India Insight

For Oscar-winning Tanovic, Emraan Hashmi’s “serial kisser” tag didn’t matter

When Danis Tanovic chose Bollywood star Emraan Hashmi to play a Pakistani whistle-blower in his new project, the Oscar-winning Bosnian film-maker wasn’t aware of the actor’s notoriety as Indian cinema’s “serial kisser”.
Tanovic eventually watched some of Hashmi’s Bollywood hits and found it funny that the actor had such a different image in India.

“Here he comes with a bunch of luggage and in front of me he came as a man, as an actor,” said the 45-year-old director, describing Hashmi as a “very calm, decent guy.”

In “Tigers”, an Indian-French production that premiered at the Toronto film festival last week, Hashmi plays a young Pakistani salesman who exposes the harmful effects of the multinational infant formula he’s peddling.

“It’s a story that has been happening since 30-40 years and it is still happening today,” said Tanovic. “Thank God not much in India but there are many countries that suffered. It’s basically talking about corporate responsibility versus profit,” he told India Insight in an interview.

Tanovic is not that well known in India, except as the director of “No Man’s Land”, a dark comedy about the absurdity of war that trumped India’s entry “Lagaan” to win the best foreign language Oscar in 2001.

Representing Manipur: Priyanka Chopra on playing Mary Kom

Priyanka Chopra is not a Bollywood actor who waits around for assistants to mic her up, set a TV camera’s white balance and tell her where to look during an interview. When I met her on Tuesday at a posh hotel in Gurgaon, she used the paper I brought with my questions on it for the white balance, told the assistant how and where to set up the mic and opened a bottle of cough syrup, sparing the poor staffer who was struggling with it for her.

“I can get things done,” she said. Indeed, the latest evidence that the 32-year-old superstar is telling the truth is her portrayal of Mary Kom, the Olympic medallist and five-time World Amateur Boxing champion who comes from the far-flung state of Manipur in India’s northeast, an area that is far away from the heart of the country and home to many of its ethnic minorities.

The decision to cast Chopra in the role of Kom has led to accusations that the film’s producers preferred to go with a bankable star rather than another actor from Manipur or elsewhere in the northeast, and has prompted a new round of discussion about the nation’s marginalizing of people from this region. Chopra discussed this and other aspects of playing Kom in our interview.

Movie Review: Main Tera Hero

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

When you think about it, David Dhawan’s latest comedy is more tragic than comic. In almost every frame of “Main Tera Hero”, you see glimpses of a film-maker desperately trying to restore his former glory by using the same gags in a newer, more polished setting — and failing miserably.

When Dhawan hit box-office gold in the 1990’s, the humour in his films was often crude and irreverent. His most successful leading man, Govinda, often played a flashy, street-smart but pudgy hero.

In “Main Tera Hero”, Dhawan’s leading man — his son Varun — has a perfectly sculpted body (which he is not averse to showing off; even the film’s credits show him flexing muscles and working out) and there are holier-than-thou lectures on how men should stop objectifying women.

Movie Review: Hasee Toh Phasee

(The views expressed here do not represent those of Thomson Reuters)

Vinil Mathew’s “Hasee Toh Phasee” has the trappings of a conventional Hindi romantic comedy — the big fat wedding; the quirky extended family; two lost souls; and much song and dance.

Yet, Mathew manages to combine these elements into an unusual film that sparkles with humour and witty repartee, and despite a few bumps along the way, makes for a fun ride. The humour is reminiscent of TV sitcoms, and draws on several modern Indian pop culture references, including campy Bollywood songs and cult TV favourites like CID, to draw laughs.

At its heart, “Hasee Toh Phasee” is about Meeta and Nikhil, who meet a few days before he is to get married to her sister. Nikhil is stressed because his fiancée wants him to be successful and rich, while he is struggling with his event management business. When Meeta — who gets mysterious phone calls from China; compulsively gulps down mysterious pills; and seems decidedly neurotic — returns home, Nikhil is asked to take care of her and ensure she doesn’t ruin the wedding.

Obsessed Rajnikanth fans get their own cinematic tribute

The scene is in a theatre in Chennai. The lights go off and the screen flickers. The first images appear on screen, and the crowd goes nuts — jumping in their seats, screaming incoherently. There is pandemonium, and the movie hasn’t even started.

The object of this frenzy is a 62-year-old, balding man, known to his legion of fans as Anbu Thalaivar (beloved leader) — Rajnikanth, aka Shivajirao Gaikwad, a former bus conductor who is arguably India’s biggest film star.

People who don’t know Indian cinema beyond the concept of Bollywood are unlikely to know who Rajnikanth is. He is by far the brightest star in a constellation of actors in the many centres of regional-language films in India. West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Assam and Punjab are among the Indian states that feature a rich historical and contemporary cinema, usually in their people’s local languages, especially for the benefit of the millions of Indians who speak little or no Hindi.

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.

from Photographers' Blog:

India’s touring cinemas under threat

The sleepy Indian village of Ond comes alive for a week every year when trucks loaded with tents and projectors reach its outskirts. The tents are pitched in open fields, converting the trucks into projection rooms for screening the latest Indian blockbusters to exuberant villagers, who otherwise have few chances to see a film at all.

Photographer Danish Siddiqui travels to these "talkies" to document the decades-old tradition. View the multimedia below for an in-depth look or click here to read the full story.

Travelling Talkies from Vivek Prakash on Vimeo.

from Photographers' Blog:

Come, fall in love

I first encountered the 52-year-old Maratha Mandir movie theater while I was on one of my walks to explore Mumbai. Being new to the city, I do this often. It was just a casual walk down the lanes of the city when I saw a huge billboard promoting a film outside the cinema. The billboard proudly advertised it as the longest-playing film in Indian history.

A cinema goer buys a ticket for Bollywood movie "Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge" (The Big Hearted Will Take the Bride), starring actor Shah Rukh Khan, inside Maratha Mandir theatre in Mumbai July 11, 2010.   REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

The film "Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge" (The Big Hearted Will Take the Bride), starring Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan, is a simple romantic film shot in Europe and India, where a boy meets a girl and falls in love with her - girl is about to get married in India - boy takes the journey from Europe to India to win her over.

I still remember when the film was released in 1995, it became an instant hit amongst the youth. Fifteen years down the line it’s unthinkable that people still love to watch it and in a cinema to boot!

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