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Ishqiya January 23, 2010

Posted by astralwicks in Abhishek Chaubey debut.
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Racism, Child Marriage Etc August 4, 2008

Posted by astralwicks in advertisement, Blogging, Business, Culture, Ethics, gossip, india, News, People, Politics, Racism, Writing.
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People unable to comprehend the Colors soap ‘Balika Vadhu’. Whether it is against child marriage or for it?

Rahe Tera Ashirwaad another soap on Colors which had a woman being impregnated by rays of light emanating from the idol of a god/goddess at the altar.

The complete domination of religion on Prime Time television. Began with Ramayana on NDTV; now we have Mahabharata on 9 x; Jai Shri Krishna on Colors; Shani Maharaj on NDTV imagine. There is Sai baba also. Plus most news channels have devoted early evening to all things religious. Another thing – all skewed to Hinduism.

Another skin whitening cream; this time from Nivea for men. And did you see the end of the Ponds Racial Ad starring Saif, Priyanka etc. The lovers finally realize that they are made for each other…now that they both are looking PINK and not DARK or BLACK. Congratulations Saif / Priyanka – you are the Idols of India.

Ranbir Kapoor the new male hottie saying ‘The body is God’s gift to you, I won’t do a tattoo on it and ruin it’

Bipasha Basu saying ‘With every new film I don’t have to prove that I can act’.

Bachna Ae Haseeno the new Yash Raj Film again has a hero by the name…you guessed it right Raj Malhotra.

Why Scarlett Why? May 6, 2008

Posted by astralwicks in Acting, actors, Blogging, Culture, Family, Films, hollywood, marriage, Media, Movies, Personal, Society, Writing.
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It’s an unqualified tragedy. Scarlette Johansson has gotten engaged. To a fellow actor, who else? What does this mean – will she be lost to the fantasies of all the other bachelors? That’s stupid of course. She is just sporting a rock. She is not yet married. And additionally she is still very very young. Miss Johansson is not a 40 something for the amour to die.

But not in India apparently. In Bollywood, any actress (note only actress; the female of the actor) who announces their engagement or worse still, marriage, suddenly loses her market value. By how much is debatable, but a loss is definitely on the cards.

Actresses are known to prolong their careers, dodge the perennial question, loose boyfriends in the process but keep the dreaded rock off their hands.

What about Aishwarya, you might say? She is married into the Big B family. She will get roles one way or the other. But there is a perceptible shift even in her choices. She has just refused a film in which she is supposed to play a woman who is confused between 2 men. She said how can she be, she is married now! Cannot Aishwarya differentiate between her screen roles and her personal life? Does she belong to an acting school that believes in interiorizing roles to such an extent that their reel and real life becomes confused and blurred? Does she walk this thin dangerous line? Rejecting scripts that demand so much of emotional investment that the poor girl just has to say yes to all the banal, ordinary and regular fare that she dances and cries to with so much gusto? Doesn’t seem so, but…

Madhuri, the Dhak Dhak girl who moved and never left the hearts of Indian cine-goers. Look at Mrs. Nene’s fate. All her moves in Aaja Nach Le were washed away. Sridevi is still waiting for her ideal re-launch pad. I don’t think she is ever going to make a com-back. Raveena, Zeenat. Nobody comes back in India. Not as a heroine.

If you are married to somebody else then? Even a superstar doesn’t help much. Look at Namrata Shirodkar who married a Telugu superstar or Amla who married Nagarjuna. Dimple married Rajesh K at the peak and yet.

‘Namak khatam ho gaya’ people say or the sex appeal has disappeared…at least dwindled. Why does marriage result in such a big turnaround? How does a sex goddess become an epitome of motherhood and saintliness overnight just because she has married? Just happens so in India.

Distributors, exhibitors, producers, casting agents and even fellow actors, they flash the know-it-all smile, with a tinge of sympathy which says ‘it is all OVER’. Why did she ever take the plunge?

But Scarlett has done it. Congratulations.

Tashan – A Late Review May 5, 2008

Posted by astralwicks in art, Blogging, Culture, Directing, Films, india, Movies, Personal, Reviews, Tashan, Thoughts, Uncategorized, Writing.
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I watched Tashan a few days back. Since then some people have been waiting for my review of it. Not that people are dying to read it but general friendliness I guess. Also they want to save a few hundred bucks, I feel.

Anyways I was accompanied by very generous friends. 3 of them had already watched it and encouraged me through the week to watch it, so that they can accompany me. Strange, but I am grateful to them.

It was playing at Chandan. Everybody in Mumbai knows about Chandan. A mammoth single-screen theater with close to 1300 seats per show. If it runs at Chandan we know it’s a hit. Simple.

I was told that the film was not doing good at the window. It has a stellar cast. The twosome of Saif – Kareena, Akshay and Anil Kapoor. Nowadays you either love or hate the Yash Raj banner and their kind of films.

The grime, angst and violence of papa Yash has been replaced with the aesthetic of an India shining. Papa Yash also liked white chiffon, which has been updated with you-name-it yuppie Brands of a shrinking world. There stories are of a successful India or of an emerging India. India of the small town or village with dreams in their eyes. A Kanpur here or an Indore there. Lovable rascals from small town India whom you can laugh at initially and then laugh with is the new Yash Raj formula. Banti aur Babli being the zenith.

Coming back to Tashan. Tashan means ‘attitude’. Tashan’s one line is ‘attitude’. It is also the sacred ‘one line’ of the film. The one line that runs through and through the script, from beginning to end, through the 3 Acts. Therein lies the rub.

A film about attitude still has to have a story. Here is the story. 3 people each in love with the other, have to cheat each other to survive. Interesting! Very gripping in fact. Could have been fodder for great cinema. But doesn’t happen in this case.

Tashan doesn’t work because – it is not a story of lost and found love (Akshay and Kareena).

It doesn’t work because it is not even a buddy movie (Akshay and Saif) in the mould of Main Khiladi Tu Anari. Saif in Tashan is reduced to a side-kick.

It is not a revenge drama (Kareena’s story).

It doesn’t work because it is not even a ménage a trios (Saif falls for Kareena; Kareena cheats Saif; Kareena wants to cheat Akshay; Akshay falls for Kareena; Kareena realizes her love for Akshay; Saif realizes that Akshay and Kareena are old, childhood lovers).

Why does this happen? We as audiences in the dark are always sympathetic to people, in this case, heroes and heroines, in love. But not in this case. Is Tashan projecting a world view where there are no morals, only self-interest. Yes. We cannot deny that the world we currently inhabit is ruthless. Is it a nihilist film? Obviously not. Because the film makers don’t know what nihilism is!

The realization of love in a selfish world is a great moment in the sacred dark of the cinema hall. Akshay Kumar, in fact, moves us, briefly, in the boat scene, because, he makes us see his humanity, his weakness. It never happens again.

That is the fatal flaw of Tashan. Attitude has to have an audience. And Tashan has none. Because Tashan’s attitude is borne out of the film maker’s conviction that ‘attitude is all’. It has no reigns, no dynamics, no parameters, other than the Yash Raj paradigm of glitz, glamour, oomph, pyrotechnics and loudness.

Growing up, we believed in heroes and villains. Even the cardboard kind with their ‘addas’ and molls. In Tashan the over the top is defined as ‘attitude’. It is so over the top that it becomes spoofy. You don’t believe in any of them. Not the heroes or the villains. Till the end the audience might be fooled that all of them, including Anil Kapoor are on the same side or playing a stupid game to fool us – the stupid audience.

Mr. Acharya had previously written the two immensely successful Dhooms. Films that have no semblance of a plot, movement etc. Star driven vehicles that work because of no particular reason.

Well there are reasons – Aishwarya in a bikini, Bipasha in a bikini and the two of them in a semi-naked state in the rest of the film. Not to forget the males – Hrithik and Bachchan. Then there is action, which is good by Indian standards and bad internationally and the ever-present songs. These hits don’t stay with you. It is not even like Jab We Met, which still makes you smile, laugh or cry honestly.

In one way Yash Raj has perfected the art of the emotionless Blockbuster, just like Hollywood. No memories after the exit and popcorn.

Tashan might not even be a success. Time to evaluate the stable’s weaknesses. Time to step down from the pedestal. Time to realize that small and subtle can have attitude also. Time to realize that attitude doesn’t need to be rammed down. If it’s real, it will stick.

Khoya Khoya Chand – A Review December 11, 2007

Posted by astralwicks in Blogging, Bollywood, Criticism, Culture, Entertainment, Films, india, Khoya Khoya Chand, Movies, Personal, Random, Reflections, Reviews, Shiney Ahuja, Soha Ali Khan, Sudhir Mishra, Thoughts, Writing.
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In the season of time travel in Bollywood, Sudhir Mishra’s Khoya Khoya Chand, is another tourist. Farah went no-holds-barred, irreverent retro in Om Shanti Om. Sudhir Mishra veers off in a different direction. His eyes are reverent, nostalgic almost awe-inspired. Who isn’t by the pristine, sepia-tinted image of Bollywood when actors, directors, lyricists, composers and other associated technicians had idealism, madness, got drunk, and were unapologetic about leading the life they lead?

KKC is an Insider’s film. Somebody who knows the mores of the industry. The vicarious twists of destiny that an artist is vulnerable to…human and divine. The crest of success and the lows of failure come unattended and the best laid plans are unwoven overnight. Where ambition reigns supreme and compromise is often everybody’s middle name. Where friends and enemies don’t know the definition of either word. Where love is as vacillating as the fortunes at the friday box office.

Mishra knows about all of this. Mishra is also good at something else. History. History and his own place in the space time continuum. He knows the pulse of the time, for sure. Ye Wo Manzil To Nahin and the loss of Nehruvian/Socialist Idealism and Innocence. HKA’s romantic look at the 70’s was a follow up to the darker YWMTN, with a little bit of hope thrown in at the end.

KKC once again locates its story and characters in the Past. A past that is innocent, idyllic, romantic. The characters are all an amalgam of your favourite heroes and heroines from the past. Think Meena Kumari, Madhubala, Nargis and many more. The same with the heroes, directors, script writers…your basic mix of all exploited, angst-ridden, mis-understood, man on a mission kind of character whom we love to see, root and clap for but will never become one. Very appealing on the stage or screen.

So we enter the world of Nikhat, Zafar, Khosa the producer, Prem Kumar, Shyamol, Ratan Bala, Nonida etc. We revel in this world…a world where the Bachnalian spirit seems to rule. Where success is the only mantra and men and women, inspite of their good intentions are seduced by their artistic higher-calling, money, security or plain old weaknesses. Such good fodder where all men and women are morally ambivalent, possibly corrupt but in the end they all possess a halo of…being human.

So we go through the gamut of emotions that artists supposedly undergo…elation, rejection, artistic bouts, the search for one’s muse, unresolved grief and unannounced epiphanies. The world in KKC follows a cyclical nature. You love, you lose, you regain love. You give a hit, you make a flop, you are banished and then you are welcome once again. A friend turns into a foe, an enemy and then becomes a friend once again. The large hearted producer becomes a miser, abuses and then again regains his old self. The casanova hero exploits one woman, falls for another, is unfaithful, has a golden heart. Wonderful world of people who are all fallible, human, make mistakes and are therefore identifiable.

So all the characters in KKC are good. The old Bollywood is populated by larger than life characters who wander, waver and then redermption visits them. Everything and everyone is hunky dory in KKC. and Mishra’s world. There are no villains. But so does Ray’s films. So Ray and Mishra are equals in their love for their characters and therefore make great films. Alas, thats not the case and thank god it is not that simplistic.

What is KKC? Is it the search for love? Both Zafar and Nikhat are abandoned…Zafar by his father and Nikhat by her mother. And both know that they are made for each other. The moment they resolve their personal demons of ambition, self-destructive death – wish and selfishness, they would have gained their paradise.

The film ends on an orgiastic high for Nikhat before the tacky card comes and announces that Nikhat died in a years time. So the film, if I understood correctly, was set up for the realization of love between its two main protagonists. Like any good story, the hero and heroine tumble and fall and then realize their catharsis via each other just before its too late.

Nikhat along her journey cries, laughs, acts innocent, manipulative, stands her ground, becomes a drunk, a lover and a mistress. Same with Zafar, her conscience, who takes a beating when ambition comes calling. Both love each other because of the other’s weakness.

Then why does the film fail?

There are a few scenes that makes one smile, wonder, laugh…Rajat Kapoor’s confession that he is a rake and can’t help it. Sonya Jehan teasing Zafar (the only other consistent performer along with Rajat) when he offers Nikhat’s role to her. Saurabh’s ‘Khosa’ in most of his scenes. And yet?


Soha looks pretty. Great styling. Costumes by Miss Anand are thought out. But these are external add-ons. Tulip Joshi was used brilliantly in Matrubhoomi, she had two and a half words or something. Soha here, unfortunately has to speak a million lines. Ironically, in Urdu, which is her mother tongue. And the labour and effort shows. If only she could have accented where it mattered? But she fails and how. Shiney has a different problem.

What you see is Shiney labouring to play the angst – ridden Zafar. Shiney the actor pops up time and again to remind us that ‘hello, here I was thinking about the time my father scolded me when I was in grade 2’ and I am using that emotion to say these lines etc. Shiney is overpowered and defeated by the very technique that great actors use in an almost subliminal manner.

He should have learnt from the other good performers in the film…Rajat, Saurabh and Sonya. But unfortunately the film doesn’t run on their shoulders.

What Mishra ends up is almost like an apology for the film industry? Just like the film industry is populated by semi-corrupt people who are basically all-right and can be your drinking buddies and all is forgiven when the hangover ends, same with the film. Look at it tenderly, kindly and forgive the follies and mistakes and compliment it for the passable, the moderate, the just-about and as industrywallahs say ‘for the effort’.

Will wait fot the next one Mr. Mishra.













Cinemorph November 29, 2007

Posted by astralwicks in Arts, Cinema, Creativity, Culture, Entertainment, Films, india, Mumbai, Nostalgia, Personal, Reflection, Thoughts, Writing.
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Yawn. Let’s laze today. Well, I am writing, that means that I am not lazing. Wiriting is an exrcise, a job, sometimes painful, often lonely, sometimes ecstatic, taxing, boring etc etc. But more people in the world (I might be biased) think writing is nothing but a whole lot of posing. It is posing with hands on your head, tearing your hair or cigarette in hand looking at the smoke swirl, curl and disappear…looking for words, sentences, meaning and inspiration in the play of light and smoke on its heanvenly journey.

Bombay houses Bollywood. Bollywood makes films, lots of films. India makes some 800 odd films in a year. Films have actors, directors, producers, music composers and it also has writers. Also because they are the least commended or appreciated. I speak from both personal experience, hearsay and instinct.

Me and millions like me were exposed to films…mailnly in theaters and VHS. DVD’s are recent and I am 32. So we grew up with Tape, audio and video. I saw films and remembered some and forgot most. Some fight sequences, a stray dialogue and some characters. Very few films were remembered because of the writing skills. It was also because of my inexperience. Remembering the immediate, the pleasurable but not long-lasting.

One didn’t know or understand as kids why films of Bimay Roy, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Guru Dutt, Vijay Anand, early Yash Chopra etc left a lasting impression and not other films. I am talking of the so called commercial films. Even then the gut knew what was different in the films shown at 1.30 on sundays on Doordarshan. Films by the Indian masters and other new – wave directors from the regional centers.

It was something. But what was it? I couldn’t figure, but only sense.

Over the years after a gradual exposure to international cinema, my horizons were widened. Not just by films. Books and the written word began to weave its magic. It gained the pre-eminence that one gives to one’s mother. Words I realized were the nutrients, the ground, the soil upon which all meaning was constructed. In poetry, short story, novel.

The new art of the century, Film, was of course different. It was a coming together of everything else till that point and more. Meaning was constructed piece by piece by the simultaneous synthesis of picture and sound. The word existed. But the word was shaped and chiselled by sound, facial expression, light and shade, movement and other symbols that were already a part of our collective consciousness. The word was no longer the prima donna.

It was never the case in Bollywood. There are exceptions but…

Here it is the actors. They earn in crores. The director too earns in crores if he or she has given hits. The music composers too earn in crores. But the writer is still a beggar.

The early writers during the independence were still nurtured by ideology and rebellion. The middle years by growing disenchantment. The 80’s by nobody knows what and the 90’s by the noveau. All these films of course had words, many of them were hits and people still remember them.

But hits can get dated and the re-runs on the innumerable channels offers us an opportunity to test. Most of them fail. It jabs at one’s memory. I still remember the day when Shahenshah was out on the pirated circuit in Jamshedpur. All of us friends contributed and raised some 150…a princely sum in 1988 to lay our hands on the VHS tape for 1 run around 3 and a half hours. Or the day when another Bachchan starrer was screened during a family gathering. What a disappointment? One remembers the highs also.

Pulp Fiction, Blue Velvet, Space Odyssey, Blow Up, The Passengers, Z and many more.

Coming back to writers. I did my stint in Bollywood. Doctored scripts. Wrote and didn’t get credit. In the meantime I also saw some films that were well written. But the majority of them offer no hope. Why is that?

Saif was brilliant in Omkara. When I came to know that he was being considered, I was horror struck. The chhote nawab mouthing those lines and body language. I was surprised and so was Saif I suspect, at the mature consistency of the character. But see Saif in other films and you wonder…what a waste. Is he the same guy who did that? Well, commerce is what sustains us and let’s not bemoan.

What do we see around us? Slapstick comedies, action and romance. We watch films because they are made by a particular Brand…either the Yash Raj, KJO or RG Varma kind of films. Then we go for the actors. Shah Rukh, Salman, Aamir etc. Then the music etc etc.

When will we go because of the writer of the film? They say Salim – Javed did that to another era. But what would the pair have done if AB was not around? That’s a question worth answering. Was the symbiotic relationship between them a coming together of destinies, serendipity working overtime to make collaborations possible…la Scorsese, Paul Scrader, De Niro.

But that was another era. Will we again make arresting drama? And who are the subjects of this drama? Like Barton Fink…will we be able to make films that makes the common man / woman, his or her concerns to be the subject matter? Will we in our time see a new kind of cinema? At par with the Iranian kind? Simple but not simplistic, universal and relevant. Or will we be satisfied by the tag Bollywood spectacle, musical, a unique narrative form that takes on the might of Bollywood?

Are we scared that if we make a different kind of cinema then our way of story-telling will disappear? Is quantity our only weapon? A whole lot of questions so far and obviously no answers. But what the hell, I felt like writing.