Tag Archives: Hollywood

Dilip Kumar and Saira Banu

Dilip Kumar Rejected Hollywood to Revolutionize Indian Cinema

The legend Dilip Kumar passed away in Mumbai on July 7, 2021, at the grand old age of 98. The news not only shocked fans across the country and abroad, but left its indelible mark on the countless people who have seen him as the epitome of romance and an innate character actor, from around the world.

Septuagenarian Smita, who lives with her family in New York, still cannot believe that the veritable legend, who acted in more than 65 films over nearly five decades, is no more. Fellow Indian from her neighborhood, Balvinder too was shocked by the news. For them, Dilip Kumar was a large part of their formative years. And now, he is long gone.

Dilip Kumar

Born in 1922 Peshawar (now in Pakistan) under the name Muhammad Yusuf Khan, Dilip Kumar made his acting debut in 1944 in the film Jwar Bhata. However, it was the 1949 hit Andaz that catapulted him to fame.

Superstar Amitabh Bachchan in his tribute wrote, “An institution has gone… Whenever the history of Indian Cinema will be written, it shall always be ‘before Dilip Kumar, and after Dilip Kumar’… My duas (prayers) for peace of his soul and the strength to the family to bear this loss. Deeply saddened.”

The First Khan of Bollywood, Dilip Kumar has been described as one of the most successful film stars in the industry and is credited with bringing a distinct form of method acting to the cinema.

Dilip Kumar was a find of Devika Rani, who rechristened a young Muhammad Yusuf Khan his new name, echoing the mood of contemporary times. She took him under her wings and the method actor, who entered the industry with no formal training, rose to the heights of glory in Indian cinema. In fact, in an interview in 1970, he said that he adopted this name out of fear of his father, who never approved of his acting career.

Dilip Kumar in Ganga Jumna.

Dilip Kumar’s method-acting is perhaps best exemplified in the film Gunga-Jumna. The 1961 Nitin Bose directorial is believed to have seen Dilip Kumar run all around the studio premise, to the point of collapsing, in order to get the right look and feel for his death scene in the film.

If method acting is what defines Dilip Kumar, the actor himself tried to elaborate upon it in his autobiography Dilip Kumar: The Substance And The Shadow, released in 2015, where he wrote, “I am an actor who evolved a method, which stood me in good stead.”

In films like Shakti, Dilip Kumar used silence and stillness in a manner where he brought alive to perfection the portrayal of a tortured father unable to express love for his son. Dilip Kumar, as an actor, would seldom raise his voice. He would speak up whenever a moment in the film needed it, invariably mellowing down his voice to ooze a gamut of expressions in cinema, leaving behind his indelible mark in Indian films.

Smita recalls an incident as a teenager when she went to see Mughal-e-Azam at the theatre, where his on-screen clash with another legendary actor Prithviraj Kapoor has created a timeless classic. The two titans on the screen, where Kapoor’s thunderous oration was perfectly foiled by Kumar’s pauses, silences, and nuanced brooding glances are something that Smita says still gives her goosebumps.

Perhaps the legend that Dilip Kumar was, best finds voice in a rare clip that became viral on social media. The recording starts with Dilip Kumar reciting a shayeri during an interview. In the recording, the legend can be heard saying, “Humare baad iss mehfil mein afsane bayaan honge, bahare humko dhoondengi, Na jaane hum kahaan honge…”

In fact, such was the influence of the veritable legend that in 1962, Dilip Kumar was given the chance to star in the British film Lawrence of Arabia, which would go on to win an Oscar. The film would have been his Hollywood debut, but Dilip Kumar declined it saying that he didn’t need to act in films abroad to prove his worth.

In Dilip Kumar, Indian cinema found an actor who not only simply enacted characters on screen, but lived them. For him, it was a state of being rather than just a part, to be enacted between the ‘action’ and ‘cut’ in cinema.


Umang Sharma is a media professional, avid reader, and film buff. His interests lie in making the world a better place through the power of the written word.


 

New York to Kerala, American Actress India Jarvis Makes a Malayalam Film Debut

The first time Director, Jeo Baby mentioned her name, I thought I had heard him wrong. It was prior to the release of his film, Kilometers and Kilometers. Requesting him to repeat the actress’s name, I heard him say India Jarvis again. Now I was convinced of my hearing. 

Actress, India Jarvis

India Jarvis might be an unusual name for this New York-raised American actress. And, clearly, her mother had no inkling while christening her daughter India, that one day her little girl would cross the shores to work in the eponymous country. 

Jarvis traveled in 2019 to India on her first visit for the filming of the Malayalam film, ‘Kilometers and Kilometers.’

“My mother named me after one of the characters in ‘Gone With the Wind,’ says Jarvis over email. “She found the name beautiful.”

Jarvis’s love for acting goes back to her childhood when as a 9-year-old, she joined a community theater. And, with a BFA from the Academy of Art University (San Francisco), she moved to New York. She worked there in Off-Broadway shows and short films.

Kilometers and Kilometers is her first Indian feature film where she essays the lead role of Cathy- an American tourist in India. Cathy after winning at a casino is keen on touring the country, but not in chauffeured cars. She is eager on exploring India while riding pillion on a motorcycle.

When the offer to do this Malayalam film came her way, Jarvis despite being unaware of the industry, took it up.

“I have watched Indian films,” she says. “My favorite is ‘Black’ – the Amitabh Bachchan starrer. As an actor, you’re always looking for scripts with interesting stories and characters.”

Like her character, it was her first experience traveling to India. 

“I’ve never worked on anything like this before. I knew it would be a challenge from an acting perspective.”

Talking about her director, Jarvis says, “Jeo had a great vision for this film. I knew it was in great hands.”

In Kilometers and Kilometers, she is paired opposite Kerala’s heartthrob –Tovino Thomas. Thomas plays Josemo, a motorbike mechanic who takes on the work opportunity to drive Cathy around on his motorbike. Being the only son, he supports his widowed mother and younger sister and hopes to clear his family debts with the money thus earned. 

Jarvis was at ease working with Tovino Thomas. 

“While shooting, I found myself lost at times due to the language barrier. Tovino was always helpful,” she recalls.  “There’s one scene where Josemon and Cathy are sitting on the edge of a cliff. We were secured by a rope around our waists. It was terrifying, but I put on a brave face to get through the scene. Pillion riding on a motorcycle was a blast. Despite a hectic schedule, it was almost therapeutic.”

Kilometers and Kilometers is a feel-good film now streaming on Netflix.

Following its release, Jarvis has been flooded with messages on social media. Though she has received offers to work in India, she is unable to travel in the existing pandemic times.


Mythily Ramachandran is an independent journalist based in Chennai, India with over twenty years of reporting experience. Besides contributing to leading Indian and international publications including Gulf News (UAE), South China Morning Post, and Another Gaze (UK), she is a Rotten Tomatoes critic. Check out her blog – http://romancing-cinema.blogspot.com/ 


 

Tom and Jerry Incorporates Indian Culture But Does It Do It Well?

Recently Tom and Jerry: The Movie was released in theaters and HBO!

In this movie, Hollywood gets Bollywood glam! The beloved co-stars of Tom and Jerry attend an Indian wedding and wear Sabyasachi and Anushree Reddy couture.  

A UK-based fashion house, Aashni + Co assisted Warner Bros. crew in sourcing bespoke costumes at an Indian wedding extravaganza. Each outfit was beautifully designed, and had a light, airy feel to it – the color palette had hints of peonies, lavender, and rose bowers.

Aashni + Co Co-Founder, Aashni Anshul Doshi.

Aashni + Co Co-Founder, Aashni Anshul Doshi told India Currents that she borrows inspiration from what she sees around her – from the incredible to the little mundane things. She said, “Even a short but meaningful current affairs conversation gets me going. Believing in the greatness of any idea can be a real inspiration for me.” 

The surreal juxtaposition of Bollywood in a cartoon movie accompanied by unexpected pop-ups of elephants, peacocks, and tigers in the grand ballroom did not compete with the slippery antics of Tom and Jerry. The effect was reminiscent of Aladdin’s entry into Jasmine’s palace! 

Aashni comments, “Being part of Hollywood gave me an opportunity to up the ante. Having dressed up Indian brides, grooms, and families from across the globe, we went with our instincts about grand Indian weddings to curate every look.” And it worked!

I have not shopped at Aashni +Co but I love their glossy website that offers an exclusive shopping experience. They were approached by Tom and Jerry stylists in the summer of 2019.

“The bridal ensembles had to be elegant, rich, and traditional. We worked around this pitch and shortlisted suitable outfits to present for selections. It was great that where typically across the globe, an Indian bride is usually dressed in red, the choice to go with ivory with understated elegance was zeroed in on.”

Choosing something so unconventional and expensive, I wonder about the process and challenge of acclimatizing Hollywood stars and their audience to Indian attire and cultural norms. When India Currents’ asked Aashni + Co to comment on this, we did not receive a response. 

In old Bollywood films, the bride was always dressed in a classic red saree and heavy gold jewelry. In my day, bridal attire was sourced from popular saree stores that carried few versions of bridalwear. Simple and elegant, a look recreated in Mira Nair’s rendition of A Suitable Boy. My mother stitched outfits for us in taffeta, satin, and silk with handspun gold lace. She did not consult a design book. The ideas stemmed from her imagination. My wedding saree was a shimmering red-gold tissue trimmed in broad gold brocade.

In India, people always asked me, where I bought my clothes? My elegant mother was an understated designer! Now, when I pick up a chic garment from an Avante Garde boutique-like Aashni + Co. that reminds me of my mother’s, it always has a $$$$ price tag.

In the last ten years, there has been an explosion of bridal couture in India! Indian diaspora is hypnotized by the glitz and glamor – each outfit is more ornate and ostentatious. Tom and Jerry and other films like it can perpetuate global misconceptions about Indian wedding culture. 

My other issue was that while the human actors wore their glad rags to the hilt, they seemed a bit confused about their own spatial and dialogue relationships with the cartoon protagonist.

If the screenplay and direction were intended to draw parallels between the lives of Kayla (Chloe Grace Moretz) and the cat and mouse duo, it did not. The underhanded gesture at the outset employed by Kayla to nab a position at the prestigious establishment conjured up the gestalt of Jerry but then it frittered away. Ben( Colin Jost) and Preeta (Pallavi Sharda) as a tense interracial couple before their wedding gala did not capitalize on the conflict. My heart warmed up to Michael Pena because he has a great sense of timing but even his humor was stymied. My eyes scanned to glean memorable unexpected moments in the fight sequences between the sworn adversaries, but mayhem and destruction failed to impress! 

There was nothing to make me scream in sheer delight. It was nothing like the ”zombie-high” I felt by watching reruns of short cartoon films created in 1940 by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera. This live-action/computer-animated slapstick comedy would not be my “go-to” movie when I want to share the family couch for some popcorn and laughter.


Monita Soni, MD has one foot in Huntsville, Alabama, the other in her birth home India, and a heart steeped in humanity. Monita has published many poems, essays, and two books, My Light Reflections and Flow Through My Heart. You can hear her commentaries on Sundial Writers Corner WLRH 89.3FM.


 

A Filmmaker, A Trailblazer: Prarthana Joshi Takes On Hollywood

How often do you see a diminutive, Indian woman behind the camera in Hollywood?

Prarthana Joshi is doing just that.

Prarthana, also known as PJ, is an independent filmmaker born and raised in Pune and currently based in Los Angeles. What began as a pursuit of architecture in Mumbai, ended with a thesis dedicating a museum to the history of Indian Cinema. It was this bout into Indian cinema that sparked joy. From there, PJ knew she had to pursue filmmaking.

Filmmaker, Prarthana Joshi.

PJ has extensive hands-on and versatile production experience because she knew early on that filmmaking is about learning all the elements of creating cinema. In her most recent project, she produced, TV pilot, Vicarious, which won the best TV pilot at the Dances with Films 2019 festival, amongst several other awards and screenings. Her other notable works include The National Film Archives of India Documentary, Vihir, Vaatsaru, The Day He Learned to Fly, Handle with Care

Prarthana Joshi is a trailblazer. She is a woman. She is a filmmaker. She is an Indian-American transitioning from Bollywood to Hollywood, setting the stage for Indian stories and narratives in global cinema. India Currents interviews her to get insight into how her identities play a role in her unconventional, male-dominated career path.

IC: What is the importance of filmmaking to you?

Filmmaking is a way of life. I remember when I did my college application in 2009, I said that cinema is my religion. What I mean by that is that you start looking at the world as a storyteller, you see hurdles in your life as character-building exercises. You appreciate each and every profession because you start realizing that everyone has a story to tell. You become eager to learn new things and new possibilities. Stagnancy and normalcy are like death. You start to appreciate the journey rather than the award or the end-result. 

Most of the time when a project is over, you feel life is leaving something behind and just eagerly waiting for the next one to start. And it feels like…this is all I know. 

It is 100% love for the process. Discovering the story, meeting new people, exchanging ideas and thoughts. It becomes part of your lifestyle and there is nothing glamour about it. Lots of hard work, lots of hair pulling, and problem-solving going hand in hand with the creative stuff. 

IC: Do you feel like you have to erase parts of your culture in order to make movies in America?

Erasing a part of your culture is not possible. I believe that who you are, runs in your blood. I can pretend all I want but my brain works the way it has been trained to. My perspective has changed though. When a world of possibilities opened to me and I saw a different way of living and thinking, I did start being more critical about my culture and my beliefs. I questioned my morals and became more investigative in general. I don’t accept things blindly. I don’t do things because everyone does it. This particular change has nothing to do with culture. It is just part of growing up. 

And there could be certain cultural things that I might not partake in but that doesn’t mean that I hold a judgemental point of view towards them. I think certain things are for me and some things are not. 

And as for making films in American, I think the definition of good and bad is synonymous no matter where you go. People feel the same feelings and hence…the basic story is always about a journey of a character finding it difficult to get what they want to achieve. The circumstances, the world,and the obstacles might be different but they are humans no matter where they are and what they want. So I am not sure if I had to give up anything as such. I think I have gained a lot more. 

Prarthana Joshi on set.

IC: What do you want to add to South Asian representation in global/American media?

When we talk about the representation of the entire South Asian community, it already sounds like we are trying to blend in so many smaller communities and putting them in a box of a sort.

I wish I could break that box and not make it so symbolic or isolated. 

I think I want to tell stories about people who are passionate about their dreams and desires and happen to be South Asian. I wish I get to a point where I could talk about the diversity within the community, the struggle to hold on to the culture in the modern world. A stateless, countryless, boundaryless world with infinite possibilities and yet the perpetual longing for a community. There are so many issues that are dear to the South Asian communities that never get discussed. Like how do they communicate with families that are in South Asia? What are these long-distance relationships like? What it means to create strong nit communities here. What are these communities like? What are their problems like? I hope, I can tell stories about things that matter to this community. 

IC: What was the journey of crossing cultures?

When you decide to travel to another country, especially a country like the US, you have a preconceived notion of what it will be like. We have seen movies and TV shows from the US so we think that we know everything about this country. But when you actually get to live there then you really begin to slowly understand the culture, bit by bit. Your perceptions start to change. 

Moreover, cinema is a reflection of pop culture, history, and social conversation. Conscious or subconscious documentation of life as such. So to truly understand a country’s cinema, I knew I had to learn a lot about the country itself. This was something I realized early on. I also grew up watching Bollywood films and realized that I had a lot to catch up on. So most of my free time was…reading, listening to podcasts, watching documentaries, older films, and TV shows. After living here for 10 years… I still feel that I am catching up. 

I also learned a lot but just talking to my friends, who grew up in different places within America. I had no idea that someone who grew up in Wyoming and someone who grew up in New York could have so much different upbringing. Had no clue of the cultural diversity within this country. It is a reflection of how little we know about other countries. When I met people from different parts of the world in LA, I constantly felt like my mind was opening up. I was learning to see the world and its people in a whole different way. Respecting and learning and valuing the differences and similarities. 

When you look back at where you come from after having this changed perspective, you learn to appreciate what you had in your upbringing and culture and also learn to critique it as well. 

Then there are other struggles like being away from family and friends; Struggling to create a new world and a support system. But the best part is that this all seems worth it when you are so driven by your passion and the work. So all these things happen naturally and effortlessly. 

IC: What obstacles have you faced?

When I came to LA, to do my Master’s in 2010, I did not know a single person in the city. I had an aunt who lived in San Francisco but that’s it. I was on my own. When you are creating projects in school, that are each individual short films and it takes a lot of resources to make them happen. When I had directed my first short in India, my parents and my family came and helped in gathering all these resources. In LA… It was left to me and my classmates, who were equally new to LA to just figure it out. That was the first lesson in learning to be on your own and thinking on your feet and taking responsibilities that will directly affect your project and many times your classmates’. You slowly learn and figure out the city, where you can resource what things and start building your network. Those days were without social media and online resources, so we had to physically go to places and ask around. No Whatsapp or Facebook groups that could help you or guide you. Now it is so easy to find things. 

The best part of knowing where you started is releasing how much you now know or have learned that you didn’t when you first came. A city so foreign slowly becomes way more familiar than the place you grew up in. 

IC: What advice can you offer other South Asians pursuing filmmaking?

I would love to say that be true to yourself and your experience. Each of us has a story that comes from the unique upbringing we have. Don’t try to blend in with the mainstream or modify your story because of what people may or may not understand. Because people do. We have. We have seen films from other cultures and have understood and appreciated them so there is no reason to compromise on authenticity. 

Also…do try to find out why you want to tell the story you are telling? What conversation are you trying to have? Has this conversation happened before? What is my unique take on it? 

IC: What are you currently working on?

Currently, I am working on a couple of different projects. They are both in the pitching stages. Both stories about Indians in the US.


Srishti Prabha is the Assistant Editor at India Currents and has worked in low income/affordable housing as an advocate for children, women, and people of color. She is passionate about diversifying spaces, preserving culture, and removing barriers to equity.

Minorities Embrace an Invigorating Cinematic Presence: Rohan Gurbaxani

New York City-based actor who was born in San Jose and grew up in Bengaluru, Rohan Gurbaxani, has been making remarkable but quiet moves in Hollywood over the past few years. Within a year of graduating from New York University, he bagged over seven feature films in 2019, including four acting roles in the following movies: action-comedy Chick Fight, action-thriller Knuckledust, and action thriller Red 4

Gurbaxani in the movie, Chick Fight.

Rohan has also worked with New York City-based indie film production company, Yale Productions, as an assistant on their films: I Used to Go Here starring Gillian Jacobs and Becky starring Kevin James which later went to feature in the SXSW Film Festival and the Tribeca Film Festival, respectively. With no lineage in the entertainment business, he charted his professional journey on his own merit.

In this exclusive interview, he talks among other things about his experience of being an Indian actor in Hollywood, his all-time favorite films, and his plans for Bollywood.

How did you decide to become an actor? 

I definitely did not have an epiphany moment. For me, acting is a cultivated passion, a gradual realization. From the very beginning, I used to perform as a dancer—from Shiamak Davar classes to participating in almost every dance competition in school. Looking back, I unknowingly always had a knack for performance but no inclination towards acting at all.

Fast forward to when I was a teenager and my mother randomly enrolled me at the Jagriti Theatre in Whitefield. I wouldn’t say that was the turning point, but it was perhaps when the seed was planted. It’s funny I had close to zero acting experience in school. Yet if you asked anyone from my adolescent years about what I’d end up doing in life, they’d say, “Rohan? He wants to be an actor.” The irony is that none of them, my parents included, had ever seen me act! Somehow, my complete lack of experience never stopped me from defiantly saying, “I want to be an actor”, even though deep down I had no clue where to even begin…

Luckily, my first sign of validation came in big. I got accepted into arguably the best drama school in the world—Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. It was only then that I remember telling myself, “Alright maybe, just maybe… something can be done here.”

Did you have to face any challenges due to being an Indian actor in Hollywood?

Fortunately, no significant challenges. I still have a long journey ahead of me but in my opinion, how you carry yourself is important because it eventually reflects in your work and the opportunities you attract. Having said that, the West is gradually realizing that we as a minority embrace an invigorating cinematic presence. However, I do not think the inclusiveness is snowballing at a fast enough pace.

Tell our readers a little about your role in the recently released comedy film Chick Fight.

All I can say is that I play the character Kye, a college kid on spring break who ends up at Alec Baldwin’s bar. Anna (Malin Åkerman) happens to be there at the same time for other reasons, and a conflict ensues between the three of us. 

Behind the scenes with Gurbaxani in the film, Knuckledust.

Tell us more about your role in the latest films Knuckledust, Red 48, and Confession.

Knuckledust is an action-thriller starring Camille Rowe, Moe Dunford (TV show Vikings), Gethin Anthony (Game of Thrones), where I play a naive playboy whose wits get the better of him. I have two more films coming out in 2021, a mystery-thriller called Confession starring Golden Globe nominee Sarah Hay where I play a lawyer, and a cameo in another action-thriller called Red 48 starring Oscar nominee John Malkovich and Tyrese Gibson.  

Which has been your most memorable/rewarding project/role so far?

Although working with Alec Baldwin on Chick Fight was an unbelievable learning experience, I’d say playing Requin in Knuckledust was most rewarding, since there was more to play with and also because it was my very first role out of school.

Which are some of your all-time favorite films?

Into the Wild, The Shining, Lion, The Lunchbox, The Master, and many more. 

Who are some of the contemporaries who you look up to and whose work you admire?

Cillian Murphy, Shia LaBeouf, Ranbir Kapoor, and Jake Gyllenhaal are a few. Their work and perspective on life and the world around them resonate with me.

What are you working on next? What can fans expect from you?

Well, I am back on my home turf (Bengaluru) and just starting to tap into the Hindi film industry. I have some projects in the works, so stay tuned!


Neha Kirpal is a freelance writer based in Delhi. She is the author of Wanderlust for the Soul, an e-book collection of short stories based on travel in different parts of the world. 

The First Indian Cinematic Comic Book Universe

The world cannot get enough of superheroes. Superheroes dominate the entertainment industry from comic books and graphic novels to films and streaming services. But there is also a groundswell from the international audience for inclusion and diversity.

Since 2013, Yali Dream Creations has been producing graphic novels revolving around Indian characters, Indian locales, and Indian issues. Key titles for Yali Dream Creations include graphic novels like The Caravan, The Village, and Rakshak: A Hero Among Us, all of which represent Indian culture.

Comic, The Caravan
Comic, The Caravan

Like so many creative intellectual properties, fans of these books want to see translations of these characters onto film. To fulfill this need, Asvin Srivatsangam, the company’s CEO and co-founder, recently announced the company’s expansion of Yali Dream Works. An offshoot of Yali Dream Creations, Yali Dream Works will handle adapting, producing, and distributing Yali Dream Creations’ various literary works into feature films and series for streaming service platforms.

US-based Asvin Srivatsangam has partnered with noted Bombay-based producer, Vivek Rangachari, to blend American Hollywood with Indian Bollywood to create stories that will appeal to Indian audiences and provide a window into Indian culture to a worldwide audience. Rangachari is an advocate for Indian studios generating their own superhero-style content for the Indian population. Rangachari connected with Srivatsangam after reading Yali Dream Creations’ graphic novels, seeing the potential for film adaptations.  

Rangachari elaborated in a virtual Comic-Con panel, “The genres and type of movies are very different from what we were doing in the conventional sense of making films. So, we thought that let’s spin it off in a different venture which concentrates on the superhero genre, horror, thriller, etc. because that’s a different space we’re looking at…That was the reason why we decided to spin it off into a different entity altogether to cater to a certain segment of the audience.”

The first graphic novel slated for feature film adaptation under Yali Dream Works is Rakshak: A Hero Among Us. The book’s titular character, Captain Aditya Shergill is a character who takes up a superhero identity to mete out justice as his city is infested with crime and government corruption. Shergill’s origin story involves a heinous crime that leads to the death of his sister and brother-in-law. To protect his orphaned niece, Shergill takes on the secret identity of Rakshak. Not gifted with superpowers, the vigilante depends on his brute strength, marine commando training, and firearms to dispense justice. More than taking a moral stand on vigilantism, author Shamik Dasgupta’s four-part story compels readers to think about how the world would react to a vigilante taking the law into his own hands.

Working on the film adaptation is acclaimed director Sanjay Gupta. Gupta is an excellent fit for the gritty, action-filled story, having directed action thrillers in the past like Zinda, Kaante, and Shootout at Lokhandwala. While the film was supposed to be released in 2021, the production has been delayed with the current global pandemic. In a recent interview, Gupta voiced his excitement for India’s first graphic novel to be made into a feature film saying, “Rakshak is an Aladdin’s cave of riches. Open a page, any page, and there’s such a wealth of visual material telling a gripping story.”  

Given Yali Dream Works’ mission statement to bring Indian heroes to the forefront, Rakshak was an obvious choice to receive a cinematic adaptation. The success of Marvel and DC films in India along with high viewership of comic-book shows proves that the Indian market is hungry for more superhero stories and would also diversify the market by introducing the wonders of India’s culture to a worldwide market.

Comic, The Village
Comic, The Village

Rakshak is not the only title currently being developed. The Village is an acclaimed graphic novel that is also being adapted for a feature film. It is set in a village in Tamil Nadu during a dystopian future where the nation has made great strides such as space exploration but archaic evils like a social caste system persist. The graphic novel has been optioned by a major streaming service platform. The overall intent of Yali Dream Works is to help develop Indian interest in local homegrown comics while influencing popular culture in India and throughout the world. 

Look out for Rakshak at a screening near you!


Asvin Srivatsangam lives in San Jose, California with his lovely wife and adorable daughter, and works as a visual designer for a startup. Asvin has been passionate about the comic book medium from his childhood, and he finally started his own comic book publishing house, Yali Dream Creations, in 2013. 

Dil Bechara: From Reel to Real

Sushant Singh Rajput’s posthumous film Dil Bechara recently released on Disney+ Hotstar. Clearly dedicated to him, the film begins with a smiling SSR playing the guitar while a quote of his flashes in the background: “Perhaps, the difference between what is miserable, and that, which is spectacular, lies in the leap of faith…#selfmusing.” Inspired by John Green’s novel The Fault in Our Stars, the film is set in Jamshedpur and its opening dialogues are what most bedtime stories start with: “Ëk tha raja, ek thi rani; dono mar gaye, khatam kahani.”   

Kizie Basu (Sanjana Sanghi) is a young girl suffering from thyroid cancer. An oxygen mask is attached to her person, which she carries with her at all times. Due to her disease, she has a largely boring life and feels like a reality TV show contestant who can be eliminated from the game of life anytime. She often attends funerals of strangers and sympathizes with their loss. More than anything else, she longs to be just like any other normal girl her age. 

Enter Manny (SSR), who she meets at a cancer counseling group. Though ill too, he is fun-loving and likes to sing, dance and act. SSR is sadly so energetic and full of life in this—his last film—with expressions that remind one of Shah Rukh Khan from the DDLJ days. He also spins magic with some promising dance moves in the film’s dreamy title song. Watching it one can’t help but lament with a heavy heart about such a talented life tragically wasted. 

The film has its share of clichés too—like the fact that Kizie and Manny’s taste in music doesn’t match. While she likes to hear soppy, mellow songs, he prefers the likes of Honey Singh. Along with Manny’s friend, the two of them start shooting a comical film together, and he shows her how to enjoy life. In turn, Kizie gets him to hear an incomplete soulful song by a singer whom she admires, and he begins to love the tune too. They write to the singer to conclude his song and request to meet him. Kizie can barely believe it when the singer invites them to Paris. Since her immune system is weak, it’s risky for her to travel, but with some coaxing, she goes to Paris along with Manny and her mother—who agree to fulfill her long-cherished dream. Though meeting the crazy singer (Saif Ali Khan) is a bit anticlimactic, the three of them have a great time in the city. 

With the stars of young love in her eyes, Kizie soon finds a raison détre in Manny, but filled with emotion, she frequently gets breathless and her heart beats faster when around him. Manny later tells Kizie that an ache had led him to discover sometime back that he too is going to die very soon. In a poignant scene, his family hugs him and cries, as his condition steadily deteriorates. He also attends a mock funeral for himself where his best friend and girlfriend read weepy vows to him, while he sits across and hears them out. Predictably the end of the film is melodramatic, made more true to life by the fact that SSR is no more in reality too. There are several dialogues that seem ironic now—and while they were being shot, no one probably had a clue about what the future holds. In one instance, Kizie tells Manny, “One doesn’t need to be popular to be a hero. You can be one in real life too.” 

The film’s subtle message is in the letter that Manny leaves behind before dying: “We don’t decide when we are born and when we die, but we decide how we live.” As Kizie tearfully watches visuals of the completed film that they had shot together, it could very well be Sanghi herself watching the completed Dil Bechara in real life now. In a sense, the film and SSR’s life remind you of the fleeting nature of existence itself, making you almost want to hug your loved ones a little tighter, laugh a little louder, and just live life a little more fully…

_____

Neha Kirpal is a freelance writer based in New Delhi. She is the author of Wanderlust for the Soul, an e-book collection of short stories based on travel in different parts of the world.

Irrfan, Because He Liked the Sound of the Extra R

Sahabzade Irfan Ali Khan was studying for his MA degree when he won a scholarship to study at the National School of Drama (NSD) in New Delhi in 1984. The young man from Tonk, Rajasthan had a single R in his name. He was Irfan.

In 2012, he changed the spelling of his name and became Irrfan Khan. Khan had recently received the Padma Shri, India’s fourth-highest civilian honor for his contribution to the field of arts. He had garnered the National Film Award for Best Actor in the 60th National Film Awards 2012.

He said he liked the sound of the extra “r” in his name.

His first offer out of drama school seemed a plump one. He was a final year student at NSD in 1988 when Mira Nair chose him for a role in Salaam Bombay. We never saw him in Salaam Bombay because his role was edited out in the final film.

Slowly Irrfan unfurled across our screens, an unlikely hero. He did not seem to have sex appeal. He spoke casually on screen, as if he was seated beside you and was not a celluloid dream weaver, whispering comments into your ear as a fellow audience member. As he caught one’s attention more and more, the audience hungered to go to the movies with him.

About him, Danny Boyle said, “he has an instinctive way of finding the “moral center” of any character, so that in Slumdog, we believe the policeman might actually conclude that Jamal is innocent. Boyle compares him to an athlete who can execute the same move perfectly over and over. “It’s beautiful to watch.”

His stride into Hollywood did not make a splash like Priyanka Chopra’s. He casually sauntered across the continents and when we saw him in Life of Pi we were not surprised at all.

“Why do Hollywood filmmakers always pick Irrfan Khan for their movies? Why don’t they pick SRK, Salman Khan, or Amir Khan even, being the biggest of Bollywood?” asked Dipesh Doshi an avid moviegoer.

He just remains terribly interesting.

His appeal as a fellow audience member may explain the respect with which the media has honored his request to give him privacy while he sorts out his medical issue. He commands their respect sure but the real deal is that they love him as a brother.

His wife reassured his fellow travelers on the celluloid journey.

“My best friend and my partner is a ‘warrior’ he is fighting every obstacle with tremendous grace and beauty. I apologize for not answering calls msgs, but I want all of you to know I am truly humbled indebted forever for the wishes prayers and concern from all over the world. I am grateful to God and my partner for making me a warrior too. I am at present focused on the strategies of the battlefield which I have to conquer.

 

It wasn’t and isn’t and is not going to be easy but the hope ignited by the magnitude of family, friends, and fans of Irrfan has made me only optimistic and almost sure of the victory.

 

I know curiosity germinates from concern but let’s turn our curiosity from what it is to what it should be. Let’s change the leaf.

 

Let’s not waste our precious energies to only know what it is and just pray to make it what it should be.

 

My humble request to all of you is to concentrate on the song of life, to dance of life to victory.

 

My family will soon join in this dance of life.

 

Thank you all from the bottom of our heart.

 

Sutapa irrfan babil ayaan.”

The return of Irrfan with the two RRs was awaited. You never came back. We waited. The last farewell in Angrezi Medium still hurts. Irfan Khan passed away on April 29, 2020, after being admitted to the ICU for a colon infection.

Ritu Marwah is a 2020 California reporting and engagement fellow at USC Annenberg’s Center for Health Journalism.


This article was originally published on March 12, 2018.

Deepika Padukone on Ellen Degeneres Show Today!

Bollywood superstar Deepika Padukone makes her first American talk show appearance when she sits down with multiple Emmy winner and two-time Oscar host Ellen DeGeneres on The Ellen DeGeneres Show to talk about the upcoming action thriller xXx: Return of Xander Cage, which marks Padukone’s debut Hollywood movie. The highly popular show airs today on Wednesday, January 18. Check local listings for times.

xXx: Return of Xander Cage opens in North American theaters this Friday, January 20.