Tag Archives: movies

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.


Koozhangal film poster

Koozhangal Streams in the US: A Film On the Unknown Village of Arittapatti

It’s no mean achievement for a school dropout and one with no degree in filmmaking to win an international award on debut. Indian director P.S. Vinothraj won the Tiger award at Rotterdam, this February, for his Tamil film, Koozhangal (Pebbles) – the only Indian film selected for the competition. It marked the culmination of several years of struggle and hardship – a journey of grit and determination driven by a passion for cinema. The jury at the Rotterdam festival described it ‘as a lesson in pure cinema.’

Koozhangal placed the plight of the people of Arittapatti, a barely known village of the Madurai district in Tamil Nadu, on the global stage.

The film follows a little boy, Velu, and his alcoholic father, Ganapathy, forced to trek home across 14 kms of desert terrain, exposing the relationship they share. Riding on the shoulders of a team of newcomers, Koozhangal is making waves everywhere it goes. Although it deals with grueling poverty in the searing drought-ridden landscapes of southern India, it succeeded in captivating the jury with its beauty and humor.

Director P.S. Vinothraj (Image provided by Author)
Director P.S. Vinothraj

The idea for this film originated from Vinothraj’s life after his sister was sent home by her alcoholic husband.

“She walked for 14 kms to reach our home with a baby in her hands,” remembers Vinothraj, “Pebbles grow as a revenge tale – ‘What if my brother-in-law walked the same distance through the difficult terrain?'”

While researching for the story, he realized that many women had gone through something similar to what his sister experienced. Yet, they endured their husband and the poverty for the sake of the children. 

Though Vinothraj managed to find a producer for his script, he could only complete 75% of the film. A meeting with national award-winning director, Ram, at the NFDC film bazaar turned the film’s destiny. And, before Vinothraj knew it, actress, Nayanthara, and director, Vignesh Shivan, came on board as producers. Their star power gave the film a wider reach.  

Koozhangal capture’s a day in a child’s life. Its strength lies in the terrific performances by the lead pair – Karuththadaiyan as Ganapathy and child actor, Chella Pandi as Velu. Spectacular visuals by cinematographers, Vignesh Kumulai and Parthib, enhance further this story told from the heart.  Yuvan Shankar Raja has scored the background music. Karuththadaiyan, a stage actor, was initially not keen and had to be convinced to take on the role. Ultimately, training fresh actors who had never faced the camera was not easy but the efforts paid off.

Film still from Koozhangal.
Film still from Koozhangal.

Vinothraj believes that it is Nature that paved way for his film’s success. As for the title, it is a practice to carry a pebble in the mouth to ward off thirst during a long journey. On theme with this, Velu keeps a pebble in his mouth during the long trek. 

Selected in the 50th-anniversary edition of New Directors New Films presented by Film at Lincoln Center, Koozhangal now streams virtually in the USA through May 8. This edition includes filmmakers who represent the present and anticipate the future of cinema, and whose daring work pushes the envelope in unexpected ways. 

For tickets, log on to http://newdirectors.org.

Noted American film critic from the New Yorker, Richard Brody calls Koozhangal the best dramatic feature film of this year’s New Directors New Films.

Koozhangal will, also, participate next at the 19th edition of the Indian Film Festival in Los Angeles this year. This will be held virtually between May 20-27 featuring forty films including shorts. 

It’s been a long haul for Vinothraj whose cinema dreams are rooted in his growing years on film sets. He was fascinated by the cinematographers riding on the trolleys and aspired to become one. Moving to Chennai he learned the ropes of filmmaking while assisting short film directors.    

Today, Koozhangal is taking him places with its Asian premiere at the Jeonju International Film festival. The Shanghai International film festival scheduled in June beckons next. And, the road ahead is long for this native of Arittapatti.

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/ 


Indian Producer Acquires Rights to Dalrymple’s Bestseller Book

Stories about the colonization of India and British imperialism have existed for decades. But it’s time these stories are told by Indians themselves. Producer Siddharth Roy Kapur recently announced the purchase of the audio-visual rights to William Dalrymple‘s bestselling book, ‘The Anarchy: The Relentless Rise of The East India Company’Kapur’s production house, Roy Kapur Films, intends to adapt this book into a large-scale international production.

Both the original work and Kapur’s filmography suggest that this project has massive potential. ‘The Anarchy’, which traces two hundred years worth of history regarding The East India Company, has been lauded by the public and critics alike. The Guardian recognized that “the book’s real achievement is to take readers to an important and neglected period of British and South Asian history, and to make their trip there not just informative but as entertaining as an evening of poetry and music in a Delhi palace.” Former President Barack Obama listed ‘The Anarchy’ on his Top 10 Recommended Books of 2019.

Meanwhile, Kapur’s previous work in the film industry suggests he has a knack for bringing unique stories to life. In 2016, he produced Dangala high-grossing, heartwarming narrative about a young woman’s entry into the world of wrestling. He also produced The Sky Is Pink, a Priyanka Chopra Jonas starrer about a girl’s battle with a life-threatening disease. His 15 years in international cinema have set the bar for ‘The Anarchy’ rather high.

When asked about this latest project, Roy Kapur said:

“I believe that stories that are compelling, relevant and authentic have the potential to resonate with audiences across all nationalities and cultures. William Dalrymple’s epic tale of The East India Company is one such story. While a debate rages today around the world about the increasing power of giant corporations and powerful individuals to wield control over minds and nations, what could be more relevant to global viewers than the true story of the takeover of an entire subcontinent by a small trading company! We are delighted to be working with William to bring to life this fascinating tableau of incredible characters, each playing off the other in their quest to exercise dominion over what was then the richest subcontinent on the face of the Earth.”

Kanchan Naik is a rising senior at the Quarry Lane School in Dublin, California. Aside from being the Youth Editor at India Currents, she is also the Director of Media Outreach for Break the Outbreak, the Editor-in-chief of The Roar, and the 2019-2020 Teen Poet Laureate of Pleasanton.

At the Marienplatz with RK

Last October, my husband and I, newly empty-nested, decided to visit Europe. One evening in vivacious Munich, we were roaming the celebrated Marienplatz Farmers Market (real name: Viktualienmarkt). Strolling past the effervescent crowd at the outdoor beer garden, we made our way to the numerous stalls selling spices and spice mixes. We came upon a stall where the vendors were singing what sounded like ebullient German folk songs—we stopped to listen and check out the merchandise. The stall had several bins of richly colored powders in hues of red, orange, and brown—I counted more than seven different types of ‘Italian Bruschetta’ mixes. I looked up to see a vendor on the other side of the bin eyeing me with a smile on his face. He was a portly middle-aged man, dressed in a white t-shirt and green apron like the other merchants in his stall.

“So many!” I said to him. “Which one is good?”

“All very good, Madam!” he replied with gusto. “All best!”

I smiled at his selling skills.

“You want spicy?” he ventured.

“Yes!” my husband and I declared, simultaneously.

“Ha ha!” guffawing at our vehement, synchronous response, he asked, “You, India?”

“No—I, California. America!” I answered, trying to match his energy and mirth.

“Aah, California!” he echoed. “But first—India?”

“Yes,” I conceded. “First from India.”

Then, it was my turn to be amused as he broke out in song.

“Main shaayaar to naaheeen!”

I laughed, feeling a rush of joy at the unexpected reference to one of my favorite songs.

“You like that song?” I ventured, “You saw the movie?”

“Yah! Baabby!” he stated immediately.

“Yes! Bobby,” I agreed.

Rishi Kapoor (so cute!) Dimple Kapadia (so hot!) in Raj Kapoor’s ode to young love that was released right around the time that I, and all my friends, were coming of age. Of course, we idolized everything about it — not a girl in my school had not brandished the Dimple half ponytail and everyone had a crush on Rishi.

The conversation at the Farmers Market reminded me of the bygone ‘encounter’ with Rishi. The year was 1970 and another RK movie, Mera Naam Joker, had just been released. It was, one can say, not quite the blockbuster that Bobby was three years later, but it was Rishi Kapoor’s first significant role; he played the teenage version of Raj Kapoor, the namesake Joker of the film. The city was Vadodara — we called it Baroda then — and the movie was to premiere at the trendy Sadhana Talkies. The theater was owned by my aunt’s family, and her two children and I, all of us between nine and eleven years of age, spent many a warm afternoon in the air-conditioned cinema hall for at least a few minutes to watch a favorite song or scene from whatever popular movie was playing at the time. All we had to do was run down the stairs and ask the doorman to let us in, for the family’s home was right above the cinema hall.

We were immensely excited to learn that, to promote the film, the cast of Joker, including Raj and ‘Chintu’ Kapoor, as Rishi was known then, were to attend the premiere! An actual Bombay style premiere was to be held at Sadhana Talkies! By default, since I was constantly spending weekends with my Sadhana cousins, I was included in the welcoming committee.

As we stood, in our best attires, on the steps leading from the street level lobby to the theatre’s balcony and offices, I recognized a shy young Chintu Kapoor ascending the stairs. We had seen photos of the cherubic eighteen-year-old and heard that he had given a wonderful performance in his debut film. 

Rishi kept his head down as he climbed, smiling to himself at the shouts of “Chintu! Chintu!” from the huge crowd gathered in the street below. He wore a suit, I recall, and pulled demurely at his jacket. He did not look up until—to the incredible delight of my young self—Raj Kapoor, following his son up the stairs, stopped in front of me. Bending down—his green eyes looking into mine—he gently tugged at my cheeks and extolled, with his trade-mark charm, “Kitni pyaari bacchi hai!” What a sweet girl!

Rishi looked back—our eyes met, and he smiled!

An RK fan for life that day was made and the grown-up Rishi Kapoor of Bobby only further consolidated the deal. The faith of millions, like me, was well placed in the young man, as he proved to be a versatile actor and entertained audiences for many years with exemplary performances, from the romantic Hindi film hero to the nuanced characters of his later years. His untimely death in April has left the film industry undoubtedly poorer. 

Back at the Marienplatz, having completed our purchases, we were about to walk away when I heard someone call out.


Of course, it was my German friend. As I looked back, he held up a finger—just a minute.

“Ghe ghe ghe ghe ghe, pyaar mein sauda naaheen!” he sang. His eyes danced, waiting for my reaction.

Laughing, I crooned back, “Ghe ghe ghe ghe ghe, ghe re saahiba, pyaar mein sauda nahin.”

We were attracting an audience of fellow merchants; some of them started to hum the tune.

“Do you know what it means?” I asked. “There is no trade in love. You should not take money from me—just give me the spices for free!”

We walked away to sounds of laughter and cheerful banter in German. Rishi Kapoor — to borrow the immortal words of O. Henry — makes the whole world kin.

Bela Desai, Ph.D., has been working in biotechnology in the San Francisco Bay Area for more than twenty years. Besides science, she enjoys reading and traveling to different places around the globe. She loves to dabble in singing and writing as well.

Social Distancing With Vintage Hindi Movies

It’s easy to burn through all the new shows and movies on Amazon Prime and Netflix when you’re quarantined at home. Bet you didn’t think to go back a few decades and find films that are reminiscent of your childhood. Here is a list of vintage Hindi films to watch after you’re done working from home, of course!

Kaala Patthar (1979) Prime

Before Yash Chopra went rogue with romance in the 80s, with the exception of Mashaal (1984), he belted out all-round, thoughtful dramas with a social tinge such as Deewaar (1975), Kabhie Kabhie (1976) and Trishul (1978). They were all multi-starrers, Amitabh Bachchan and Shashi Kapoor were common stars in all of these. Chopta finished off the decade with the rough cut diamond Kaala Patthar, inspired by Chasnala mining disaster. Shatrughan Sinha played to the gallery with a crackling performance. Raakhee, Neetu Singh, Parveen Babi and Poonam Dhillon had limited presence. It had a taut screenplay by hit writer-duo Salim-Javed however it had an average run at the box office. The movie is the full package though, it never misses a beat. 

Gol Maal (1979) Netflix Prime

This Hrishikesh Mukherjee classic is double trouble and multiple shots of fun for all moods, times and tides. Just give in to the craziness of the world of Gol Maal where Ramprasad/ Laxmanprasad (Amol Palekar in his elements) fools his boss Bhavani Shankar (Utpal Dutt, outstanding) for a live hockey match and is caught in a web of lies to cover up his first one. Both  actors won Filmfare Awards (Best Actor and Best Comedian). Dina Pathak shines as the fake mother while Bindiya Goswami charms as the actor-girlfriend. Those were simple times when Mukherjee could easily swing walk-in guest appearances from Amitabh Bachchan, Rekha, Hema Malini, Zeenat Aman and Lata Mangeshkar. Definitely a winner!

Doosara Aadmi (1977) Prime

Yash Chopra produced Doosara Aadmi for his assistant director Ramesh Talwar, who directed his independent debut. It comes with some glaring gender-biased morality flaws but is still a refreshing take on the complex nature of frayed relationships before marriage, after marriage, during romance and in offbeat quieter friendships. Raakhee plays reclusive Nisha, an advertising professional who falls for Karan Saxena (Rishi Kapoor) as he reminds her of her late boyfriend, Shashi Saigal (Shashi Kapoor). However, Karan is newly married to Timsy (Neetu Singh) and Nisha has a close friend Bhisham who loves her. It is laced with stunning, blockbuster music by Rajesh Roshan, sung by Lata Mangeshkar, Kishore Kumar and Mohammed Rafi. Sample the myriad moods of love with Chal Kahin Door Nikal Jayein and  Aao Manayen Jashn-E-Mohabbat, Jaan Meri Rooth Gayi, Nazron Se Kah Do and Ankhon Mein, Kajal Hai. It’s worth a watch or two.

Kabhi Kabhie (1976) Prime

Kabhi Kabhie tops my list of the Yash Chopra romance. It covers all seasons of love in its full glory. Amitabh Bachchan’s Amit Malhotra plays a poet to Raakhee’s pristine beauty as Pooja Khanna. Their love remains unrequited as parental love leads them to arranged marriages. Pooja marries the boisterous Vijay (Shashi Kapoor), a man with a conscience and ability to question his own flaws. In an exact opposite scenario is the quiet marriage of Amit and Anju (Waheeda Rehman). In a twist of fate, the hopeful love of the younger couple, Vicky (Rishi Kapoor) and Pinky (Neetu Singh) brings the two older pairs together. It has the usual elements of romance, drama and entertainment along with poetry, poignance and humour. The performances and music are cherry on top. Khayyam and Sahir Ludhianwi won Filmfare awards for Best Music and Lyrics. Pyaar Kar Liya To Kya remains my favourite capture of the Rishi-Neetu romance. You can’t help but shed a tear when Pooja sings Kabhi Kabhie on her wedding night even as Vijay delicately removes her wedding jewellery. I do wonder about that song though, the definition of consent has walked a considerable distance since.

Chupke Chupke (1975) Netflix Prime

For those feeling trumped and beaten, there is always a fun movie around the corner to watch. Hrishikesh Mukherjee recycled Bengali fare Chhadmabeshi to create Chupke Chupke, an all-time classic comedy for Hindi cinema. Newly married couple Sulekha Chaturvedi (Sharmila Tagore) and Parimal Tripathi (Dharmendra) fool their family, Raghavendra Sharma (Om Prakash) and Sumitra Sharma (Usha Kiron), into believing they are “not married”. Joining the fun of the scheming couple are bumbling Professor Sukumar Sinha (Amitabh Bachchan) and sweet Vasudha Kumar (Jaya Bachchan), navigating their own new romance, and Lata Kumar Srivastav (Lily Chakravarty), Prashant Kumar Srivastav (Asrani) and Haripad Chaturvedi (David). The lyrics and music by Anand Bakshi and S. D. Burman fit in perfectly. Ab Ke Sajan Saawan Mein ticks all boxes of situation, performances, music, lyrics and singing. Sharmila Tagore is devilishly divine. So is the movie. 

Abhimaan (1973) Prime

Hrishikesh Mukherjee directed this compelling take on professional rivalry between a singer couple, Subir (Amitabh Bachchan), professionally successful, and Uma (Jaya Bhaduri), a newly born star. Along the way, his career dives as Uma soars, becoming more successful, throwing Subir into a jealous despair and straining their marriage. A definitive masterpiece, in terms of its subject and ensemble of mature performances. And of course, the terrific music which blended beautifully into the movie, by Sachin Dev Burman and Majrooh Sultanpuri’s lyrics

Namak Haraam (1973) Prime

While Anand (1971, also on Prime) is definitely the better known tragi-classic starring Amitabh Bachchan and Rajesh Khanna, I thought Namak Haraam was more layered and compelling as a subject. Two warring friends are caught amid rising unions of Bombay‘s textile mills and inflation in the early 1970s. Ironically, the two superstars were at opposite ends of their fates and journeys, Khanna handed the success baton to Bachchan unknowingly with this movie. Fresh from the success of Zanjeer, Amitabh had sealed the deal with the audience and together the stars made the 5th highest grossing film of 1973. Khanna’s performance was not in question at all, he excelled as loyal friend Somu (Rajesh Khanna) who agrees to help out Vicky (Amitabh Bachchan) and then realises he is on the wrong side of his own ideals after closely experiencing the plight of factory workers. RD Burman’s music was right on note with Diye Jalte Hai, Nadiya Se Dariya and Main Shayar Badnaam and lyrics by Anand Bakshi.

Seeta Aur Geeta (1972) Prime

Salim-Javed’s feminist take on double roles, inspired by Ram Aur Shyam, resulted in Seeta Aur Geeta, Ramesh Sippy’s second directorial venture. Hema Malini landed the role quite by chance after Mumtaz said no. She was a dynamite and an absolute hoot, winning the Filmfare Award for Best Actress that year. A pair of identical twins (played by Hema Malini) lose their parents at birth and are also separated, they are raised by different sets of people and have distinct personalities. When they swap places, fun and madness ensues. For once, both the heroines got the centre stage to do things as she pleased while the men indulged and supported them from the sidelines. Sanjeev Kumar matched Dharmendra, dimple to dimple, charm on charm, both looked dapper, adding their candid take to the comic explosion. 

Hamida Parkar is a freelance journalist and founder-editor of cinemaspotter.com. She writes on cinema, culture, women and social equity.

Kabir Singh too Misogynistic? Instead, Watch…

Tired of misogynistic portrayals in Bollywood?  Kabir Singh gets a thumbs down. Dream Girl has some problems. War wins.

Kabir Singh: Consent is a tricky, fuzzy area as it is. Kabir Singh sh*ts all over it by showing a hyper masculine male character against a super submissive female character. Basically serving rape and domestic violence to Indian men on a platter.

Shahid (Kapoor) sweetie, you do have a cute ass, now climb into it and stay there.

Sandeep Reddy Vanga, what you tell Indian men is “order” your girlfriend around, while treating other women with disrespect including your own mother. I guess, the amount of times you used the mother gaali shows your own (narrow) expertise you have when it comes to women. Go fu*k yourself, is all I will say. I am guessing that is the worse thing you can do, pretty much like your retrograde character.

12th highest grosser. Wow. Just. Wow.

It’s just a movie. Yah.

A movie in India. Where rape and domestic violence is rampant and Bollywood is the biggest influencer of how men and women treat each other.

Well done, a**holes.


Dream Girls: Right off the cuff, let me say that Ayushmann Khurana sizzles in “dil ka telephone” like never before. It won’t be surprising if he starts the trend of husbands cross-dressing to their wives’ fantasies, and swaying hips to seduce them.

Dream Girls connects to the heart in many parts, and drops the line big time in some. Khurana plays Karamveer Singh, aka Pooja, with a golden voice, who poses as a girl on a silky ‘hot’line, drawing men to her ringing voice.

Among the negatives were jokes with sexist tones, mocking of an older male looking for companionship, susheel sundar, khana banayegi kind of dialogue in parts, and preachy tones towards the end. One single mattress rape innuendo mouthed by Khurana is not cool and irresponsible. Its many parallel tracks are confusing. As a result, it loses focus and tempo in parts. The superb supporting cast, Annu Kapoor, Vijay Raaz, Nidhi Bisht, Abhishek Banerji, saves the day. Sadly, Nushrat Bharucha‘s contribution is limited to feeding Ayushmann soup and redeeming his character Pooja in the end.

Khurana proves yet again he can pull in the crowd and entertain them with the snap of his fingers. He is flawless.

3.5 it is.



War: Moby’s Extreme Ways (Bourne film series) background hangover apart, which was distracting as I hoped Matt Damon would show up, War is a slick and sassy masala action entertainer. You have Hrithik Roshan instead, wrinkled, pepper-haired, and deliciously wicked as Kabir, a role he devours with relish. Tiger Shroff is no less, scrubbed, sincere and pumped, the kiddo has the good looks of his Dad and acting skills of his own. Hrithik indulges Tiger and keeps his shirt on, letting the young actor shed his.

The action is spectacular. Who would go wrong with Goldilocks Roshan and Hulky Tiger? Hrithik hangs from the sky, breathtaking, suspending our jaws in disbelief. Tiger conquers the ground with his moves and strikes. Watching them in tandem kicking, dancing and firing guns is a lesson in balance and coordination. Tiger matches Hrithik eye to eye, stunt by stunt, muscle on muscle. They are a match made in heaven. Pity this marriage won’t last.

When a Hindi movie delivers on entertainment and superstars, the question about story and authenticity is automatically moot. Siddharth Anand directs this box office bonanza, sharing his story and screenplay credits with Aditya Chopra and Shridhar Raghavan. Abbas Tyrewala pens the snazzy dialogue.

War is a theatre watch, miss at your own peril specially if you are a Hrithik or Tiger fan. You don’t want be restraining this twin package on your tiny TV screens. It would be criminal.

As for J2S2, it delivers, and how. The colors, the bustle and movement bedazzle as Hrithik and Tiger explode on screen. Thy breath is taken and tossed around and you only hope to crawl out and make it alive.

3.5 on 5.

Hamida Parkar is a freelance journalist and founder-editor of cinemaspotter.com. She writes on cinema, culture, women and social equity.

This article was edited by Culture and Media Editor Geetika Pathania Jain.

Photo credit: Facebook

Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles

The 17th edition of the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles runs April 11th to 14th in Los Angeles with an impressive lineup of films and shorts at Regal L.A. LIVE: A Barco Innovation Center in Los Angeles. This is the festival’s third year in the state-of-the-art, world-class cinema in the heart of the city’s vibrant downtown district. Opening and Closing Gala presentations will take place at the Ahrya Fine Arts Theater in Beverly Hills with dinner receptions to follow hosted by Indian restaurant Spice Affair. Click here for the entire schedule.

Writer Arijit Basu has written a review of a short film, a film which captures a human angle to the strife in the Kashmir Valley. Join the lines outside the theater!

NOOREH: A film by Ashish Pandey (18 minutes)

A cherubic and bubbly young girl in a Kashmir border village tries hard to sleep to the sounds of nocturnal crossfire. She is lively, mischievous and is up to the usual antics a girl of her age does at school with her two equally charming friends, which includes skipping carefree through fields strewn with land mines as if it were the most normal thing for children to do.

Director Ashish Pandey captures the idyllic beauty of the valley with sweeping panoramic shots. However, this “Heaven on Earth” is punctuated with the incessant sounds of firing late into the night. Nooreh tries hard to sleep and is determined to live a normal life in such a scenario.

While studying for her exams, she stumbles upon the idea that the firing ceases if she stays up as late as possible. Soon, the rumor spreads like wildfire among the village folk that Nooreh’s late night vigil to remain sleepless results in the cessation of gunfire. One by one, the sleepy town wakes up. With a poignant night shot of lightbulbs coming on at night like glowing fireflies, the film ends with hope.

The short contrasts day and night, where day represents a sense of promise of what’s to come and night brings about unnerving foreboding. Paced quickly, you get a feature length feel in the short. Using locals as actors speaking the native dialect of Shima, one gets a first hand account of what the tension in the valley must be like for a child. Nooreh’s ‘life is beautiful’-esque flight of fantasy is a story that we can all relate to.

And, it is also true that despite the ground realities of valley strife, hope is what everyone there aspires to attain.

Arijit is a restless traveler, academic, film and history enthusiast. He is from Mumbai originally, by way of Texas. Currently he is exploring all that California has to offer.

AMC Cupertino Closes Today

AMC Theatres (NYSE:AMC) and Sand Hill Property Company announced that AMC Cupertino Square 16 will close at the end of business on March 22, 2018.

“AMC continues to invest in its theatres and in delivering the best possible movie-going experience to our guests, however, after a thorough evaluation of AMC Cupertino Square 16 and the mall’s status, we determined further investment in this location was not feasible,” said Dan Ellis, Senior Vice President, Domestic Development, AMC. “We reached an agreement with Sand Hill to close this theatre, and we look forward to opening our AMC Sunnyvale Town Center theatre in 2019. In the meantime we invite our guests to join us at AMC Saratoga 14, AMC Eastridge Mall 15, and AMC Mercado 20.”

Sand Hill and AMC have also agreed for AMC to return to Vallco under a new lease with a state-of-the-art theater to anchor Sand Hill’s proposed mixed-use town center project, conditioned upon City approval of a viable redevelopment plan at Vallco by the end of 2018. In October 2017, Sand Hill submitted a letter to the City of Cupertino requesting to restart this approval process for Vallco’s redevelopment.

“We are hopeful that AMC can return to Cupertino with a state-of-the-art theatre and have executed an agreement with Sand Hill to return should plans for a new Vallco be approved this year,” continued Ellis.

“For many years, AMC has been an important part of Cupertino and a very popular community destination. Because of this, our proposals for revitalization of the mall property have always been centered on the retention and modernization of AMC in a way that would make it an even better community asset while allowing their business to remain competitive in a changing marketplace,” said Reed Moulds, Managing Director at Sand Hill Property Company. “Given the continued uncertainty in Cupertino, we understand the business decision they’ve made and recognize Sunnyvale might offer a more stable solution right now. We however worked very hard to negotiate a commitment from AMC to return to Vallco if our planning effort results in the City’s timely approval of a viable project, by year end 2018.”

The AMC movie theater had opened on April 2007 at Cupertino Square with a noon ribbon-cutting ceremony led by Cupertino Mayor Kris Wang.  AMC Cupertino Square 16 will close at the end of business on March 22, 2018 leaving behind disappointed moviegoers. The mall’s remaining tenants — restaurants Benihana and Dynasty, an ice rink, fitness center Bay Club, and Bowlmor, a bowling alley and arcade will be impacted by the reduced footfall.

Ritu Marwah is the Features Editor at India Currents and has written on the history of Vallco mall. Read Hills of Cupertino Are Alive With the Sound of Dissension 




Top 10 Shaadi Movies of All Time

Top 10 Shaadi Movies of All Time

Hindi movie weddings cover the full range of human experience. The grand wedding (pricier by the minute). The simple wedding (often on the run). The getaway wedding (in an exotic location with non-traditional props). The shotgun wedding (the bride is, gasp, pregnant). The wedding at gunpoint (usually involves a kidnapped bride or groom). The mistaken groom or bride wedding (so easy to blame face-covering garlands). The I-am-marrying-the-wrong-groom or bride wedding (usually involves money troubles). The squabbling-kin wedding (disapprovals galore). The rural wedding (often closest to traditional rituals). The urban wedding (larger crowds invite wedding crashers). Then there is the outdoor wedding (pretty yet not easy to stage). The tent event wedding (usually involves extended dancing). The inheritance wedding (do it and gain everything). The disinheritance wedding (do it and lose everything). The big fat wedding (drama central, often with relatives from overseas). The already-married groom or bride wedding (secrets revealed half-way through the fire ritual). The non-stop crying wedding (that includes the bride and groom). The secret temple wedding with no mortal witnesses (enough said). The highly efficient a-blood drop-from-the-groom’s-thumb-and-the-parting-on-the-bride’s-forehead wedding (modest pain but very low cost).

Here is a list of the best Hindi movies with heavy wedding content over the years. Even though only a couple of these would bear resemblance to an actual “wedding video,” as a chronology they capture the changing focus on which wedding sub-rituals get expanded coverage over the years. Somehow, they all have to do with the size of the producer’s budget for staging the nuptials.

1. Grahasti (1963, D: Kishore Sahu): The case of the three missing brides for the three brothers with lots of “will they” or “won’t they” be allowed to marry intrigue. Features stellar casting of Ashok Kumar, Nirupa Roy, Manoj Kumar and Rajshri.

2. Rishtey Naatey (1965, D: K.S. Gopalakrishnan): Three weddings and a funeral. Along with Raj Kumar and Jamuna, it features the great Nutan as the Other Woman. The lush Madan Mohan-Lata Mangeshkar score is a keepsake, the best from this list.

3. Saraswatichandra (1968, D: Govind Saraiya): Jilted upper-crust bride-to-be (Nutan) engages her ex-beau (Manish) in a letter-writing exchange that leads to surprising results. Kalyanji-Anandji’s soundtrack is the duo’s best work.

4. Doli (1969, D: A. Subba Rao): The bride weeps. The groom is sad. There is lots of crying. One of superstar Rajesh Khanna’s 15 consecutive box office hits, this one with Babita.

5. Dulhan Wohi Jo Piya Man Bhaye (1977, D: Lekh Tandon). With the actual fashion model bride-to-be stranded in a Kashmir snowstorm, a shy flower-seller belle (Rameshwari) is asked to stand in as the bride of a rich groom (Prem Krishen) to fulfil his ailing grandfather’s final bucket list entry.

6. Hum Aap Ke Hain Koun (1994, D: Suraj Barjatya). A wedding that threatens to go on and on until a dog comes to the rescue. Blockbuster Salman Khan-Madhuri Dixit hit from the Rajshri label. Dixit’s striking outfits ignited a fashion frenzy and interest in non-traditional wedding-theme colors, such as a green-white combination.

7. Hum Saath Saath Hain (1999, D: Sooraj Barjatya). A quintessential feel-good Rajshri take on a wedding with stories that loosely follows the premise of the Hindu epic Ramayan. Most noteworthy for an all-star cast led by Salman Khan, Saif Ali Khan, Karishma Kapoor and Tabu.

8. Monsoon Wedding (2001, D: Mira Nair): Technically not an Indian movie (credit here goes to France, Italy, Germany and America) but a big fat Indian wedding movie set in Delhi with an Indian cast. For touching on non-nuptial thematic elements including child abuse, it is essentially a Western window on India.

9. Vivah (2006, D: Sooraj Barjatya): In another refined Rajshri offering, a wedding tape-worthy wedding plan gets put on flashing “Pause” when an accident befalls an important character. Noteworthy for making a small budget payoff big.

10. Tanu Weds Manu (2011, D: Anand L Rai): Combining comedy and virtually sumo wrestling with traditions, this new age wedding ensemble becomes that rarest of rare entries—an invitation to a stoner wedding courtesy of Mumbai.

Globe trekker, aesthete, photographer, ski bum, film buff, and commentator, Aniruddh Chawda writes from Milwaukee.




The Parent Trap

The Parent Trap

HINDI MEDIUM: Director: Saket Chaudhary. Players: Irfan Khan, Saba Qamar, Amrita Singh, Deepak Dobriyal, Sanjay Suri, Neha Dhupia.  Music: Sachin-Jigar. Hindi and Eng. with Eng. sub-titles. Theatrical release (T Series)Irfan Khan and Saba Qamar

The right job. The right address. The right school. For some cognizanti, there are hallmarks of success. In the peculiar form of Indian affluenza, however, a couple of other idioms can also be tossed in. Borrowing from both Nandita Roy and Shiboprasad Mukherjee’s Bengali entry Ramdhanu (2014) and also Rajesh Nair’s Malayalam language comedy Salt Mango Tree (2015), Chaudhary and company spin the same theme to come up with a sharp satire of India’s education system and also the tools for equal opportunity embedded therein to level the field for more applicants.

For successful Delhi dress shop owner Raj Batra (Khan) and his wife Meeta (Qamar), the chase to enroll their four-year old daughter to the right school is in full gear. The daughter is academically gifted and, provided they land a coveted spot on the admission list, the couple can easily afford any of the top-rated schools. This should be a slam dunk. Not so fast. Why so, the Batras ask the admissions “coach” hired to chaperone them through the cut-throat jungle of competitive pre-school —yes, pre-school and not high school let alone college admissions. The teensy problem is that the Batras’ shop is located in Chandni Chowk, a famed, teeming old Delhi neighborhood which happens to fail the “criteria” the top-rated schools desire in Indian zip codes for where they recruit from.

The Batras find themselves in a social minefield trip-wired with landmines comprised of judgmental playground tart-mommies and show-off party attendees whose weapon of choice is accusatory, disapproving visual darts.  The Batras’ limited command of English is used against them as amounting to not only a necessity for communication in the modern world—which it truly is—but even more heavily as a moral flaw. For wannabe social ladder climbers, this is precisely the doctrine the British used against Indians when mandating English-first on sub-continent curriculums in the 19th century; that the Indians could not be considered “civilized” if they were to only use their indigenous languages. Thumbing its nose at that very notion, therefore, makes the brilliantly self-reliant title Hindi Medium, and not English Medium, sparkle even more.

The Batras’ greatest “shortcoming” is not where they live or how they dress but it is their limited command of English.  India has by far the largest number of half-English speakers in the world, thanks to its colonial legacy. Many Indians routinely weave in and out of English interspersed with a local language and knowing even a few words of English can rightfully be a source of pride for them. Maddening as that can sound, it is essentially a charm Indians use to open up their country to outsiders—indeed, no tourist with even a rudimentary grasp of English would ever get lost in India or be made to feel unwelcome in asking for directions.  That is the Indian spirit at its raw best—adapt or adopt, mingle and move on.

So how does a family cope? Can one move to a more desirable locale? That would have commuting pitfalls for sure.  Can one overcome the mean, iron-fisted headmistress (Singh) who controls admissions at one school?  The dimming chances of successfully assailing the awkward yet mandatory “interview” required of applicant parents could put chances of landing admission fair to middling at best and disastrous at worst. Can one find a way to apply through the interview-free quota system used to encourage economically disadvantaged students to apply? As funny as that could be, mind you, it could just spiral into an unintended yet perhaps telling experiment in downward social mobility.  For the Batras, the angry gods have laid out a meticulously perfect and cruel parent trap.

In superb lead, Khan is all fidgety with his English diction and provincial mannerism while Qamar, a Pakistani beauty making her Indian debut, nails the neurotic urbanite intent on outshining all her poser so-called girlfriends. Singh as the dowdy schoolmarm and especially Dobriyal as the factory worker that may impart for Raj a lesson in humility round out a fine cast.  With Sachin-Jigar’s decent score—check out Atif Aslam’s romantic “Noor” and Guru Randhawa and Arjun’s catchy “Suit Suit” —and tremendous plot pacing, Hindi Medium rekindles all the insightful, observant and fun reasons for going to the movies.

Globe trekker, aesthete, photographer, ski bum, film buff, and commentator, Aniruddh Chawda writes from Milwaukee.

Children’s Classic or Colonial Fantasy

I am glad I come from that vanishing generation which actually read books in­stead of waiting for the movie. Other­wise I might have thought that The Jungle Book was the story of the romance between a young man brought up in Indian jungles and the British woman who brings him to civilization.

Actually, the book Rudyard Kipling wrote was about a boy named Mowgli brought up by wolves and his battle with a tiger named Sher Khan. But the new Walt Disney movie tosses that story to the wolves and comes up with its improved 1990s version, complete with a treasure hunt, some romantic interest, and in­evitably the Indian rope trick. The folks at Disney still call it Rudyard Kiptillg’s The Jungle Book, though Kipling would probably have not recognized the story as one he wrote.

Movie poster for Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book (1994)
Movie poster for Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book (1994)

He would not have recog­nized the hero either. Mowgli, the little Indian man-cub, has grown into the strapping Jason Scott Lee. While Mr. Lee’s glis­tening pectorals and flat abdo­men (developed no doubt at the Walt Disney Jungle Gym) are in­deed impressive, he is no Mow­gli-for the simple reason that he docs not look Indian despite the liberal daubs of shoe polish.

While I am aware that the studio conducted several open casting calls for Mowgli, it is un­pardonable that they could not come up with a South Asian to play the role. It is amazing that the Indian-American commu­nity–which now numbers al­most a million, a not insignificant size-has not protested this. The East Asian American community was vociferous in its condmena­tion of a similar casting mishap for MissSaigon.

What is even more unpar­donable is that this film’s produc­ers and executive producers count a few Indians among them. I believe they owe us all some answers. Would the same pro­ducers give the role of a classic American icon like Dennis the Menace to a South Asian actor? But for Mowgli, anyone with tawny skin and black hair is deemed good enough. One Asian is as good as another anyway!

The film uses real animal ac­tors (in fact, it has more animal trainers than animals in the cast). While the animals art: very ex­pressive–from the monkey hordes to the dancing bear–they cannot do as much as they could in Kipling’s imagination. So the story is changed into Mowgli’s introduction to civilization, his learning to speak, dress, and dance.

A still from the 1994 movie of Jason Scott Lee as Mowgli and the real bear used to play Baloo
A still from the 1994 movie of Mowgli (Jason Scott Lee) and the real bear used to play Baloo

As this story slowly takes cen­ter stage, we are sometimes left wondering if we are watching The Jungle Book or some curried version of My Fair Lady with Monty Python alumnus John Cleese attempting to provide some comic relief by playing Henry Higgins to Jason Scott Lee’s Eliza Doliltle.

While racist and imperial­ist overtones color much of Kipling’s work,The Jungle Book was less tainted because the original story did not have any sahibs or mern­sahibs in it. In this new version, British India comes gatecrashing into the story, and here the film­makers, perhaps unwittingly, in­troduce their own brand of ra­cism.

The Indians in the cast are the foot soldiers of the movie, the fillers in the crowd scenes. Apart from two slimy villains, we hardly meet any of them, let alone remember their names. In­terestingly, while the evil Indians have the “wery vickcd” accents, the few good ones like Mowgli’s father sound like they went to missionary schools.

But when not doing things all genuine Indians are supposed to do-like walking over burning coals or rope-charming-the In­dians in the movie sometimes do the most unlikely things. In an initial scene we see Mowgli’s widower father offering a red hi­biscus to some nameless woman and then attempting to kiss her–­in full view of everybody, includ­ing his son! Gosh, those hot­blooded natives-and in Victo­rian times, too!

A still of Colonel Geoffrey Brydon (Sam Niell) and Mowgli (Jason Scott Lee)
A still of Colonel Geoffrey Brydon (Sam Niell) and Mowgli (Jason Scott Lee)

The scenery is breathtak­ing. The deaths gory. The treasure fabulous. The Jodhpur palaces majestic. Ele­phants trumpet and tigers roar. The British maiden is winsome. And in deference to our politi­cally correct times, Mowgli deliv­ers little homilies on the evils of hunting for pleasure and asks wide-eyed soul-stiffing ques­tions like “What is hate?”

Director Stephen Sommers pulls out all stops–from a little cuddly bear cub to a dancing orangoutan to death-defying stunts. Watching little Mowgli’s edge-of-the-seat ride into the jungle on his flaming horse-carriage, I felt I was on a Disneyland ride. Perhaps next summer visitors to Disneyland will in fact get the Jungle Book ride. And with that the Jungle Book experience will be complete. You’ve seen the movie. Now experience the ride.

But once there was a man named Rudyard Kipling and he wrote a book, a very different book.