Sunday, May 26, 2013
After getting too hot on small screen actor Ram Kapoor is all set to kick his another untitled multi-starer film with his Y Films - YRF youth wing banner. INN got candid with Ram Kapoor who bared it all. Excerpts of the interview:
How true is the news of you suggesting the title for this film?
Yes I suggested. When there is so much influence of Maruti in the film then why not. I am very Punjabi and my accent is very Punjabi.
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW “Acting and film making is my hobby. I can’t live without acting. Though medical is a different field than arts and entertainment, but I am proud of being indulge in both of the fields in a balance way,” says Dr.Fahad Ghazoli, a top film maker from Saudi Arabia.
Speaking to INN Live in an exclusive interview he asserted ‘’my spouse knew before marriage that I am into showbiz, so she supports me a lot to maintain my balance in both jobs – medical and entertainment media as well as home. I take vacations whenever I have showbiz activity either for acting or film making. However, it takes my hard work to manage both together,” he said.
Sunday, September 18, 2011
The year 2010 was awful for Bollywood. Big ticket films were flopping and producers were hard-pressed to search out for other avenues (like TV, music, satellite and overseas) to bring down the quantum of losses. It wasn’t clear whether the industry would find the will and gumption to reorganise and re-strategise in order to survive the big slump in fortunes. The first quarter of 2011 did not see much difference, but once Salman Khan’s Ready hit the theatre it became another story altogether.
The film had a gargantuan marketing budget. Salman, otherwise a reticent actor, became the star campaigner. Song and dance numbers of the film were splashed across channels, creating a buzz and hype previously seen only for Amitabh Bachchan’s movies in his heyday or Rajnikanth’s films even today.
The downpour of blockbusters we are witnessing today began with Ready which, despite being substandard and like all Salman enterprises totally kitschy in content, could beat 3 Idiots to become the second-highest grosser in the opening weekend after Dabangg. It appropriated Rs 41 crore in the first three days of its release. It also recorded the biggest non-holiday weekend take, surpassing Raajneeti. But such films don’t have longevity and, as expected, Ready took a downward turn once the initial hype and hoopla got over. Yet, such was the marketing of the film that it went on to cross the Rs 100 crore mark despite witnessing a great slump after the first week.
Then came Ajay Devgn’s turn to roar at the box office. Singham, in its very first weekend, raked in approximately Rs 31 crore on an all-India basis — the highest ever first weekend collection for an Ajay Devgn-starrer. In fact, Devgn was trying to resurrect his action-hero persona after a spate of successful comedies and he too hit the bull’s eye, crossing the Rs 100 crore mark within no time.
Singham was ably supported by Zoya Akhtar’s Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, which despite a fabulous star cast, was a surprise blockbuster. The film was expected to do well but not as well as it eventually did.
It was, however, Salman again who took the Bollywood’s profit chart to an unassailable height. His second film of the year, Bodyguard, which was released on August 31, went on to become the third highest all-time grosser after 3 Idiots and Dabangg.
In between one witnessed megahits like Murder 2, riding on cheap publicity for some sizzling ‘hot’ scenes between Emraan Hashmi and Jacqueline Fernandez, and Delhi Belly. Sunny Deol’s Yamla Pagla Deewana and Sanjay Dutt’s Double Dhamaal, too, did well at the box office.
According to veteran trade analyst Vinod Mirani, “Eid appears to be the festival day — and Salman the perfect poster boy — for Bollywood. Last year it was Dabangg that broke all records at the box office. And, this year it was again Salman’s Bodyguard that set cash registers ringing.”
So, why is the box office showering such whopping returns all of a sudden? Trade analyst Taran Adarsh gives credit to the “triumph of craft”. He says, “Innovative marketing strategies, catchy promotions and outdoor advertising have drawn the audiences to the theatre.” Aamir Khan, based on his experience with movies like Peepli Live, Dhobi Ghat and Delhi Belly, says that “creative and cerebral themes” — and not necessarily the “formulaic films peppered with song and dance” — are most likely to work at the box office.
Mirani disagrees. “The recent spate of successes at the box office is because filmmakers have understood that the age-old formula of songs, dance and action must be tweaked to suit the new generation of cine-goers. So, we have the same basic formula in a newer package of peppy songs and superficially-stylised action. The villain, too, has to have enough menace to make the hero look good,” he says.
There’s, however, a method in this madness. Today’s blockbusters are more akin to what a trade analyst calls “cloudbursts” — exploiting the potential of a film in the very first week by providing it the widest possible release. Bodyguard, for example, was released across 2,600 screens in the country. Digital technology has helped cut down on print costs, making such wide release affordable. No wonder, by the time people realised Bodyguard was an ordinary movie, it had already crossed the Rs 100 crore mark!
The box office trends of the past few years suggest that films releasing between January and May usually fare poorly. Mirani says, “This is because of cricket (IPL, etc) taking precedence over everything else. Traditionally, the monsoon brings people at the theatre. Most of the big-budget films are released during this season and towards the end of the year — Eid, Dussehra, Diwali, Christmas. This explains why year-ends mostly bring huge returns for films at the box office.”
The industry is now looking at RA.One, Don 2 and Agnipath to consolidate the 2011 success story.
After his successes with Yash Chopra, Karan Johar and Farah Khan, Shah Rukh Khan was hailed as the star with the Midas touch at the box office. But today the picture is different. Shah Rukh hasn’t had any release this year. Hence for him to retain his pre-eminent status, his films — RA.One and Don 2 — will have to do phenomenally well.
Salman, on the other hand, is sitting pretty with a plethora of blockbusters to his credit. Wanted, Dabangg, Ready and now Bodyguard have taken his standing in the film industry to a new high. In fact, if Bollywood is in such a good shape today, the credit largely goes to him, along with Ajay Devgn.
“Salman is an all-rounder — he is a comedian, action hero and romantic lover boy in one single power-packed package. After all, mainstream Hindi films don’t need much acting; it’s all about promoting an image suitable to that of the star. That augurs well for Salman at the box office provided the films he does give him ample scope to brandish those elements,” says Mirani.
Salman hasn’t shown any thespian talent. He is a non-actor, who even cannot shake a leg to save his face. Yet, whenever he comes on screen, his presence is magnetic. Why is it so?
Salman represents a certain kind of macho masculinity that Indian males aspire to achieve. But what goes most in his favour is the fact that he combines rural appeal with urban aesthetics, something that his predecessors like Govinda or Mithun Chakraborty lacked. It’s this ability to evade the urban-rural divide that has allowed him to connect with both the masses and the classes, and retained his charm for 23 long years. In fact, Salman of today can be compared with Rajesh Khanna at his peak; people are ready to tear their shirts at the very sight of him. It seems, as one of the commentators has observed, of the two other Khans, Aamir has the greater acting skill but not the aura; Shah Rukh has the style, but not the reach.
What also goes in Salman’s favour is the fact that people find him genuine. Whatever he does on screen basically shows off his innate character to good effect. From his romantic films (Maine Pyar Kiya, Hum Aapke Hain Kaun) to comedy (Partner, No Entry, Judwaa) to the demented (Tere Naam), Salman never embodies the character; he always plays himself with a panache that endears the masses.
Salman is a success story that cuts across all classes, defying logic, traditional wisdom and even aesthetics. But one should not bother to analyse him. As it’s raining blockbusters in Bollywood, one just needs to remember him — and give him the credit which has been due for the past 23 years.
Wednesday, July 22, 2015
In addition, it is one of the country’s most expensive films—made on a budget of 35 million Pakistani rupees ($345,541). It also received a West End premiere on July 19, something unheard of in a movie industry that was until recently in deep water. West End is London’s glamorous centre for red carpet movie premieres, generally packed with Hollywood stars.
Saturday, August 03, 2013
Chibaukhera, a village 20 kilometres from Lucknow, finally got electricity for the first time in April this year, and all the television sets acquired in dowry started to come alive. His face is tense; shadows dance on it. He is perched on a ladder against one side of a brick wall. His eyes are glued to a television set on the other side, a few feet away, watching Mithun Chakraborty in Maa Kasam. It’s a difficult position in which to watch TV but Gurvachan isn’t bothered.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
The lights behind the camera and the action aren’t always bright and with the murder of starlet Bhargavi on Tuesday have surfaced stories of the not-so-bright lives these ‘mini celebrities’ lead. Earning well, the seemingly independent bunch of professionals, mainly girls, seem to be leading lives largely governed by their guardians, be it parents or lovers.
A call made by this newspaper to a television personality on Tuesday only revealed this trend when her husband answered her ‘personal’ cell phone and said how he did not wish his wife’s number to be made public.
While the case of Bhargavi’s murder is yet to be solved, industry insiders say they wouldn’t be surprised if there is a similar angle to the unfortunate incident.
Insiders in the television industry note they are perturbed by the general trend of young women turning into the proverbial golden goose for their loved ones. A senior official with a regional channel notes that “girls in television have more or less such problems’’. “Whether the girl hails from a small town or a city is besides the point. Girls coming from relatively poor backgrounds are the most hassled with their families expecting a lot from them. These girls work under a lot of pressure. We see it very often,’’ the official says.
An anchor shares that much like cine stars, mothers accompany their ‘star’ daughters who would be anchoring television shows. “These mothers also ask their daughters to meet the boss manning the show or coax him to accompany her for dinner. All this to bag better projects promising more money,’’ the anchor says.
Industry sources say that while on one hand, the families want their girls to earn well (and they do with even a small time television anchor taking home Rs 1 lakh per month), on the other they grudge any relationship the girl gets into. “This fear does not stem from their conservative background but from the insecurity of losing their daughter, and easy money, to a boy or to a marriage,’’ says a television anchor, who did not wish to be identified.
A producer with a leading Telugu channel narrates how a popular young soap star tied the knot with a much married man, thinking he was the best she could get. “Most of the time, families decline marriage proposals and at others their long work hours work against their eligibility to get a good match,’’ observes the producer.
In many cases, the men involved in getting young promising girls good offers with TV firms feel sidelined when the girl makes it big, says Gayatri Bhargavi, a famous TV anchor. “Making it big is not very difficult. In a year or so, you do manage to get show if you are looking at an anchoring job. But your career graph, of course, depends on the success of the show,’’ says a TV producer.
Bhargavi, for example, owed her popularity largely to television followed by some not-so-significant roles in films, apart from her latest one ‘Ashta Chamma’. “She was a sweet girl and reserved. She was very silent, and would often sit by herself,’’ says popular anchor Jhansi, who believes that crimes against women are on the rise in general, but incidents from the television industry get reported as they are now mini celebrities.
Nevertheless, television anchors such as Shilpa Chakaborthy, who started anchoring television shows in 2001 rue that most people joining TV now are just focussed on easy money. “Very few are attached to the profession and its only their screen presence they are worried about,’’ she says.
The Starlet Murder: In what had created a flutter in Telugu Film industry then, on February 23 in 2002, Pratyusha, a then upcoming Tollywood actress committed suicide after she consumed poison along with her college boyfriend G Siddhartha Reddy. While Pratyusha died, Siddhartha Reddy recovered after treatment.
However, two years later on February 24, 2004, metropolitan sessions judge convicted Reddy for driving Pratyusha to suicide and sentencing him to rigorous imprisonment for a period of five years and a fine of Rs.6,000.
The 20-year old actress had reportedly fallen in love with Reddy, then 22, during their college days in 1996. Both had planned to get married but their proposed marriage was opposed by the Reddy family.
CBI reports stated that while Siddharth had decided to leave for US to pursue higher studies after his engineering final exams, Pratyusha got confirmation for a Kannada movie and was about to leave for Bangalore the next day when she asked Siddharth to see her before leaving. For reasons still unclear, the couple decided to end their life by consuming Novocran, a pesticide.
While the doctors who conducted the post-mortem examination on the body of Prathyusha sensed manual strangulation and gang-rape, the Director of Andhra Pradesh Forensic Science Laboratory (APFSL) said it was a case of suicide by poison. These conflicting reports led to a huge hue and cry by the public that also saw writ petitions filed before Andhra Pradesh High court. Following this in March the same year, CBI took over the case from the Panjagutta Police that was handling the case.
Investigations into the case made CBI file a charge sheet against Siddhartha Reddy on September 11 2002 for abetting Pratyusha to commit suicide and attempting suicide himself under sections of 306 and 309 IPC. The trial court found the accused guilty for the offences and convicted him.
Guntur Girl Dreams: t was as if death came calling on Thota Bhargavi. For, the starlet had left Guntur for Hyderabad on Monday evening and a few hours after she landed in Hyderabad, she lay dead in the flat.
Bhargavi’s mother Bhanu Bharathi, who accompanies her daughter to the shootings in Hyderabad, stayed back as she was on ‘Bhavani deeksha’ and was supposed to meet her daughter two days later. But, upon learning about the murder, she rushed to Hyderabad. “My daughter is not a coward to end her life and she does not have any problems either. Obviously, she was murdered,” Bharati cried.
Bhargavi, the youngest of the two girls in the lower middle class family, had always aspired to reach top in the film world since her childhood, Ramanamma, a distant relative, said.
The family still lives in a semi-roofed house in 100 sq yards of site at Gorantla on the outskirts of Guntur.
Bhargavi’s father Rajendraprasad runs a type institute in the city and was the sole revenue source for the family till Bhargavi earned popularity as a television anchor. Prasad shifted to Gorantla about two years ago as he was unable to pay the rentals in the city, particularly after the marriage of elder daughter.
Wailing inconsolably, Prasad said: “The contents of Praveen’s suicide note are false. My daughter did not marry him.
” He, however, admitted that her daughter worked with Praveen, who was head of an orchestra band in Nellore. He disputed the claims that Praveen was their relative, as revealed by the latter in his suicide note. “It was a mere professional relationship and nothing else,” he said.
Bhargavi did her SSC from Stall girl’s high school and intermediate from the government women’s college in the city. Thereafter, she discontinued her studies to test her luck as a TV anchor.
Sources said film director YVS Chowdary had introduced Bhargavi to the celluloid world by offering a minor role in his ‘Devdas’ film. It was in the recent hit ‘Ashta Chamma’ that brought her some fame.
Small Fights Make Big News: Popular anchor, TV and film artist Jhansi’s marital discord dominated gossip columns. Jhansi who conducted successful programs like Pelli Pustakam for Maa TV and a ladies’ special program for TV9 married small time comedian Jogi Naidu of the ‘Jogi Brothers’ fame. Cracks developed in their marriage and reportedly Jhansi gave away her L.J.Studio to her husband in return for peaceful separation. However soon after her husband Jogi Naidu gave a public statement saying that he had been mentally harassed and kicked out of his home. He also went on to knock the doors of the Human Rights Commission alleging that he was asked to pay Rs.75 lakhs by Jhansi’s family in order to get custody of his daughter Dhanya. However when he tried to do so her family handed him divorce papers.
In a public spat with her family, Telugu TV personality and actress Udayabhanu alleged that she was facing threats to her life from her mother and brother as she had married against their wishes. After she married software engineer Vijay Udayabhanu sought police protection against her mother who was demanding money and was threatening to spoil her career by revealing details about her first marriage. According to Udayabhanu she was coerced into marriage by her mother when she was just 18. She also said she was fleeced of her all her money and her mansion at Miyapur by her family.
A TV channel anchor Dimple was accused of kidnapping teenage choreographer E. Surya Teja by his parents. Teja was training Dimple for Aata-2 — a dance contest held by a TV channel and was missing for over a month when his parents approached the police alleging their son had been whisked away by the anchor. However soon Teja resurfaced but refused to return to his parents saying that he was being tortured by them and they were only interested in his money. He also negated reports that Dimple was involved in his disappearance and instead said that she had helped him on several occasions.
It was about two years ago that TV newsreader Badiga Lakshmi Sujatha was brutally murdered by her close friend and colleague, Gandla Chandrasekhar alias Chandu, in Vijayawada. Her body was found in a decomposed state in a lodge in Governorpet on February 10, 2007, a day after her murder. Chandu (26) was a make-up artiste with a private channel when he met Sujatha. Chandu admitted that he killed Sujatha out of jealousy. Sujatha was intoxicated and raped before she was murdered. Though Sujatha was intimate with Chandu, she was said maintaining good relations with a few colleagues after she joined as a radio jockey at a private FM radio channel.
When she began to ignore Chandu’s calls, it upset him and he hatched a plan to eliminate her. Chandu has since been arrested and sent to the jail along with two other offenders who helped him in the crime.
Saturday, November 16, 2013
The 18th InternationalChildren’sFilm Festival seems to have started out on thewrong footwithsomeofthe delegates. On the first day of the screenings on Friday, delegates were taken aback by the nudity, profanities and cruelty to animals that were shown in the films, despite there being stringent rules against showcasing thesein children’sfilms in the country.
The films screened during the festival were selected by the Children’s Film Society of India (CFSI) from among a list of entries. However, the selected films are not made to go through the rigours of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), which vets all the films in the country. This may have been the reason for the inappropriate content having crept into the films meant for children.
Sunday, November 03, 2013
The last year Bigg Boss finalist Sana Khan will enter the mad cap house as a part of Diwali special episode of Bigg Boss 7 for a day, according to channel sources.
Entire nation is gearing up for the festival of lights and so is the Bigg Boss 7 house. The makers will be airing a special Diwali episode in which we will see last year’s Bigg Boss contestant Sana Khan entering the house.
Is she a wild card entry? Well definitely not. Sana will enter the house just for a day as part of Diwali special episode of Bigg Boss 7 and will now be seen sharing their experience with the current housemates.
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
When I saw the “collector’s edition” of Filmfare on the newsstand, with Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan and Dilip Kumar on the cover and the words “100 years” printed in one corner, I was perplexed. Did someone have worse math skills than me? Bachchan’s 70 years plus Khan’s 47 and Kumar’s 90 definitely do not add up to 100.
It was only when I saw Vidya Balan on a nearby Cine Blitz cover, in a Mother India pose with the words “100 years” printed near her armpit, did I realise what both magazines were trying to commemorate — the centenary of cinema in India.
Raja Harishchandra, the first full-length Indian feature film and the one we can blame for starting a tradition of weepy, melodramatic stories in the industry now known as Bollywood.
Saturday, February 23, 2013
Basra, however, may not have realised that she might be one of the last item girls to find the going easy on TV. Last week, the censor board announced its decision to scrutinise stringently any and all “objectionable” item numbers aired on television, as individual songs or as part of film promos. Central Board of Film Certification CEO Pankaja Thakur was prompt in clarifying that it’s not a ban on item songs in films per se. While their use in films won’t be affected, the standalone song clips and film promos found ‘distasteful’ will be given an A certificate, which in turn will mean they wouldn’t get played on TV. No adult content is allowed on Indian TV and the provision for it to be shown after 11 pm is still under review by an expert committee.
So what does this mean? Basically, that it’s goodbye to the unbridled use of item numbers in whipping up curiosity for a forthcoming film on TV. This opens up several other questions: if they don’t serve their marketing purpose, will the producers become more careful and scale back on item songs? And will the army of item girls—from Rakhi Sawant, Sherlyn Chopra to Sambhavana Seth, for whom the pinnacle of success, post the rigorous gyrations, was a confirmed seat and big money in the Big Boss TV series—now join the jobless millions?
This move by the censor board has yet again opened up the proverbial can of worms. Are the new item songs crossing all limits, with the lyrics getting more lewd and the portrayal of women hitting a nadir in vulgarity? Have these songs gone unchecked for too long? Do they corrupt society and degrade women? No one has quite been able to pin down when and how the curious genre came into existence. But it has certainly come a long way from the days of Kuku, Helen and Madhumati, from the cabarets and bar dances of yore. Back then, the item number either carried the narrative forward or offered an entertaining break.
The contemporary item song, by contrast, is nothing more than an exercise in unbridled titillation and voyeurism. The choreography is similar across most songs: one semi-clad women getting leered at by several men, being objectified for the consumption of men and talked of as some kind of dish. “It provides more for the male gaze than for entertainment,” says film historian Theodore Baskaran. “Nudity per se,” says actress Paoli Dam, “is not objectification of women. It involves a woman’s participation. Item numbers, however, are only titillatory.” “It’s an unequal sexuality,” says feminist and gender activist Kamla Bhasin, “where one is the subject and the other, the object.
The woman is naked, the man fully dressed. There is no mutuality. The woman sells and the man consumes.” For Kamla, the songs are demeaning for men as well: “Twenty lips licking away one woman. Men are not like that either.” Filmmaker Shoojit Sarcar admits that item numbers are now just a “marketing force or pressure”. “First thing that’s discussed in a production meeting is the item number,” he says. For veteran journalist Rauf Ahmed, “they’re just a ploy, nothing creative.”
But many in the trade believe that films are soft targets, especially in the light of the horrifying Delhi rape. They say the songs have become an easy target for society’s own latent ills. “If you can’t correct things for real, then you try and set them right in the virtual world. You play to the mob and protect middle-class anxieties,” says filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt. “These harm-to-women arguments offered by industry-bashers rest on mere assumptions. Where do these assumptions come from and are they true? Where is the credible evidence to prove anything?”
But Kamla feels there is a definite dialectical relationship between cinema and audience, that it’s not just a one-way street. According to her, consistent viewing of such stuff desensitises people, specially impressionable minds. “The impunity of the hero gets endorsed, the patriarchy gets internalised,” she says. “Films get stalled for Dalit, minority, caste portrayals but we women, who form 50 per cent, have no redressal, we are a divided constituency.” Film expert Pavan Jha, also a concerned parent, feels that things have changed since the item numbers started getting into the public domain.
“The kids are literally growing up on them now,” he laments. For Santosh Desai, MD & CEO of Futurebrands, it’s this casualness and currency with which the phrase, and the songs in turn, have crept into our lives that’s perturbing. “It’s worrying how they’ve become naturalised. Quite like the air we breathe,” he says. The Delhi rape did wake the audience up from the daze. Much of this thinking around item numbers has emerged in the wake of the incident. In fact, the CBFC’s decision, on the instructions of the home ministry, follows a representation made by the National Commission for Women where they specifically held the songs Main hoon balatkari and Fevicol se up for censure.
No wonder many are also questioning it as a kneejerk, piecemeal reaction. A consistent engagement, debate and discussion have been found lacking. “Things can’t be done in such fits and spurts,” says Akhila Sivadas of the Centre for Advocacy and Research. “A kind of structure has to evolve through consensus, and policies have to be consistently framed over time.” There is a momentary outcry, but nothing gets crystallised or resolved. Lyricist Javed Akhtar wants to know something more basic: how is the CBFC defining an item song? “What are we talking of here? Whatever is crude, vulgar and obscene should be restricted. What is exuberant should not be a problem. This could apply to any dialogue or song. Why pick on item numbers? This is oversimplification.”
Machismo and patriarchy are embedded in our narratives and women have anyhow been packaged rather handily. Vijaylakshmi Nanda, convenor of the Women’s Development Cell and associate professor at Miranda House, agrees. “It can’t just be the item numbers. There are far worse portrayals. And why just women? A Salman Khan also needs to be questioned on the masculinised, macho portrayals he is propagating,” she says. Not much can be achieved by policing, feel most. “I may not agree with the item songs personally but will fight for their right to be there,” says filmmaker Sudhir Mishra.
There is also the danger of subjectivity and generalisation. Who decides what vocabulary is right, what clothes look good? “There is no space for nuance in a committee or board. Lots of good stuff might get killed,” says lyricist Prasoon Joshi. At a time when the censor board is opening up and allowing a lot of mature, adult content to play on our screen, this particular step feels regressive. “If we accept this once, it won’t end,” says Mishra.
Rest assured, however, item numbers are not going out in a hurry. Last heard, Priyanka Chopra was getting set for her maiden item number, Babli badmaash hai, for Shootout at Wadala, with the precondition that it would have ‘tasteful’ lyrics. Rapper Honey Singh, meanwhile, is back with a self-referential, mocking song, blasting on the radio now which obliquely captures the “plight” of item numbers: “Inna raula rappa kyun paate ho, Gande gaane kyun gaate ho; Koi yo yo ko samjhalo, Nahi toh gharan de kunde la lao....” Either the yo yos have to stop singing the “dirty songs” or we’ll have to shut our doors to these songs. It’s between the creators and the consumers. But between them sits the censor board, a bit awkwardly.
Thursday, December 27, 2012
The shadows of a murky Mumbai lose themselves in the alleys and the brooding darkness doesn’t let you see what lies a few feet ahead. And Aamir Khan in Talaash prods and pokes at the fringes, digging out the unpretty side and thrusting it into popular mainstream consciousness.
Talaash, while executing the clichés of the film noir tradition, has a righteous cop questioning not only his own beliefs and shortcomings, but also peeling the humane layers behind the complexity of crime. If he had not been more discerning of his choices in saving his child, he had no authority to rail at the hardball choices of others borne out of their lesser privileged circumstances in life or their lack of ability. And therein lies the struggle to accept his flaw with theirs. Coming as it does after Kahaani, the other film that stripped the genteel veneer of an intellectual Kolkata, disembowelling its bugs and beasts, the underbelly is not only dominating our films but percolating to the popular drawing room space of television.
Weekend prime time bands, so far confined to the Karan Johar-isation of a relaxed mindspace, are now beginning to revel in gore and grime. And the fact that it made it to the `100 crore club and crime shows are scaling the ratings graph, it seems that the city underbelly has indeed become what NYU Professor Aurora Wallace recently likened to macaroni and cheese, the new “comfort food of television”. Or as filmmaker Anurag Kashyap puts it succinctly, “Throw away the warm duvet. Take off the skin and see the turmoil of emotions beneath, the tangle of messy heads and unfulfilled expectations that we so wish to hide under the carpet. Look at the failures because of our egoistical pursuits, our indulgence of the ugly.”
What is with this obsession with the macabre, this almost self-crucifixion of sorts on popular space and not some rap-venting at an alternative music concert? Sociologically speaking, the myth of the big city shimmering as a backdrop has ceased to represent highs in a globalised world. The idealistic struggle to chase rainbows has finally taken its toll, extracted too steep a price and left one wounded. Some have made it in the big city, others have reconciled to their migrant lot while yet others have been defeated and condemned to the hook or crook means to an end. The tussle for a new India has divided the self, exploited it and fuelled a bestial resurrection against odds. The moral fabric is frayed and flawed.
There is no room for oscillating between extremes, city life has perched itself on binary axes of neo-excellence and decay. These ideas have informed popular literature from time to time and have now invaded the mainstream. The abnormal and misbegotten, the chawls around the high class districts of Mumbai, the labyrinthine coldness of a Bob Biswas in Kahaani, the horrid stories of a deformed mind on Crime Patrol are all metaphors for a Mr Hyde co-existing on the same plane as the gentlemanly Dr Jekyll. Evil, too, has a next door neighbourly face, living a smooth life off it.
This acceptance of the war within society to push the city’s limits to the maximum has finally spilled over its popular tools of expression, films and TV. Celebrity chef Vikas Khanna, who has journeyed from a village in Punjab to setting up the Junoon restaurant in New York, has himself wrestled with the warts of a big city alongside his two club feet. “I believe the best expression comes from suppression. Take the literature and art of post-War Europe to understand the depths of the human condition, the cynicism, the desperation and the will to tide it along. For far too long we have lived in brackets. Finally, the time has come to break those barriers... this is happening in films, TV and even food. Street food and community platters are even making it to the high end eateries.”
Kahaani story writer Advaita Kala talks of the counterfoil approach. Says she, “The whole noir tradition got some attention in literature and has moved to film, which is an often noted transition. I think the audience is over being feted by stylised sets. I think the nineties and the representation of a ‘photo shopped’ India was a possible reaction to the socialist India of the recent past and the visual drabness of it. I think we are now in a space where we can deal with the reality of our cities. I think human psychology has a tendency to veer towards the macabre, it’s what makes us slow down while passing a vehicular accident on the road. Curiosity for the macabre, the forbidden. When done well, it can be art and even entertaining.”
Explaining the underbelly premise further, she adds, “Crime has always been a popular subject in films. I think there is a certain cleverness that is needed when plotting a good crime thriller, staying one step ahead of the audience, unlike a romantic film, in which you carry your viewer with you on an emotional wave.” Perhaps it is this cleverness which has been permeating the urbanscape as an edgy subculture that has come to the forefront. The raw, deviant and the manipulative mind is finally out. As Kashyap said before the release of Gangs of Wasseypur, “I didn’t glamorise crime or criminals as an exotic indulgence of the upper class vision of how the underbelly is, I present crime from a human level, making the viewer himself analyse the real outcome of crime. I present reality and make you think on the subject.”
Not only that, the urban underbelly is becoming quite the grosser. While filmmaker Dibakar Banerjee moved from tugging at the subliminal in Oye Lucky Lucky Oye to the gruesome excesses of Love Sex Aur Dhokha and an upturned middle India in Shanghai, all at a profit. Kahaani and Talaash made it to the crore club. Vishal Bhardwaj took Shakespeare to heartland India in Omkara while Anurag Kashyap took Wasseypur’s eccentricities and grammar to Cannes.
Distributors now say that what was once a niche business in multiplexes — these making about 0.06 per cent of the 12,000 screens in the country — is contributing 38 to 40 per cent of box office revenues.
And if films have showed the way, television has completely broken new ground. Sony TV experimented with urban crimes in a docu-drama format over the largely unclaimed entertainment band of the weekend. Its CID continues to run in its 15th year and notched up a TRP of three till the last TAM reports came in. The newsy Crime Patrol notched up 2.7 points and Adalaat 1.7. Vipul D Shah, the producer of Crime Patrol, says: “When we started the show, our focus was on humanising the news around us. Drama and entertainment has to be part of anything on small screen, so we cashed in on the emotional and human aspects. We concentrated on storytelling and the TRPs shot up. Reality always had a recall value.”
Sony’s pioneering move was followed by rival channels across age groups, each show notching up ratings decent enough to sustain itself. Zee’s Fear Files, treading the unexplained and spiritualism a la Talaash, scooped up 3.6 points, while Savdhaan India on Life OK and Shaitaan on Colors inched closer to the analysis of the criminal mind. “It’s been the year of clones. Our commitment to creating original, differentiated content over weekends has spawned an entire range of such shows across channels.
We take imitation as a form of flattery and try to stay ahead with our commitment to characters, originality and quality,” says Vivek Bahl, chief creative director, Sony. The youth Channel V broke complete format with Gumraah, probing how urban youth are grossly waylaid by their own twisted beliefs. “We are not just retelling the crime, we go into the psychology of it. Maybe this show helps them talk about issues which would have already been swept under the carpet. We are building awareness in that sense,” says Prem Kamath of Channel V.
Suffice it to say that serious production houses, with entire teams dedicated to research and choosing cases juicy enough to be told in the drama format, often cannot put a finger on what works in this novella-like approach. For some, it’s the conflict of the good and the bad, the thrill of who will be the greater kill and the resolution — all elements of great drama and storytelling. For others, there is a sort of finality in a case closed under an hour compared to the much awaited justice in the real world.
Most though find the characters fascinating. They wonder why people like them or even those well placed in life are driven to heinous crimes and murder. “Everybody wonders why an average clerk would kill his wife and keep her body in the freezer, why would somebody poison his own children, why would the moneyed be perverse in his excesses, why a teen rapes an old woman or an old man abuses a child. Often it’s more about the possibility of flawed relationships in a society that’s tensile strength is being challenged by constantly changing circumstance, be they social, economical, cultural or political,” says a creative head.
Shows make a connect only because they focus on the emotional impact on victims and relatives. It’s more about the jealousies, the disappointments, the alienation of people and the hitback born out of these insecurities. In a way the belly-up approach essentially means coming to terms. And that, as some creatives say, is cathartic. Apparently a leading broadcaster is already making plans to launch the country’s first crime-only channel along the lines of Fox Crime and has approached filmmakers Kashyap, Banerjee and Nishikant Kamath to make pilots. Anil Kapoor is taking on the terror threat in our cities in the Indian adaptation of the hit series 24.
There is a moral debate raging on the ethics of bombarding TV with violent imagery, particularly at a time when news television is flooding the same in our minds day in and day out. “I do not think the growing crime spiral in our society is responsible for these shows or raking up the underbelly is atavistic or altruistic. If not anything, it opens up our mind to triggers that could explode anytime. What we are doing is building a sensitivity index. Our show is not premised on the bad or its horrific dimension, it is about how the usual can morph into anything. It’s about understanding, not moralising,” says Shah.
If at all we are raising the ethical question, it has to be that as a viewer we are most often lulled into believing that violent crimes are for a certain class, a certain mindset, a vicarious pleasure in the fact that while we peep into lives of others, that life can never touch us. Popular media is just shaking us out of this misplaced idea and projecting the criminal mindset as lurking everywhere. As a creative says, “Keeping the blinkers on isn’t fair or ethical either.”
Kala, nevertheless, talks about the need for caution, “Drama is an integral aspect of storytelling, nobody wants to read an accident report or a FIR. One has to populate it, dare I say manipulate it or use the convenient ‘creative licence’ to engage the viewer. But it can’t be ridiculous, and it often is.” The need for a creative balance is further highlighted by the fact that, as Kala says, “nobody is writing good crime thrillers. And there is enough crime in our everyday lives unfortunately, we are not easily surprised anymore by excesses.” The oddball mind is the new superhero, a product of its time, engaging and entertaining in equal measure. Kala should know.
Vidya Balan may have avenged her loss with the help of clerical cops in Kahaani but it is the potbellied, mulish Bob Biswas with an outdated gun and a menacing push, whom advertisers are lapping up. He may be making his money as a hired assassin but he also owns real estate and could be your next landlord or neighbour. Hey, he is now online too.
Sunday, March 15, 2015
Age notwithstanding, the trio has a much brighter future, predict trade experts and film celebrities. Katrina Kaif, who played the leading lady to all the three, says it’s their "passion, audiences' love and desire (to excel)" that keeps them going.
Tuesday, September 09, 2014
This year's theme will reflect in the new set of the Bigg Boss house, located in Lonavla, which has been designed to resemble a jumbo aircraft. A source says, "To elevate the excitement level, the house will be designed as the interior of an aircraft, just as last year's season seven was designed as heaven and hell." Sources further revealed that the house will also have a waiting lounge and two different sections for Economy and Business class.
Friday, February 27, 2009
It is not necessary to fall in love with Slumdog Millionaire as an example of fine filmmaking to appreciate its significance as a bright ray of hope in a time of economic gloom as it won eight Oscars on Monday morning. That has indeed been the meaning of Oscar-winning films over the years.
The winning films are faithful barometers of the mood of the moment. In 2009, the Americans are groping for light and hope, and so is Britain, the junior partner of the Anglo-American alliance. Slumdog Millionaire provides us the sweet tale in the heaven of imagination woven from the pleasing cultural mix of a British film made with American funds based on an Indian story and with an Indian cast of characters and actors. Global art in a global mart!
Danny Boyle, the Irish-Catholic director -- his religious and ethnic origins matter over there though it does not matter a whit to us what the religion and caste of AR Rehman is -- has struck a gold mine of a story and plot in Vikas Swarup's surreal story which is so familiar and real to Indian film-viewers. Generations of the English, Irish and Scots have found and made their fortune in this fabulous land. It is not surprising that Boyle has too. The British have been lucky with India in the post-Raj era. Richard Attenborough stuck Oscars too with India's 'Gandhi' story in 1982. Twenty-seven years later, Boyle has tasted success with Slumdog. While Attenborough's was a swansong of the British empire on the big screen, Boyle celebrates India in the 21st century as an emerging market sizzling with energy and firing the imagination of the top dogs of the world..
So, we in India should not feel overwhelmed that a British film made on and in India has at last brought worldwide recognition to Indian film artists lurking in the shadows by getting those Oscars. It is nice to win them but we are not too enamoured of them, really. The Oscars are an American affair, and we have nothing against it. And we are happy to be part of the Oscar party. We are not averse to foreigners as others are. The Oscars do not take Indian films to a higher level as stated by some naïve folks in the industry and in the media. Indian cinema is not export-oriented. It is a fiercely domestic product, and its formulaic moulds can be used byothers to their own specifications. Slumdog Millionaire is a perfect example of how the Hindi film box-office formula was used by Boyle and screenplay writer Simon Beaufoy to conjure up a narrative that keeps millions in America and Britain enthralled. The film did not impress the Indian audiences except the few America-crazy folk here. But all Indians are happy for Boyle. And as for Rehman, we knew his genius. We are not surprised that others are discovering him now.
Indian films are a universe unto themselves and the Boyles of the world step into it, dazzled by its colours and passions. And this is just the beginning. More and more filmmakers are sure to turn to India to find their stories and make their mark. All that we need to do is to sit back and be generous and keep smiling. Rehman did it with understated panache in his Oscar acceptance speeches when he cited the throwaway Salim-Javed one-liner from Deewar, "I have mother with me" when he explained how he was sharing his moment of victory with her.The line has no resonance for the audience in the Kodak theatre in Los Angeles not for the millions of TV viewers in the United States and in Britain, but then he was not going to make any cultural concessions to them at his hour of victory. Similarly, he went back to his mother-tongue Tamil to indicate that everything is dedicated to God.
The sweet intoxication of Oscar success will linger like a sweet aroma a while longer. But we return to our own luxurious garden of the imagination, with its frenetic and gaudy atmosphere. Our dreams will continue to be made into films on the wheel of time. Foreigners are welcome to join in.
Tuesday, October 01, 2013
SCENE 1: ‘I AM AN ACTOR’
There is a board with the shooting schedules, a television, and an iPad. He is waiting. There are the Aviators. I wear them as a tribute to Faisal Khan in Gangs of Wasseypur, the Anurag Kashyap film that has pitched Nawazuddin Siddiqui as the new anti-hero, the dark, lean man, a struggler with no pedigree, a commoner.
He smiles. We decide to get coffee. He tells me he is trying to build his body for his next role. Then, a few minutes later, as he recounts stories of his days as a watchman, he tells me he will never build his body, for he, the method actor from a nondescript village in Uttar Pradesh, is everything that a Bollywood hero isn’t. He is an actor.
Tuesday, April 01, 2014
Jumping Jilania or Parachute politicians: Newbie politicians bypass hierarchies to launch themselves into Elections 2014.
Actor Moon Moon Sen says her political inspiration is Julius Caesar and by contesting the elections this time, she hopes to restore Caesarean nobility to politics. Her idea of Parliament, she recently told a TV interviewer, is "that poor lady Meira who says 'quiet' ineffectively". The voters of Bankura in West Bengal willing, Sen could be among those occupying the coveted green benches in the Lok Sabha when it starts business less than two months from now.
Sunday, October 13, 2013
As Anil Kapoor's action thriller show 24 hit the small screen a week ago, the audience could not miss the striking resemblance some characters bear with prominent political leaders of the country. It did not take much for the audience to draw a thematic parallel with the Gandhi family as the plot of the first story unfolded.
The opening episode talks about a plot to assassinate Aditya Singhania, a prime ministerial candidate and a youth icon, who is guided by a dominating mother, played by Anita Raj. The mannerism, attire and idealism of Aditya, played by Neil Bhoopalam, remind one of Rahul Gandhi while Anita's character seems similar to Sonia Gandhi.
Friday, April 04, 2014
Why has it taken me two weeks to write about the new season of Khatron Ke Khiladi, the Indian version of Fear Factor? Because it’s taken them that long to make the first elimination, making sure they can squeeze as much TRPs as they can out of the first round.
And the culling has begun with the least famous of the lot. But I’ll get to that later. This time’s Fear Factor which began two weekends back, is hosted not by Akshay Kumar but by Rohit Shetty – who seems to have a strange predilection for blowing up cars in his films. This clearly qualifies him to be the host. Till date, I haven’t noticed him showing any stunt other than Ajay Devgn standing on those moving bikes.
Tuesday, July 21, 2015
|By Nishi Khan in Mumbai|
The Bollywood actor’s latest film, Bajrangi Bhaijaan, has become the fastest Bollywood film to earn Rs100 crore at the box office within India. In the first three days of its release—or the opening weekend—the film collected Rs102.60 crore.
Don't get taken in by the gushing noises around Bajrangi Bhaijaan. This Eid release is not an un-Salman Khan film. Actually, it is everything that a Salman Khan film is expected to be in recent times - a two-and-half-hour-long exercise establishing Khan as the human NREGA, the great saviour of the country's poor, ageing and (of course) women. Thus, you can also call these movies film-shaped definitions of the word 'irony'.