India Masala

Bollywood and culture in an emerging India

Bombay Talkies: The magic of celluloid

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

A five-minute scene, sans dialogue, just before the interval. A shot of a man elated, reliving his magical day as the rest of the world goes about its own business – these five minutes alone make “Bombay Talkies” worth a watch.

Dibakar Banerjee’s segment, based on a Satyajit Ray short story, is evocative, sensitive, subtle and gets to the heart of why cinema brings magic into the most mundane of lives. And his film, dare I say it, is leagues ahead of the other three shorts in this portmanteau film.

Which is not to say the other three films aren’t gripping enough. Karan Johar surprises with his short film, avoiding clichés and extracting some great performances from his cast. Rani Mukerji plays the editor of a gossip magazine, in an arid marriage with her newscaster husband (Randeep Hooda, remarkably restrained). The presence of an intern (Saqib Saleem) in their lives alters it completely and brings to the fore uncomfortable truths.

Gangs of Wasseypur 2: The perfect ending

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After I finished watching the second and final part of Anurag Kashyap’s revenge saga “Gangs of Wasseypur“, I got into a cab and headed home. Except that, when I got in, I imagined the driver pulling out a machine gun and aiming at me.

On the way home, familiar roads seemed eerily silent and every passer-by suspicious. So ingrained and pervading is the violence in this film that you cannot help but carry a bit of it home.

Gangs of Wasseypur: Visceral revenge saga

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Anurag Kashyap’s revenge saga “Gangs of Wasseypur” starts off in the most innocuous way — a shot of actress Smriti Irani opening the door and inviting the audience in with a beaming smile. It’s a scene millions of viewers are familiar with, thanks to the popularity of the soap, but definitely not something you’d expect to see in the first frame of a revenge drama.

Such incongruous scenes and unexpected surprises pop up regularly during the 2.5-hour-long film. Kashyap uses a tongue-in-cheek approach to tell his story, pairing it with searing imagery, a couple of history lessons and the edgiest characters you will see on screen for some time.

That Girl in Yellow Boots: Stark, unsettling cinema

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Anurag Kashyap’s “That Girl in Yellow Boots” is an unsettling tale of a girl in search of the father who walked out on her as a child. Kashyap holds back very little in his narration of this tale, portraying Mumbai as a ruthless city that makes her search even more difficult than it should have been.

Kalki Koechlin plays Ruth, a British girl who comes to India hoping to find her father. She struggles in Mumbai, living as an illegal immigrant, working in a shady massage parlour, living in squalid conditions, driven only by her quest for a parent she yearns for.

Shaitan: The devil is in the details

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Director Bejoy Nambiar’s debut effort “Shaitan” is not your typical Bollywood film, so if you are the kind that enjoys that kind of fare, let me warn you at the outset this may not be the film for you.

However, if you keep an open mind and go into the theatre, believe me you will be rewarded. Here is a film that is unabashed, cool and made by a director who knows his craft.

Anurag Kashyap – the industry ‘outsider’

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- Mumbai, (Reuters) – Anurag Kashyap hasn’t slept in four days. He’s been writing his next film and doesn’t want to stop till it’s done. When we walk into his suburban terraced apartment he’s beaming because he’s just finished writing the climax, which he informs you, before he’s even been introduced to you, he is very happy with. He offers you some tea, shows you clips from his new film “That Girl in Yellow Boots”, which premiered at the Venice Film Festival, all the while chatting animatedly with his assistants about shooting schedules and movies. In an industry where it’s all about being politically correct, Kashyap is delightfully candid, speaking about himself and the world he inhabits with an honesty that is difficult not to appreciate. Not that, that should come as a surprise – he is after all the “hat ke” film maker of Bollywood, the rebel, the one who is out to change the way the game is played. “Dev D”, his modern adapation of Sharat Chadra Chattopadhay’s classic Devdas was what many critics termed a turning point for Bollywood and the way it makes films. Anyone else who hadn’t slept for four days would barely be able to stay coherent, but Kashyap is buoyant, alive and itching to move on to the next task. Can you really write a film in four days, I ask him? “Of course you can,” he tells me gleefully. “I think about my films for a long time, maybe years, but I write them in days. He shoots them in days too, apparently. “That Girl in Yellow Boots” was shot in less than thirteen days, in an industry where it takes longer to shoot a song sequence. “That’s because I am an economical film maker,” he says. “I shoot one scene in one way and don’t make any changes. That way there is less wastage.” That is evident from the minimalist feel that most of his films exude. There are no extravagant dance sequences, or magnificent sets, long monologues where the protagonists rue their lot in life. Instead, the milieu is everyday, as is the language. “I think it comes from the fact that I am from a small town and everything there is so normal. I think the perspective that small-town directors bring to films is very different,” he says. That perspective is now going into other films. Kashyap turned producer this year, with “Udaan”, a coming of age tale set in small-town India, which was an official entry at the Cannes film festival this year and opened to rave reviews in India. ““It is an entirely selfish decision to turn producer, because I want my kind of cinema to last and flourish, and helping young film makers make those kind of films is the best way to do it,” he says. Born in a small town in Eastern UP, Kashyap first came to Mumbai to write scripts for serials, and then turned to making films. The place took a toll, his marriage crumbled and he was left with no place to stay. “As far as I was making serials I was the king of this place. Making films, “Paanch” not being released and having to sleep on people’s couches, really straightened me out,” he says. Perhaps that is why one of the first things he does when he is starting out on a film is ensure that everyone involved has a place to stay and the promise of a meal. “I have booked a guesthouse with a kitchen for all of you,” he tells an assistant, and turns around to tell you “once their food and boarding is taken care of, they can concentrate on the film.” Not a lot of producers in Mumbai would do that, and I tell him so. I am not from this city, he says, flipping through a book. I crane to see which one it is. The Outsider, by Albert Camus, which he says is his “favourite book”. It seems entirely appropriate to me.

anuragkAnurag Kashyap hasn’t slept in four days. He’s been writing his next film and doesn’t want to stop till it is done. When I walk into his suburban terrace apartment, Kashyap is beaming because he’s just finished writing the climax and he is very happy with it.

He offers you some tea, shows you clips from his new film “That Girl in Yellow Boots” which premiered at the Venice Film Festival, all the while chatting animatedly with his assistants about shooting schedules and movies.

Gulaal: Holds up the mirror to an unpleasant reality

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“The free media serve as a mirror in which the public can see itself sans mascara and styling gel. From us you learn the state of your nation, and especially its management by the people you elected to give your children a better future. Sometimes the image you see in that mirror is not a pleasant one. But while you may grumble in the privacy of your armchair, the journalists who hold the mirror up to you do so publicly and at great risk to themselves.”

When I was watching Anurag Kashyap’s “Gulaal”, my mind wandered to this passage I had read some days ago, from the last editorial of Lasantha Wickramatunga, the editor of the Sri Lankan newspaper ‘The Sunday Leader’, who was killed by unknown persons.

Dev D: A different take on an age-old hero

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I have to admit, first off, that I have no sympathy for Devdas. I think he is a spoilt, whining fool who pretty much deserved what he got.

Obviously watching him every five years or so on screen, as yet another filmmaker tries to “interpret” him, really tries my patience.

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