Katherine Matthews – BollySpice.com http://bollyspice.com The latest movies, interviews in Bollywood Fri, 29 Jul 2016 08:00:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.5.3 Konkona Sen Sharma: “It’s a great honour for A Death in the Gunj to be chosen for TIFF” http://bollyspice.com/konkona-sen-sharma-great-honour-death-gunj-chosen-tiff/ Fri, 29 Jul 2016 01:02:40 +0000 http://bollyspice.com/?p=126516 Piers Handling, CEO and Director of the Toronto International Film Festival, and Cameron Bailey, Artistic Director of the Toronto International Film Festival, announced the first round of titles premiering in the Galas and Special Presentations programmes of the 41st Toronto International Film Festival. Tucked in amongst all the announcements was the news that the film A Death in the Gunj, the directorial debut of Konkona Sen Sharma (daughter of acclaimed Bengali actor/writer/director Aparna Sen, and a fine actress in her own right), would be having its World Premiere at this year’s festival. Sen Sharma describes her film as “… a

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Piers Handling, CEO and Director of the Toronto International Film Festival, and Cameron Bailey, Artistic Director of the Toronto International Film Festival, announced the first round of titles premiering in the Galas and Special Presentations programmes of the 41st Toronto International Film Festival. Tucked in amongst all the announcements was the news that the film A Death in the Gunj, the directorial debut of Konkona Sen Sharma (daughter of acclaimed Bengali actor/writer/director Aparna Sen, and a fine actress in her own right), would be having its World Premiere at this year’s festival.

Sen Sharma describes her film as “… a human drama, a story of a family from Kolkata visiting retired parents settled in McCluskiegunj over a span of seven days.” She added that the film “revolves around the character Shyamal Chatterjee (Vikrant Massey), known as Shutu, a shy student who uses a road trip to the old Anglo-Indian town now in Jharkhand as an escape from his failed semester. In the week that follows, his quiet unraveling is initially overlooked by the family revelers, until the holiday ends with an implosion.” The film also stars Ranvir Shorey, Kalki Koechlin, Gulshan Devaiah, Tillotama Shome, Jim Sarbh, Tanuja Mukherjee, Om Puri, and Arya Sharma – an incredible cast that allowed the shoot to complete in just 31 days.

Sen Sharma was delighted at being selected to be part of this year’s TIFF: “It’s a great honour and I’m really excited. I was thrilled to get this beautiful email from Cameron Bailey (artistic director of the festival). It was like ‘OMG! Somebody understands my film.”

The 41st Toronto International Film Festival runs September 8 to 18, 2016. For more information, check out TIFF’s website.

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LIFF SPECIAL REVIEW: Toba Tek Singh http://bollyspice.com/liff-special-review-toba-tek-singh/ Sun, 24 Jul 2016 18:50:27 +0000 http://bollyspice.com/?p=126275 Saadat Hassan (Vinay Pathak, whose character’s name serves as a nod to the author who wrote the story the film is based on) arrives at the Lahore Mental Hospital in 1947, just prior to Partition and the subsequent independence of India and Pakistan. He serves both as a narrator of events outside the hospital, and a witness to events inside it. Ketan Mehta (perhaps best known for Mirch Masala and Bhavni Bhavai)’s film is an adaptation of Saadat Hassan Manto’s short story, “Toba Tek Singh”, which deals with the exchange of the patients of a mental institution several years after

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tobateksinghSaadat Hassan (Vinay Pathak, whose character’s name serves as a nod to the author who wrote the story the film is based on) arrives at the Lahore Mental Hospital in 1947, just prior to Partition and the subsequent independence of India and Pakistan. He serves both as a narrator of events outside the hospital, and a witness to events inside it.

Ketan Mehta (perhaps best known for Mirch Masala and Bhavni Bhavai)’s film is an adaptation of Saadat Hassan Manto’s short story, “Toba Tek Singh”, which deals with the exchange of the patients of a mental institution several years after Partition. The Lahore Mental Hospital’s most curious inmate is Bishan Singh (Pankaj Kapur), a man who never sits, never lies down, and who, it is said, has not slept for ten years. Bishan Singh, generally quiet, does, nevertheless, have a bit of nonsense that he babbles every so often, and his babbling generally ends with the question, “Where is Toba Tek Singh?” This results in the other inmates and the hospital staff generally referring to him as Toba Tek Singh, after the place where he is from.

Manto’s story is, of course, a metaphor for the madness of Partition, and it requires us to ask the question: which is more mad, the world outside the lunatic asylum, a world that ripped families apart and resulted in incredible violence on a mass scale? Or the world within the asylum, which, despite its absurdities, at least seems to be a bit of a refuge for those who are there. In one very moving scene, a woman who was found at the train station is brought to the hospital. She has obviously been attacked and raped, and she is speechless and in shock. The inmates begin to ask about her religion: is she Muslim? Is she Sikh? Is she Hindu? “What does it matter?” is the answer – she’s a girl, and that’s all that matters.

On the day of the inmate exchange – the decision has been made that Muslim inmates will remain at the institution and Sikh and Hindu ones will be transferred to a hospital in India – Bishan Singh finally gets an answer to his constant and persistent question regarding the location of Toba Tek Singh. It’s in Pakistan, he’s told, causing him to become agitated and try to return to the Pakistani side of the border. Saadat Hassan has them leave him be while the exchange continues, with Bishan Singh standing on the small strip of no-man’s land between the barbed-wire fences that separate the two countries. At daybreak, Bishan Singh finally screeches his bit of gibberish one more time, and then falls down dead. Toba Tek Singh, it would seem, is a place that is neither here, nor there; neither in India, nor in Pakistan. It exists only in a place that no longer exists.

The film is anchored by two very fine performances: first, from the always reliable Vinay Pathak as the institution’s director, a gentle man who treats the inmate with utmost respect. He is moved by the events that overwhelm them all, even as he stands as a witness to them. Pankaj Kapur has very little dialogue beyond his bits of gibberish and his quest to find the location of Toba Tek Singh, but he manages to express Bishan Singh’s confusion and agitation and loss of identity, while giving this madman some small shreds of dignity.

Manto’s story and Mehta’s film adaption are both incredibly moving testaments to the heartbreak of Partition – to the questions of identity and the scars they leave, and the utter absurdity of living in one country one day, and another the next, simply because someone drew a random line on a map. It is a fitting film to close the London Indian Film Festival 2016.

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Zeal for Unity Films – LIFF Special Review http://bollyspice.com/zeal-for-unity-films-liff-special-review/ Wed, 20 Jul 2016 06:20:31 +0000 http://bollyspice.com/?p=126153 The London Indian Film Festival 2016 is presenting the World Premiere of two Pakistani films made under the Zeal for Unity India-Pakistan filmmaking initiative, Khaemae Mein Matt Jhankain (“Don’t Peek Into the Tent”) and Jeewan Hathi (“Elephant in the Room”). In Khaemae Mein Matt Jhankain, a circus mysteriously turns up in a remote rural village, and the men and boys of the community are mesmerized by the beautiful trapeze artist, Manju – all except Shano Kanzada, a local landlord who views the circus as good for only servants and the lower classes. Kanzada’s view on life is that real men

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The London Indian Film Festival 2016 is presenting the World Premiere of two Pakistani films made under the Zeal for Unity India-Pakistan filmmaking initiative, Khaemae Mein Matt Jhankain (“Don’t Peek Into the Tent”) and Jeewan Hathi (“Elephant in the Room”).

Khaemae_Mein_Matt_Jhankan
In Khaemae Mein Matt Jhankain, a circus mysteriously turns up in a remote rural village, and the men and boys of the community are mesmerized by the beautiful trapeze artist, Manju – all except Shano Kanzada, a local landlord who views the circus as good for only servants and the lower classes. Kanzada’s view on life is that real men forget studying, and go out and shoot things; in contrast, his nephew Arsalan wants to study, and chides his uncle that he has no love for anything.

Phaju, one of the locals, tells Kanzada that he’s seen a fairy at the circus – a fairy that he’d previously seen at the riverside when he was eleven, a fairy who, when she appears, causes roses to land in the laps of every man in the tent. Kanzada’s interest is finally piqued, and he heads to the circus to find out more.
Phaju’s father had told him that if you want to enslave a fairy, you have to hide her clothes – until she can recover her clothing, she cannot return to fairyland. This is exactly what Phaju thinks the circus owner has done with Manju. But how does a fairy enslave a man? And why would she? Khaemae Mein Matt Jhankain holds the answers – just be sure that you don’t peek into the tent.

Jeewan_Hathi
Like Khaemae Mein Matt Jhankain, Jeewan Hathi deals with a world of illusions – but in this case, the world of television, the world of soap operas and reality shows on a channel owned by C.B. Tabani (Naseeruddin Shah). When the morning show ratings drop, Tabani insists that the host, his wife Natasha, should be replaced by a younger, thinner woman, Simi Malik. Natasha is given hosting duties on a new show, Jeewan Saathi (Life Mate), which pits two couples against each other to determine which of them is the most loving and compatible. The prize on the line is, fittingly enough, a 60-inch LED television, and the poor but loving wife Khalda signs herself and her husband Siraj up for the programme because she, a tv addict, is determined to have the prize. As with so many things in life, Jeewan Hathi invites us to follow the money – the young couple don’t realize that the winner has already been determined (they’re up against one of the channel’s sponsors and his wife), host Natasha loses not only her morning show but her husband to the woman who can bring in the money – even the station’s manager is named ATM. Jeewan Saathi turns out to be a messy but highly profitable affair for everyone involved.

The Zeal for Unity initiative brought 12 filmmakers together – 6 from India, 6 from Pakistan – and gave them a platform to showcase their work. The results have been a series of incredibly fine films that give us the best in both the technical and creative arenas. In addition to Khaemae Mein Matt Jhankain and Jeewan Hathi, LIFF 2016 is also screening Toba Tek Singh as its closing film – and screened Bengali film Saari Raat last year. These films are all of such a high standard and represent each country’s creativity and talent – they are all worth seeking out if you have the chance.

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The Documentaries of Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy – LIFF Special Review http://bollyspice.com/documentaries-sharmeen-obaid-chinoy-liff-special-review/ Tue, 19 Jul 2016 07:08:02 +0000 http://bollyspice.com/?p=126125 There is a bittersweet bit of irony at play in the fact that Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy’s Academy-award winning short documentary film A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness is on the schedule at LIFF2016. I watched it the same day I heard about the death of Pakistani internet sensation Qandeel Baloch (allegedly an honour killing at the hands of her brother). A Girl in the River traces the case of the attempted honour killing of a girl at the hands of her father and uncle. Each year, the film tells us, at least 1000 Pakistani women are killed

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A_Girl_in_the_RiverThere is a bittersweet bit of irony at play in the fact that Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy’s Academy-award winning short documentary film A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness is on the schedule at LIFF2016. I watched it the same day I heard about the death of Pakistani internet sensation Qandeel Baloch (allegedly an honour killing at the hands of her brother).

A Girl in the River traces the case of the attempted honour killing of a girl at the hands of her father and uncle. Each year, the film tells us, at least 1000 Pakistani women are killed by family members who deem that they have sullied the family “izzat” or honour in some way. Saba’s “crime” was to run away and marry – in fact, to marry the man that her own family had arranged her marriage with, a marriage they decided to break off when Saba’s uncle objected on grounds that the groom’s family status was below the level of that of the bride’s. Saba was shot, stuffed into a bag, and thrown in the river. That she managed to survive is a miracle in itself. That her father and uncle were clearly the perpetrators of the crime is obvious – they admit to their actions, justified, of course by Saba’s attack on their honour.

The film is a fascinating and heartbreaking look at a system which pits tradition against modernity, at varying interpretations of Islaam, and at community pressures which come into play – it turns out that in the cases of honour killings, perpetrators may be acquitted and released if close family members of the victim forgive them. Saba, having survived, must be the one to decide if she will forgive her father and uncle and allow them to go free.

Song_of_Lahore
Obaid-Chinoy’s documentary feature Song of Lahore is about honour of a different kind. Lahore has been a major South Asian cultural centure for well over a thousand years. And the Pakistani film industry during the years that Zulfaqir Ali Bhutto was thriving, and providing work for many of Pakistan’s traditionally trained musicians. The military coup staged by General Zia in 1977 changed all that – and the establishment of sharia law and the increasing islamization of the state saw the decline and virtual destruction of the film industry and the musicians it employed. Song of Lahore traces the revival of this rich musical culture by looking at the musicians who were most affected by it, as they share their memories and their music with a younger generation who have no idea of what they have been denied.

One of the challenges of returning to the musical fold, of course, is that the destruction of the film industry also resulted in the destruction of the audience – and these musicians respond in the most creative way possible to begin to rebuild an audience, knowing that the younger generation is more interested in western beats and instruments. They decide to make their audience a global one, incorporation Western musical principles into their own traditional one, writing new compositions that speak to traditional lovers of music, as well as to a newer, global one.

The situation is not totally rosy, however; the musicians describe playing in soundproof rooms, in keeping their status as musicians from their neighbours, lest they be seen as low-lifes; their re-interpretation of Dave Brubeck’s jazz classic “Take Five” is tempered with the news that with the arrival of the Taliban in Pakistan, musicians are being targetted for reprisal – you only have to look at the most recent case, the shooting of Sufi singer Amjad Sabri last month, to understand that music in Pakistans remains a fragile, risky business.

Song of Lahore’s most fascinating moments, however, occur once the Sachal ensemble comes to the attention of jazz great Wynton Marsalis, who invites them to perform with his band in New York. The joys of being given such a great opporunity give way to the tensions of learning, and quickly, how to adapt to a Western working style – and to have Western musicians adapt to Pakistani ways of working, as well. The result is a remarkable concert experience, and, for the Sachal ensemble, a great feeling of honour.

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Jugni – LIFF Special Movie Review http://bollyspice.com/jugni-liff-special-movie-review/ Mon, 18 Jul 2016 06:00:10 +0000 http://bollyspice.com/?p=126081 When Vibhavari (Sugandha Garg), an up-and-coming Bollywood music director, finds herself facing a creative block, she sets off for Punjab to meet and record folk singer Bibi Swaroop (Sadhana Singh).  She first meets Bibi’s son, Mastana (Siddhant Behl), a charming and personable local singer himself, who insists that Vibs must listen to him sing and record him.  In Mastana and his mother Bibi, Vibs finds the inspiration that has been escaping her.  It’s not surprising that Vibs and Mastana grow close – close enough to spend the night together, admittedly encouraged by not only their music, but also by a

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Jugni posterWhen Vibhavari (Sugandha Garg), an up-and-coming Bollywood music director, finds herself facing a creative block, she sets off for Punjab to meet and record folk singer Bibi Swaroop (Sadhana Singh).  She first meets Bibi’s son, Mastana (Siddhant Behl), a charming and personable local singer himself, who insists that Vibs must listen to him sing and record him.  In Mastana and his mother Bibi, Vibs finds the inspiration that has been escaping her.  It’s not surprising that Vibs and Mastana grow close – close enough to spend the night together, admittedly encouraged by not only their music, but also by a bottle of Gulabo (the country liquor that also featured inVishal Bhardwaj’s  Matru ki Bijlee ka Mandola).  Mastana is mortified; Vibs sees it as something pure and natural, but, in the end, no big deal.

This, frankly, is one of several refreshing things about Shefali Bhushan’s film Jugni (literally a female firefly, but the word also refers to a kind of life essence, making it an incredibly apt title for a film that deals with music as a great life force for those creating as well as those listening) – there is no grand romance between our two leads, and, in fact, they both have partners (Preeto and Sid) with whom they share equally messy relationships.

The film is not without its flaws, however.  The story indulges in clichés (especially around the film world); performances are inconsistent.  There are moments where I feel like more direction was required, where actors should have been pulled back.  In a film where music takes the centre stage, it’s unfortunate that the actors are woefully inadequate at playback singing, making those moments seem awkward and forced.  There are, however, some cracking dialogues, and many of those are delivered deftly.  It’s too bad that both the story and its performances are uneven and sometimes downright clunky, because where Jugni is good, it’s very good and very entertaining, and when the performances work, they’re spot on.

Shefali Bhushan spent a number of years gathering folk sounds and folk music (she was the force behind the wonderful site Beat of India), so it’s no surprise that Jugni’s music director Clinton Cerejo’s music (with a little help from AR Rahman’s sufiana qalam) is the heart and soul of the film.  And probably my favourite sequence is the one in the opening credits, where we see Vibs wandering throughout Punjab, learning to play traditional instruments, and talking with the region’s singers – a region where, she is told, everyone is a singer.  Moments like those are when Jugni truly shines.

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Island City – LIFF Special Movie Review http://bollyspice.com/island-city-liff-special-movie-review/ Sun, 17 Jul 2016 07:20:00 +0000 http://bollyspice.com/?p=126045 With Island City, director Ruchika Oberoi presents a tryptich of stories dealing with oppression and alienation in the modern island city of the title, Mumbai. In the first story, “Fun Committee”, Vinay Pathak is perfect as Suyash Chaturvedi, the corporate drone working at Systematic Statistics. The company’s Fun Committee has decided that the best way to combat declining productivity is to subject its employees to orderly, organized, obedient fun. Chaturvedi is taken to the mall in the company “Fun Van”, given an envelope of coupons, and a set of instructions that he is required to follow to maximize his fun.

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Island_CityWith Island City, director Ruchika Oberoi presents a tryptich of stories dealing with oppression and alienation in the modern island city of the title, Mumbai. In the first story, “Fun Committee”, Vinay Pathak is perfect as Suyash Chaturvedi, the corporate drone working at Systematic Statistics. The company’s Fun Committee has decided that the best way to combat declining productivity is to subject its employees to orderly, organized, obedient fun. Chaturvedi is taken to the mall in the company “Fun Van”, given an envelope of coupons, and a set of instructions that he is required to follow to maximize his fun. An accidental swap of coupons with a terrorist undergoing a similar experience has him mindlessly gathering the pieces of a rifle and putting them together, something he seems to find more engaging, at least, than gathering up pink teddy bears and riding the carousel in the mall.

“Fun Committee” is absurd and surreal and deliciously funny and dark at the same time – think of Jacques Tati crossed with Aki Kaurismäki. It’s a sharp send-up of everything wrong in the corporate world, and highly entertaining and thought-provoking.

In the second story, “The Ghost in the Machine”, a man lies on life support after being the victim of an odd office shooting, an event that allows his long-suffering wife (Amruta Subhash) a chance at managing the household on her own without his constant requirement of having her account for everything spent. She regains control of the family finances, goes back to work as a teacher, and her family begins to thrive and be happy, especially as they enjoy the latest serial on television (“Purushottam”, involving the tales of a perfect husband). Their joy at the recovery of their favourite perfect television husband is tempered by the sudden recovery of their overbearing husband and father, who is far from the model one seen in the popular serial. “Ghost in the Machine” uses the device of the television serial to parallel the experience of the real world family to great emotional effect.

In the film’s final story, “Contact”, a serious, quiet, young woman named Aarti (the always excellent Tannishtha Chatterjee), who works at a newspaper printing press, is engaged to Jignesh (Chandan Roy Sanyal), a foul-mouthed lout who appears to care more about his motorcycle than he does for her. “All this romance-shomance is rubbish,” he tells a buddy, happy that his future in-laws have arranged their marriage so he can concentrate on his business. Aarti suddenly begins receiving love letters from an admirer who seems to be the only person who truly understands her, and for the first time, hope blooms in her face. The truth of who her correspondent really is, however, manages to quash what little flame of joy that had been lit in her life.

Oberoi cleverly connects her three stories in ways that allow Island City to stand as a thematic whole. Her characters are dutiful, orderly, obedient; their lives leave little space for fun. And yet, as the film reveals, there are moments of hope, of love, of relief from the oppression of daily life in the Island City, though perhaps not enough to result in a completely fulfilling life.

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Moh Maya Money – LIFF Special Movie Review http://bollyspice.com/moh-maya-money-liff-special-movie-review/ Sat, 16 Jul 2016 09:00:04 +0000 http://bollyspice.com/?p=125992 Moh Maya Money (“In Greed We Trust”) opens in the most explosive way possible, with a fiery car crash and a grieving widow.  “Why do you take so many risks?” Divya (Neha Dupia) asks her husband Aman (Ranvir Shorey).  Aman’s response is one many of us can understand:  he wants to be rich.  A real estate broker, he’s no stranger to fiddling timelines and skimming funds, but when a chance for a bigger deal comes along, he’s willing to take the risk when others advise him he should not.  “You don’t get to go to heaven unless you die,” he

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Moh Maya Money imagesMoh Maya Money (“In Greed We Trust”) opens in the most explosive way possible, with a fiery car crash and a grieving widow. 

“Why do you take so many risks?” Divya (Neha Dupia) asks her husband Aman (Ranvir Shorey).  Aman’s response is one many of us can understand:  he wants to be rich.  A real estate broker, he’s no stranger to fiddling timelines and skimming funds, but when a chance for a bigger deal comes along, he’s willing to take the risk when others advise him he should not.  “You don’t get to go to heaven unless you die,” he justifies.  Even the small-time real estate dealer and full-time thug, Raghuveer (Dev Chauhan), who Aman takes the deal to, wonders if Aman shouldn’t be nervous, but all Aman can think about is the multi-million dollar slice of the pie that will be his share.  “The client gets the cake,” he justifies, “but we get to enjoy the cream.”

It’s Aman’s greed, not surprisingly, that serves to set everything unravelling, though we see the first stitches begin to run before he even has a clue that things are coming undone.  The script sets Aman up like a bunch of dominos, and when the first one falls, we understand that it’s only a matter of time before they all come tumbling down, one by one.  The film doesn’t follow this predictable pattern, though, choosing to circle back in a non-linear timeline in order to give us different perspectives of the same scenes.  We know what has already happened – or we think we do, but the film adds layers to our understanding as it shifts back and forth in time, and every detail, no matter how small, has the potential to be of greater importance later on.  We learn, too, that Divya, a newsroom executive with a bright future, has secrets of her own to keep.

The film’s dialogues are crisp and clever, Munish Bhardwaj’s direction is meticulous, and all the performances are spot on.  Ranvir Shorey and Neha Dupia have always done their best work in independent films, and Moh Maya Money is no exception to this – Shorey takes Aman from cocky dealer to someone desperate enough to do anything to get out of the trap he’s found himself in, and Dupia is solid as his suffering wife who must reluctantly get involved in his white collar crime in order to save the both of them.  A special mention needs to be made of Oscar-winning Resul Pookutty’s sound design, which adds another layer to the film. But the real star of this film is the story itself, infused with Delhi noir and enough twists to keep us guessing until the very end.  Moh Maya Money is compelling viewing and a must-see at this year’s London Indian Film Festival.

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OTTAL – LIFF Special Movie Review http://bollyspice.com/ottal-liff-special-movie-review/ Fri, 15 Jul 2016 15:48:29 +0000 http://bollyspice.com/?p=125933 Award-winning Malayalam director Jayaraj turned to an Anton Chekov short story, “Vanka”, to find the inspiration for his most recent film Ottaal (“The Trap”), proof that some themes transcend place and time. Eight-year-old Kuttappai (Ashanth K. Sha), orphaned after the death of his parents, is raised by his Vallyappachayi or grandfather (Kumarakaom Vasudevan, a fisherman in real life) in Kuttanad, in the backwaters of Kerala. Together they fish and raise ducks. The film’s most moving moments aren’t grand and dramatic, but flow out of the relationship between grandfather and grandson. Pointing out a bird’s nest to his grandfather results in

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OttaalAward-winning Malayalam director Jayaraj turned to an Anton Chekov short story, “Vanka”, to find the inspiration for his most recent film Ottaal (“The Trap”), proof that some themes transcend place and time.

Eight-year-old Kuttappai (Ashanth K. Sha), orphaned after the death of his parents, is raised by his Vallyappachayi or grandfather (Kumarakaom Vasudevan, a fisherman in real life) in Kuttanad, in the backwaters of Kerala. Together they fish and raise ducks.

The film’s most moving moments aren’t grand and dramatic, but flow out of the relationship between grandfather and grandson. Pointing out a bird’s nest to his grandfather results in a lesson about bird migration, but when Kuttappai wants to know what happens to the little birds with no parents, his grandfather is unable to answer him. But Vallyappachayi is more certain about which night-time stars are Kuttappai’s parents, reassuring the boy that they surely can see him running and playing. Kuttappai’s parents, it turns out, committed suicide after realizing they would be unable to pay back their debts. Kuttappai was given the poisoned food they ate, but was lucky enough to survive.

Kuttappai is a curious and sensitive boy, asking questions about everything he sees around him, giving his share of food to a local dog, helping out his rich friend Tinku by delivering pupa and tadpoles to school, and showing him lotuses that his grandfather makes into necklaces for the boys. He wants to go to school. His grandfather wants to send him, but can’t fathom how to do such a thing, when their life is so nomadic, drifting up and down the backwaters with the ducks.

When Vallyappachayi falls ill, decisions must be made about what will happen to Kuttappai. Vallyappachayi asks Tinku’s family to take the boy in, and Tinku’s mother wonders if the boy could be a companion to Tinku, while also helping them out with their houseboat and home stay business, but her husband (who already finds the “duck boy” an unsuitable friend for his son) refuses, on the grounds that it could be considered child labour. He is, however, more concerned with what would happen to them, than what will happen to Kuttappai, though. When all options run out, Vallyappachayi has no choice but to give in to Mesthiri (Shine Tom Chacko), a local duck boss who thinks children like Kuttappai should be working anyway. Under the pretense of being sent to a faraway school, Kuttappai is sent to the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu to work in a fireworks factory.
Ottaal
Ottaal manages to reveal the devastation of child labour without actually having to show much of it in the film – instead, director Jayaraj focuses on the relationship between grandfather and grandson, showing us that despite the loss of his parents, Kuttappai thrives with the love and care of his Vallyappachayi. The two share stories that Kuttappai reads from a book borrowed from Tinku, and Kuttappai loves both to tease his grandfather, and learn about the natural world of the backwaters from him. This loss, of a nurturing presence and the innocence of childhood, more than anything, underpins the emotional weight of the film and its message.

I’ve seen Ottaal several times since it was first released, and this is the first time I’ve reviewed it. The film packs such an emotional punch that I’ve been left speechless each time, and even now, I feel the inadequacy of words to describe the power of this film. So many moments stick with me: the look on Mesthiri’s face when Vallyappachayi asks him if Kuttappai will be well cared for; the uneasy look on Tinku’s mother’s face when told that Kuttappai is going away to school; Kuttappai twisting his grandfather’s moustache and giving him a kiss; Kuttappai’s joy at the thought of going away to learn, and his sorrow at leaving his beloved Vallyappachayi, his cries covered by the sound of his grandfather’s paddle hitting the water as he rows faster and faster in this unbearable moment of separation; Kuttappai’s letter to his Vallyappachayi, a desperate plea to be liberated from the trap he’s fallen into. For children like Kuttappai, learning how to live comes much too soon.

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Cinemawala – LIFF Special Movie Review http://bollyspice.com/cinemawala-liff-special-movie-review/ Fri, 15 Jul 2016 13:00:47 +0000 http://bollyspice.com/?p=125912 If I were asked about the one sound in the world I love, hands down the answer would be the whirring of a film projector.  In this day and age, when digital is king, I still remember the joys of watching films at my uncle’s house, the whirr of the projector, the dancing of dust in the light in front of the lens and – joy – the ability to send the thing into reverse, which gave us countless hours of silly pleasure.   I still remember the excitement of learning how to use the projector myself, a skill that I’m

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CinemawalaIf I were asked about the one sound in the world I love, hands down the answer would be the whirring of a film projector.  In this day and age, when digital is king, I still remember the joys of watching films at my uncle’s house, the whirr of the projector, the dancing of dust in the light in front of the lens and – joy – the ability to send the thing into reverse, which gave us countless hours of silly pleasure.   I still remember the excitement of learning how to use the projector myself, a skill that I’m sure has grown rusty as I’ve enjoyed a world of media streamed right to my computer.

The changing nature of the film business in India acts as a catalyst to explore the relationship between a father and a son in Bengali director Kaushik Ganguly’s latest film, Cinemawala.  Pranabendu Das (Paran Bandopadhyay in a wonderfully subtle performance) sees himself as a true “cinemawala”, a film exhibitor, a grand merchant of hope and passion of dreams that will allow people to forget the troubles of the world as well as their own.  He is ashamed of his son Prakash (Parambrata Chatterjee), who sells pirated DVDs, an illegal business that his father finds both immoral and a desecration of everything he holds dear.  His son is a thief, and his thievery is causing the decline of cinema halls, of a beautiful world that allowed people to forget their problems.

Pranabendu Das lives in the past:  his world is the one of India post-Independence, post-partition, when people needed distractions to lighten the burdens the world placed on them.  His is a world filled with stories of Supriya Devi and Uttam Kumar – especially of Uttam Kumar, whom he calls the prince of fairy tales.  His son’s world is whatever people want to buy – usually the latest Dev or Jeet film on DVD.  The irony, of course, is that Pranabendu compares cinema to alcohol, allowing people to forget their pains and sorrows, but he drowns his own sorrows at the disappearance of his kind of cinema world in a bottle of rum, each glass prepared by his projectionist Hari (Arun Guhathakurta), who sits and listens to his ramblings and tries to take care of him now that he no longer has films to project.

Frustrated by his father’s judgement of him, Prakash decides to use a gold bracelet given to him by his mother Kamalini (Aloknanda Ray), for whom the family cinema hall is named, to buy a DVD projector in order to show movies at the local fair, and it’s a decision that serves to bring the relationship between father and son to a confrontation.  Prakash refuses to work in the fish wholesale business anymore, calling his father a fisherman, which the old man sees as the ultimate insult – not because the work itself is demeaning, but because he sees it as Prakash’s rejection of the one bit of honourable employment he has, in favour of something illegal.  “No business is demeaning, if it is truthful,” Pranabendu tells his son, asking him how he will justify what he does to his own child, already on the way.

Judging which of these worlds is better – old or new – is not as simple as it seems.  Pranabendu raises a temple, in which cinema resides, but he is estranged from his family – his wife, Kamalini, for whom the cinema hall is named, has left him; though his son and daughter-in-law live with him, the relationship is anything but warm (though the long-suffering Mou clearly cares for her father-in-law, she is caught between father and son).  “Now that you have a family,” Kamalini tells her son upon learning that her daughter-in-law is pregnant, “give it time.  Don’t make a Taj Mahal in her name and then forget her.”

Ganguly’s films, especially Shabdo and Chotoder Chobi, have marked him as a filmmaker willing to explore the stories of marginalized professions and communities, and Cinemawala is no exception.  But Cinemawala, perhaps, is a film that represents the concerns of a modern, globalized world and the society and moral values it is struggling to replace.  Ganguly asks not only what it means to be a cinemawala in this age; but what it means to be a human being?  What things will we place value on?  What choices will we make, morally, socially?  Are there values we should be hanging on to, even as we replace the things that represented them?

A wheel of change is turning, but change doesn’t mean anything more than different joys and different sorrows.  And a father’s sorrows over his son need no retribution in this turn of the wheel – it’s the next generation,  as a son becomes a father and discovers his own son’s betrayals, that will make up for the previous generation’s sorrows.  Children betray their fathers; husbands betray their wives; and the world continues to turn.

Which brings me full circle: Ganguly’s storytelling is brilliant, as in the scene presenting the removal of the projectors from the Kamalini Cinema as a funeral procession for a disappearing art.  I am, most definitely, firmly entrenched in the digital age; but I couldn’t help but shed tears at this moment, and, like Pranabendu, feel some sorrow at a world that will never experience the pleasures of seeing an actual film, and hearing the sound of a proper film projector.

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Toronto International Film Festival’s South Asian Connections http://bollyspice.com/tiff-south-asian-connections/ Thu, 30 Jul 2015 13:20:22 +0000 http://bollyspice.com/?p=108888 Piers Handling, CEO and Director of the Toronto International Film Festival, and Cameron Bailey, Artistic Director of the Toronto International Film Festival, announced the first round of titles premiering in the Galas and Special Presentations programmes of the 40th Toronto International Film Festival. There are some wonderful film-watching opportunities for fans of South Asian film, as a slate of films either produced in, set in, or with a connection to South Asia are included in the announcement. The following is taken from the TIFF press release, with some additional notes. Galas: Beeba Boys – Deepa Mehta, Canada – World Premiere

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Piers Handling, CEO and Director of the Toronto International Film Festival, and Cameron Bailey, Artistic Director of the Toronto International Film Festival, announced the first round of titles premiering in the Galas and Special Presentations programmes of the 40th Toronto International Film Festival. There are some wonderful film-watching opportunities for fans of South Asian film, as a slate of films either produced in, set in, or with a connection to South Asia are included in the announcement. The following is taken from the TIFF press release, with some additional notes.

Galas:

Beeba Boys – Deepa Mehta, Canada – World Premiere

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An adrenaline-charged violent Indo-Canadian gang war mixes guns, bhangra beats, bespoke suits, cocaine, and betrayal. Gang boss Jeet Johar and his loyal, young crew are audaciously taking over the Vancouver drug and arms scene from an old-style crime syndicate. Hearts are broken and family bonds shattered when the Beeba Boys (known as the “nice boys”) do anything “to be seen and to be feared” — in a white world. The film’s cast includes Randeep Hooda (Monsoon Wedding, Once Upon a Time in Mumbai, Highway), Ali Momen, Sarah Allen, Waris Ahluwalia, Bollywood veteran Gulshan Grover, Balinder Johal, Ali Kazmi, Steve Dhillon, Jag Bal, Gabe Grey, Paul Gross.

The Man Who Knew Infinity – Matthew Brown, United Kingdom – World Premiere

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A true story of friendship that forever changed mathematics. In 1913, Ramanujan, a self-taught mathematics genius from India, travelled to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he forged a bond with his mentor, the eccentric professor GH Hardy, and fought to show the world the magic of his mind. Starring Dev Patel and Academy Award winner Jeremy Irons.

Special Presentations:

Dheepan – Jacques Audiard, France – North American Premiere

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To escape the civil war in Sri Lanka, a former Tamil Tiger soldier, a young woman and a little girl pose as a family. These strangers try to build a life together in a Parisian suburb. Audiard’s film was this year’s Palme d’Or winner at the Cannes Film Festival.

Guilty (Talvar) – Meghna Gulzar, India – World Premiere

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Based on true events that set off a media frenzy all over the world, Guilty follows the 2008 Noida Double Murder Case of an investigation into the deaths of 14-year-old Aarushi Talwar and 45-year-old Hemraj Banjade, a domestic employed by Aarushi’s family, in Noida, India. The controversial case lives on in the mind of the public, despite a guilty verdict that sentenced the parents of the murdered girl to life in prison. Starring Irrfan Khan (The Lunchbox, Life of Pi), Konkona Sen Sharma, Neeraj Kabi (Ship of Theseus), Sohum Shah, and Tabu (Haider). Screenplay and music by respected director Vishal Bhardwaj (Haider, Maqbool, Omkara)

Parched – Leena Yadav, India/USA – World Premiere

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Three ordinary women dare to break free from the century old patriarchal ways of their village in the desert heartland of rural India. Starring Tannishtha Chaterjee (Road, Movie, Dekh Indian Circus, Siddarth), Radhika Apte (I, Am, Badlapur, Ahalya) and Surveen Chawla (Ugly), this unforgettable tale of friendship and triumph is called Parched.

Un plus une – Claude Lelouch, France – World Premiere

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Charming, successful, Antoine (Jean Dujardin) could be the hero of one of those films he composes the music for. When he leaves for a job in India (to compose the music for a Bollywood retelling of Romeo and Juliet), he meets Anna (Elsa Zylberstein), a woman who isn’t like him at all, but who attracts him more than anything. Together, they are going to experience an incredible journey.

The 40th annual Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 14th to 20th, 2015. For more information, check out TIFF’s website.

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