India Insight

Costa-Gavras prefers Bollywood fantasy to American action

Filmmaker Costa-Gavras, best known for the 1969 political thriller “Z“, has documented prickly themes such as dictatorship, dissent and oppression over the past half-century.

“Z”, which won the Oscar for best foreign film, was a fictionalized account of the assassination of Greek politician Grigoris Lambrakis and inspired the 2012 Bollywood film “Shanghai“.

The French director of Greek descent made several critically acclaimed films, including the 1982 American drama “Missing” which won him an Oscar for best adapted screenplay.

Costa-Gavras, 80, received a lifetime achievement award at the ongoing Mumbai Film Festival and spoke to Reuters about cinema, what he thinks of Bollywood and why he cannot stand American action thrillers. Edited excerpts from the interview.

Your film “Z” was the inspiration for India’s “Shanghai”. Does your cinema have global resonance and global themes?
Yes, I heard about it. The story of “Z”, apart from being a Greek story, was about non-democratic power, usually the police and the army. And you always have people resisting against this. It was the same with “Capital“. You have people speculating with banks and doing negative things in society. The banks are legal, what they are doing is legal, but they decide what to do — it is a kind of dictatorship. It is a legal dictatorship.

Movie Review: Shahid

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

The best thing about Hansal Mehta’s “Shahid” is that the filmmaker tries to tell a fascinating story. In a way, it is the story of the city of Mumbai — beginning with the riots that followed the 1992 demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, and leading up to the attack on Mumbai that killed 166 people in 2008.

These events are depicted through the real-life story of Shahid Azmi, a teenager who gets caught up in the Mumbai riots, and a few months later, finds himself in Pakistan at a training camp for militants. A disillusioned Azmi returns to India but is tortured and imprisoned under the country’s anti-terror laws.

Azmi completes his schooling in jail, and after his release, studies law to help defend those he believes were wrongly accused and jailed on charges of terrorism.

Raj Kumar to play real-life lawyer after ‘Kai Po Che’ success

When Raj Kumar signed on for his first Bollywood acting role, the director asked him to lose weight. Kumar was fresh out of film school and determined to make it big, so he started running. And he’s been running for an hour each day since, come rain or shine, even on the notoriously congested roads of Mumbai.

Since his 2010 debut in Dibakar Banerjee’s Love, Sex aur Dhokha, Kumar has worked with some of India’s best known filmmakers but it was his turn as the quiet and industrious sports goods entrepreneur in Kai Po Che this year that got him noticed.

The 29-year-old actor’s next release sees him play the real-life role of lawyer and human rights activist Shahid Azmi who was shot dead in Mumbai in 2010. Azmi had spent a few years in prison under India’s anti-terror laws before studying law to help defend those he said were wrongly accused and jailed on charges of terrorism.

Movie Review: Besharam

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

Handout still from Besharam.Ranbir Kapoor is often hailed as the next big thing in Bollywood — a young star who knows what he is doing, chooses his scripts with care and delivers top-notch performances nearly all the time. If that is the case, Kapoor must have had a very bad day at work to say yes to “Besharam” (Shameless).

Abhinav Kashyap’s second film as director is crude, packed with toilet humour, and has no semblance of a plot. “Besharam” is a case study in lazy filmmaking, one that lowers the bar on good taste just to make money at the Bollywood box office. It insults the viewer’s intelligence and is an example of the Hindi film industry’s reluctance to let go of hackneyed storylines that were all the rage two decades ago.

Kapoor plays Babli, the protagonist in this Indian version of Robin Hood. He is a thief who steals swanky cars, sells them and donates the proceeds to the orphanage where he was raised. His talent catches the attention of a gangster (Jaaved Jaffrey) who hires him.

Movie Review: John Day

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

Ahishor Solomon’s “John Day” is a thriller about a docile bank manager who seeks revenge after the actions of a corrupt cop and his accomplices leave the manager’s life in tatters.

The film starts off intriguingly and in the first 15 minutes or so, Solomon sets up his story well.

Naseeruddin Shah plays John Day, an ordinary man who sets out to exact revenge on those who killed his daughter and brutally attacked his wife.

Priyanka Chopra seeks her second touchdown with the NFL

Priyanka Chopra is not a household name in the United States, but the Bollywood actress and singer will try to change that on Thursday night when she kicks off the National Football League’s Thursday Night Football game with her single “In My City.”

In this case, the city will be Foxboro, Massachusetts, where the New England Patriots will play the New York Jets. While Chopra will be in Mumbai, heart of the Indian film industry, the NFL Network will broadcast a video of her singing the song against a backdrop of football players and sportscasters.

“The most important thing is exposure,” she said. “(It’s an) intro to who I am and what I do.”

Bollywood movie review: Shuddh Desi Romance

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

The hero of Maneesh Sharma‘s Shuddh Desi Romance is a confused young man. Raghu is never sure of what he wants. As a character in the film puts it, Raghu just flirts with himself.

Gayatri, on the other hand, knows exactly what she wants from life. She is an independent woman – and the man of the house – figuring out living expenses, insisting that her live-in boyfriend takes turns cooking and is unapologetic about having had relationships in the past.

These are characters poles apart from their Bollywood stereotypes. They don’t make a big deal about their love life, dealing with it as casually as one would drink a beverage or smoke a cigarette – at least on the outside. All this bravado ends when it comes to marriage.

Duniyadari trumps Bollywood star power for Marathi magic

While Bollywood film Chennai Express was steamrolling its way to success, another movie was on the fast train too, but not many people noticed.

Duniyadari (Worldliness), a Marathi-language film based on a novel by Suhas Shirwalkar and released in July, has gone on to become the highest grossing Marathi movie of all time.

The film, a light-hearted and somewhat clunky take on a group of friends in 1970′s Pune, opened to full houses, and sustained its winning run even in the face of a near monopoly of cinemas by Chennai Express and later by other Bollywood films Once Upon Ay Time In Mumbai Dobaara! and Satyagraha in cinemas. A local right-wing party, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, threatened the makers of Chennai Express if they forced Duniyadari out of cinemas.

Bollywood screenwriters are finally getting their due, sort of

Jaideep Sahni, the writer of blockbusters such as Bunty Aur Babli and Chak De! India, is getting top billing in promotions for his new project Shuddh Desi Romance, a rare honour for a screenwriter in Bollywood.

Sahni spoke to Reuters about the curse of film intermissions and the reason his movies have so many layers. Here are edited excerpts from the interview:

Q: You and director Maneesh Sharma share top billing in the promotions for Shuddh Desi Romance. How did you pull that off?
A: Maneesh and I were quite embarrassed by it. Because we are not used to it, I guess. But our marketing colleagues felt it might do its little two bits in attracting people. I guess it is a bit of body of work and largely the producers and directors I have worked with. They are the kind of people who respect writing.

Bollywood movie review: Zanjeer

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

Everything is distorted in Apoorva Lakhia’s Zanjeer (Shackles), a modern-day version of the iconic 1973 action-thriller of the same name that gave Amitabh Bachchan his aura of Bollywood’s angry young man.

Inspector Vijay Khanna (played by Ram Charan) is not the brooding, intense young man of the original. The protagonist is now a sculpted statue that twists its face while expressing emotion.

Mala (played by Priyanka Chopra) is no longer the effervescent chakku chhuriyan street performer. She’s an irritating woman with too much make-up who gyrates to songs with offensive lyrics.

  •