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Alif’s Statement On The Indian Muslim Must Be Seen By Every Indian

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Starring: Neelima Azim, Danish Hussain, Saud Mansuri

Written & Directed by: Zaigham Imam

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Varanasi is a city of the holy waters and unholy bloodshed. The deep divide between the Hindu and Muslims is never crossed.  It takes guts for a filmmaker to cross over from one restricted area into another to take  a long hard look at a life lived  at the fringes of both the communities.

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Alif addresses itself to the very sensitive and relevant issue of the isolation of the Indian Muslim. It neither resorts to the stereotypes of the ‘Muslim Social’ nor does it look at the community as persecuted and injured by self-inflicted welters of radicalism. This small film with big aspirations look at the economically  challenged  existence hovering stubbornly at the fringe of self-destruction, trying its utmost to remain beyond the ‘isms’ and the cataclysms that threaten to annihilate the community from mainstream existence  in our country.

Alif is sometimes too eager to pack in an excess of ideas. However the narrative is not bogged down by its own aspirations. Rather, writer-director Zaigham Imam’s fortitude of conviction and sincerity of expression gives the jumpy uneven film  a pattern of  serene motions even when the characters’ motivations and behaviour get choppy and unacceptable.

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There are some glaring flaws in the narrative, too glaring to be even mentioned. And some performances are awkward and embarrassing. But what remains with us is the earnestness of a storyteller whose heart bleeds for a community that’s being bled to death by its own stubborn adherence to rules of living which are not in  sync with the goals  of a progressive India.

Alif is the story of  a young boy named Ali(played with endearing sincerity by SaudMansuri) whose father is a hakeem. When Alif’s aunt Zahara(Neelima Azim, rousing in her impassioned dramatics) visits Varanasi from Pakistan she wants changes,radical changes in her brother’s family. In a heartwarming moment of family togetherness, the father lying inert in his deathbed is pulled out for a bath in the courtyard. The boy Ali whom  Zahara soon gets to dote on( a la Farida Jalal in Khalid Mohamed’s  Mammo)  must stop going to theMadarsa and start attending a proper angrezi school.

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No one dares say no.

It is here that the narrative chooses to get discernibly frank in its dissection of the discrepancy  of  the educational standards in  the traditional madarsa and the conventional schools. Alif’s brutal humiliation  in the new environment , his  lack of basic schooled knowledge, are depicted in harrowingly broad strokes which, regrettably, don’t work in other section of the film.

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A budding rooftop romance between a radical Muslim educationist and the girl nextdoor is nipped in the bud when he confesses he loves only God.

“How can  you love God when you can’t love someone who standing in front of you?” she screams.The performances in such sequences are caricatural. But the heart is in the right place.

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This thwarted romance and many other plot manoeuvres in this loftily intended melodrama echo M S Sathyu’s classic on the isolation of the Indian Muslim Garam Hawa.It is  a tragic commentary on our social order that the situation described by Sathyu three decades ago remains largely unchanged for the community that continues to suffer in isolation.

Alif doesn’t wallow in self-pitying anger. Although there are some unfortunate attempts to demonize the other community, the characters remain largely compassionate and non-judgmental. What I  took away from Alif was the warmth of  a closely-knit family and specially the kinship that develops between the little boy and his aunt from Pakistan.Sadly there isn’t enough of this bonding in the plot which runs helter-skelter in pursuit of diverse strands in the cultural and religious contradictions that today threaten to erode the credibility of an entire community.

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The film’s politics is, at best, unobjectionable.  It’s such a pleasure to watch Neelima Azimportray the domineering matriarch in the burqa. She presides over the proceedings in her truncated role like Shaukat Azmi and Farida Jalal in their most memorable films. At one point she scolds a wretchedly mean Hindu teacher for harassing the film’s little boy-hero.

“Just because he waved a Pakistani flag on Republic Day you branded him a terrorist?” she asks with an innocence that completely abnegates irony.

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This innocence of an apolitical entity in an environment of throbbing politics is refreshing. For all its faults Alif must be seen for its strong message on the importance of formal education for every child ,even if it means offending some who would rather have the young imprisoned in ignorance. Light, says the film, is life.For this message alone Alif deserves a round of applause.

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Nutella India signs Bollywood Superstar Ranveer Singh to promote the brand across India

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Ranveer Singh

Nutella, the original and popular hazelnut cocoa spread brand of Ferrero, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of sweet-packaged products, has signed Bollywood superstar Ranveer Singh as its brand endorser for India market.

By coming on board as a brand representative for India, the superstar will promote the Nutella brand across digital and offline marketing channels as well as be an active part of their various campaigns.

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Nutella® India made the announcement in collaboration with the pan-India star Ranveer Singh’s social pages through an entertaining video, where the actor is seen engaging in a rapid-fire round on ‘what comes to my mind when….’ and proclaims his love for the brand.

 Ranveer Singh comments, “I am excited to announce my association with Nutella®. Nutella® has always held a special place in my heart. I’ve been a fan ever since I was a child and my love for it has only grown over the years. I am stoked to be part of the Nutella journey in India and help bring alive their vision of making tasty breakfast and desserts.”

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The Bollywood star, whose love for Nutella is no secret, will be launching the World Nutella® Day celebrations this year with fans.

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Rakesh Roshan: “Everything I  Know  About Acting & Direction, I Learnt From K Vishwanathji”

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Rakesh Roshan

The  mighty moviemaker K Vishwanath who  was to Telugu cinema what  Satyajit Ray  was  to Bengali cinema,  passed  away on February 2,leaving behind a luminous  legacy.

Acto-director Rakesh Roshan  who had  the  rare honour of working  in four projects  with  Vishwanath recalls him with tremendous respect. “Everything I know  about acting and  direction I learnt from  him. He was  a stalwart , an institution, and so passionate about his work. I had the privilege  of being directed  by him in two films Aurat Aurat Aurat  and Shubh Kamna. He would show  his actors  exactly what he  wanted, down to the minutest gesture.His  understanding  of the medium was  extraordinary.”

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Rakesh Roshan remembers how  he  invited Vishwanath to make films for him. “I produced  two films that Vishwanathji directed. One  was Kaamchor, the other was Jaag Utha  Insaan.While the  first was  a runaway success, the second didn’t do well.”

Speaking on how Kaamchor happened Rakesh recalls, “Vishwanathji and I used to meet socially in Hyderabad.We  wanted to work together. But we had  no script.One evening when we met he  looked very depressed. When I asked him what was wrong, he  said his new release Shubodayam  (in Telugu) had  flopped. That  night I went to see Shobodayam  in  a theatre in Hyderabad. The  next morning I  told Vishwanathji, ‘We’ve  found our script’. I told him where  the  storytelling in Shubhodayam  had gone wrong.We corrected the script and that’s how Kaamchor  happened. Although the entire story revolved  around me,  it was Jaya Prada who benefited  from Kaamchor.”

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About the beautiful  Jaag Utha Insaan , Rakesh Roshan admits  bluntly, “It  flopped because  of miscasting. During those days Sridevi was known  in Hindi cinema as a glamorous heroine. We cast her as classical dancer. Mithun Chakraborty had  the image  of  Gun Master G-9 and  Disco Dancer.We cast him as  a downtrodden  underdog. I was  known  for Kaamchor and  other citybred characters,I was cast as a Brahmin pandit.With other actors Jaag Utha  Insaan would have been a superhit”

Rakesh met K Vishwanath six years  ago. “We were shooting for Krissh in Hyderabad. He came on  the set several  times. We  had so much to say to each other. After that we lost contact. He was  very very busy with many projects. K Vishwanathji lived  for his cinema.”

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As His Latest Work Faraaz Releases Today,  Hansal Mehta Speaks To Subhash  K Jha On The Exciting Times Ahead

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Faraaz

Hansal, Faraaz is  your fifteenth directorial  venture. How does it feel to have come so far  with so many  milestones behind you?

don’t count my films. Genuinely. Every film is a new beginning. Every film has its share of uncertainty and nerves. Perhaps it is also because of the choices I make. There is no scope for either complacency or me carrying a false sense of security. I’m not complaining,though. Living life on the edge keeps me going.

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I  consider  Faraaz to be  a part of your great trilogy on  the dynamics  of terrorism, after  Shahid and  Omerta…where do you see Faraaz  positioned  in your creative ambit?

Thank you , Subhash.Faraaz is a film I’m very, very proud of. It was a challenge to pull off, a tough journey but creatively a very satisfying one. As Rajkummar Rao told me after watching the film , the Trilogy is complete now. Time to explore new stories and new characters. And finish post-production for all the exciting things that we shot for over the past eighteen months.

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Out of curiosity which of your films  have given you  the most creative  satisfaction?

Almost every film Shahid onwards has been immensely satisfying , both in terms of process and the outcome. Save a couple that I need not name. But even those I own for all their flaws, failures, deficiencies and redeeming qualities. But Faraaz has been a great process. I’ve made so many new friends in this journey and found some of the most exciting colleagues that I’m proud to introduce through the film. Writers Raghav Kakkar and Kashyap Kapoor (who co-wrote the film with Ritesh Shah), Cinematographer Pratham Mehta, Sound Designer Mandar Kulkarni, Editor Amitesh Mukherjee, co-producers Sahil, Maz and Sakshi – all of whom have given their blood and sweat to make this film happen. And of course Anubhav Sinha one of my oldest friends in the industry who backed me in telling this story just the way I wanted it. So yes, Faraaz has been satisfying and also filled me with a deep sense of gratitude. I must have done something right, no?

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Of course. Faraaz has a lot of young new actors in it. Tell me  about the  process  of  casting in this film? It couldn’t have been easy since there are dozens  of faces?

That was the challenge and the joy of making this film. I worked on the story during Chhalaang and I always knew that it would be a return to my indie roots for Faraaz. The film had to be made. And it needed fresh faces, bereft of image or trappings of stardom. A huge credit to Mukesh Chhabra who has a huge role to play in my filmography since Shahid. We constantly challenge each other and never ever give up. Casting is a process I really enjoy and finding the right talent to bring characters alive is something I thrive upon. Faraaz has an amazing ensemble. Right from Aditya Rawal , Zahan Kapoor, Juhi Babbar to every small character in the film including the officers, parents and the hostages this one is a triumph of honest casting , casting without an eye on profits, simply in service of the film, of the character.

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Faraaz is  about a terror attack in Bangladesh?how  do you respond to those who want to know, why Bangladesh?

In our research of this dastardly attack we realised that here was a story that had a larger message and something very universal to share. Misguided youth taking up violence in the name of religion or a parent’s love for her child or the unexpected bravery from an unlikely hero are themes that cannot be limited by borders, nationality or language. These stories must be told. They must transcend the limitations of perceived local relevance – particularly when our polarised times need such stories to be told to a larger audience.

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In 2020, your OTT series Scam 1992  proved to  b e game changer. Do you see Scam as a turning point  in your career?

I see Scam 1992 as an enabler. We did not expect its humongous success and to say it did not change things would be fake humility. It gave me back a lot of things I had lost in the years before it released. Including some money. And the courage to tell the stories I desperately wanted to. Also exceptional friends and collaborators like Sameer Nair and his Studio Applause.

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Your films  and your  attitude to cinema has always  been fearless. How  do you  cope with the  threat of growing intolerance in our society  vis a  vis your  convictions as a  filmmaker?

It is not new to me. Remember Dil Pe Mat Le Yaar in 2000? The only difference now is that then I was deeply affected by the intolerance to a point of self destruction. Now I channelise my despair and anger into telling relevant stories and through them taking on those who have made it a business to be intolerant.

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To Attend Siddharth-Kiara’s Destination Wedding, Karan Johar Preponed His Twins’s Birthday  Bash

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Siddharth-Kiara’s

For those  who are  wondering why Karan Johar hosted  the grand birthday party for his  twins Roohi and  Yash who will  turn 6 on 7 February,  six days in  advance  on 1  February  here is  why:  on the day of his twins’ birthday,  Karan  will be in Rajasthan attending the wedding celebrations of his dear friends  Siddharth Malhotra  and Kiara Advani who are  getting married on  February 6.

 Reveals   a friend close  to  Karan,  “Karan was in a dilemma. To him there is  nothing more important than his  children’s happiness.  How could he break their hearts by skipping  the most important day of their  lives? At the same time, how could he  not attend Siddharth and Kiara’s wedding ? They are  very close to him.”

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Karan did the best thing possible to resolve the situation:  he put the dilemma before his children Yash and Juhi who happily  agreed  to  have their party  a few days in advance so their ‘Dada’  could  attend  his friends’ wedding.

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