India Masala

Bollywood and culture in an emerging India

Does Sanjay Dutt deserve sympathy?

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

First, the facts — the 1993 Mumbai blasts killed 257 people, more than 100 people were convicted, and it took more than 20 years to deliver justice in a case that has all but faded from the nation’s collective memory.

And yet, if you looked at the headlines on Thursday, you would be forgiven for thinking the Supreme Court ruling was only about actor Sanjay Dutt. And the only tragedy was the one that had befallen Dutt and his family members.

As news of the court ruling trickled in, words of sympathy gushed from Bollywood, with film-makers such as Mahesh Bhatt and Karan Johar expressing solidarity with Dutt, and saying he did not deserve this.
Dutt was in his 30s when he was arrested, mature enough to know he was committing a crime. But do things change just because he’s an actor?

Everybody makes mistakes; some more serious than the rest. And we have to pay for them. Should Dutt be treated differently from other criminals just because of his position?

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.

A year at the movies

At the beginning of the last week of every year I head to my neighbourhood DVD store to follow a long-standing tradition of mine.  I review my favourite films of the year and then buy DVD’s of those films.

INDIA-CREDIT/BOLLYWOODThis year my shopping list had only two names – Zoya Akhtar’s “Luck by Chance” and Vishal Bhardwaj’s “Kaminey”.

Just let the Bollywood stars be — some IIFA memories

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Gauri Khan looks askance at me. She is dressed in white and clutches a shopping bag in either hand. As I move towards her on a street in Amsterdam, she takes a step back and frowns. I don’t take the hint. As I start to mumble something, the wife of Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan hurries past me and disappears into an alley.

No, I wasn’t trying to assault her.

AmsterdamThe 2005 International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) awards were being held in Amsterdam and I was a cub reporter let loose in the city of canals .

Big B turns blogger

Amitabh Bachchan started a blog on April 17. And has posted almost daily since, generating hundreds of comments from fans around the world.

File photo of actor Amitabh Bachchan

His blog is ostensibly about his life and films, but also a platform where the 65-year-old Indian superstar gets even with the “rumor laced spicy barbs” of the media.

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