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#MeToo Movement: Ali Zafar Accused, Bollywood Gives Him A  Clean Chit

Subhash K . Jha

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Ali Zafar

With Pakistani singer Meesha Shafi  accusing  fellow-musician Ali Zafar  of sexual harassment the Harvey Weinstein syndrome that shook the American entertainment  industry last year, has reached the Asian shores.  It’s only a  matter of time before the sexual predators and  pedophiles ofBollywood(yes, there are  those too) are exposed.

As  far as singer Ali Zafar is  concerned, Bollywood where he has worked in quite  a few films , has no reason to complain. One  of  the top Bollywoodleading ladies with whom Ali has worked , gives  him a  clean  chit.  “He was always impeccably behaved. There was  never a whiff of  any untoward behaviour.He was punctual, professional, polite, almost aloof.Never tried to  act familiar.But then that’s my experience. The narrative might be completely different in  another content.”

The  last Bollywood that Ali Zafar worked in  was Gauri Shinde’s Dear Zindagi. Everyone associated with that film vouches  for Ali’s  professionalism and  decency.

The narrative is  indeed different  for Ali across the border .Meesha Shafi’s  allegations have hit hard .

I tried to  contact his colleagues  from the entertainment industry in Pakistan. There was mostly a silence. Only one actor spoke on  condition  of anonymity. “Main kya bolu?He’s a well-behaved cultured  boy . And seems happily married with two children.This(allegations) will definitely affect  his popularity .Hopefully it won’t damage his family life.”

Unless more women come forward with allegations  against Ali.

Has  the  MeToo  movement started in Pakistan? If it has, how  long would it be before actresses start naming and  shaming the sexual offenders  ofBollywood?

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Made In Heaven Review: Possibly The Best Indian Webseries So Far

Subhash K . Jha

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Made In  Heaven(Amazon Prime)

Starring : Arjun Mathur,  Shobhita Dhulipala, Kalki Koechlin, Jim Sarbh, Shashank Arora , Shivani Raghuvanshi

Directed  by: Nitya  Mehra,Zoya Akhtar, Prashant Nair, Alankrita Shrivastava

First things first. Made In Heaven is the sexiest  webseries India  has  produced, no doubt  about it. The  love scenes, both hetero and homosexual , look real with the actors letting loose  the kind of unbridled  physical passion that was so far forbidden in Indian  cinema.

Welcome to the hormonal revolution.

In fact  one of the  earliest episode  of this  9-episode entertainer  had the  protagonist  Shobita Dhulipala and her screen-husband Jim Sarbh with their hands legs and  tongue all over the screen. Such lack  of inhibition is most refreshing.Bring it on.

Say hello to this bracing antidote  to repression. Every  major character  in Made In Heaven is  waiting to  break free from one form of repression or another. Shobita’s  character Tara comes  from  a humble  middleclass  background, has married into money and now ‘Money’  is  cheating on  her with her  best friend.You can’t have your diamonds without sleepless nights.

Sleepless  nights , reminds  me  of Arjun Mathur’s  character Karan  Mehra who is a closeted  homosexual  yearning to come  out, grappling with emotional and  financial  problems. Together  these  two very fine actors,Arjun and  Shobhita, plot and plan  through  a string of affluent weddings, lavish  on  both food  and feud,fuelled  by desire and  desperation  and  a longing to find a  more  relevant core  in their  plush  lifestyle than what is affordable  to  the  senses.

 Some   of  these  characters are wretchedly  unhappy. I  mean , how  successful  can a marriage  be when the wife-to-be sleeps  with a Bollywood superstar(wishful casting of Pulkit Samrat) who is invited to perform  at  her wedding?  Or a  tycoon’s sole male heir(the  underused Pavail Gulati from  the  miniseries  Yudh) who  tells his parents that his  wife is no goldigger and that the  child she aborted in  the past was his, when it was  not?

Lies seem  to  fuel the  passions  of  these inflamed characters .A simmer  discontent  underlines  the  well laid-out drama, like  a still blue pool that whirls and swirls  underneath. Accordingly  the truthful  moments shine brightly  in  the series. There is this epiphanous  encounter between our hero Karan and his snoopy landlord’s  zany daughter (Yashaswini Dayama, wish there was more of her in the series) when he catches her smoking and reprimands  her, and she tells him he shouldn’t stay  out all  night.They both know each other’s guilty secrets and are comfortable in their knowledge.

 The  writing(Reema Kagti, Zoya Akhtar, Niranjan Iyenger, Alankrita Shrivastava,  Vivek Anchalia) is fluent and feisty . The dialogues  hit the right notes without  putting too  fine  a point  on it. While the  surfaces  glisten with gloss, this is  not a series that wallows in  superficial  glamour.  Not by half. Issues on societal  hypocrisy(Arjunruns  into  a lover all set  to marry  an unsuspecting bride who when  confronted  hits back with, ‘Will YOU marry me?’ )  run through the series  creating a tingling spine  of  revelations on topics that  cinema  refrains  from exploring.

The performances  range from outstanding  to  satisfactory, and the quality doesn’t depend  on  the  length  of  the character’s role. Shivani Raghuvanshi has less playing time than the other protagonists. But she nails it as a small-towner Jazz(real name Jaspreet) revelling  in  the  life of  the rich and  the privileged. Though a brunt of  sniggers , it is Jazz who often comes  up with solutions in deadlocked weddings.

For all  its  optical affluence and  love for the lush, Made In  Heaven  tells us there is more to the workingclass than meets the eye. This is a  series you  will want to watch  all in a  go. So set side a whole day for it, and  ignoreCaptain Marvel this  weekend.  Marvel is  happening right in your homes. Take  a  bow , all you female directors(and one  gentleman thrown in as token gesture).Your  time  starts now.

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Luka Chuppi Is A Progressive Intelligent Comedy

Subhash K . Jha

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Luka Chuppi

Starring:  Kartik Aryan, Kriti Sanon &  A Stellar  Supporting Cast

Directed by: Laxman Utekar

Rating: ****(4 stars)

Just when  the smalltown comedy threatens to sag  under the weight of over-statement  there comes a  fresh feisty take  on  a live-in relationship in this  Progressive Comedy(not to be  confused with the Regressive Comedy as in  Total  Dhamaal)  .

Luka  Chuppi  doesn’t mind bending the rules  of the  rom-com genre as  long the tilt  doesn’t make the  script  look cross-eyed and waylaid.A sense  of  madcap  adventure is constantly  projected into the  narrative without  losing grip  over the grammar of growing giggles.

Luka Chuppi doesn’t try too hard  to generate  humour. It  doesn’t always  make  us  laugh. But it never fails to amuse, as Guddu and  Rashmi, two Mathura-based  tv journalists,  get hitched,  fall in love and decide  to  give  ‘live-in’  a chance before settling in permanently.

Egged on by  his best friend/sidekick Abbas(Aparshakti Khurrana bang-on with his  deadpan expressions)  the couple decides  to give live-in a try.The  adventures  thereafter are not  as smooth as , say Badhaai Ho where middlclass mores were projected with unflinching  accuracy. Luka  Chuppi sometimes goes awry  in its  search for  satire, but is not  the least fearful  of stumbling  .

Guddu wants to do “everything” that  live-in couples do. Rashmi  isn’t biting the  bait. But they do end  up in bed and soon she whispers  the   four magic  words, “Do we have  protection?”. Guddu  is  ready with  an assortment  of condoms. Pyar kiya toh dalna kya?

In breaking the wall that separates love and sex  in Hindi commercial cinema and in  showing the lead couple  with  healthy hormonal   instincts  Luka Chuppi raises  hopes for the Bollywood comedy where kissing is still seen  as  big deal, and audiences are  actually  said to count  the  number of times lips lock on screen.

 Come to think of  it , there are  no kisses  between  Kartik Aryan and  Kriti Sanon  in  this film. And yet they communicate  a warm easygoing  alliance  that  comes not from singing songs together but  from recognizing your life partner  for what she  is.

Most  of  the humour is generated organically and  without making  strenuous  efforts  to  induce  humour  into   social statement.

Make no mistake  about it. Luka  Chuppi  is  a comedy with  an underlying layer  of  dark satire and social statement  on  moral policing and communal biases  in small towns.  Director  Laxman  Utekar who  has done the  lucid  cinematography  in  Gauri Shinde’sEnglish Vinglish and  Dear Zindaagi, has a keen eye  for smalltown quirks.He gets the  mood right specially  in  the frequent aerial  shots  of  the  smalltown  rooftops. But  the  stellar  supporting cast  is frequently let down by  the  persistent  attempts  to make them seem chronically  hyper.Do these people have  to say or  do something all the time?

While  some amount of hue-and-cry is raised  over the vigilante treatment   of  romance  , the subtle  but sharp digs at  the Muslim character is  admirably  on target. The way the  Muslim  film star at the film’s prologue is treated  for espousing live-in relationships and  in the way characters  react when  the hero’s Muslim friend  is  introduced,  the  film tells us  we are a long way from  getting  away from  our biases.

But hey , in  the meanwhile there  is  the laughter. Probably not  the  best medicine.But it works in the  right  doses. Most importantly  Lukka Chupi works for the lead pair. KartikAryan  is  endearingly  guileless and eager  to score, while Kriti  Sanon  is  more worldly-wise and slightly annoying in her will to be the  dominant partner. Together the couple  is a scream.Albeit a stifled one.

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The Exquisite Tapestry Of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Cinema

Subhash K . Jha

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Sanjay Leela Bhansali

No one does it quite like Sanjay Leela Bhansali(SLB). His cinema weaves passionate dreams into the operatic language , creating a world so beautiful you wish it really existed.

In an industry where filmmakers think flying cars and smashing chorus dancers are the acme of aesthetics here is that rare creative genius in the tradition of V Shantaram, Raj Kapoor, Mehboob Khan and Bimal Roy who toils over frame and every costume of his incandescent heroine as if his life dependent on it.

Here’s looking at SLB enchanting oeuvre.

  1. Khamoshi: THE Musical(1996): Some say SLB’s first film about the beautiful vulnerable  Annie(Manisha Koirala) trying to cope with the possessive demands of her deaf and mute parents(Nana Patekar , Seema Biswas) is still his most honest work. The truth is Khamoshi fell prey to dishonesty when the original tragic ending of Annie’s death had to be changed on distributors’ demand. The dark passionate redemptive  tale was rejected on the day it was released. Rejection reminds us of  Madhuri Dixit and Kajol…they both turned down the lead. Manisha immortalized herself with her porcelain looks and delicately nuanced performance.True to  character, Nana d huge altercations with the director over the role’s interpretation.Salman sportingly slipped into a supporting role, just to give his friend a boost up in his directorial debut.
  2. Hum…Dil De Chuke Sanam(1999): Some say, this is SLB’s tenderest work to date. There is certainly a magic at work here, a  magic that emanates from the elegant romance between Aishwarya Rai and  set in the spicy aromatic bustle of a large upperclass Gujarati household. The fact that the pair actually fell in love helped add passion to the pristine relationship between ‘Nandini’ Aishwarya  and ‘Sameer’ Salman . Ajay Devgn was surprisingly effective as Nandini’s husband who takes upon himself the task ofreunitiing his wife with her lover. The idea of such illimitable  nobility was inspired by Mani Ratnam’s Moun Ragam. Salmanwas keen that his character ‘get’ Aishwarya at the end. He even sought Sooraj Barjatya’s help to convince SLB.
  3. Devdas(2002): 13 years ago made at a staggering budget of Rs 60 crores(which is today’s equivalent  of Rs 200 crores) SLB’s version of the classic Saratchandra saga of love loyalty betrayal and redemption  was a giddying opera ofexacerbrated emotions and heightened drama . The stunning visuals, the opulent sets and the mystical magical song and dance sequences made this version of Devdas a  masterclass on  ‘The Bollywood Dream’. Many found the film’s excessive  emphasis on opulence to be overpowering. But to this day, Devdas remains SLB’s most patent work.
  4. Black(2005): Many think Black to be the minimalist counterpoint to the extravagance of SLB’s previous work Devdas.  Nothing could be further from the truth. Though the film was outwardly   the stark story of the relationship between a physically disabled/speciallyabled girl and her teacher, underneath the  political correctness of the theme the film screamed  with epic ecstasy in every frame. With extraordinary central performances by Rani Mukherjee and Amitabh Bachchan Black was a stunning ode to the spirit of resilience and tenacity, done in flamboyant shades .Even the snow flakes were measured in their beauty.
  5. Saawariya(2007): Intended as a play-on-film this exceptionally unorthodox  experiment with form prompted boos galore from critics and the audience. Saawariya is SLB’s most misunderstood film to date . It creates a selfcontainedworld of fantasy landscape and wispy love, held together by the most spectacular debut seen in the last 15 years. RanbirKapoor as Raj , the  waif with a heart of gold and feet like Fred Astaire was a prized discovery. The film needs a second less excitable reading.Go beyond the blue veneer and discover the multi-hued heart .
  6. Guzaarish(2010): SLB’s third and last film about the desperate longings of the physically disabled, this one starred Hrithik Roshan in a stellar, if somewhat all-knowing performance as the paraplegic who would rather die than remain progressively dependent on his  beautiful nurse, played by Aishwarya Rai. There was much to be admired about the way the director cut his scenes to bring out the fugitive anxieties of  a protagonist on the brink.But somehow this remains SLB’s most unfinished work.
  7. Goliyon Ki Raaslila Ram Leela(2013): A raunchy GujjuRomeo & Juliet with Ranveer Singh and Deeepika Padukonesexing up their on-screen chemistry with loads of innuendo and bawdy backchat. Deepika has recently said that there is a raunchy side to her director. She’s right. SLB gave free rein to that side of his personality, bringing a rumbustious irreverence into the reckless romance between a pair separated by ancestral animosity.
  8. Bajirao Mastani(2015): The director is in full form .A grand royal epic about two extremely  volatile warriors from enemy territory  in love,Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukonebring to the epic saga a kind of  hate-to-love-you  compelling conflict that we last saw in K Asif’s Mughal-e-Azam. Tonally tempestuous and yet eschewing the operatic extravagance of Devdas, Bajirao Mastani shows its director at the peak of his powers. What next, Mr Bhansali?



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Gully Boy & Ranveer Wow Berlin

Subhash K . Jha

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Zoya Akhtar’s  Gully Boy has  scored big at the Berlin Film Festival where  the  eagerly-awaited film was  screened  on Saturday night.

Ranveer Singh who attended  the  screening along with his  co-star Alia Bhatt, director ZoyaAkhtar and  producer Ritesh Sidhwani was  quite simply  “blown away” by  the  audience reaction.

He  watched  the  film with the Berlin audience and then answered all their questions on  the cultural  references  in  Gully Boy.

By the end  of  the screening and  the interaction  Ranveer had  the  Berlin audience  and critics making curious  inquiries about his  whereabouts and  antecedents.

No doubt a new Bollywood star  is  born in the West.

Says  producer  Ritesh Sidhwani , “It was sheer madness.We  got an excellent reaction from the Berlin  audience. There was whistling and  clapping whenever  the  songs came on.”

Writing on the  film after  its screening at the Berlin  Film Festival the Hollywood Reportersays, “Zoya Akhtar …. directs with flair and passion and, aided by explosive performances from a right-on cast, triumphs over the familiarity of the star-is-born storyline. Her main asset is Ranveer Singh, who broke into Bollywood with the rom com Band Baajat Baaraatand who here shows a pleasingly full emotional range that extends to drama and hip hop.  With his hair combed over his eyes and noticeably muscle-bound, he is heroic but mild-mannered, rarely exceeding the sphere of believability.”

Ranveer, we hear, wants his new bride Deepika  Padukone  Singh  and his parents and only sister  to be the first ones  to see Gully Boy in India.

After two  blockbusters Padmaavat and Simmba in  2018, it is evident that Ranveer Singh will  commence 2019  with yet another  remarkable success.

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It’s An All-Out War Between Film On Kashmir & The CBFC

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 While  Ashvin Kumar , the intrepid  filmmaker  whose Kashmir chronicles have constantly  run into trouble  with the  censor board, claims his  new film No Fathers In  Kashmir has been blocked  by the  CBFC,  the  CBFC refutes  the charge.

Says Tushar Karmarkar,  Regional Officer,  CBFC Mumbai, “”Contrary to baseless rumours and false news about the delay or denial in certification of the film ‘No Fathers in Kashmir’, this is to put  across clear and straight  that this film has gone through the due process of examination and has already been recommended an A certificate.The film was unanimously found suitable for a mature audience by the members of the committees, and the same has  already been communicated to the filmmaker for his compliance.”

   Ashvin, however, has another story to tell.

Says  the  filmmaker, “the CBFC orders,  and I quote ….. ‘the film is not suitable for unrestricted public exhibition but may be suitable for public exhibition restricted to adults provided you carry out the excisions/ modifications in the film .’ They are  saying my film is not suitable and certificate is denied as the film can not be shown in public. In common parlance this is called a ban.”

 Ashvin further denies  the  CFBC claims, “CBFC claims that they have offered an A certificate.It is manifest vide orders above that the A certificate has not been offered. As per order above, it is firstly conditional on cuts and affidavits that they have asked for. Further, the use of words ‘may be’ indicates that should we even go ahead with these cuts, which we have refused as below, even then, an (A) certificate itself is not assured. Given the above order couched with conditions and prerequisites, if CBFC still claims that certificate has not been denied then it must be a typo (twice – for it appears in both the orders) and I am very happy. They may please let me know when I can come over to collect the certificate for unrestricted viewing. If not, then they should apologize for misrepresenting the facts in the media and contradicting their own order, not once but twice.”

Ashvin refuses  to take the cuts ordered by  the  CBFC. “ According to us the cuts are arbitrary, against the viewers’ right to know and my right to speak under Article 18 and in fact against the superior courts’ legal precedent. In the first round theCBFC banned the film on 12/10/18 grounds .We appealed to the Tribunal  on 09/11/18 date and vide their order dated 11/12/18 the Tribunal sent it back to CBFC because we were not given a proper statutory hearing. An opportunity was therefore required to be given to the applicant to express his views on the proposed cuts and excisions. We are satisfied on seeing the record that in this case such an opportunity has not been given.”

 Ashvin awaits anoter date  from the CBFC. “In view of our finding regarding non grant of opportunity of hearing to the Appellant regarding proposed cuts the impinged order is liable to be set aside on this short ground. However with the consent of the parties impunged order is set aside. We direct the CBFC to grant a hearing to the Appellant within a week from today. After hearing the appellant on the cuts and excisions as directed and hear the appellant also on its claim for an UA certification within a week from today…. It is stated by the Regional Officer that within 10 days from today they shall pass a speaking order after giving a hearing to the Appellant.In reality, therefore, despite the Regional Officer giving an undertaking to FCATthat a speaking order will be passed within a deadline of 10 days before the FCAT — CBFC delayed even that screening. They finally passed the order on the 03/01/19 defaulting on their own deadline of 10 days, a further 3 weeks (11th of December till 3rd of January) delay, in disregard of  The Tribunal’s directive. It was only on basis of this deadline that RO of CBFC had committed to during our hearing at the Tribunal  that we consented that the film may go back to CBFC. In other words, our consent was entirely based on the deadline agreed to by all parties given the 6 months of delay we had already endured. Thereafter, I was informed on 25th of December, Christmas Day (a public holiday) that the hearing / screening will happen on the next day 26th of December – it was less than 24 hrs notice. I was out of town so informed CBFC that I would be sending my lawyer to represent me. There was no objection at the time but when my lawyer appeared at the screening hall to be heard,CBFC refused to allow my lawyer to represent me, even though legal representation is a fundamental right and CBFC’s own rules permit a film maker to be represented. So, Please note : the arbitrary and ad hoc manner in which rules were specially made up as we go along.

  Ashvin  questions the  process  of certicaton. “ The Tribunal themselves have rarely sent a film back to the CBFC. It was done on this occasion because the Learned Judge found that we were not given a just hearing and that affects our fundamental rights as well contradicts the rules of the CBFC. The delay of 6 months when CBFC’s own website puts a period of 68 days, is also pertinent. The CBFC’s assertion in the public domain that ‘due process’ was followed is also incorrect. Bizarrely, the cuts the CBFC the felt justified a ban found zero mention in the second decision of the Revising Committee and for altogether new reasons the CBFC banned the film — for a second time. Having won two National Awards for my earlier films on Kashmir I had to miss this year’s deadline for submissions.I’ve also been forced to wait, our funds tied up for excruciating delays made for no reason – hard, as you know, for any independent filmmaker.”

 Ashvin wants  a’UA’ for No Fathers In Kashmir.   “We require a UA certificate because the film is about two innocent 16-year old millennials whose story will resonate with teenagers across India. It is our attempt to create a sense of compassion and empathy between young people  based on the realities of what is going on in Kashmir so a new generation can start the process of truth telling, dialogue and ultimately peace.

The whimsical and frivolous nature of CBFC arguments suggest that they have failed to appreciate the overall intent of the film, but not knowing how to ban or restrict a film without nudity, violence, obscenities, drug abuse etc they have resorted to a well rehearsed system of delays, harassment and nonsensical objections.”

Ashvin reminds us and  the CBFC that this  isn’t the first  time his film has been banned. “I’d like to mention here that both my National awarded films Inshallah, football and Inshallah, Kashmir — both about Kashmir– were also originally banned by CBFC. Given the delays, putting aside original objections and coming up with totally fresh new ones and the frivolous nature of objections (both times) gives a feeling that CBFC seems to be grasping at straws with arguments based on prejudice rather than law.”

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Shreyas Talpade’s New Look In ‘My Name Ijj Lakhan’ Promo Gets A Thumbs Up

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Actor gets into the Action Avatar With the New Show.Shreyas Talpade who will soon be seen as the protagonist in an upcoming Hindi television show titled ‘My Name Ijj Lakhan’ is already receiving praises for his unique and zany look in the promo. Ever since the promo of the show has been out, the viewers can’t get enough of his new avatar in the show. The fiction show will be aired in a 26 episode format on SAB TV during weekends.
The teaser promo features Shreyas playing an interesting and boisterous character in the show. In order to distinctively portray the character and lend authenticity to it, the actor attended various workshops which helped him get into the skin of the character and bring out the character effectively that one sees in the promo.
Shreyas loves to experiment with different roles across various genres and that is pretty evident through his role in the show. The show which has an amalgamation of comedy, drama, action, emotions, and tragedy is touted to be a full-blown masala entertainer.
Shreyas was last seen in the 2017 comedy film ‘Golmaal Again’ and will next be seen in a serious role in director Ashwini Chaudhary’s ‘Setters’ as well as a slice-of-life light-hearted family entertainer titled ‘Teen Do Paanch’.

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Beautiful Boy Is Deeply Flawed But Must Be Watched

Subhash K . Jha

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Beautiful  Boy(Amazon)

Starring Steve Carell, Timothy Chalamet

Directed  by Felix Van Groeningen

Rating: ***(3 stars)

There  is  so  much that this  heartshattering drama  about a distraught father coping with his son’s drug addiction, could  have done. Instead  Beautiful Boy plays it safe.  It casts beautiful-boy Timothee Chalamet as Nic Sheff, a teenager trying to shrug off  his addiction  even as he sinks lower and lower into the abyss of drug abuse.

Chalamet takes care of all the sympathy that the  plot  needs  to muster  for us to  go along with his  nervewracking  journey into selfdestruction. The  film  is based on Nic Sheff’s account Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines  as well as his father David Sheff’sBeautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction,so we  ought to have been provided  with a spectral  double  view  of  a family tragedy that unfolds over a period of several years during which time the young addict’s life comes apart at  the seams.

Soon, as I  watched the honest but  not memorable film, I realized this is not Nic’s  story. It is his father’s story of coping with  a crisis  of  unimaginable  proportions as  his family life falls apart. How much  of himself can David Sheff give to his son’s problem before giving up the fight? The  film,in its own somnolent style, shows us the threshold of  parental patience. And  Steve Carrell is fine if not memorable, as  the  father. This is  more his story than his son’s.

It’s easier  to follow the father’s ‘feud’-steps  as he moves  further  and further away from his son’s emotional  axis. There are  sequences that  are designed to bring us close to tears.But we never gte that close to the characters  to feel their  pain.  The emotional  responses  never emerge organically from the  plot characters. Carrell and Chalamet playing the  estranged father-son routine  seem to say all the right things to each other with just the right pauses and  punctuations. It’s almost like watching them  do a translation  of  the real emotions in digestible terms.

I missed a  sense  of unrehearsed  spontaneity in the  dialogues  . In addition, the unhurried pace  and the repetitive  mode of unveiling the  inherently-dramatic  dysfunctionalism(drug addict comes home,disappears, comes  home…) makes Beautiful Boy more remarkable for what  it  sets out to  say rather than the way it says  it.

Not that  the  film is  without its moments.  In some  sequences we see Nic’s naked anguish as  he stares  blankly into his own future. Chalamet, so effective as a  man-boy discovering gay love in Call Me By Your Name  is  deeply effective  though  not as impact-driven as  Lucas Hedges in  Ben Is Back , that  other recent  more powerful drama  of a parent coping with the son’s drug addiction.

Beautiful Boy  is  riddled with  problems, none of which are related  to the  protagonist’s drug addiction. It jumps  back and forth  impatiently creating a breach between the characters  , their problems and our empathy for them. But the background score is  magnificent. The narrative uses  insistent  pounding rock sounds to  echo Nic’s psyche and  settles down for a quieter musical statement   at the end when all options for redemption are exhausted.

So, to be honest, are we.

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5 Worst Films Of The Year 2018

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1.     Patakha:  It’s been downhill all the way for Vishal Bhardwaj who for some strange reason continues to hold a messianic moviemaker’s reputation in spite  of  churning out dud after  dud. If you thought it wouldn’t get any worse for Bhardwaj after  the  colossal  fiasco  Rangoon, then you were wrong. Monstrously wrong. Patakha was  even worse than Rangoon.And that’s saying  a lot. The story of two warring sisters, played with do-or-die frenzy by SanyaMalhotra and  Radhika Madan, the flare-ups between the  two grimy unwashed  uncouth  sisters  were shot  likekabaddi matches. Only, this was  no Dangal. What WAS Patakha???!! I am still trying to figure out its dusty filthy ambience with  dialogues to match. While Sanya and  Radhika rolled on the floor in a raging fury, Sunil Grover clapped and  cheered them on.Clearly he  lacked  genuine  entertainment  in  his life. So did we. For almost three tortuous hours as one sister went  blind, the  went deaf,we  just went numb watching an accomplished director lose hismojo .


2.     Race  2:  By the time  Salman  Khan ripped off his short and  Bobby Deol followed suit, I  was  ready to rip off my hair in exasperation. This maddening  mishmash of  hot babes and  cool  guys(including Anil Kapoor who lets his  beard  grow grey and his accent falter from angrezi to Bhojpuri, all for  a  cause)  was   a  roaring grunting mess  of  a movie.Trashy beyond endurance, loud  beyond  the threshold of  tolerance and  outrageous  beyond all definitions of  lowbrow entertainment,Race 3  gives a bad name to the Salman Khan brand. Just when we  thought he was  trying to build a more durable variety of mass entertainment by reinventing himself in  Bajrangi  Bhaijan , Sultan and the unfortunate  Tubelight, Race 3 came along to remind us  with infuriating  aggressiveness, that when it comes  to Salman Khan there is a very thin line between  rationale and  absurdity.He skips jumps and  crosses over into the  kingdom of crassness with  such daring  impunity  that you wonder what lies ahead  in store for  this  hero of  the masses who it seems, has  decided to abandon all efforts  to give  a performance. Here in Race 3 Salman was  so indifferent and  openly bored by the bustling  balderdash  he makes no effort to  make sense  of the  tangled mess of  a plot.Sensible decision. Race 2 makes as  much sense as  Rakhi Sawant quotes or Aamir Khan’s nose ring in Thugs Of Hindostan.

3.     Baaghi 2: This was  an overblown, padded-up and puffed-out adaptation of the engrossing Telugu hit ‘Kshanam’ about an NRI who is summoned back to India by his former girlfriend to find her kidnapped daughter. Tiger Shroff somersaulted over flying choppers, flipped over conifers, flew across cars and vanquished adversaries with the quick-thinking machismo of a sumo wrestler thrown into a ring with a cunning and dangerous canine.

 Tiger’s Ranveer stops at nothing. The trouble is, the film doesn’t know where to stop either. The original plot had some interesting twists and turns in the kidnapping drama.In the remake the drama of a distressed mother (DishaPatani, so one-note and so pale and pretty your heart reaches out to her for all the wrong reasons) and her saviour is converted into a loud scream-fest where everyone has a ‘bawl’.There is so much sound and fury in the storytelling that I was convinced it signified something . Alas, all I came away with was a convoluted attempt to regurgitate a solid thriller by injecting large doses of bombast and melodrama into the original.

4.     Thugs Of Hindostan:  Not done!  You can’t  take two of Bollywood’s biggest superstars  Amitabh Bachchan and Aamir Khan together  for the  first time and then make a  film that  confounds  your  senses, boggles  your mind and  tries your patience.Thugs Of Hindostan did  all of this, and more. It was guilty of many crimes, not the least of   them being  the rather  strange  attempt to pass off the corny as the epic, and the dishevelled as the spectacular. This is  an overblown, undercooked piece of abomination masquerading  as majestic when it is nothing of the sort. Speckled on top and hollow and  dull inside this is  the kind of con-job which a door-to-door salesman  for  an icky  brand  of  perfume  sells to you when your olfactory nerves  are not working.

5.     Love Soniya: This well-intended melodrama about  human trafficking and  child prostitution  had  its heart in  the right place . Sadly, the perversities that  ought to have galvanized the director into action, seem to finally drag the film down to the very level where the sub-human culture of the flesh trade  exists.There  is something  fundamentally amiss in a film where a posse  of  capable actors get together  to create  a messy tribute to the Bleeding Heart’s Club. The  narrative seems  to be  a diehard  fan of its own  righteousness. Often times, the sexual violence  is  repugnant not for being  excessively  graphic(which it is) but because the sadism seems  to  be  disturbingly gratuitous,leading us  into believing that in some cases , cinema  about sexual violence  gets so close to  its subject that it loses its dispassion and ends  up celebrating rather than abnegating  the  violence.Love Sonia  meant well.  No doubt about that.Regrettably , so does the guy who randomly shoots down innocent  people in a pub as what he thinks to be solution to ethnic inundation.

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India Misses The Oscar Again

Subhash K . Jha

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Village Rockstars the Indian  entry to the Oscars 2018, has not made it ininto the  Oscars’ shortlist.This snub has become an annual ritual for us.

I am not surprised about the rejection , though.  Village Rockstars peddles the Great Indian Poverty for  Western  audiences.  For long stretches, nothing happens in this film about an impoverished little girl in Assam who dreams of owning her own guitar.  Inert silences are considered a huge asset in films that glorify the Great Indian Poverty for a certain section of the Western audience which sees India and Indian cinema in two ways: either there is too much singing and dancing or there is too little to eat and to hope for.

Village Rockstars falls into the latter category. It fits in rather snugly with the western audiences’ perception of an impoverished India. A pre-pubescent girl Dhunu (Banita Das) wishes to own a guitar and form a musical band. It isn’t very clear where and how Dhunu’s yearnings sprouted into a veritable passion. Or how and why she wants to play rock music and own a rock band. The aspirational peg gives the debutant director a peg to pan her inquisitive camera across long stretches of silently stirring paddy fields and shots of adolescents running across middle hinterlands.

The film looks and feels like Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali, one of the three Indian films so far which have  been shortlisted  in the  Oscars’ Best Foreign Language  film categoryBut it lacks the vision and lyricism of Ray ‘s exposition on rural poverty.Director  Reema Das seems to use the theme of Indian Poverty as a peg for her aspirational story. The narrative even at a conservative 90 minutes, clocks up a heft of tedium. I couldn’t get myself involved in Dhunu’s story. It wasn’t her fault.Village Rockstars has some quaint heartwarming passages among the village children who want to form a musical band. But by the time Rima Das threw in a flood sequence and a menstruation ritual I knew the director was in this for the long haul. More than her little protagonist’s yearning for a guitar it is the director’s craving to take rural Assam’s destitution to a salivating western audience that propels this overrated film forward.

In 2016  the Marathi film Court directed by Mahesh Tamhane headed to LA for the Oscars after being selected by a jury headed by Amol Palekar, and returned home empty-handed.

Last year the Tamil film Visaranaai was similarly snubbed at the Oscars.

 Ketan Mehta who headed the  jury for the selection  of  India’s official  entry  into the  Oscars  in 2017 says, “We’ve to understand that selection of a film is only a part of the process towards  winning the Oscar. Marketing the film in the US, pitching it to the Oscar jury in Los Angeles is very important.”

Here is where Indian entries get thwarted and expelled from the Oscars race.

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Bollywood News

Roma Is Good , But Not A Great Film

Subhash K . Jha

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B

Roma(Netflix)

Written  &  Directed by  Alfonso Cuaron

Rating; *** ½ (3 and a half stars)

 The critics are going into a collecting swoon over celebrated  Spanish  cine-director Alfonso Cuaron’s  latest  film, an  introspective brooding meditative study of the  place of a house-help in a well-to-do family of Mexico.

I can understand  the Western  critics’  heightened impressiveness . The Faithful Maid is not something they  meet every day. For us in Asian communities  staunchly almost obsessively loyal house-help is not  such a rare  thing. My own  Man Friday has been  with us for 26 years.He will happily give his life for us, just  like Cleo(Yalitza Aparacio, so real she is invisible) in  Roma who, in one of the film’s most moving and edifying sequences, jumps into sinister seawaves to  rescue  two  of the children   of  the family she considers her own.

 Luckily  for Cleo, the family loves her  like one of their own. Curan  portrays  the dynamics  of  the  household  with  immense intuitive warmth. Considerable time at  the start of  the  film is spent constructing Cleo’s  household routine and the unwavering rhythms of her day-to-day life. These  are  so  lovingly detailed and so lingering you wonder where  it is all leading to .

And after a  point  you accept the pointlessness of Cleo’s routine as  being the point.

About 10 minutes  in the beginning  show Cleo washing the home’s driveway floor in the morning, preparing  for the household to wake, serving breakfast etc. Then at the  end  of the  film when a couple of dramatic high points have  given Cleo’s story a cutting edge, she is seen climbing up the stairs  to the  roof to wash clothes. She vanishes  from camera range while we watch patiently as  the end-credits roll by.

Despite its long passages  of selfindulgence, Roma is  a not a boring film. Its exposition on the ennui  of  everyday chores is constantly  kindred  by a sense  of  unstated wisdom and comprehension  of how life’s most mundane  activities give it  a heft in ways we can never describe. The  domestic dynamics are  brilliantly portrayed. Cleo is always  an organic  part of  her employers’ household —witness the  beautiful sequence when the  lady  of the house Sofia(Marina De Tavira) sits Cleo down with her on the sofa and  holds her hand when Cleo tearfully announces  her  pregnancy. 

But the subtle separation  from the family, the class distinction, hovers at the edges  ocassionallly bubbling to the surface.When Sofia in one dramatic moment,screams at Cleo she flinches slightly as though trying  not to show her reaction to a slap.

Roma is  finally  a  film that works for its silences. Long stretches  of  unspoken tranquil harmony  punctured by  bouts of political  violence, give  the narrative  a feeling of  a ruminative symphony.The lengthy sequence in the labour room where  Cleo gives birth to  a still born  baby, haunted me not just for its obvious tragedy but the compassion that the doctors shower on  the traumatized Cleo . Class  differences are all but forgotten.

This  is  Mexico in  the 1970s when hierarchy  must have been supreme. The film circumvents the  prejudices with much pride and  affection . The vintage cars, single-seater theatres and revolutionary student  groups are captured  in the  black-and-white cinematography by director Alfonso Curan himself, with a meticulousness which is hard to  appreciate  on a computer screen or , God forbid, a phone.

What stays with you is  the  protagonist’s selfworth duly preserved by her employers but badly  battered by her  boyfriend who in a bizarre sequence, shows  Cleo his martial arts moves, and a lot more.

Why the full frontal nudity in a film that respects  understatement in almost every frame? Or is this Curan’s way of telling us that aesthetic experiences are wont to be intruded upon by some display of crassness. At that moment the embarrassed Cleo becomes the  cinema aesthete while her naked boyfriend  is  the hedonist who makes or watches  Aquaman.

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