Thursday, August 30, 2007

Ruchi Narain's next is a short film with Raima

Filmmaker Ruchi Narain has just completed a short film with actress Raima Sen and she's pretty excited about it.

Narain, a protege of renowned director Sudhir Mishra, had won critical acclaim for her debut film Kal - Yesterday and Tomorrow in 2005.

Now returning after two years of Bollywood hibernation, the 30-something filmmaker isn't about to spill the beans on her latest project.

Apparently, the film's producers have put a communication ban in place. All Narain told Toe Knee Unplugged was -

"I've really taken advantage of the format and had a lot of fun with an experimental structure."
As for her next feature film, Narain said she is working on the script of a love story.

"It's coming out well. Hopefully we'll finish scripting in a month and be able to move on to the next stage."
There's more good news in store for the Narain family. Sibling Ashima's wildlife documentaries - In The Pink (about flamingos in Mumbai) and The Last Dance (about cruelty to sloth bears) - have been aired several times on Discovery channel and are now doing the rounds of various film festivals around the world.

Both films have also been nominated in the Wildlife Conservation category at the 4th CMS Vatavaran Environment and Wildlife Film Festival (12-16 September) in New Delhi.


Meet Suman Ghosh. This professor of economics at the Florida Atlantic University has an unusual hobby - making films.

Beginning with a documentary on Amartya Sen, the world-famous economist who won the Nobel Prize in 1998, Ghosh has now moved on to directing feature films.

Ghosh's Bengali film Footsteps (Podokkhep) was screened in July as part of the Indian competition section of the Osian's Cinefan film festival in New Delhi.

Ghosh told Toe Knee Unplugged he is now working on an English film.

How has the response been for your debut feature Footsteps?

Footsteps has already been to around 10 film festivals worldwide. I was surprised by the overwhelming reaction. It felt nice to find out that certain issues cut across cultures.
Though I had framed the film with respect to a Kolkata background it was pretty universal. It was really satisfying to see people in Canada, Prague and other places react to things the same way.
Footsteps was released in Kolkata in January. Unfortunately in India regional films do not get a release nationwide.
You have worked with Nandita Das and Soumitra Chatterjee in your Bengali film. Which actors do you want to work with in the future?

I have no particular targets as far as working with so and so is concerned. It depends on the particular role. I can only say there are actors that I like currently, but as I said it does not necessarily mean that I will cast them and work with them. That said, I think Saif Ali Khan and Konkona are the two actors that are consistently churning out amazing performances. They never cease to amaze me.
What project are you working on next?

I am working on an English film next. I can't say anything more about the project now.
A professor who's also a filmmaker - how hard has it been juggling the two vocations?

I never think of it that way - juggling two vocations. I think one must enjoy whatever one is doing. So the fact that I am pursuing two professions is an artifact of the excitement involved. The moment I will stop getting excited about making films or doing research in Economics, I will stop it. I can't see myself forcing into something.
But yes, I would say that I am good at compartmentalizing my vocations. When I was making the movie in India - for six months I just forgot about my existence as an economist. Similarly, when I am working on a research project I seem to forget about films. I can manage this changeover quite effectively.
Other Exclusive Interviews on this blog

Sona Mohapatra
Mahesh Dattani
Ruchi Narain
Will Bigham
Shiva Keshavan
Ravi Godse

Mahesh Dattani hard at work on new film

Playwright Mahesh Dattani is busy working on his latest project - a feature film. But it could take months before someone finds out what it's about.

The Bangalore-loving playwright who made his mark in filmdom with Mango Souffle and the Oscar-nominated Morning Raga is not revealing much at the moment.

Who will star in it? Will Shabana Azmi return after Morning Raga?

But Dattani's lips are sealed.

All he told Toe Knee Unplugged was -

"Madly working on the screenplay. I do have a few actors who are interested but it is a bit premature to mention names right now."
There's more good news in store for the 48-year-old writer. His play Double Deal starring Mahesh Manjrekar and Sandhya Mridul is doing quite well and was staged in Lucknow recently.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

August 2007 Blog Mela

Lokesh Dhakar comes to the rescue of people who can't order a cup of coffee

Deepa used to think being North Indian was cool

Great Bong caught General Musharraf flying full mast

Falstaff remembers his own tryst with destiny

eM wonders why those born with a uterus are put into a special category

Gawker hits out at razor blade manufacturers

Check out previous Blog Melas
March 2007
April 2007
May 2007
June 2007
July 2007

Wanna get featured in next month's Blog Mela? Visit this blog in the first week of September for nomination guidelines


Meet Will Bigham. The 31-year-old Texan triumphed over 12,000 other entrants to win the American reality show for filmmakers, On the Lot. The prize - a $1 million development deal with Steven Spielberg's DreamWorks Pictures.

Each week on the show, contestants created short films on a theme chosen by the producers. The finished films were then screened in front of a live studio audience while millions of television viewers voted for their favourite work.

Bigham, a great visual storyteller, was a formidable contender from the very beginning and beat 18 short-listed filmmakers, including Indian American Shalini Kantayya, to the grand prize.

The actor-turned-editor-turned-director loves Bollywood films and told Toe Knee Unplugged he wants to start work on a comedy.

What kind of feature film would you want to make now - a comedy, drama...?

I love comedies, and with On the Lot, that was the genre I chose to show the public week after week. I think the first feature I direct is more than likely going to be some type of comedy.
Which actors would you want to direct in the future? Would you continue acting as well?

There are several top actors that I would love to have a chance to work with. Too many to name. Coming from an acting background, I respect any actor who is willing to take a risk and make bold character choices. I would love to continue acting in the future, but for now, I'm going to focus on directing.
Which of Shalini's On the Lot films did you like best?

I enjoyed Shalini's Dr. In-Law. I had a chance to work with her on the script, as we all helped each other from time to time. It was a very collaborative atmosphere. But I thought that Shalini was able to find some really funny moments.
Have you watched a Bollywood film? Any thoughts on featuring Indian themes in your future projects?

I love Bollywood films. Visually, they are some of the best out there. I've never considered featuring Indian themes in my movies, but I would never rule it out. One of the greatest things about film making is that you can explore different aspects of this vast world in each of your projects. And everything you see (movies, art, architecture) informs the visual choices you make.
Other Exclusive Interviews on this blog

Sona Mohapatra
Mahesh Dattani
Ruchi Narain
Shiva Keshavan
Ravi Godse

Friday, August 24, 2007

Bigham wins big on the Lot

Will Bigham is the last man left standing in the On the Lot reality show for filmmakers - winning a million dollar picture deal with Steven Spielberg's Dreamworks Pictures.

The 31-year-old American had been my favourite on the weekly show where TV audiences voted for the best short films made by contestants.

Bigham's Nerve Endings is my favourite film on the show this season. You can watch it and other On The Lot hits here. Meanwhile, I am keeping my fingers crossed for Bigham's first Hollywood blockbuster.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Why Chak De won't win an Oscar

Chak De India is a good film. Unfortunately, taking home an Oscar needs more than a good film. I may be treading dangerous ground here but fans of Shahrukh Khan are likely to be disappointed when Chak De doesn't make the Oscar shortlist.

Chak De is not your typical Bollywood kitsch. Granted. But there's nothing new about an underdog team striving against all odds to win a team championship. A bit like Remember the Titans and the dozens of the sports flicks before it.

Remember Lagaan? At least, it had the colonial angle. Here it's national integration and gender inequality.

Must say director Shimit Alam has taken advantage of a brilliant screenplay. Add some good acting by Khan and his pan-Indian wards. Plus a release date the week before Independence Day when patriotic fervour is likely to be at its peak. And you have a winner on your hands.

A well-made film that will do extremely well in multiplexes. But story and acting alone does not an Oscar-winning film make. There would be calls to make Chak De India India's official entry for the Oscars but it's a lost cause.

P.S. For those who watched the film, don't you think the fight sequence at McDonalds was a bit over the top?

Parking Blues

(Link via Reddit)

Friday, August 17, 2007

Vishal Bharadwaj: Leery of Lear?

Will it be King Lear or Hamlet? After Maqbool (Macbeth) and Omkara (Othello), fans are wondering which Shakespearean play will filmmaker Vishal Bharadwaj attempt next.

Speculation had been rife that the Indian filmmaker would choose King Lear as the basis for the third and final film of his Shakespeare trilogy. But Bharadwaj told Toe Knee Unplugged he hasn't decided yet.

"I do have to complete my trilogy but many filmmakers are making films on Shakespeare's plays so I haven't decided yet."
Was Bharadwaj referring to Rituparno Ghosh's take on King Lear? Ghosh's The Last Lear has Amitabh Bachchan playing a failed and ageing Shakespearean actor. The film premieres at the Toronto film festival in September.

Perhaps, Bharadwaj should stick to his original plan - that of making Julius Caesar. He had even thought of having Sanjay Dutt and Irrfan Khan play the pivotal roles of Caesar and Mark Antony. But with Dutt's incarceration, that plan seems to have fizzled out.

For now, Bharadwaj is revelling in the success of his award-winning children's film The Blue Umbrella and busy working on his next film - a docudrama.

So is the Bard of Avon on hold for now? Yes, but you guys can help Bharadwaj out. Should he go in for a Shakespearean tragedy, comedy or tragi-comedy?

Bharadwaj's next film should be based on
King Lear
Julius Caesar
Antony and Cleopatra
Romeo and Juliet
Much Ado About Nothing
As You Like It
The Tempest
The Taming of the Shrew free polls

Monday, August 13, 2007

REVIEW: There's no myth about Mithya

If you thought Bheja Fry was excellent, wait till you watch Mithya (The Imposter Who Wasn't). This time around, Rajat Kapoor wields the director's baton in a satire set in the Mumbai underworld.

Funny man Ranvir Shorey plays an aspiring actor who has an uncanny resemblance to a don. This gives rival gangster Naseeruddin Shah a brainwave. Kill the original and replace him with the reluctant imposter.

Shorey is forced to accept the role of a lifetime - no Oscar for him though. His lone friend in the world is Naseer's moll Neha Dhupia. Things go wrong when the imposter loses his memory in an accident and starts believing he actually is a don. How will he get out of this mess?

Reminds you of Don, doesn't it? Well, the story line may not be original, but Kapoor's treatment leaves viewers rolling in the aisles. If you always thought of Shorey as that VJ dude, he's going to surprise you in this film. The guy can really act the part of an endearing loser.

Shorey can't hog all the credit though. Kapoor and Saurabh Shukla's gripping screenplay does the trick, ably supported by superb performances by Naseer, Vinay Pathak and Ikhlaque Khan.

Neha Dhupia can't act though but who cares? She fits well into her role as a flop actress and gangster Naseer's companion.

Rajat Kapoor reveals that the script of Mithya had been lying with him for 9 years with no producer willing to take the risk. Were it not for multiplex culture, films like Bheja Fry and Mithya would never have been made, he says.

The good news is that Kapoor's tribute to Hollywood gangster films generated some good vibes at last month's Osian's-Cinefan film festival and this bodes well for its September 2007 release.

Verdict: **** A worthy successor to the Bheja Fry genre of films

Exclusive Coverage of Osian's-Cinefan 2007 film festival

Sunday, August 12, 2007

August 2007 Blog Mela: Nominate Now

Did you just come across a quirky, interesting or something-that-tugs-at-your-heartstrings blog? If yes, feel free to nominate it for the August Blog Mela being hosted here on August 26

Blog Mela Rules
- Posts must have been written by Indians or have an Indian angle
- Only posts published between 1-22 August, 2007 would be accepted
- If possible, please nominate individual posts, not the whole blog
- Feel free to nominate something you have written. Immodesty appreciated
- You can nominate as many blog posts as you like - provided you really like them
- Only nominations received before midnight on August 22 will be featured
- No, you don't get any moolah for nominating or getting featured in the Blog Mela. That could change once I am a millionaire but for now you'll just have to bear with me
- Yours truly reserves the right to nominate good posts which you ignore

How to Nominate
- Leave a comment on this post OR better still - Mail me at toeknee (at) gmail (dot) com

Check out previous Blog Melas
March 2007
April 2007
May 2007
June 2007
July 2007

Friday, August 10, 2007

Is Aishwarya Rai pregnant?

Can't say for sure. And even if Abhishek Bachchan is indeed becoming a daddy, shouldn't that be the Bachchans' private affair. The media, as expected, is lapping up the news.

Sample this news item in The Times of India - "Aishwarya Bachchan, is reportedly expecting and Abhishek is gonna be a dad. Amitabh Bachchan, meanwhile, is going to be the grand-daddy of them all!"

But this headline in the South Asian Women's Forum takes the cake - "Aishwarya carrying Bachchan bun in the oven?" Could you get any cruder than that?

Bollywood's most famous family may be denying the rumours but I am sure they wouldn't take too kindly to the headline on The Spoof - "New Aishwarya Rai wax statue shows her four months pregnant".

And guess what The Spoof has done to my story on a Casablanca adaptation being shot in India - "Bollywood Casablanca Remake To Star That Mohit Bloke". And do check out the photo of Aishwarya in that story.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

REVIEW - Dr Ravi & Mr Hyde

When a real-life physician is consumed by a desire to make a film, should we presume it's midlife crisis? Dr Ravi & Mr Hyde (2007) may be a low-budget film shot in just five days but it's high on funny moments.

Dr Ravi Godse, an Indian-origin doctor settled in the US, believes that directing and producing a "timeless classic" motion picture is his true calling. So what if it's his own life he's depicting. It's a journey fraught with many obstacles -

- a wife who speaks about things "briefly for two hours"
- a publisher who recovers the cost of printing from the author
- a gangster who thinks Ravi is sleeping with his girlfriend
- a film school classmate who thinks he's enrolled for photography
- and colleagues who dive under the sheets every time Dr Ravi walks in

The protagonist is a sort of Mr Bean character - though perhaps much more refined. He dances despite having two left feet. And endears himself to the audience.

My only regret is the director didn't focus more on Dr Ravi's film. What happened to it eventually - was it panned or did it shockingly win an Oscar? Yes, the answer might be hidden in Ravi's direct-to-camera monologues but I wasn't satisfied. A happy though unrealistic ending would have worked wonders for a film that is otherwise peppered with witty one-liners.

Sample this -

Some areas in this country are still slow. In fact in certain places, the prostitutes are still virgins
Yes, the film takes a dig at everything under the sun, even Americans. After all, they wouldn't know if Japan is in Asia.

Kudos to Godse himself for a crisp plot and a tight screenplay. At 87 minutes, Dr Ravi & Mr Hyde is eminently watchable, thanks also to some good editing, which ensures that the scenes follow each other in perfect harmony.

On the flipside, the viewer sometimes gets the feeling he's watching a well-rehearsed play. Some characters, played by Ravi Godse's real-life friends and colleagues, are not professional actors. They do try hard but lack the kind of spontaneity that comes, ironically, only with experience.

Dr Ravi & Mr Hyde didn't get a theatrical release in the US but word-of-mouth publicity about its DVDs may generate the buzz it truly deserves.

Verdict: *** Worth a watch. Ravi Godse's attempts at dancing should be reason enough.

Blog interview with Dr Ravi Godse
Watch 2-minute trailor
Buy DVDS here

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