India Masala

Bollywood and culture in an emerging India

What Bollywood wants from Budget 2011

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Vipul Shah, director  - There have been a few burning issues that have plagued the industry for the last few years. Entertainment Tax is pegged as high as 45% in Mumbai. There is always the impression amongst the general public and perhaps even the Government that film makers rake in huge profits. The reality however, is far removed. Films have an 80 : 20 success ratio – this itself is self explanatory of the plight of most producers. Service Tax, VAT and TDS also remain grey areas for us. These are pressing concerns and have been presented before the Government as major concerns for a few years now, and year after year, all of us await some change in stance on this. We are hopeful that the Central Government will pay heed to our concerns this time. As a fraternity that has been granted industry status, we feel that these reforms are extremely fair and can be looked into.” Atul Kulkarni, Actor – I don’t have a budget wishlist. I don’t want them to take less from me. Just wish that they spend it more appropriately. But then it is we who have either sent them (politicians) there. We have also not given importance to politics for generations together. Sheetal Talwar, MD, Vistar Religare Film Fund – “Rationalisation of taxes is of primary concern. The dual taxation policy is something that needs to be looked into immediately. At present, we pay both Service Tax and VAT. While we have been granted industry status, there are very few actual benefits that have percolated down to the different tiers of the industry. For instance, the large numbers of union and daily workers are not covered under Vikas Yojna, ESIS or any sort of pension schemes. We have been striving for a better implementation of the industry tag and think that change truly is around the corner for us.” Kamal Jain, CFO, Eros International – Budget 2010 mandated a higher withholding tax rate of 20 per cent in case of payees not having a PAN. With the changed dynamics of the industry, greater amount of content is being procured from foreign players and various one-off payments are being made to foreign artists. A suitable clarification in the Budget 2011, relaxing the higher withholding rate is much warranted as Indian companies are being unnecessarily penalized for failure on the part of the payee to apply for PAN. Industry also looks forward for reduction of customs duty on equipment and hardware necessary for film production.  Similarly, the industry has asked for exemption of 16 per cent CVD on unexposed color cinematographic films, which would help them combat piracy by making more film prints at an affordable cost. The animation and gaming industry has sought a 10-year tax holiday and removal of service tax on studios developing original content.

The Union Budget is on everyone’s mind and affects Bollywood too. Here’s what people from the Indian film industry have to say –

People buy tickets at a counter at a multiplex movie theatre in Mumbai November 22, 2008. REUTERS/Arko Datta/FilesVipul Shah, Director

– “There have been a few burning issues that have plagued the industry for the last few years. Entertainment tax is pegged as high as 45 percent in Mumbai. There is always the impression amongst the general public and perhaps even the government that filmmakers rake in huge profits. The reality, however, is far removed. Films have an 80:20 success ratio — this itself is self explanatory of the plight of most producers.

Service Tax, VAT and TDS also remain grey areas for us. These are pressing concerns and have been presented before the government as major concerns for a few years now, and year after year, all of us await some change in stance on this. We are hopeful that the central government will pay heed to our concerns this time. As a fraternity that has been granted industry status, we feel that these reforms are extremely fair and can be looked into.”

Atul Kulkarni, Actor – “I don’t have a budget wishlist. I don’t want them to take less from me. Just wish that they spend it more appropriately. But then it is we who have either sent them (politicians) there. We have also not given importance to politics for generations together.”

Shah Rukh Khan’s new look in “Don 2″

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It’s been a little more than a year since the last Shah Rukh Khan movie released, but this year the star has two big releases – “Ra One” and “Don 2″, directed by Farhan Akhtar. “Ra One”, starring Khan and Kareena Kapoor, is set for a Diwali release while Don 2 is releasing on the Christmas weekend. Given his long absence from the silver screen and the muted response to his new TV show “Zor Ka Jhatka”, Khan will be banking on these two films to do well. “Don 2″, directed by Farhan Akhtar, is the sequel to his 2007 remake of ‘Don”, and stars Khan alongwith Priyanka Chopra, Boman Irani and Lara Dutta. The film was shot in Berlin and the cast is currently shooting in Malaysia. Here are pictures of Khan’s look in the film. What do you think? Which avatar of Khan’s have you liked the most?

don1

It’s been a little more than a year since the last Shah Rukh Khan movie released but this year the star has two big releases — “Ra One” and “Don 2″.

7 Khoon Maaf: Enticing premise, lacklustre execution

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The basic premise of Vishal Bhardwaj’s enticingly titled “7 Khoon Maaf” is enough to generate excitement about the film. A woman marrying several times and killing off each of her husbands is the kind of story you don’t get to see too often in Bollywood, and if anyone can do justice to that kind of a dark theme, it has to be Bhardwaj. There wasn’t much that could go wrong with this one. That’s exactly what I thought when I entered the theatre, more than seven months ago, to watch a movie called “Raavan”. And we all know what happened with that one. I might be accused of being a little harsh here but this film might be Vishal Bhardwaj’s “Raavan”. In what is his weakest film yet, Bhardwaj takes the tantalising prospect of a “black widow”, and turns it into a haphazard story of a woman who seems to have a fetish for murdering her husbands, even when just leaving them would have been enough. Priyanka Chopra plays Susanna Marie Johannes, going from a coy-20 something to a crazy-50 something during the film. As she tells one of her husbands, there’s no worse accident than marriage in a woman’s life. But she herself suffers that accident several times and when she tires of each of her husbands, she kills them off without batting an eyelid at times, and flits to the next one within the blink of eye. Bhardwaj skims the surface of each of the characters, and we never get a sense of the desperation, and later the madness that Susanna’s character should have displayed to be capable of multiple murders. In the end, you don’t feel for her character or any of the men she killed. There is not much action and the murders get repetitive, especially because you know they are all going to die in the end. In fact, the last one seems hurriedly inserted just to make up the right number. Of the performances, Priyanka Chopra tries her best to be Susanna, but is hampered by a lacklustre script and even worse make-up. Her face in the last few scenes looks like a wall with peeling paint. That is not how women look in ther 50s. Vivaan Shah, as her admirer is restrained and does his part well. What is it with some of our best directors making such duds these days? There was Mani Ratnam, Ashutosh Gowariker and now Vishal Bhardwaj — the latter being someone who has always delivered brilliance in almost all aspects of storytelling. We should perhaps overlook this one as a weak link in an otherwise great career and move on. ‘Ek film maaf’.

7km2The basic premise of Vishal Bhardwaj’s enticingly titled “7 Khoon Maaf” is enough to generate excitement about the film. A woman marrying several times and killing off each of her husbands is the kind of story you don’t get to see too often in Bollywood, and if anyone can do justice to that kind of a dark theme, it has to be Bhardwaj. There wasn’t much that could go wrong with this one.

That’s exactly what I thought when I entered the theatre, more than seven months ago, to watch a movie called “Raavan“. And we all know what happened with that one. I might be accused of being a little harsh here but this film might be Vishal Bhardwaj’s “Raavan”.

Patiala House: A single that could have been a boundary

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One thing I will say for Nikhil Advani’s “Patiala House. It touches upon a subject that a lot of Indians will identify with – parents who decide that they know what’s best for their children and children straining against the leash to break out. Vikramaditya Motwane’s “Udaan” explored that theme beautifully, and Advani tries to combine it with another thing Indians can identify with – cricket. Unfortunately, he populates the story with so many other things that the main story is lost amid Punjabi wedding sequences, slapstick comedy and an insipid romance. Akshay Kumar plays Pargat Singh Kahlon, a potent fast bowler living in Southall, London, whose father (Rishi Kapoor) nips his cricketing career in the bud because he doesn’t want his son playing cricket for England. Senior Kahlon you see has been so scarred by racist attacks on his community that he hates “goras” and doesn’t want anyone in his family to have anything to do with them – so much so that he threatens to kill himself if his son plays for England. That doesn’t stop him from leaving London though, something that isn’t quite explained in the film and comes across as a major weakness in the plot. So Pargat spends his days looking morose, running a grocery shop and his night practising cricket. Also, he gets guilt trips from his entire extended family, who all have ambitions but cannot follow them because the eldest son hasn’t. When the entire England cricket team is sacked (!) and a whole new team is to be built, Pargat’s neighbour, who also happens to be a national selector convinces him to try out for the team, but he refuses. Enter Simran, an over-chirpy wannabe actress who convinces him and his whole family that they must rebel against “bauji” and follow their own dreams. Patiala House does have the germ of a compelling story in there somewhere, as well as some genuine moments, but these are few and far between. Advani couldn’t resist the temptation to make this a “masala film, and ends up diluting his main premise. The rest of the cast isn’t too impressive, and the plot has too many holes to hold true. You will have to suspend disbelief several times to actually believe what’s happening on the screen. How does a bowler who hasn’t played for any club get into the England cricket team? How, in this day and age, can Rishi Kapoor’s character not know that his son is playing for England inspite of live tv, the internet and phones? And why does crickter Nasser Hussain (playing himself) attempt to speak Hindi? Akshay Kumar however does redeem himself a little bit – he is restrained and efficient as the protagonist, even if he doesn’t take the character to another level. It’s a huge change from the avatar we have seen him in in recent times. The film though is strictly average fare. Watch it if you must.

patialaOne thing I will say for Nikhil Advani’s “Patiala House”. It touches upon a subject that a lot of Indians will identify with — parents who think they know what’s best for their children and children straining against the leash to break out.

Vikramaditya Motwane’s “Udaan” explored that theme beautifully, and director Advani tries to combine it with another thing Indians can identify with — cricket. Unfortunately, he populates the story with so many things that the main story is lost amid Punjabi wedding sequences, slapstick comedy and an insipid romance.

Yeh Saali Zindagi: Too many twists

Watching Sudhir Mishra’s “Ye Saali Zindagi”, you get the distinct feeling that somewhere there’s the germ of a great movie in here. The problem is that Mishra burdens the film with so many subplots and assorted characters that it’s difficult to rummage among them and come up with the main plot of the film. The film, which revolves around three characters and the events leading up to one day of action, stars Irrfan Khan as Arun, a fixer who works for a money-lender, and must save Priti (Chitrangada Singh), the woman he loves, from the clutches of a kidnapping gang. But things are not as simple as they seem at first glance. Priti is involved with another man, who is engaged to a minister’s daughter and is kidnapped in the hope of ransom by Kuldeep, who wants to quit his criminal ways after this one last kidnapping, because his feisty wife won’t take him back otherwise. How the three of them and their lives intersect is what most of the film chronicles. Mishra manages to keep the pace taut and the dialogue, co-written by him and Manu Rishi, has plenty of swear words and is racy enough to keep you interested. The two big flaws in the film are the presence of too many characters and subplots. Somewhere in the middle, you might find yourself wondering “who’s that guy, what’s this relation to this other guy, and how is it essential to the story?” The other problem is with the watered-down performances. Except for Irrfan Khan and Saurabh Shukla who plays his boss, both the other main actors, Chitrangada Singh and Arunoday Singh are inhibited and awkward, unable to invest enough in their characters for you to be invested in them. In the end, “Ye Saali Zindagi” isn’t the kind of film that makes for easy watching. If you are willing to pay enough attention, and forgive the somewhat indulgent pace, you might find yourself enjoying it.

ysz1Watching Sudhir Mishra’s “Yeh Saali Zindagi”, you get the distinct feeling that somewhere there’s the germ of a great movie in here. The problem is that Mishra burdens the film with so many subplots and assorted characters that it’s difficult to rummage among them and come up with the main plot of the film.

The film, which revolves around three characters and the events leading up to one day of action, stars Irrfan Khan as Arun, a fixer who works for a money-lender, and must save Priti (Chitrangada Singh), the woman he loves, from the clutches of a kidnapping gang. But things are not as simple as they seem at first glance.

Dil Toh Baccha Hai Ji: Excruciatingly boring

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There are many things wrong with Madhur Bhandarkar’s “Dil Toh Baccha Hai Ji”, but the worst part is that nobody seems to have even bothered to rise above mediocrity in this excuse of a film. Bhandarkar veers away from his “slice of life” style of cinema and moves to comedy, but it has the same clichés, the same dumbed-down dialogues, and strangely enough for a comedy, very crass humour that is more offensive than funny. Ajay Devgan plays Naren, an executive who is in the middle of a divorce and attracted to his secretary, who is half his age and exhibits entirely inappropriate behaviour (like asking her boss when he lost his virginity). Naren lives with two roommates – Milind (Omi Vaidya), a meek poet, and Abhay (Emraan Hashmi), a Casanova, who actually checks out girls at funerals and romances a mother-daughter duo at the same time. The film follows the three on their quest for love, but the journey is unbelievably dull and tedious and there are no funny moments. I could have spent the entire time asleep and I still wouldn’t have missed much. Bhandarkar resorts to double entendre homosexual jokes, and there are no gags or funny incidents. The guys spend two and a half out of the three hour-long film wooing the girls, and Bhandarkar drags the end interminably. He could have cut this film by an hour and it would still have been considered a long film. At the end of it, you just want to bolt for the exit door. This one did absolutely nothing for me – avoid.

Dil toh baccha hai jiThere are many things wrong with Madhur Bhandarkar’s “Dil Toh Baccha Hai Ji”, but the worst part is that nobody seems to have even bothered to rise above mediocrity in this excuse of a film.

Bhandarkar veers away from his “slice of life” style of cinema and moves to comedy, but it has the same clichés, the same dumbed-down dialogues, and strangely enough for a comedy, very crass humour that is more offensive than funny.

from Photographers' Blog:

Left teary-eyed after an onion attack

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Onions have been a very important part of Indian history. Governments have fallen here over the price of onions. So last week when our commodities correspondent Rajendra Jadhav suggested a story on the skyrocketing prices of vegetables, onions seemed the natural peg. The idea was to do something simple around the price of a vegetable as it changes from the field to the dinner table. Our destination was the wholesale onion market in Nashik, Maharashtra, one of the highest producers of onions in the country. Nothing had prepared us for what we were about to encounter.

Female labourers work in an onion field in Pimpalgaon, 215 km (133 miles) north of Mumbai January 23, 2010.  REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

On Monday, prices of onions nose-dived over a ban on exports by the government and the arrival of new stock through imports. Unaware of this, we went to the onion market in Lasalgaon.

Dhobi Ghat: A whole new hue

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There’s a charming scene in Kiran Rao’s “Dhobi Ghat”, where Yasmin (Kriti Malhotra) is filming her maid-servant and her daughter for a video tape she’s making for her family back home. While the maid is suitably coy about being on film, she’s also equally anxious to finish off with the niceties, and do what she’s there to do — work, earn her living and move on to the next house. That scene for me epitomises Mumbai in so many ways. It’s a city always in a rush as Yasmin says — there’s no time to waste on getting to know your neighbours or sharing gossip with them — not when there’s money to be earned and a living to be made. Rao captures this and so many other myriad hues of the city marvellously in her directorial debut, a deeply insightful portrait of four individuals who find and lose love and deal with loneliness in Mumbai. Aamir Khan plays Arun, a reclusive, commitment-phobic artist who is fascinated with a set of tapes he comes across, chronicling the life of a new bride in Mumbai city. Kriti Malhotra plays that bride, coy and full of hope, reporting daily events like what she’s made for dinner and her neighbour’s problems on tapes that she hopes to send to her brother back home. Monica Dogra plays Shai, an investment banker on sabbatical who after a one-night stand with Arun is slighted by him, and uses their common laundry man or dhobi Munna (played by Prateik) to keep tabs on Arun. Slowly, she forms a bond with Munna, a migrant from Bihar, who harbours dreams of making it big as an actor. Rao takes her time establishing her characters, but they are so well fleshed-out, you don’t mind discovering their quirks slowly. The film moves at a slow pace but is beautifully shot in real locations, mostly in South Mumbai. Performances are top-notch, but Malhotra and Prateik stand out – both conveying so much through just one glance that you empathise with their characters straight away. Films like “Dhobi Ghat” are like exploring a new cuisine — your palate may take time to get used to, given the “masala” and action it has been used to — but stick with it, and you will discover flavours you have never tasted before.

dhobighat1There’s a charming scene in Kiran Rao’s “Dhobi Ghat”, where Yasmin (Kriti Malhotra) is filming her maid-servant and her daughter for a video tape she’s making for her family back home. While the maid is suitably coy about being on film, she’s also equally anxious to finish off with the niceties, and do what she’s there to do — work, earn her living and move on to the next house.

That scene for me epitomises Mumbai in so many ways. It’s a city always in a rush as Yasmin says — there’s no time to waste on getting to know your neighbours or sharing gossip with them — not when there’s money to be earned and a living to be made.

Yamla Pagla Deewana: For Deol fans only

There is some charm in watching Sunny Deol on screen — whether it’s an emotional hug with his father or a fight scene where he holds up the entire floor of a building with one hand. You realise his value even more when you see him alongside his brother Bobby Deol in “Yamla Pagla Deewana”. While Sunny is assured and warm, Bobby is awkward and bumbling his way through his role. As for their father Dharmendra, he is a pale shadow of his former dashing self. Of course, the charm is there but making him dance alongside skimpily dressed women in item numbers doesn’t help. Dharmendra plays Dharam Singh, a philandering conman who leaves his wife behind in Canada and runs away with his younger son to India. Thirty years later, his elder son Paramveer comes to Banaras in search of his father and brother Gajodhar. When his father refuses to acknowledge him, he joins them in their con jobs, hoping to win him over. When the girl Gajodhar loves is taken away to her hometown in Punjab by her dominating brothers, Paramveer devises a plan to get her married off to his brother. Though intended to be funny, these situations are far from comic most of the time, and the laughs are few and far between. The Deol chemistry is spoilt by Bobby’s acting and the shoddy script and the fact that Dharmendra isn’t even there for a large part of the second half. It is the second half that somewhat redeems this otherwise very mediocre film. If you can soldier through the half-hearted con attempts, two bad item numbers and a large number of shoddily acted drunken scenes, then perhaps you will find some salvation in the second half. Be warned though that it’s just marginally better than the first. “Yamla Pagla Deewana” is strictly for Deol fans. Everyone else can give it a wide berth.

YPDThere is some charm in watching Sunny Deol on screen — whether it’s an emotional hug with his father or a fight scene where he holds up the entire floor of a building with one hand.

You realise his value even more when you see him alongside his brother Bobby Deol in “Yamla Pagla Deewana”. While Sunny is assured and warm, Bobby is awkward and bumbling his way through his role.

No One Killed Jessica: Flawed but has its moments

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Raj Kumar Gupta’s “No One Killed Jessica” is based on the very gripping saga of the Jessica Lall murder case, one that captured the collective conscience of India at a point in time, and galvanised a dormant middle-class into taking action. A young model shot dead because she refused to serve a powerful politician’s son a drink at a party. The murderer gets away because of his connections, but when an aggressive reporter takes it upon herself to solve the case, things change. Vidya Balan plays Sabrina, Jessica’s sister, who learns soon enough that fighting against a corrupt system is of no use, even though more than 300 people witnessed her sister’s murder. Star reporter Meera Gaity (Rani Mukherjee), who initially doesn’t think the case is worth her time, takes it upon herself to crack the case, when a lower court acquits all accused in the case. Her investigative reporting shakes the system forcing public protests and re-opening of the case. Gupta’s source of inspiration is spot-on and perfect celluloid fodder. However, the director doesn’t utilise his raw material well enough for you to be completely gripped by this tale. Rather than packing in the second half with action and some sort of drama, he chooses to dwell on the emotional quotient — something he has already established, thus making it repetitive. The actual events which led to the reopening of the case are glossed over and there is much expostulating on the equations of the powerful in Delhi. Also, Rani Mukherjee’s character is not given enough time and you don’t really get a sense of her. Sabrina, on the other hand, is quite well-developed and Vidya Balan does the character justice, bringing out the frustration and grief that Jessica Lall’s family must have gone through. “No One Killed Jessica” is a film that does have its moments, but on the whole it doesn’t quite make the impact it should have. The length could have been cut by 20 minutes and some of the supporting cast doesn’t perform up to the mark. If you are willing to forgive these flaws, this is good enough for a one-time watch — to relive the horrific incident and its aftermath, if nothing else.

noonekilledRaj Kumar Gupta’s “No One Killed Jessica” is based on the very gripping saga of the Jessica Lall murder case, one that captured the collective conscience of India at a point in time, and galvanised a dormant middle-class into taking action.

A young model shot dead because she refused to serve a powerful politician’s son a drink at a party. The murderer gets away because of his connections, but when an aggressive reporter takes it upon herself to solve the case, things change.

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