Tag Archive: film


 

 

Diganta Guha

 

 
Film: No One Killed Jessica
Director: Raj Kumar Gupta
Cast: Rani Mukerji, Vidya Balan, Myra Karn, Rajesh Sharma
Rating: Average
 
No One Killed Jessica being the first big release of the year, with Rani Mukerji and Vidya Balan in the lead, the anticipation level was sky high. The film is based on the real-life incident when model cum bartender Jessica Lall (Myra) was shot dead by Manu Sharma, son of a high-profile Haryana politician. The film narrates the story of Jessica’s sister Sabrina Lall (Vidya), her fight for justice and the nation’s fury at the blatant use of money, muscle power and political influence to manipulate the investigation.
The problem with films inspired by real-life incidents is that viewers always end up comparing them with what really happened. And there lies the challenge for a director. Sadly, Gupta fails to dramatise the incident in a way that intrigues the audience.
Considering it’s a sensitive plot, the film ought to have won your sympathy, if not move you to tears. Director Raj Kumar Gupta actually explores the flaw in our legal and political systems. They say, justice delayed is justice denied, and Gupta through his film underscores it perfectly well.
Gupta, who has made a film like Aamir, had a perfect subject to make a hard-hitting film. But No One Killed Jessica lacks punch. An incident that rocked the nation could have been
portrayed in a much more aggressive manner.
The first half is rather slow; especially the way Sabrina Lall tries to get justice for her sister has not been highlighted appropriately. Vidya’s subdued act doesn’t portray the ‘firebrand’ woman the audience was expecting to see in Sabrina. Agreed, a director is allowed a few cinematic liberties, like tweaking the script or adding or substracting a few characters, but, he is not expected to change the plot in a real-life adaptation. That’s where the film falters. The film sees Rani doing what Sabrina should have been doing.
One positive aspect of the film is the performance. If the first half belongs to Vidya who excels with her subtle act, the second half is Rani’s. As an aggressive journalist, Rani delivers one of the most power-packed performances of her career. But the way Vidya reacts to Rani’s aggression is worth a mention. She doesn’t try to score over Rani, but plays second fiddle to perfection. Some of the sequences involving the two ladies are indeed worth remembering.
The script is inconsistent. A right balance between fiction and facts would have had a better impact. Gupta takes the liberty of including choicest of cuss words including the ‘four letter word’ quite often but that doesn’t add value to the story.
To conclude, No One Killed Jessica is worth a watch but it certainly could have been better.

Advertisements

 

 

PostScript caught up with the model-turned-actor, Indraneil Sengupta, on the sets of Riingo’s System, an underworld saga…

 

Diganta Guha

He has made a mark as an actor in Bengali films working with directors like  Buddhdev Dasgupta, Kaushik Ganguly and Anjan Das. Excerpts:

Have you managed to settle down in Tollywood?
I don’t know whether I have or not but yes, I am working here.

Aarekti Premer Golpo is going places…
I am elated with the response. When we were making the film, I was under the impression that the film would go to various festivals, win awards, receive critical acclaim, both nationally and internationally. But I am amazed that it has also got such a good response from audiences. People are buying tickets in black, and those who are unable to see it are going back home disappointed. It was a bold subject, alternative sexuality, and we never thought the public would accept it so freely. The movie is being watched by one and all. This isn’t exactly the commercial everyday love story that you see on-screen and people appreciate the difference.

How was Rituparno Ghosh as an actor?
Rituda is brilliant. As an actor he is absolutely amazing. Working with him gave me the impression that he must be a great actor-director. He is very patient and his acting style is completely different. I learnt a lot from him…..
 
Did he guide you on the sets?
To a certain extent he did, but when you are acting yourself, it is not possible to guide your co-actor constantly, because you are busy with your own lines and parts. But yes he did help me with a few things. The character that I played was very complex. I am looking forward to working with Rituda, the director because then he would have the luxury to guide his actors.

You have done very meaningful films in Tollywood and not just run-of-the-mill stuff. Was it a conscious decision?
It’s a two way process. I have been choosey with my films, and I have got offers for certain kind of films only. I am really lucky that such scripts have come my way. Tollywood had a good run in 2010. Many small and medium budget films did very well. There are many talented, creative people in the industry. We have brilliant actors and directors. For me as an actor, Tollywood is important because of the kind of characters and scripts that I get. Hopefully, 2011 will see Tollywood doing even better.
 
Your wife Barkha is also working in Tollywood…
Barkha is hosting a show on Zing and doing a lot of live shows in Mumbai and Kolkata. She is consciously avoiding daily soaps because it takes up a lot of time. Even I suggested that she should skip daily soaps at the moment. In Tollywood she has done a cameo in Dui Prithibi which won her a best debutante award. She is also doing a full-fledged role in Mahesh Manjrekar’s Aami Subhash Chandra Bolchi with Mithun Chakraborty. She is very excited about it. Language is not a barrier for Barkha. She loves acting. If she gets more opportunities in Tollywood she would definitely work here more frequently.

Do you get time to meet each other?
When I am not working here, I am in Mumbai. When I am shooting in Kolkata, she makes it a point to take some time off to be with me. So, in a month we are together for about 15-18 days. 
 
What are your current projects?
I have just finished a film called Uro Chithi. Only the dubbing is left. I have System which is an action film, so if you think I haven’t done any mainstream film, here it is. I have also signed a comedy called Le Halwa. Bedeni is going to release soon. In System I play an underworld guy.
 
Do you have any projects in Mumbai?
No. I think I am too occupied in Kolkata to market myself in Mumbai.

Live and let love

In a world torn by violence, does the credo of baul philosophy show a flicker of hope?

 

 

Supreeta Singh

 

 
Against the backdrop of environmental hazards, physical threats and emotional depletion, the quest for spiritual freedom stands tall. If a man’s ultimate aim is self-realisation, then the need to find meaning in life becomes monumental. Unfortunately, today the concepts of peace, liberty and equality have been stripped of their essence and reduced to a mere lip service at best or buzzwords at worst.
 However, a small sect in West Bengal has a different tale to tell. They are above any organised religion, caste and creed or gender discrimination and completely shun orthodox rituals.
Spread across Murshidabad, Nadia and Birbhum districts in Bengal, Sylhet, Bikrampur and Kushtia in Bangladesh, Baul singers and poets practice an egalitarian philosophy preached by ‘exponents’ of world peace and love. 
Thanks to Gautam Ghose’s film Moner Manush, there has been a reawakening of interest in one of the prominent baul exponents, the iconic figure Lalon Fakir. A Hindu-turned-Muslim fakir, who flouted all established norms of society in his exploration of self, Ghose’s film pertinently makes Lalon’s philosophy embedded in his lyrics seem relevant. 
Gautam Ghose says, “Lalon is contemporary. Bauls are not just performers; for them it’s a way of life. Today, not everyone is a performer but they practice devotion nonetheless.”
 For young folk singer Anusheh Anadil of Bangladesh, bauls uphold a philosophy that is eternal. An ardent fan of Lalon songs, she claims that songs give her a glimpse of reality. “The need for self-realisation does not disappear with time. I am in love with the bauls and fakirs specially because here there is no duality of ideas. It is about learning to be empty and embodying that love which is making creation possible. For me, it’s always been about the message these songs convey. I try to pass it on to my audience in whichever way they may listen.”
 The growing popularity of baul songs and tunes in popular culture also stand as a testimony to its revival among the youth. The lyrics, strains and compositions touch a chord infusing a listener with a sense of unbridled joy. Percussionist Tanmoy Bose whose projects Taal Tantra and Baul and Beyond, where Anusheh is one of the contributors, says that baul philosophy is the best example of unity, brotherhood and friendship. According to him, youngsters must go through the lines of poems crafted by bauls to understand their import. He adds, “Baul does not just mean smoking weeds and singing songs. It’s a way of life that needs total devotion. For me, the most heartwarming and urgent message of bauls is the principle of guru-shishya (disciple) parampara or tradition that it upholds. Every day we read about student and teacher conflicts. The basic foundation of the baul philosophy lies in total surrender to your guru, who will lead you through the tumultuous hurdles of life. It says that you have to know your guru to complete yourself. This is opposite to the language of aggression youths display. In any situation of dispute and disagreement, baul philosophy can teach you to cooperate.”
 In the same vein, Bangladeshi singer Latif Shah says, “When the desire rises in you to merge with the ‘Supreme Soul’, no matter what your age is, you will be drawn to it like bee to a flower. My disciples are as young as 12 years. That’s an impressionable age and therefore they understand all about bauls with ease.” 
Bose is amazed by the fact that our own indigenous baul philosophy finds resonance in African-American blues and jazz entrenched in socio-political revolutions. “I have been to so many countries and everywhere I have found that the native form of music has sprung out of some kind of protest. Both music and baul philosophy are universal. They are deeply rooted in selflessness. Hence, there is much to learn from them.”
 One of the strongest elements of Baul is the way it embraces everyone irrespective of religion, community, class, economic background and gender. At a time when world leaders at large fail to do more than initiating peace-talks between warring nations, bauls talk about forging ties. “Baul is a secular philosophy. Although fundamentalists attack them in many pockets of Bengal and Bangladesh, yet they promote love and compassion. Men and women, who have been ostracised by society, find solace and acceptance in the company of bauls. Many of them come from poor families and have nowhere to go. Earlier, the urban and rural divide was not as marked as it is today. Now, bauls flock to cities to participate in fairs and festivals giving city slickers an opportunity to learn from them.”
 Interestingly, Baul songs are engaged in a conversation with the body. For them, human body is the most intricate and elaborate vehicle where universal truth lies hidden. The body is a means to an end – the final reunion with the ‘Supreme Being’ who resides in all of us. Human body is sacrosanct, a symbol of divinity. From novice to advanced baul singers, meditation and yoga are a must every day – exactly what health experts urge people to do.  
 “Physical exercise or shadhon-bhajon is as crucial to bauls as singing. All baul songs are centered on the body, which is a metaphor for leading to higher states of existence. A good guru will always decode the songs and explain its meaning to his disciple,” says 30-something Sanjay of Baul band Brahmakhyapa.
 Bauls believe in the principle of ‘here and now’. There is no concept of reincarnation or idol worship. Free of dogmas, it stresses on body and mind to find all answers. “What attracts me to baul philosophy is it’s scientific nature. To develop the inner psyche, you must reach a level of control that is achieved only when you are physically, mentally and emotionally fit. There is neither any sudden anger nor any sudden joy. Isn’t this what any spiritual guru would advise? Today, people earn bushels of money, but are they really happy?” asks Sanjay. 
 The prominent place of women in baul communities is another stellar aspect. While conservative religions put women on the pedestal and worship them, domestic violence continues unabated. Bauls are routinely dismissed for their apparent sexual proclivities, their lifestyle often dubbed as ‘free sex in a free society. Yet rising statistics of divorce and separation speak about the lack of respect and love in urban couples. Tanmoy Bose is aggrieved by such misinterpretations. “It’s an injustice. You have to look beyond the physical intercourse and discover the epitome of love in your partner. And it’s not as if bauls indulge in indiscriminate sexual orgies. They too have fixed mates,” he fumes.
 Echoes Sanjay, “My partner Malobika and I live together. We have a daughter too. As in tantra, baul philosophy too believes in the union of male and female and only the union of the two can lead to creation. There are so many married couples in the society who are miserable. Does the ‘married’ tag stop them from abusing each other? So, how is it different for the bauls?”
 Kartik Das Baul of Santiniketan, who is married with a son, says, “Bauls are not separate entities outside the purview of society. Lalon advises us through his songs to be free of restrictions. In India and abroad, we have finally got our due recognition and things look brighter for the future. As long as I can connect with myself, nothing can dampen my spirit.” 
 Golam Fakir, a noted baul from Nadia, observes that bauls as a sect will always remain a little mysterious and unfathomable to laymen. “Only those who come with a sincere heart and thirst for knowledge are able to apprehend the true essence of bauls. Yet for a world whose heart is bleeding, he shares a snippet from Gita  — Whatever has happened in the past, happened for the best. Whatever will happen will happen for the best too.”

 

Sudipta Dey
A boy and a girl who don’t wish to grow up, live in their world of fantasy where they imagine themselves to be secret agents on different missions. They start all conversations with a ‘password’ or ‘code’. When they accidentally bump into each other on a highway, they hit it off on  a simliar note. She introduces herself as agent Green Spider; he names himself agent Mr India. Both rush off in a car, as if they were on a secret mission.
Initially it might seem like a graphic novel, but it’s not. Birsa Dasgupta, who made his debut in the industry with the cult film 033, is going to present his audience with another entertaining story, Cinamaye Jamone Hoye. It will be a one-hour telefilm for Star Jalsha’s Pujo Special. His telefilms have won many accolades across the country. Birsa Dasgupta is back behind the camera after almost a year-long hiatus.
“It has been a while since I went behind the camera. I thrive on that, I love the feeling of directing a scene,” says Birsa, who is planning his next film early next year.
Recently, he was shooting in Café Bindass, near Salt lake swimming pool, with his lead actress Aparajita Ghosh Das and actor-director Srijit Mukherji.
“The girl is supposed to get married to an NRI, played by Srijit. They meet in this café to discuss their wedding plans,” explains Birsa.
He also went to Bolpur to shoot a few scenes for the telefilm. “I don’t like scenes confined inside a room. The story demands a lot of outdoors, cafes, highways and such places. I shot two scenes in the Elambazaar jungle as well,” says the excited director.
But what made Birsa choose a telefilm? “Why not? I have done telefilms before and its Puja, a time to celebrate. Cinemaye Jamone Hoye is a romantic story. One of the reasons for taking it up was I have not directed anything for quite some time now. Also Cinemaye.. has a gripping storyline,” says Birsa, who was offered to direct last year’s Pujo Special telefilm for Star Jalsha but had to opt out of the project because of prior commitments.
The lead actor in this telefilm is Dhruv Mookerji who was part of his first venture 033 too. The rest of the cast includes Sourav Chatterjee, Arpita Mukherjee, Ardhendu Banerjee and Chaitali Dasgupta.
The telefilm will be aired on October 9 on Star Jalsha.

Bhansali, a copy cat?!

 

Jaya Biswas
Sanjay Leela Bhansali is back with Guzaarish, his new film about a paraplegic magician, played by Hrithik Roshan, who requests for euthanasia to end his trauma. Aishwarya essays the role of his nurse. What many may not know is that the 2004 Spanish film The Sea Inside had exactly the same plot. Based on the real life story of a sailor-turned-poet Ramdon Sampredo, who became a quadriplegic following an accident, the film dwells on his three-decade long struggle to get the government grant him euthanasia. Sampredo, immaculately essayed by Spanish heartthrob Javier Bardem, had two women in his life, a lawyer and a nurse. Is it possible Bhansali hasn’t heard of this film? Highly unlikely, one would think, considering how well versed Bhansali is in world cinema.
Not just the plot. The scenes in the trailer where Hrithik is seen on a wheelchair staring at the sea is a straight lift from the Bardem film. Even the narration that goes with it sounds similar to that in The Sea Inside. Moreover, the scenes where Hrithik exhibits his magic tricks on stage have uncanny resemblance to Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige.  And this is not the first time the filmmaker has been allegedly accused of ripping off scenes from classics. Remember a sequence from Black where Amitabh Bachchan pulls out little Ayesha Kapur from the depths of darkness and turns her into a ‘fine young lady’? Or the scene in which Bachchan separates Kapur from her parents and begins the process of teaching the girl. These scenes were originally captured on camera by American filmmaker Arthur Penn in the 1962 Hollywood  drama The Miracle Worker. The film won five Oscars. Bhansali’s brilliance was in copying Penn’s work frame by frame, shot by shot, angle by angle. Does he still want to call himself a filmmaker with a niche?

Cooking up a laugh riot

Sudipta Dey
The movie has an instant brand recall. And the brand recall value is so high, that the producers decided to change it into a film after five years of being off air (not taking into acccount the numerous re-runs). Khichdi has been one of the most popular comedy sit-coms in Indian television for many years. In 2005, it went off air because the producers, JD Majethia, who also plays Himanshu in the series, and writer director Aatish Kapadia, found it was getting monotonous. But in their last episode of the series, they promised that they would be back with a bang.  
You can call it a bang, if you consider the fact that this is the first television series in India that has been made into a film. Khichdi, which is releasing today, is the cinematic adaptation of the series that went on air in early 2000s on Star Plus, and came back with a second season called Instant Khichdi on Star One. But it went off air in 2005.
JD Majethia, producer-actor-playwright, shares his excitement, while jet-setting through the country attending the paid previews and special screening of Khichdi, in Ahmedabad, Delhi and Mumbai. “You would not believe, for the special preview we had in Ahmedabad the Chief Minister also attended the show,” says JD, exhilarated with excitement. He also adds, that Chitralekha, a Gujarati weekly magazine, which was supposed to celebrate its millennium issue (it started in 1950s) did a cover story on the film, postponing their plans of the special issue.
“In Mumbai, we had a word of mouth preview, where we didn’t publicise the preview, there we had 150 people extra than what we could accommodate in the theatre. We had to arrange for another show to seat them,” he added.
The line up remains the same except, Vandana Pathak, who played the the widowed daughter Jayashree, is replaced by Nimisha Vakharia, who is also a known face in television. “She had other family commitments for which she could not be a part of our film,” reasons JD.

UNDERPLAYED!!!


Sudipta Dey
A certain group of filmmakers don’t rely on producers and make films on their own, keeping alive the decades old genre of underground filmmaking. With the advent of technology and availability of equipment, film enthusiasts are taking it in their stride to make films, mostly short ones, on issues they want to address and on their own terms.
Q’s documentary film Love In India released in Delhi on September 16, after creating enough fervour over the internet when the trailer was out. Q’s other independent project, Gandu is one of those ‘Indie’ films which are extensively talked about in cyber space. However, they are never released in mainstream theatres — a plight shared by all independent films.
In the late 1950s, the term ‘underground film’ began to be used to describe early independent filmmakers working first in San Francisco, California and New York and soon in other cities around the world as well, including the London and Ubu Films in Sydney. The movement, churned out what most called experimental films by non-conformist filmmakers. By the late 1960s, the movement was represented by mature filmmakers, who began to distance themselves from the countercultural, psychedelic connotations of the word, preferring terms like avant-garde or experimental to describe their work.
Independent films are those that are produced mostly outside the mainstream film industry, often underground. The term also refers to art house films, but now even art films are marketed side by side with commercial flicks. In addition to being produced by independent production companies, most filmmakers procure the finances from different sources. They also take the onus of distributing the film, mostly on the internet.
It is difficult to trace the history of independent filmmaking. The Indian New Wave, commonly known as art cinema or parellel cinema, is an alternative to the mainstream commercial cinema, with a keen eye on the socio-political climate of the era. This movement is distinct from mainstream Bollywood cinema and began around the same time as the French New Wave and Japanese New Wave. The movement was initially led by Bengali cinema, which has produced internationally acclaimed filmmakers such as Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, Ritwick Ghatak and gained prominence in the other film industries across the country.
In 1969, the Film Finance Corporation, now renamed National Film Deve­lopment Corpoartion, financed most independent filmmakers of India. But in Bengal, it can be traced back to 1982, when Saumen Guha, started his workshop on Little Filmmaking, in association with the Jadavpur University Film Society (JUFS) and People’s Film Workshop (PFW). Here he propagated the idea of making films on 8 mm gauge. The Super 8, as it was popularly called picked up momentum, with many adopting this technology to make film addressing social and economic issues. One such film enthusiast was Mainak Biswas. Now a noted film critic and also a lecturer at the Jadavpur University, Biswas credits the beginning of the independent film movements back to 1950s when Ritwick Ghatak made his first film Nagarik.
“Nagarik was an independent project, which was supposed to release in 1952 but didn’t. It was much later, that the negatives were revived and fresh prints were made and released sometime in 1976. Similarly, in 1950 Nemai Ghosh’s Chinnamul based on the Partition, too didn’t release formally. But these are considered landmark films in the history of Bengali film history,” says Biswas, adding, “There are many who make films independently. Unfortunately, since they never get a formal release there are no documentations of such projects.” Biswas, points out that Super 8 was a success because the cost was low. But post 1983-84, VHS tapes came into India and anyone who was interested, could make a film with the handycam. “Now, it is even easier to make films. Every second person has a digital camera,” says Biswas, adding, “There are many students from Jadavpur University, who have gone on to make independent films and release them too, in DVD formats and over the internet too.”
Digital filmmaking has given rise to another genre of filmmaking, no-budget films. Anamitra Roy, is one such filmmaker who has been one of the driving forces in the no-budget filmmaking scenario of Kolkata. He is one of the founder members of the no-budget Indie filmmakers’ collaborative titled Little Fish Eat Big Fish, which has recently released a DVD compilation of five short independent film. His only film available is Jean-Luc Godard Had No Script. “It is practically impossible to make a film in the no-budget category. But the idea is to transfer the cost, in the sense that we have volunteers, who are ready to work, plus its digital… the ultimate cost is the cost of living and may be Rs 90, which is the price of the battery for the camera,” says Anamitra.
Little Fish Eat Big Fish’s first successful venture, 5 No Budget Films, was sold at the Book Fair 2010, from the Little Magazine stalls, where they sold nearly 130 copies. The compilation has also been released on the internet, on sites like zinemaya.com and filmmaker.pro, and also on Youtube.
“The idea is not to make profit. We never make films keeping in mind how much money we are going to make or how much money we are going to spend. We have sold each copy of the DVD for Rs 100. To make a profit from webportals, it will take us another two to three years,” says Anamitra, who is yet to recover the production cost of Rs 15,000.
Sustenance is definitely not what independent films promise, so what is the purpose of the movement? Biswas says, “Expression.” Arupratan Ghosh, a poet and one of the filmmakers of the 5 No Budget Films agrees. “We address issues we want to talk about, propagate an idea, among friends and family and those who are interested. Moreover, one does not have to work on anyone else’s terms and conditions.”

Sudipta Dey
“I’m a hippie in the classic sense,” says Q. You might take it as a joke, but after an hour-and-a-half long conversation, you would know, he IS a hippie in every sense of the word. His Love In India finally saw the light of the day on September 16. Extremely arduous in content, the film took him five years to complete, but he says it was a conscious decision from the start.
“I had to grow with the film,” says Q, lesser known as Qaushik Mukherjee, who had to discover his own sexuality over the years. The film deals with the concept of love, through many connotations and contradictions of the idea in India. “There are a lot of things in society that has lost relevance, which has devalued and depreciated over the years. What we are trying to do here is ignite these issues, exercise and make people talk about it,” he says. For Q, the subject has always been sexuality and its multiplicity. Of all the documentaries and independent films, Bissh is one feature film that was released formally. “I never thought that it would release, I never expected people to react to the film the way they did,” says Q, who has always believed that the city is content-driven. 
“Information is restricted to a certain class. Discrimination is at its highest level and there is a political connect to it,” says Q, which has lead to him to follow a simple dictum, “If you don’t act, there would be no reaction.” 
Holding art in the highest regard, Q thinks it is a progressive means. “It’s global and not globalisation. Films in Bengal have always been the best in the country and classics written were way ahead of their times. But somehow, we have become numb and started moving backwards,” says Q, who has a ready solution for that too —“Shock”
Keeping in tune with his motto, he acts, literally and people react to it. Q is one of the key actors in his film. He bares himself of all for his audience to see. “The idea of the hippie movement was to shed your clothes and accept yourself in your skin. I want the world to see me, I want them to see my work,” says Q with an unsettling conviction. “You have to confront yourself first, before you take on the subject.” He attributes this conviction towards his subject as a ‘personal provocation’.
Q has always believed in independent films and never in what he calls “pop-corn films”. “When we make films we never think how we are going to sell the film. The content is important and not the target audience,” says Q, who has been taught the opposite in his advertising profession. 
His film Gandu also explores different sides of one’s sexuality. But he refuses to comment on it as it is an underground project. “Those who have to know already know about it,” he says evading questions about it. A stern follower of the underground movement, he explains, “The idea of underground films are that they should not be publicised, they should come to the forefront. When it does it loses its identity,” says Q, sounding disappointed at the same time.
“People do not support the movement. There are many filmmakers who are doing wonderful work on different subjects. But there are no means to distribute these films here,” says Q, referring to US-based companies who distribute films online. “The culture of buying films online has not caught up in India yet. Hopefully people will wake up from their slumber.”

%d bloggers like this: