India Insight

A Minute With: Ayushmann Khurrana

It’s been two years since Ayushmann Khurrana made an unconventional Bollywood debut with “Vicky Donor”, playing a sought-after sperm donor at a fertility clinic.

Despite its bold theme, the romantic comedy was a hit in conservative India and helped Khurrana, a known face on Indian television, gain a foothold in a competitive Hindi film industry.

The 29-year-old actor and singer has three films lined up for release in 2014. “Bewakoofiyaan” opened in cinemas on Friday, starring Khurrana as an ambitious man who loses his job but has to impress his fiancee’s (Sonam Kapoor) cranky father.

Khurrana spoke to Reuters about “Bewakoofiyaan”; why he doesn’t have friends from the movie industry; and why he doesn’t want to do films like “Vicky Donor” again.

What made you decide to become an actor?
I have always been into theatre and singing and public speaking. Also, when I worked in radio and TV, I had a lot of friends from the marketing side and I saw the kind of stress they go through. The targets, the deadlines. I’ve seen it as an outsider and I am not oblivious to them. I knew I didn’t want that.

Actress Suchitra Sen dead at 82

By Sujoy Dhar and Shilpa Jamkhandikar

Actress Suchitra Sen, known for several landmark roles in Bengali and Hindi cinema, died in Kolkata on Friday after prolonged illness. She was 82.

Sen, known as much for her graceful looks and demeanour as her acting prowess, starred in several hits with fellow Bengali actor Uttam Kumar, including “Agni Pariksha” (1954) and “Saptapadi” (1961).

“Suchitra Sen – beauty, talent, enigmatic – she adorned film world of Bengal with exquisite performances … graced Hindi films too,” Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan said in a tweet.

A Minute With: Sascha Sippy

Ramesh Sippy’s epic buddy action film “Sholay” failed to impress audiences when it came out in 1975. Almost 40 years later, the movie is an integral part of Indian pop culture. The film is now being released in 3D amid much acrimony.

Sippy went to court against his nephews who own the rights to the film. His nephew, Sascha Sippy, who runs Sippy Films, said that his uncle didn’t have any rights to the film, and did not have a say in whether the film could be released.

The Bombay High Court rejected Ramesh Sippy’s order, clearing the way for the new version. Sascha Sippy spoke to Reuters about the feud, why he decided to release the film in 3D and how he plans to take the “Sholay” franchise forward. Responses have been lightly edited.

Documentary captures Indian cricket’s lesser-known faces

Prithvi Shaw is 14 and looks like any other schoolboy at first glance. But those who have seen him wield a cricket bat call him India’s next Sachin Tendulkar. They say he’s as natural and as powerful in his stroke play as the world’s most famous batsman was at that age. Shaw started playing when he was three, going up against people more than twice his age.

“He was shorter than the stumps he used to bat in front of,” Shaw’s father said.

The teenager plays cricket for one of Mumbai’s best school teams, trains with Tendulkar’s son Arjun at the city’s famed MIG cricket club, and is considered the next big thing in Indian cricket.

Woody Allen stops “Blue Jasmine” India release because of anti-tobacco ads

(We have updated this post with a statement from Allen’s publicist)

Woody Allen’s latest movie “Blue Jasmine” will not debut in India this weekend after the filmmaker objected to anti-tobacco ads that the Indian government requires cinemas to play before and during movies that feature scenes with characters smoking.

Allen refused to make “customisations” in the film to accommodate the ads, which led to distributor PVR Pictures cancelling the release, said two sources familiar with the matter. Both sources declined to comment because they were not authorized to talk about it with journalists.

“Blue Jasmine,” which critics have praised as the 77-year-old Allen’s best work in recent years, stars Cate Blanchett as a wealthy New York socialite who endures a humiliating fall from grace after her husband is arrested for financial crimes. The film was supposed to come out in India this weekend, three months after its U.S. release.

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.

‘Vishwaroopam’ and Tamil Nadu’s cinema of politics

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

The most unfortunate aspect of the censorship controversy over Kamal Haasan’s new movie “Vishwaroopam,” which came out on Thursday, is that it is happening in Tamil Nadu. India’s southernmost state has a history of using cinema as a tool of political dissent and expression, particularly regarding the Dravidian movement, but that spirit seems to have vanished with the decision to release a truncated version of the film after Islamic groups said certain scenes offended them.

First, a recap: “Vishwaroopam” (background on that name here) is a spy thriller about a Muslim man living in New York, masquerading as a Hindu. He must thwart a plot by a group of Afghans to blow up the city. The film came out on Jan. 25 except in Tamil Nadu, where Muslim groups objected to the portrayal of some characters as bearded, wild-eyed “terrorists.” The state banned the film under India’s criminal code, and chief minister and former actress Jayalalithaa said she could not guarantee police protection at cinemas that showed the movie. She also said that the ban was a move to preserve “law and order.” Haasan agreed to remove seven scenes to mollify the groups.

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!

INTERVIEW – Supreme Court lawyer on Khushboo case

Pinky Anand, counsel for actress Khushboo in the Supreme Court, spoke to Reuters about the case and how the verdict would have a far-reaching impact.

from FaithWorld:

Ex-nun urges Indian Catholic Church reform in tell-all book

amenA Roman Catholic nun who left her convent in India after 33 years of service has penned an unflattering picture of life within the cloistered walls in a book that may further embarrass the Church.

In "Amen: The Autobiography of a Nun", published in India in English this month, Sister Jesme tells of sexual relations between some priests and nuns, homosexuality in the convent and discrimination and corruption in Catholic institutions...

"Amen" grabbed media headlines in February, when it was first published in Malayalam -- the regional language of Kerala. With the new English edition and offers of a film based on the book, Sister Jesme's plea for a reformation of the Church is now set to reach a wider audience.

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