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Banno Outtakes

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you

  1. are wondering what the hell happened to it
  2. know friend-of-the-blog Banno from Banno, Dhanno and Teja in Bumm-Bumm-Bhole-Land

And while you’ll have to keep wondering about the blog for a little longer, I’m happy to share that I interviewed Banno for Women’s Web and we discussed things like how awesome she is and how difficult it is to be an indie filmmaker in India. No, seriously, check it out! And once you’ve read it, come back to read the outtakes.

Yes, of course there are outtakes! The interview was done in my usual expansive style, after all. I have been away a long time if you can’t remember how I like to go on and on.

Thanks, Banno!

***

Amrita: Let’s talk about India Reborn.
Batul:
India Reborn was a series for Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. One of the episodes was on the Indian economy, and I worked on that as the Indian producer. An international documentary crew is typically very small, a director, a cameraman, a sound recordist, and a local producer like me. This one had a producer their end as well. My job usually is to help with finding stories, research, interviews, apart from the logistical co-ordination. I loved this job because after a long time, I worked with people who were still old-school journalists, we travelled through the country, and I learned so much about the Indian economy.

Amrita: I know from your blog that one of your British documentaries affected you deeply on a personal level.
Batul: The Slumdog Children of Mumbai came in the wake of Slumdog Millionaire‘s success. It was part of a year-long programming by Channel 4, UK. This was one of those jobs where we worked for long months, also the only job I did which was entirely during the monsoons. We had the tiniest crew: Nick Read, who was the producer, director, cameraman and sound recordist and me, working as an associate producer, conducting the interviews, etc.

It was physically grueling, the combination of rains and slums made things very, very difficult to bear at times, and I did come out of this experience traumatized.

Amrita: Any war stories?
Batul: I think the day I landed in Bhuj after the earthquake on Day 2, is the single most devastating day of my professional career. The dead bodies, the smell, the destruction of the entire city, people’s homes, and in the midst of it all trying to get a story. At that time, I was working as an associate for a cameraman who was shooting the International Rescue Corps.

I learned the gruesomeness of news in that one day, and in many ways, my own docu-feature 150 Seconds Ago was a back answer to that.

Amrita: Tell me about that experience.
Batul: 150 Seconds Ago was based on the lives of a few people in Bhuj, over the span of a year after the earthquake there in 2001. The people I followed included a rickshaw-wala, the erstwhile Maharajah of Bhuj, a doctor, a school teacher, and so on. It was very observational and exploratory, with no fixed narrative. The film travelled to many prestigious festivals including the Cinema du Reel, Paris, and the Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival, Japan. The Yamagata Festival curators then included the film in their traveling festival package and showed it around Japan for a year.

 
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Posted by on June 12, 2011 in Entertainment, Life, Movies, Newsmakers, Video

 

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Masala Zindabad

Yup, it’s up and running.

We kick things off with a podcast featuring MemsaabStory – part one of a wide ranging discussion about the largely forgotten/ unknown/ nameless character actors of Hindi cinema. The feed is in the sidebar.

I swear we aren’t on meth. That’s just my poor editing skills at play. We did our best to follow the advice of all you lovely people who wrote in; I hope it worked.

Thanks for listening!

[pic]

 
5 Comments

Posted by on November 23, 2010 in Entertainment, Movies, Personal

 

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Rakhi Sawant for Prime Minister

Although the time on her clock reads well into the 16th minute, Rakhi Sawant is still going places – like the unfamiliar pages of Filmfare. The interview, a rare one from a magazine devoted to its upscale Not-Your-Mummyji‘s-Gossip-Rag brand, starts off with Rakhi flipping out at the sight of the Louis Vuitton outfit and Ferragamo shoes the team has arranged for her photoshoot.

Not in the way they were expecting though:

“Which godown have you picked up these chindis (rags) from? There is no red, green, blue, purple, no glitter. My fans will think I’ve become a bhikhari (beggar) if I were to wear such clothes.”

I think I’m supposed to laugh at her, but honestly, I’m laughing at the magazine because they just got served. Whatever her faults, Rakhi clearly isn’t a brand-fucker. Eventually they seem to have got her into an oversized Diesel tee, and a Just Cavalli top paired with shorts from Mango. Couldn’t make her let go of her pancake though. One look and I already know this is going to be the best interview Filmfare has landed in ages.

Sure enough, she talks a little about hosting her version of Judge Judy, which seems to be more Jerry Springer going by the promos, and then launches into talk of how she’s let Jesus take the wheel:

Being an item girl doesn’t mean I dance around all the time clad in a ghagra-choli. I am a good human being, a God-fearing girl. Before taking up any work, I take permission from Jesus. If it requires me to expose, I refuse it. Like I refused “Meethi Chhoori” and Ram Gopal Varma’s “Phoonk 2″ because I didn’t want to expose or be part of a horror film.

God hates slags! Just in case you didn’t know. Various other meditations follow: she’s come to realize she’s a heavenly alien “here on a transit visa” after she read the Bible. Other things the Bible taught her -

  • don’t be a bitch
  • pay taxes to God (10% flat rate)
  • it’s better to be God’s kid than a star kid. Who’re all miserable failures anyway (especially that loser Hrithik Roshan who needs his daddy to make him movies)
  • be nice to your mom and she will ask for less money
  • don’t have “dirty sex” with drugs and booze when all you need is Viagra – “alcohol is Satan’s mouthwash”
  • the Devil is behind all the hate that comes her way
  • she’s now a national icon on the level of Amitabh Bachchan
  • Shahrukh Khan’s decidedly un-Christian antics at awards shows is proof that the world is biased towards educated elites.

Well, really. Who could argue with any of that? My head throbs just thinking of it.

Q. What about your love life now?
A. I am madly in love. I am married. Jesus is my husband.

Just call her Fraulein Maria. Jesus is her Captain but if some nice, clean-living teetotaler with perhaps no money but definitely much piety were to cross her path, she’d marry him. Not that she really needs him because, let’s face it, Jesus is a tough act to follow.

In fact, she’s writing a show about the life of Jesus Christ – she’s got about 50 episodes written already – but not a single channel will put it on because they’re all temples of sin, devoted to carnality and destined for Hell. And furthermore, if Ekta Kapoor wants the honor of working with her on this project, which might save souls unlike her usual sinful stuff, she can just approach Rakhi herself!

After all, is God visiting Ekta in her dreams to advice her about the sins of plastic surgery? Nope! That would be Rakhi Sawant, thank you very much. Who is now much more famous than this Mallika Sherawat person (lurking sadly in the pages of this very issue, saying outdated things like: “Obama is a stud!” Yawn.) who is only known for taking her clothes off.

Q. Where do you see yourself after five years?
A. I see myself in Lok Sabha as a clean politician. Without wearing khadi, I’m doing a lot of social work. But you also need power to make a difference. However, everyone wants me nanga (nude) on screen. But I won’t wear a bikini or short dresses. I’m not dying to do films, I’m doing reality shows.

Well, of course! Why didn’t any of us see this coming? Get ready for Prime Minister Rakhi Sawant in 2020. She’ll be the one in a spaghetti strap handloom saree at the United Nations General Assembly, mediating a Middle East intervention where the Israelis and the Palestinians get to bitchslap their differences out on live camera. Eventually, she’ll step in and make peace based on the hard-won experiences of her tragic life, after which they will all dance together to the tune of a Bollywood item number.

Oh, you scoff now but you’ll remember this post one day.

In other news, if you hear blood has started pouring out of the eyes of a Virgin Mary near you, please don’t be alarmed. Just hand her a hanky. It’s not every day a woman gets Rakhi Sawant for a daughter-in-law.

 
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Posted by on November 2, 2010 in Celebrity, Entertainment, Newsmakers, Video

 

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Sorry for the Interruption

“As The Rama annihilled The Ravan; as The Krishna annihilled The Kansa, so we are sure, The Chavan will annihil The Chou.”

– The late owner of one of India’s most famous English dailies (the first one that popped into your head is probably the right one) in 1962, at a banquet honoring YB Chavan, the new Defence Minister.

Suresh Kalmadi isn’t even tops at screwing up his speeches. The only good thing about a massively disappointing week was this little anecdote offered as a piece of dinner conversation. Normal blogging to resume.

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2010 in Newsmakers, Personal, Politics

 

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Earworm Friday

All hail the Mighty Earworm! A little sumpin’-sumpin’ to remember me by this lonely weekend. I hope you don’t have anything romantic planned because nothing ruins the mood faster than a partner who walks around muttering “gutur gutur”. Enjoy!


(now with subtitles for double the horror!)

I have no earthly clue how this toxic spillage of a movie became a hit but it takes Shahrukh Khan, Madhuri Dixit, Salman Khan and even a love-addled Aishwarya Rai and gives you turdblossoms like the one above. After this movie was released, Mads got married and moved far, far away and Ash and SRK both dumped Salman who is equally mad at them. I’m not saying that all resulted from this movie, but if the pieces of nuclear devastation fit…


(I want to forget this but I can’t! SOB!)

The most hilarious thing about this song is something I didn’t even know until I fell down my Mahesh Babu wormhole: look at this. Heh heh heh. I could be the only one who notices a certain resemblance but I find it very fitting. This song is so terrible, dancing to it made Hrithik’s body fall apart. Yes, I choose to blame all his physical ailments on this one.


(starts at the 6.00 mark)

You could probably do an entire list of questionable songs from David Dhawan movies – although, why would you? You’re not an insane masochist like myself – but he really outdid himself with this little ditty from one of his rare non-Govinda movie, back in the days when Akshay Kumar was box office poison.


(aka the reason I’m anti-cell phones)

How? How could this list be complete without at least one Govinda song? Especially this Govinda song? I’ve heard it everywhere – the streets of Delhi, the hallways of American dorms, the subways of New York, the airport of Paris – and I’m sure I would have heard it more often if my brain hadn’t taken proactive steps to ensure my sanity and blocked it out on multiple occasions.


(old is gold)

Here is the man who taught Govinda all he knows: the one and only Jeetendra singing the immortal “Ui Amma” with that brave soldier of the nation, Jaya Prada whose saree mysteriously crumples up and flies away with the wind. Only in the 80s, folks!


(before you pour bleach into your eyes and ears, I should warn you that it’s no use)

Why is Amrita showing me soft porn, you wonder. She isn’t; it’s Mithun Chakraborty’s second coming. Ahem. It’s one of those all time “classics” that nobody can ever forget or unhear once it’s entered their orbit. Even if you only glimpsed out the corner of your eye as it played on mute, you’d hear it in the recesses of your soul for ever and a day.


(Muahahahaha!)

Warning: You will never get this song out of your head. You’ll still go ahead and click because you’ll refuse to believe anything could be that addictive… and now for the rest of your life people will give you puzzled looks as you go about your business singing, “I am a Disco Dancer!” under your breath.

(For Pitu and Chintan)

 
21 Comments

Posted by on September 24, 2010 in Celebrity, Entertainment, Music, Video

 

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Dabangg for the Buck

<i>Dabangg</i> for the Buck

10 minutes into Dabangg, written and directed by Abhinav Kashyap who previously wrote the dialogue for Manorama Six Feet Under, and you realize why Hindi has all but ceded this kind of territory to Telugu and Tamil cinema: it requires a very specific kind of movie star to work.

First, you need a Star. Somebody with a rabid fan base and the kind of charisma that can’t be manufactured, no matter how many years you spent assisting famous directors or learning to dance from master choreographers or who you call Pop.

Next, he must willing to embrace a dhishum-dhishum flick entirely unironically. He’s not trying to re-interpret, deconstruct or elevate it. He’s simply and methodically bashing in the heads of random people who get in his way in a manner that makes you feel like he’s doing it for you as a personal favor.

And the cherry on top is that he must do all of this with enough style to sell it. “It” being whatever it is he’s peddling. Explosions, murder in broad daylight, defenestration, stealing, drinking, hookers, you name it. You want to be him, your wife wants to do him – at no point do you think, “Who’s he kidding?” or “What a psycho!” even if it’s true. That kind of ruins the movie.

Even in South India where they like to keep in practice, this is a tall order. You might think your average gorilla in shades could pull it off, but watch Salman Khan prove you wrong. The man is absolutely in his element as he joyfully smashes up a small town, blows shit up, creatively murders various people, courts a girl by threatening to beat currency upon her… and still effectively convey the idea that at heart he’s just a sad little boy who wants someone to love him. Awww.

I can’t think of a single other actor in Hindi today who could have pulled this off. Salman’s Chulbul Pandey is a beast held barely leashed by a crisp white shirt, and his offscreen persona only feeds into the animal magnetism onscreen. Movies like these channel the fantasy of the exotic pet – the heady rush at the thought of taming such a potentially lethal creature through nothing more than love. But for it to work, you need a believably dangerous persona to fuel the character – and there’s nobody more enigmatic or unpredictable in today’s carefully manicured Bollywood than Salman Khan.

Is it “good” cinema? Well, it’s entertaining cinema. A more cohesive follow-up to Wanted, the only thing it aspires to is a good time and that it delivers with glee. Into every life a little popcorn must fall and Dabangg a.k.a. The Adventures of Chulbul “Robin Hood” Pandey is exactly that. What is it about, who goes where and why – it’s about watching Salman Khan beat the ever-lovin’ hell out of everything in sight, animate and inanimate. No false advertising here: it’s everything the trailer promised and then some.

Somewhere in this Salman-fest you’ll also find producer Arbaaz Khan perfectly cast as the dimwitted half-brother, the delectably Amazon-esque Sonakshi Sinha as the unexpectedly grim love interest who squares off with Khan the few times she’s allowed on screen, and Sonu Sood putting all the Villainy 101 lessons he learned down South to good use. Additionally, there’s a short but honorable list of character actors to give able support: Dimple Kapadia, Vinod Khanna, Mahesh Manjrekar, Om Puri, Tinnu Anand, Anupam Kher, Mahie Gill and Malaika Arora in an item number when she ought to have been off eating a sandwich.

With hardly any gore in spite of the hailstorm of violence that surrounds Chulbul Pandey, just a hint of sex, and a tragic mother who fails to make you weep even as her sainted memory turns her son into The Incredible Bulk, Dabangg is just what I needed this weekend.

 
32 Comments

Posted by on September 11, 2010 in Entertainment, Movies, Review, Video

 

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C’est de la Folie

C’est de la Folie

The Charge of the Light Brigade is one of the best movies ever made about war. It is about class and the thin line that separates foolishness from bravery on the battlefield; the aloof decisions of powerful men who choose between life and death for other human beings. Extensively researched, it tells the story of one particular battle in the Crimean War, the Battle of Balaclava, later made famous by Lord Tennyson in his poem of the same title.

That movie, of course, was directed by Tony Richardson in 1968 and starred John Gielgud, Trevor Howard and Vanessa Redgrave. But this is Flynn Week, so we shall discuss the version made thirty-odd years before that, starring Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland and Patric Knowles.

If you’re the kind of person who finds Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom offensive then The Charge of the Light Brigade is definitely not for you. In fact, eating monkey brains at a dinner hosted by a manic Amrish Puri playing the head of a cracktastic Kali temple is probably the kinder depiction of the two.

Directed by Michael Curtiz, The Charge of the Light Brigade begins on the Northwest frontier of British India. A clearly know-nothing envoy of the crown is in “Suristan” to meet the cagey new ruler Osama bin Laden Surat Khan (C. Henry Gordon) and somehow convince him to remain friendly to British interests while cutting off the annual allowance with which the British government bought the cooperation of his predecessor and the tribesmen he ruled.

Captain Geoffrey Vickers (Errol Flynn), a veteran of this treacherous terrain, doesn’t really think much of the mission, the envoy or the supposedly “gentlemanly” Surat Khan who lives in an amazingly chic mausoleum with some truly fashion forward pillars in the midst of which he naps on his throne and breeds vultures that he keeps in giant birdcages right smack in the middle of his audience chamber. Coz he’s a savage, see, fancy British education or not.

With England firmly embroiled in The Great Game, rulers in sensitive and potentially hostile areas like Suristan are vitally important. Vickers isn’t all that keen on the idea but ends up saving his hide anyway when a gorgeous spotted kitty is about to make him her dinner while they’re out on safari. Surat Khan immediately pledges friendship and eternal debt to Vickers.

Meanwhile in Calcutta, Vickers’ fiancee Elsa (Olivia de Havilland) is reconsidering quite another pledge. Love being blind, she has fallen for Vickers all right – Perry Vickers (Patric Knowles), Geoffrey’s dorky little brother. Elsa’s father, predictably, doesn’t think much of a man who would make out with his brother’s fiancee, even if he thinks his elder brother is the jolliest of good fellows who’d be willing to hand the love of his life over to his younger brother, all neatly tied up in a bow. He’s much kinder to his daughter as he points out that Geoffrey is Errol freakin’ Flynn, dummy!

Turns out Elsa’s dad was on to something as Geoffrey chews his brother out when he comes clean about Elsa and him falling in love with each other. This creates a misunderstanding between the brothers, especially since weepy Miss Elsa is “a respectable lady” who can’t bring herself to hurt wee Geoffrey’s feelings even though she managed to fall in love with his brother in his absence. Oh, boo fucking hoo. Not even Olivia de Havilland can sell this selfish little drama queen to me.

Now I know what you’re thinking because I was thinking the same thing by this point – why are we spending all this time in India when the movie is about a battle fought in Ukraine?

Well… here’s the thing: when your popcorn movie is based on a poem, no matter how stirring its lines, you need to jazz it up a little. All that stuff about office politics and incompetent aristocrats running the army is all well and good, but when you’re making a movie about Errol Flynn leading a suicide charge against an enemy many times the size of his force, there better be a honking great reason for it.

The filmmakers chose the massacre of the surrendered British, including their women, children, and servants, at Kanpur (or Cawnpore as they spelled it in those days) during the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 (or The First War of Independence as we learned to call it in India) as the motivational event. Except the Battle of Balaclava took place before that so they relocated the events to a fictional outpost and made savage, vulture breeding, Russki-loving Surat Khan the aggressor.

Although Vickers is sadly mistaken about how low Surat Khan’s willing to go, even the blackest of villains has their limit. He spares Vickers his life (and that of Elsa) for having once saved his own. Just as Vickers lived to regret his good deed, Surat Khan will presently repent his momentary lapse into honor when the two come face to face in the Crimea.

Apparently, when the Russians saw the incredibly outnumbered British charge the guns at Balaclava, they thought the Brit soldiers must be drunk. A French Marshal said: “It is magnificent but it is not war. It is madness.”

Curtiz takes this sentiment and runs with it. When Vickers comes to know that Surat Khan is present behind enemy lines in The Charge of the Light Brigade, he unilaterally takes the decision to change the more sensible orders handed him by his superior to avenge the deaths of the women and children Surat Khan murdered. Naturally, a spot of insubordination and horrific carnage is incidental to the whole process as befits an officer as bold, principled and courageous as Vickers.

It’s almost genius. At one stroke the movie reclaims an act of such foolhardiness that it actually worked; and sanitizes the very real revenge the British exacted for Kanpur by way of the extremely bloody suppression of the revolt, all of which took place in India instead of some faraway country and was visited on the heads of all sorts of Indians instead of just one villainous one.

It’s a little difficult to find a copy of The Charge of the Light Brigade as Warner Brothers never re-released it, owing to the production’s practice of using trip wires to bring down the horses during the battle scenes, which led to hundreds of the animals getting either killed or having to be put down. Yeah. Um. But another way of looking at it, to follow in the movie’s silver lining example, is to remember that the American government was so horrified, Congress passed the law about harming animals during shoots. Yay?

If you can look past the fact that The Charge of the Light Brigade is stolidly a product of its times, it’s a great blast from the thankfully past and includes a performance by a young David Niven, who went on to use one of Curtiz’s phrases from this movie as the title of his memoir Bring on the Empty Horses. Always worth it.

 
4 Comments

Posted by on August 27, 2010 in Celebrity, Entertainment, Movies, Review, Video

 

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