India Insight

Need good roles but need money too: Manoj Bajpayee

In a career spanning nearly 20 years, actor Manoj Bajpayee has oscillated between brilliant and mediocre performances, winning acting honours while also getting brickbats for his poor choice of movie roles.

Bajpayee, whose performance in “Gangs of Wasseypur” (2012) and “Special 26” this year won him critical acclaim, plays the villain in Prakash Jha’s “Satyagraha”. The Bollywood film opened in cinemas on Friday.

The 44-year-old actor spoke to Reuters about how he nearly wrecked his movie career, the time when he had no work and why he is no longer content with just good roles.

Q: You’ve worked with Prakash Jha in several films, but most of them have been rather negative roles. Does he see the negative side of you?
A: This question surprises me. We think that the character standing opposite the hero is negative. But that is not true. I have never gone to receive awards where I was in the villain’s category. Just because my character was opposite Ranbir Kapoor in “Raajneeti”, doesn’t put him in the negative category. It is defined that all brothers are fighting for their rights, but it is never defined who is wrong or right. “Aarakshan” was different. It was completely negative because he is using education as a way to make money. There is no morality there, whereas my character in “Raajneeti” had loads of morality. My character in “Satyagraha” is in every sense a villain. Everything that is wrong about a person, is there in him. He is cunning, he is shrewd. He doesn’t have good intentions. In “Satyagraha”, he (Jha) has given me a negative character and yes, I have taken it up, for my association with him for the last three films.

Q: Do you do roles because of your association with certain filmmakers or because of the merit of the role itself?
A: I have done “Shootout at Wadala” and “Chakravyuh” and this. No more.

Collaboration key to Bollywood’s global appeal – Irrfan

Irrfan is no stranger to Hollywood. The Indian actor, who uses only his first name, has been part of critically acclaimed films such as “Life of Pi”, “The Namesake” and “A Mighty Heart”.

The 40-something actor is doing his bit to help Indian films reach more audiences worldwide. Irrfan says he’s goading local movie producers to collaborate, find new markets and swap its Bollywood image for a more universal language of cinema.

His new film “The Lunchbox” is one such international co-production and won the Grand Rail d’Or at the ongoing Cannes Film Festival Critics’ Week. Director Ritesh Batra‘s debut feature film is about a mistaken lunchbox delivery by Mumbai’s dabbawalas that connects a young Hindu housewife to an old Catholic man played by Irrfan.

Bollywood fashion at Cannes

By Arnika Thakur and Shashank Chouhan

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the authors and not necessarily of Reuters)

The image of Aishwarya Rai in a striking yellow sari with lots of gold jewellery walking the red carpet at Cannes 2002 is one that a generation of Indian movie fans may not forget.

Few Indians were familiar with Cannes until the actress made an appearance on the French Riviera. Not only did Rai introduce fans back home to the world’s leading cinema showcase, she also made global audiences take note of Bollywood. This year, the 66th Cannes festival is showcasing India as a guest country to mark the centenary of its film industry.

Mike Pandey hits bureaucratic hurdle for film on tigers

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

For more than 30 years, Mike Pandey has been a man with a mission. In its special issue on Heroes of the Environment in 2009, Time magazine credited the maker of wildlife documentaries with efforts to protect “everything from whale sharks to elephants, vultures to medicinal plants.”

In 1994, Pandey became the first Asian film-maker to win the Wildscreen Panda Award, better known as the Green Oscar, for his film on the capture of wild elephants. He also won the award twice in the next decade.

from Photographers' Blog:

Bollywood dreams

Mumbai, India

By Danish Siddiqui

The Hindi film industry or Bollywood can make a star, a household name out of anyone overnight. It can bring instant money, fame and the fan-following of millions from across continents.

Bollywood is an addiction for many that attracts thousands of aspirants to the breeding grounds, the city of Mumbai, everyday. I was keen to look at this other side of the glamour world. The side that entails the struggle to enter the world of aspiring dreamers and their struggles to become a star.

There is no time limit to becoming a nationwide sensation, a star in Bollywood. As one of the aspirants told me it's a gamble you take, forgetting all your worries about the results.

Which is the greatest Bollywood film ever?

It’s been a hundred years since the first Indian feature film “Raja Harishchandra” in 1913. Since then, Bollywood has made tens of thousands of films – good, bad and middling.

Tell us the movie that you feel is Bollywoods best. To help you make that choice, we have compiled a list of 100 films we have seen and loved, films that are sensitive and sensible in their own way and films that brought ‘larger than life’ into our living rooms.

Of course, lists like this are always subjective and biased and we’re sure many impressive films have been missed. In case we have not included the movie that you treasure the most, do share your views in the comments below.

No consensus on sex, violence and censorship in Bollywood

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

Getting directors, producers and activists into a room to figure out Indian cinema’s connection to violence toward women, rape and crudeness in society can be like a family gathering. People shout, get angry and fail to solve fundamental problems because they can’t agree on anything.

The Siri Fort auditorium in New Delhi recently presented the latest forum for the debate. India’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting held a six-day festival there to celebrate 100 years of moviemaking, and there was little agreement on how much responsibility Bollywood and the film industry bear for the poor attitude toward women that many people evince. It was perhaps a more pressing discussion than usual, given the name of the three-day workshop, “Cut-Uncut,” which dealt with official censorship in India, the role of sex and violence in movies and the influence of films on society.

Shamshad Begum: A tribute to a voice long gone

(Hindi translations by Ankush Arora, with help from Havovi Cooper and Uzra Khan. Punjabi translation by Vineet Sharma.)

How do you pay tribute to a singer who faded from public memory, only to revisit the headlines when she died? I was wondering this today after learning that playback singer Shamshad Begum died in Mumbai on Tuesday, just 10 days after her 94th birthday.

I heard her voice for the first time not too long ago: her duet with Lata Mangeshkar in “Mughal-E-Azam” (“Greatest of the Mughals”) – Teri mehfil mein qismat (“My destiny in your court”) — is my favourite song of hers. In this song from the 1960 blockbuster movie, the two greats lent their voices to Anarkali (played by Madhubala) and Bahar (Nigar Sultana), who are vying for Prince Salim’s (Dilip Kumar) affections. The tension between the two characters is almost palpable, accentuated by Mangeshkar’s softness and Begum’s unorthodox, mature voice.

from Photographers' Blog:

Meet Miss Malini

Mumbai, India

By Vivek Prakash

Where I live is not the India of most people's imaginations or memories, and it's hardly the India I once knew as a kid.

My Mumbai has easygoing cafes, organic markets, swish malls, expensive restaurants serving great food and wine, fabulous nightclubs and raucous house parties. The idea that this India is any less "real" than bad infrastructure or the world of Slumdog Millionaire is misguided.

India has many crosses to bear - I acknowledge that. I'll be the first one to complain about crumbling roads, horrid traffic, corrupt politicians, impossible bureaucracy and the gulf between rich and poor. But you'd better get used to the idea that slowly but surely, generational change is taking place. My Mumbai is probably the India of the future.

“Vishwaroopam” touches yet another Indian nerve

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

Actor and filmmaker Kamal Haasan’s film “Vishwaroopam” was supposed to open in cinemas last Friday, but that’s not happening in Tamil Nadu after Muslim groups protested against scenes that they consider offensive.

The tussle over what is acceptable material for movie audiences is the latest example of a recurring problem with art in India. If it offends someone, anyone, it risks being deemed unsuitable for everyone.

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