Ishqiya is better than most films the Hindi film industry makes, even if its pleasures weren’t the ones I was expecting. I went into the film looking for a taut, erotically charged thriller about a femme fatale manipulating two saps over a pot of gold, film noir in a bhaiyya-setting as it were. What I got was a compelling evocation of a small-town U.P. milieu (the (in)famous badlands of Gorakhpur district, along the Nepal border), a locale debutant director Abhishek Chaubhey has presented even more naturally than his mentor Vishal Bhardwaj ever managed with his out-of-the-way settings in either Maqbool or Omkara(that is to say, Chaubhey does it “simply”, such that the presentation of the milieu (to “outsiders”) does not itself become the point of the film).
I recently saw Nadodigal, and after all the hype, was quite disappointed. The film is quite well-made in terms of ambience, but uneasily straddles the line between old-school masala and “new” tamil cinema — and ends up with neither …
The film industry has changed, pitching its wares to an ever-narrower (and wealthier) group of people, excluding entire demographics and social groups that, until quite recently, constituted a staple of the Bollywood audience
UMAIR AHMED MUHAJIR
I havenâ€™t seen Kurbaan yet. I certainly will, and it might well be a pretty good film too. But what I wonâ€™t be doing is going into the theatre with any kind of enthusiasm. Chalk that up to the ad campaign — and Iâ€™m not talking about Kareena Kapoorâ€™s â€œbacklessâ€ poster pic with co-star and real-life boyfriend Saif Ali Khan either. You see, it was the other posters and trailers that dampened my enthusiasm. For when I saw the shots of the Jama Masjid, heard the â€œShukranAllahâ€ song playing in the background, and saw Kareena sporting a head-scarf, I just knew the film was going to be about Some Topical Issue.
The point isnâ€™t that Kurbaan is yet another film about Muslim terrorists — unlike a decade or so ago, Bollywood has actually become reasonably liberal with respect to that issue, and far more likely to eschew crude stereotypes. The problem today is a more subtle one. For Kurbaan is yet another film conflating symbols of Indo-Islamic identity with the rather distinct phenomenon of contemporary terrorism. Shots of the Jama Masjid? A qawwali playing in the background? Why, this must be a â€œtopicalâ€ story about extremism. (Its refusal to go that route was one reason why this yearâ€™s Delhi-6 was quite welcome: in that film, the Jama Masjid was simply the Jama Masjid, a â€œnormalâ€ location where people pray as a matter of course.)
The point is a broader one, however, and is not limited to cinematic representations of Indiaâ€™s minorities. Quite the contrary. The representation of minorities is merely symptomatic of a broader issue: in the new dispensation that rules Hindi cinema, â€œtraditionalâ€ cultural practices and symbols are themselves, more often than not, problematic, and even the majority is marked in one way or another. For instance, the Hindu temple, once a staple of Hindi film moments ranging from loversâ€™ trysts to quarrels with God, is conspicuous only by its absence in contemporary Bollywood: the only recent films that even featured anything like a temple or a religious festival are the afore-mentioned Delhi-6; Ghajini, and Wanted — and the last two are remakes of, respectively, Tamil and Telugu films, and hence products of far more rooted cinematic cultures. The dargahs and mandirs that dotted the landscape of Hindi movies in decades past have all but vanished; to the extent any divine intervention is needed today, the more â€œmodernâ€ confines of a church — almost always abroad — have become Bollywoodâ€™s preferred houses of worship, at least since 1995â€™s Dilwaale Dulhaniya Le Jaayenge.)
[Image courtesy the Goodearths blog.]
One of my great pleasures is exploring a master’s minor work — often it is only in the latter, especially when one has attained canonical status, that some vestiges of the whimsical remain. Strictly …
The passage of time does strange things, but not even Marcel Proust could have dreamed it would have this effect. I’ve spent most of the last two decades disliking Salman Khan. I mean, really disliking him, and everything about …
Outright fun, not to mention silliness, has long been a casualty of A.R. Rahman’s recent Hindi oeuvre. Unlike in Tamil, Rahman simply hasn’t done very many soundtracks for “ordinary” Hindi films of late. That is, the typical Rahman Hindi …
EXCERPT: “Naan Kadavul (“I Am God”) is the logical terminus of Bala’s concerns, which include a concern with the history of the Tamil masala hero persona (there can be little doubt Bala has cinematic history on the brain; the …
Rahat Kazmi’s Dekh Bhai Dekh (apparently re-named Dekh Re Dekh at some point; my DVD carried the older name) is a refreshing little film: it hearkens to the cinema of old, albeit in the streamlined garb of the contemporary …
[Thanks to GF for pointing me to this trailer. It's a good trailer â€” the opening shots impart a touch of Hephaestus to Kamal working in his subterranean lairâ€¦couldnâ€™t help but smile at that English accent, that is vintage ...
LOS ANGELES â€” The spring and summer box office has murdered megawatt stars like Denzel Washington, Julia Roberts, Eddie Murphy, John Travolta, Russell Crowe, Tom Hanks, Adam Sandler and Will Ferrell.
Can Brad Pitt escape?
A-list movie stars have long been measured by their ability to fill theaters on opening weekend. But never have so many failed to deliver, resulting in some rare soul-searching by motion picture studios about why the old formula isnâ€™t working â€” and a great deal of anxiety among stars (and agents) about the potential vaporization of their $20 million paychecks.
The Frontier Gandhi: Badshah Khan, a Torch for Peace, directed by T.C. McLuhan; screened on June 14, 2009 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, as part of the Muslim Voices festival.
The sheer incongruity of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan (1890-1988) merits some explanation. He lived most of his life on the wrong side of history and political geography: his championing of Pashtun causes in the 1920s and 1930s did not win him the friendship of the British Raj (which ruled the Pashtun lands east of the Durand line as part of British India’s North-West Frontier Province (“NWFP”)); over time, his Khudai Khidmatgar (Servants of God) movement became the only mass-based predominantly Muslim movement in (what is today) Pakistan to be allied with the Indian National Congress in the struggle for independence, which, by the 1940s, meant that he had to contend with the rising tide of the Muslim League and its demand for Pakistan (not to mention a colonial authority that was far more suspicious of the Khidmatgars than of the League); he couldn’t simply be an Afghan nationalist, given that he was born on the side of the Durand line not ruled from Kabul. Finally, he and his movement became misfits in the post-1947 political dispensation, the man himself branded a traitor by the ruling establishment in Pakistan, a Gandhi-lover in a nation-state founded on the two-nation theory. Yet none of this can detract from the fact that Khan was the driving force behind the most (only?) organized Pashtun mass movement of modern times, a force so potent that even six decades after the NWFP voted to join Pakistan in a referendum (the only one of its kind in the sub-continent), “Badshah” (“King”) Khan’s brand lives on, in Pakistan, by means of the Awami National Party (“ANP”), a Pashtun-centric political party run (for the most part) by his descendants; and in India, by means of Khan’s induction into mainstream nationalist historiography’s pantheon of heros, as the very archetype of the “good” Muslim.
Magazine| Jun 22, 2009
Tribute: Beyond The Fourth Wall
SHAMA ZAIDI ON HABIB TANVIR
During the last few days I have been remembering Habib Tanvir over the years, ever since we first met in 1954. It’s like leafing through an old family album of faded photographs. I knew Habib through his interaction with three people in my family who at various times were important in his life. The first was my eccentric uncle Zulfiqar Bokhari who was the director of the Bombay station of All India Radio (AIR). In 1945 Habib left Aligarh without completing his Masters degree to join the Bombay film industry as an actor. Zulfiqar mamu asked him to work for AIR as a producer and actor. I donâ€™t know whether he learnt anything about radio broadcasting while on the job, but it certainly whetted his appetite for becoming an actor. And like many who were influenced by Zulfiqar mamu, Habib adopted his style of accentuated dialogue delivery, something he was to retain throughout his life. For a while Habib copied mamuâ€™s “afro” hairstyle as well. The radio stint didnâ€™t last too long because Zulfiqar mamu opted for Pakistan in 1947 and went back to his hometown, Lahore. Habib then turned to doing odd jobs, writing for films and advertisement shorts, editing various journals and “struggling” to become an actor.