unlike in the NFDC-phase, it is very difficult to pin down genres that define this latest phase of the state-cinema relationship. It is tempting to suggest that the Karan Johar variety of films are the dominant genre, but for every K-Jo disaster, there is an Omkara and a Lage Raho Munnabhai.

An M.A. in "entertech"?

From the NY Times, about Arizona State University's approach to media/film studies:

...the course, called Entertainment and Technology, part of the film and media studies program in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, is anything but an exercise in ivory tower esoterics.

Instead it is the start of a new program to grant an undergraduate certificate, and eventually a master’s degree, in the nascent field the university calls EnterTech — where entertainment meets technology — with the idea of preparing young professionals to work in the warp-speed world of a changing Hollywood.

Whole story here.

Arrival Stories

This story in the Chronicle sparked memories of my own arrival in Athens, Ga, in the fall of 1999. Like the students in this story, I too sent emails to various "officers" of the Indian Students Association at the University of Georgia, and received detailed information on how to get to Athens from Atlanta. I was received by a couple of "seniors" who asked the standard questions within minutes of meeting me: where are you from? where did you do your undergrad? do you have funding? what are you going to study here? At one of their homes, in a part of athens dubbed "jamuna nagar" (james town), I answered many more questions, and received much 'gyaan' on navigating life in a small southern town. Needless to say, they fed me well (chole), and with a couple of phone calls, arranged an apartment that was within walking distance of the journalism school.

Read the whole story here.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Doordarshan Documentary Alert

Patwardhan has never had it easy with Doordarshan (DD). His award-winning films have been screened worldwide, to much acclaim (and of course, controversy), but DD has always stayed away tfrom them. In 1998, a Selection Committee justified their decision not to telecast the film on DD:

The documentary entitled 'Father, Son & Holy War' depicts the rise of Hindu fundamentalism and male chauvinism without giving any solution how it could be checked. The violence and hatred which is depicted in the whole documentary will have an adverse effect on the minds of the viewers.

Now, nearly 8 years later, the Supreme Court has directed DD to screen the film.
..."Father, Son and Holy War", a two hour, two-part documentary critique of the male psyche and its relationship to communal violence, which was completed in 1995. The film was passed without cuts by the Central Board of Film Certification and it went on to win two National Awards in 1996 for Best Social Film and Best Investigative Film.

Now, finally, the TV audiences across the country will get a chance to watch the film, included among the 50 memorable documentaries in world cinema by Europe's DOX magazine.

Story here. Full text of the judgment here.
[picture link]

Vaettaiyadu Vilayaadu

Malathi Rangarajan reviews Vaettaiyaadu Vilayaadu:

Neat linear narration marks Seventh Channel Communications' presentation and Photon Factory production, `Vaettaiyaadu Vilayaadu' (U/A). Come to think of it, there's nothing actually new about the storyline, which deals with the constant battle of one-upmanship between upright police officers and the mafia. But when you have decent treatment (Gautham), sterling performances (Kamal Haasan, Prakashraj), terrific camera work (Ravivarman), excellent editing (Antony) and remarkable re-recording (Harris Jeyaraj), the film gains a sheen that really impresses you.

National Readership Survey 2006

From The Hindu:

The National Readership Study 2006 (NRS 2006) in India is the largest survey of its kind in the world, with a sample size of 2,84,373 house-to-house interviews to measure the media exposure and consumer product penetration in both urban and rural India – and of course the estimated readership of publications. The study covers 535 publications of which 230 are dailies and 305 are magazines.

Highlights and findings here. For more information on the NRS, go here.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Women Writing (Bollywood) Scripts

The recently held All India Screenwriters Conference held at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) sought to publicize the "plight of screenwriters and the quality of screenwriting in India" (story here). All the big names got together and made the right noises (Shekhar Kapur, Javed Akhtar, Anjum Rajabali, etc.). None of them talked about how the scene is changing in what has been a largely male-domainted domain.

In the world of Salim-Javed, there has been one Honey Irani (of Lamhe fame) and a few women directors like Tanuja Chandra and Leena Yadav who have written their own films. Writing another man's film is a difficult nut to crack. So are Bhavani and Venita and the half dozen other women now writing Bollywood scripts making any difference, or is it just more of the same?

Full story here. And go here to read about a screenwriter's adventures in Bollywood!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Farah Khan & Shakira

"Shakira gave me only two days to rehearse and what we've achieved should make all of us in Bollywood proud," says Farah Khan when asked about Shakira's preparedness to perform a Bollywood-style number at this year's Video Music Awards held in NY city. Interview with Farah Khan here, and the video here.