Ae Dil Maange More

‘Pyar Dosti Hai’ – Karan Johar defined love for us in 1998 when he made the blockbuster Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. Almost two decades later, he revisits the theme of friendship, heart break and one sided love with Ae Dil Hai Muskil. Of course, the characters here are more mature and situations more real. Heck! You don’t even see Triumphal Arch or London Eye.

The film starts off very well and Karan builds on the friendship between Ayan (Terrific Ranbir) and Anushka (Brilliant Anushka) beautifully. Ayan is a rich billionaire who is studying MBA (he wants to be a singer though) while Alizeh is recovering from a broken relationship. They bond over cheesy Bollywood songs from the 80’s, dance on Baby Doll in Yoga classes, do a Yash Chopra film song in the mountains and even sing a Hindi Karaoke in a pub in Paris. Basically, they are mad people and you cannot help but enjoy their madness. While these evoke moments of joy, fun and laughter; there are some genuine heartfelt moments between the two protagonists. Alizeh ‘explaining’ Ayan what heartbreak actually feels like (Keeping a mortal-pestle on his heart) as she has experienced one or Ayan & Alizeh wrapped in a quilt on a cold winter night, discussing their relationship where the former expresses his ‘attraction’ to latter but she believes it’s only friendship are pure gems. I was particularly moved when Ayan pleads Alizeh to marry him at her wedding by keeping a flower pot on his chest to demonstrate the pain. This is Johar at his best. He knows how to manipulate with the emotions and he does that unabashedly, making you reach out to your tissues.

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Second half of the film sees a heartbroken Ayan meeting Saba (Gorgeous Aishwarya) who is a shayara. She writes, he sings and their wounded hearts find solace in each other. However, this is not permanent because first love in a Karan Johar film is not easy to forget and though Ayan is physically involved with Saba, he remains emotionally attached to Alizeh. Even though her part comes with clumsy Urdu lines, she does justice to her role and leaves an impact in a short role. Shah Rukh in a cameo does well and when he says ‘Ek Tarfa Pyar Ki Taakat’ line you know no one does this better than him and how you wish he was young once again.

Johar is a master story teller and he is one of the best we have when it comes to portraying the complexity of relationships but post Aishwarya’s exit the film didn’t work for me.

I am a sucker for Karan Johar dramas and I have never been bothered about the length of his films but how I wish this was a bit shorter. Some of the scenes seemed forced making no sense and I was eventually tired of Ayan’s broken heart act. So much that I stopped feeling for Ayan and Alizeh. I was neither moved when Ayan slept for 2 says in freezing cold on a terrace waiting for Alizeh nor did I feel bad when Ayan cries like a child outside her hotel. I was also bothered about excessive use of Urdu because this is not Karan Johar’s forte and this was him trying to be someone else.

Even though she had a blink & miss appearance in Student of the Year, when Farida Jalal dies in the film, I cried a lot. In fact I still drop a tear whenever I watch it. This is the power of Karan Johar. But he seems to have lost that in Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. Even after investing more than 2 hours in the characters, I didn’t cry when one of them dies.

It’s not a bad film at all but the Karan Johar magic is missing. May be he should get back to doing what he does best and stop being so real. Meanwhile, I shall probably revisit Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna which remains my favorite Johar film 🙂

 

 

Misplaced Nationalism

Main nahin kehta ki deewar gira di jaa sakti hai par kyun na ek do eentein khiska di jaayein, taank jhaank ho’

Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, said this in a function held for Pakistani poet Hafeez Jullundhri in Delhi. The entire crowd including Hafeez who wrote the National anthem of Pakistan was moved. What’s interesting is that this was said by one of the tallest leaders of the Indian right and what’s even more interesting is that he would have been abused and called an anti-national had he said this today.

Karan Johar’s Ae Dil Hai Mushkil is making a lot of noise of late. While many like me are appreciating the music, the excellent chemistry between Ranbir-Aishwarya and eagerly looking forward to the film, there is another lot which is demanding a boycott/ban of the film and the regional party of Maharashtra, MNS is threatening to break the multiplexes if it is released (As I write this, there has been a truce). The reason being a ‘cameo’ by Fawad Khan in the film who is a Pakistani and this comes under the wake of Uri attack by Pakistan where more than 17 Indian soldiers were martyred.

There has been a lot of debate going on and I have had heated discussions on Twitter and Facebook where many support the boycott/ban while many agree with me and are against the same. People are now giving certificates of patriotism and nationalism depending upon which side you are on. I have serious ideological issues with this and I couldn’t help but write this post.

Silence doesn’t mean we don’t love our soldiers

I read a dramatic post recently, where the author argued that Bollywood had remained silent on the Uri attacks. I was frankly quite amused when I read this argument. Terrorism is one of the gravest issues that we face as human beings and we often read about our soldiers getting martyred in sensitive areas like Kashmir and the North East. We also read about the riots that happen in various parts of the country and there is never a day when we don’t read about rape of girls. Precisely, there is a lot of wrong that’s happening around us. But when did it become a norm that we HAVE to tweet or talk about it to earn our certificate of patriotism and if we don’t then it means we don’t love our country and army? A quick introspection would tell us that we haven’t criticized or condemned every attack that took away the life of our soldiers but that does NOT mean we don’t care for them or are not patriotic enough. The same people sometime back argued that the PM cannot speak on all issues (Dadri or Gau Rakshaks) but that doesn’t mean he approves them. How times change! Every Indian irrespective of the political ideology, feels bad at the sight of dead bodies of soldiers wrapped in tricolor and every Indian acknowledges the immense contribution and sacrifice they make to keep us safe. No one, I repeat, no one should question that. We all love India. PERIOD!

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Banning Pak Artists is silly!

Many jingoists have made the argument of ‘economic isolation’ while trying to justify the banning of Pak artists but as they make this argument, India continues its exports and imports with Pak and the Indian businesses continue to trade with Pakistan. India has neither sent back the Pak High Commissioner and nor has it called its Commissioner back. So, why should only artists bear the brunt? As artists rightly say, they are easier targets. I would have happily supported the ban if it helped us in controlling terrorism but we all know that this makes absolutely NO difference. More so, when trade and commerce is going on as usual! I also cannot fathom what on earth means keeping ‘India first’. Because if a Pakistani actor acts in a film, your country becomes second? Who peddles this non sense?

A boycott/ban will hurt Indians     

Though people have made noises about banning the film, thankfully there hasn’t been a ban on the film and while boycotting a film is well within the rights of every individual and everyone is free to do it but it makes little sense. Barring an actor or two from Pakistan, majority of the cast & crew of the film is Indian. If the film doesn’t do well because of the boycott then it affects only Indians who have put in their heart, soul and money in the film. The producers, exhibitors, studio all lose money because of this. Why would any ‘patriotic’ Indian want to do this to fellow Indians? The movie is backed by Fox Star which is a joint venture between 20th century Fox and Star. At a time, when our government is trying to get foreign investments what message do we want to convey to a studio like 20th Century Fox who is investing in India and other potential investors? Doesn’t this hurt the country?

Karan Johar is not a hypocrite

I was deeply disappointed when Karan Johar came up with that video justifying his patriotism and saluting the armed forces. No one should be asked to prove his patriotism and it’s a pity that he had to do so. People who till now had been asking for him to speak up brushed this aside as drama but they were happy that they had ‘won’. As someone who has crores riding on a film and with goons threatening to stop the release of your film, what other option you have but to bow down? It’s easy to sound idealistic and say that he shouldn’t have done this but practically speaking, maybe I would have done that too. When you know that the state cannot protect you, what other option you have? And yes, he is a businessman at the end and he has to save his film!

Banana republic

The Chief Minister of Maharashtra recently arranged a meeting between Karan and MNS. It was agreed that producers will not cast any actor from Pakistan in future, producers who already have Pak actors in their films will pay 5 crores to Army Welfare Fund and Karan Johar will have a disclaimer before the film that pays homage to the martyrs of Uri. More than angry one feels sad about the state of affairs in this country and it sets a dangerous precedent. Tomorrow, any Tom, Dick and Harry under the garb of nationalism will threaten anyone and will even get away with the non-sense because it’s a new fad now. It is still not a crime to work with Pak actors in India. MHA has not denied visas or issued any advisory that prohibits anyone to work with them. MNS with zero authority in the state of Maharashtra acts like a Goonda extorting money from the producers and what’s pathetic is that the producers association even agrees to this crap. Running a disclaimer before the film honoring the martyrs is also good but I have a problem here because this is FORCED nationalism. Why on earth should anyone be doing this? I am no expert here but I believe that this could have been totally avoided had government taken a strict stand.

I strongly believe that people should be free to work with anyone they want to work with and ADHM and all other films which have Pakistani artists should be released peacefully. But this doesn’t make me any less Indian than the hyper nationalists and it’s high time we stop this stupidity.

India is one of the world’s largest democracy. This was achieved after a lot of sacrifice and our freedom fighters have laid their lives to ensure that we live in a ‘free country’. Though we are not a perfect country when it comes to freedom of speech and expression but we are in a much better space when we compare ourselves to China, Pakistan, Korea and many other countries where the rights are hampered. We should value the freedom that the architects of this nation gave us and we should strive to strengthen them with each passing day.

What better way to end the post by quoting Tagore:

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;

Where knowledge is free

Where the world has not been broken up into fragments

By narrow domestic walls

Where words come out from the depth of truth;

Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;

Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way

Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;

Where the mind is led forward by thee

Into ever-widening thought and action;

Into that heaven of freedom, My Father, let my country awake

On that note, #BoycottADHM #BanADHM #ADHMFDFS

How I met THE Shabana Azmi

I am an unabashed and insane fan of Shabana Azmi. The first film of hers that I saw was Vishal Bhardwaj’s Makdee and the 14 year old me had loved the film; especially her character of witch. However, it was her movie Arth that made me notice the brilliance of ‘actor’ Shabana Azmi and since then there has been no looking back. I have revisited almost all her films right from her debut film Ankur (which till date remains one of my favorite Shabana Azmi films) and I can safely say that she is one of the finest actors that Indian cinema has seen.

So while I was exploring twitter sometime in 2010, one fine day, I saw Shabana Azmi’s handle (@AzmiShabana) on my timeline. Back then it was not verified and I have had my fair share of instances where I had got myself into some intense discussions with people (Democracy with Arundhati Roy) only to realize later that they were imposters or parody accounts. So, my first tweet to her was actually a question asking ‘Hello, Is that really you?’ I managed to get a reply from her and since quite a few celebrities were following her I was assured about the authenticity part. Icing on the cake was that she started following me (I have no idea even now why she did so because I was just one of the many fans she has). Initially, I used to think she pressed the follow button by mistake and I used to visit her twitter page regularly for months to ‘check’ if she is still following me (Back then there was no ‘Follows You’ feature). And that was the beginning of my beautiful virtual relationship with one of the finest actors of the Indian cinema.

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Pehli Mulaqat:

My first meeting with her was quite filmy actually. In 2011, I got a Direct Message from Shabana Ma’am that she was coming to Bangalore with her play ‘Broken Images’ for Standard Chartered Bank at ITC Gardenia and asked if I would like to come. I nearly jumped out of my bed and I of course said yes. The super excited me was about 1 hour before schedule and I was supposed to meet ‘Richa’ with whom she had left a message. When I enquired, the folks said they don’t know anyone by the name Richa. My heart sank. I ran from pillar to post but nothing came out of it. I did not have the contact details so I was writing tweets continuously in the hope she will read it but I got no reply. I had lost all hopes and I thought may be she forgot to leave a message.  I kept praying to God. Thankfully, she hadn’t forgotten. Richa came just before the show and made sure I got a seat in the front. After the play (which was fantastic), I waited to meet her. I touched her feet and she said ‘Jeete Raho’ and she introduced me as her ‘Twitter Friend’ to the people standing out there. She said I was an ‘Encyclopedia’ and whatever information she needs, I tweet about it immediately. I was literally shivering, when I took out the CD of her film Mandi (My favorite Shabana Azmi film) and asked for her autograph. I was a college student back then and with whatever pocket money I used to get, I managed to get a Photo-frame and few chocolates for her as a gift. Those 5 minutes were one of the most special moments and in all this I forgot to even take a photograph! Sigh!

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Autographed CD of Mandi

Dusri Mulaqat aur Photograph:

I had to wait for 4 years to get that photograph. In 2015, she came to Hyderabad where I was working now for an event organized by COVA. There was a discussion on ‘Role of Women in Films’ and I was seated in the front. After the session, when the Q&A session started, Shabana Ma’am announced that ‘Rahul Sharma will ask the first question’. Everyone in the auditorium turned to me and I quite felt like a celebrity.  After the session, I met her and gifted her two books (One was by Amartya Sen whom she greatly admires). I took a photograph and I was planning to leave but she said ‘Jao, plate le kar aao’ and have dinner with me. I was on cloud nine. I rushed and came back but I was little interested in the food. She introduced me to some of her family members also.  We discussed a lot of things from politics to society. She asked me my views on GST Bill, MNREGA etc. Once we were done, I realized that I don’t really look good in the picture I had taken. I requested Ma’am for another photograph and she happily obliged.

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The books I gifted

Tohfa Tohfa, Aaya Aaya

I have often tweeted about my love for Shah Rukh Khan and except the man, the whole world knows that I am his ‘Jabra’ fan. One fine day, I got a Direct Message from Shabana Ma’am asking me to share my address so that she can send a gift. It took me some time to believe and I read it twice but here it was – A five time National Award winner and a Padma Bhushan asking the address of a fan so that she can send across a gift. I shared the address and what I got touched me. I got a special edition of the book ‘Aditya Chopra relives DDLJ’ which was released when the film had completed 1000 weeks of running. The book was sent by Aditya Chopra to her and knowing that I am a fan of the actor and this film in particular, she sent me the book. The SMS (By now she had shared her number) which she sent made me feel on top of the world.

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Recently, Shabana Ma’am sent me another book on Veer Zaara with a hand written message. I need not mention that this makes me feel very special.

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Agree to Disagree

What’s interesting is that we both don’t really agree on politics and share the same ideology. She is an Amartya Sen fan, I am not. She is not really a Narendra Modi fan, I am. She believes in socialism, I don’t. I am a rightist while she leans towards the left. We often share articles/WhatsApp messages on these. But this has never affected our interactions and we agree to disagree on these.

I have often wondered why anyone of her stature would do all this for someone like me who is just a fan of hers? Why does she take so much efforts to send me gifts? Why did she invite me to have dinner with her when she could have just said a Good Bye post the event in Hyderabad? Why does she make it a point to write a Happy Birthday tweet to me which is just 4 days before hers (though I sometimes remind her a couple of days before)? Why did she share her personal mobile number with a stranger like me? And most importantly, why did she follow me on twitter? Guess, some of us are just born lucky!

And twitter, you beauty! If you were not there, all this wouldn’t have been possible!

Raise a toast, to Margarita!

Margarita with a straw opens up with Revathy driving a Matador on the streets of Delhi with her husband sitting beside her. Her daughter Laila (Kalki Koechlin) is confined to a wheel chair because of cerebral palsy and is bisexual. Shonali Bose gives us two women who have been unheard and unseen of in our Indian films.

The film through its protagonist Laila talks about the sexual desires of the disabled (I hate the word differently-abled). Like everyone else, they also have feelings and it is actually quite “normal” that they desire someone. So, Laila has a crush on one of the boys in her college, she watches porn, openly lusts and also masturbates. She is a free-spirited girl who has not let her condition define her. She is an uninhibited soul who shows middle finger to a judge in a music competition because she awarded Laila due to the sympathy factor. The film effortlessly talks about Laila’s journey of self-discovery, her endeavour to come to terms with her bisexuality and her angst in ‘coming out’ to her mother. Shonali Bose is unafraid of showing sex between Laila and Khanum (Superb Sayani Gupta) & she does it beautifully without any titillation.

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However, the heart of Margarita with a Straw is the relationship which Laila shares with her Aai (Revathy). Aai’s relationship is filled with warmth, love and understanding. She teaches Laila music, bathes her, combs her hair, helps her put on the clothes, approves her decision to go abroad and study even though her husband opposes and like every mother she is frustrated when she finds out her daughter watches porn and is bisexual. Revathy is absolutely brilliant and spontaneous in her role that we all can see our mother in her.

Director Shonali Bose lost her son few years back and she has often talked about it on her Facebook page and one can feel the personal loss in the film when Laila loses her mother. The death of Aai is one of the most poignant and heart warming scenes which I have seen in a film of late. Watch out for the scene when Laila sits next to her Aai’s dead body with her poem playing in the background. I sobbed, I cried and I howled.

As the film ended, I wasn’t feeling pity or sympathetic for Laila and that is exactly what Shonali Bose wanted from us. She doesn’t create a martyr out of Laila. She is like one of us with flaws. Kalki Koechlin literally breathes the character of Laila. From movements to speech; she gets it all correct. This is undoubtedly her best performance till date and probably the strongest by any female actor in recent times. There are very few film which have heart at the right place; this is definitely one of those. Dear Shonali Bose, take a bow!

1000 Weeks of DDLJ: Come Fall in Love!

I was in Standard Fourth when Aditya Chopra’s ‘Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaenge’ had released. Most of my cousins and friends in the school had seen it and they couldn’t stop raving about it. I remember coaxing and nagging my father (who isn’t a movie enthusiast) for the tickets and he obliged after a couple of weeks. Those days we didn’t have any vehicle, so mounting on a cycle-rickshaw with me sitting on my mother’s lap in the chilling winters of Jaipur we went to ‘Rajmandir’ for the night show. I saw the film again in Bombay with my cousins in the 1996 summer vacations. I saw it yet again in 2006 in Noida when the multiplexes re-released it for some reason. And I see it again every time it is aired on the television. Such was the euphoria of the film that more than our school lessons we grew up by hearting the famous dialogues from the film and even today we have this silly competition of ‘Who remembers the exact dialogues before the actors in the film speak’ every time it is played on the cable.

Most love stories made in those times often saw the hero & heroine defying their parents and running away, either to get married or to get killed by the parents. DDLJ came with a breath of fresh air where neither the lovers fought against the entire world nor did they succumb to the bullets in slow motion; here the lovers submitted to the older generations’ authority and made a strong moral case which they eventually won!  DDLJ was also the ‘coolest’ ever film to be made and that too at a time when India was at the cusp of globalization and liberalization. From Shah Rukh’s leather jackets to Kajol’s halter neck gowns; from Tang to Strauh’s beer; from Yamaha bike to bullet trains – everything about the film was trendy and cool.

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The brilliance of DDLJ lies in the fact that it blended tradition with modernity till one could hardly distinguish between the two. Here, we had a wife who fasts for her husband on Karwa Chauth (traditional) but she is also a mother who is strong (modern?) enough to go against her husband’s diktat and ask her daughter to elope. We had a Simran who is engaged but she dares and falls in love with someone on a trip (modern); however, the thought that she had sex with him freaks her out (traditional?). We also had the lover boy Raj who falls in love with Simran but is not game towards the idea of eloping without the blessings of his lover’s parents (traditional). The film depicts this battle between the past and the present, and between individual desire and societal customs. Hence, I respectfully disagree with folks who argue that the film was ‘regressive’.

One of the many reasons I love the film is because of the old world charm it has. Had it been made today, Raj & Simran would have had sex the moment Simran knocked off after sipping Cognac. But, here we had a couple who never even say the ‘3 magical words’ to each other but love each other unabashedly and passionately. In fact, Raj & Simran singing ‘Tujhe Dekha Toh’ in mustard field is greater than an bloody sex scene in movies. Aah! The magic of Shah Rukh and Kajol who became the eternally romantic onscreen couple after this and even today there is no one who can match their chemistry both on screen and off screen.

I wouldn’t be wrong if I say that it taught an entire generation to fall in love. Shah Rukh of course made it difficult for boys like us as every girl expected us to be ‘Raj’. However, it gave us hope.  If a girl in college made an eye-contact with us then we all would turn to God and say ‘Palat’ because if she did then it somewhere meant that she liked us. We all wanted to impress the mothers just like Raj helped Simran’s mother because it clearly meant that half your battle is won. “What if you have fallen in love, with someone like me?” The hypothetical situation was many times enacted whenever we wanted to test our chances with someone. Oh! And how can I forget keeping ‘Karwa Chauth’ fast just like Raj did for Simran?

DDLJ is a film which has heart at the right place. Even after watching the film umpteenth number of times, I still can’t hold my tears when Farida Jalal talks about the sacrifices of women with her daughter and I can’t stop smilling when Simran finally hold Raj’s hand and boards the train.

DDLJ is the bible of onscreen romance in films. It is like an old wine whose taste has only become better with each passing year. 1000 weeks? Give me 1000 more!

My favorite moments from the film:

In defense of Haider

There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so” — Hamlet, Act II, Scene II

Vishal Bhardwaj’s Haider has been in news for more than one reason. On one hand people (like me) are talking about the brilliance of the film, the excellent screenplay, the soothing music and the powerful performances. But, on the other hand there are voices of dissent calling for a ‘Boycott’ of Haider claiming the film is anti India and disrespects the army.

With my leanings towards the right and being a staunch supporter of the Indian Army I expected to be offended when I entered the movie hall but surprisingly I wasn’t.  On the contrary I loved it. However, I was not very convinced of the criticism thrown at Haider; so I decided to pen my thoughts on the film. I am neither a film critic nor an expert on Kashmir; but I love films. So, let’s call this a piece in defense of the ‘film’.

Haider

It tells only one aspect of the Kashmir problem

First things first, Haider is NOT a documentary on Kashmir & its problems. It is a film on Shakespeare’s Hamlet and that’s about it! Yes, the backdrop is Kashmir. Now, there are several narratives to the story of Kashmir. There is a Kashmiri Pandit perspective, another is a Kashmiri Muslim one and last but not the least the army perspective. However, what is common in all the three is the suffering, pain and loss. Haider chooses to tell one of them.  So, what is the problem in that?

Director Onir’s 2011 film ‘I am’ had a short story on Kashmir where a Kashmiri Pandit (Juhi Chawla) returns to the valley to sell her ancestral home. Though the film never made any sweeping political statement but it did put the story of Kashmiri Pandits on-screen. The character was loosely inspired from actor Sanjay Suri’s mother who lost her husband in the insurgency of 1990. Similarly, Ashoke Pandits’ 2004 film ‘Sheen’ was based on a Kashmiri Pandit family and their exodus. Interestingly, no body accused Onir and Ashoke Pandit of putting their ‘agenda’ on screen and ignoring the plight of civilians and telling a one-sided story. I doubt if most even know about these films.

It is anti-India and anti-Indian Army.

Now, we all would be stupid to believe that our Kashmiri brothers love India and take as much pride in saying ‘Jai Hind’ as we do.  Also, we would be naive if we deny the fact that Army crackdowns and interrogations never happened (Happens?) or that there were no detention centers or that there are no half-widows .

The infamous ‘Papa II’ (Mama II in the film) detention centre was our very own Guantanamo Bay. I read about it few years back in Basharat Peer’s book and it made the ‘Indian’ in me uncomfortable. Of course these centres were supposed to detain ‘militants’ but on more than one occasion they detained ‘suspected’ militants (read civilians) and they were subjected to third degree torture. Those who did not die or mysteriously ‘disappeared’ and were lucky to come out alive have narrated harrowing tales – electric shocks to their genitals, being thrashed naked with bamboo sticks, their nails being pulled out and much more. Today, Papa II is the  official residence of Mufti Muhammad Sayeed and his daughter Mehbooba Mufti of PDP, another detention centre ‘Cargo’ serves as a cyber police station while ‘Harinawas’ is converted to a guesthouse.

One of the most powerful scenes in the film is the one involving gravediggers. The song ‘Aao Na’ playing in the background matches the tempo set by gravedigger’s shovel sends shivers down the spine. As a matter of fact, the ‘real’ is not very different from ‘reel’. Mass graves of disappeared people were found in the valley years ago and till date it’s a blot on India. According to the Human Rights Report 2,900 unmarked bodies were found and unlike the claims by Army; not all were militants.

Barkha Dutt did an excellent story on the ‘half-widows’ of the valley. Many of the Kashmir’s missing people are believed to have been killed in custody. Official estimates put the number at more than a thousand. Unofficial estimates say the number could be three times higher! Watch it here Half Widows

It ignores the plight of Kashmiri Pandits

Hell No! The exodus was unfortunate and it’s a shame that Indians are living like refugees in their own country. But, the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits happened way back in 1989-90 whereas the film is set in 1995. How can they be a part of a film which is set in a different time period? Just because the film doesn’t talk about one issue; doesn’t mean that the makers approve of the killings of Pandits. Moreover, even if Vishal has ignored it as some are saying, then it is HIS CHOICE! Why not make a film and counter Haider.

Haider is one of the finest films to have come out this year. It is also one of the most political film to be made with Kashmir as its backdrop. Beyond the beauty of Dal Lake, Chinar & Gulmarg; there is more to Kashmir and Haider shows you that. It is disturbing but a must watch; if not for the politics, then for the brilliant cinema!

 

Shabana Azmi @ 40 : 4 Favorite Performances

As a self-confessed Shabana Azmi devotee; it’s next to impossible to pick up 4 best performances from her body of work because she is just brilliant in every film. However, as she completes 40 years in the Indian film industry, I share four characters/performances which I loved the most.

1. Ankur

Shyam Benegal’s Ankur is one of my favorite films of all times. Interestingly, this was the first film of Shyam Benegal and Shabana Azmi who created the path for parallel or off-beat cinema as it is called now. Based on a true story, Ankur is a film that mirrors the brutal feudal system which prevailed in India and the evil social customs that had (still have) chained India. The beauty of Ankur is that it addresses various social issues from alcoholism and casteism to inequality and dowry; yet it is more about the underlying human relationships.

However, if I have to pick one reason as to why I love this film then it is because of Shabana Azmi who shines in the character of Lakshmi. She excels as a coy yet strong house servant who submits to her master who is attracted to her. We don’t know whether Lakshmi also loved her master or approved of the affair or whether she used him to get the child she had been yearning for. Her eyes speak of the emotions which churn within her. Ankur is truly class apart!

 

2. Mandi

Another Benegal film and it is probably one of the most enjoyable characters played by Shabana Azmi on-screen. At an age of 33, Shabana played the character of ‘Rukmini’ who was a woman much ahead of her years and she delivered an incredibe performance. I remember Shabana Azmi sharing in an interview that how she had to put on weight & chew paan continuously to look the part.   leads the film as Rukmini, the domineering but caring madame of the house. Her unusually loud tone with the ‘Hyderabadi’ accent and crudely unrefined mannerisms are brilliantly done, and it’s great to see her switching moods from angry to happy to suffering to motherly and loving. This is one of her most amazing performances.

 

3. Morning Raga

This happens to be one of the most challenging roles played by Shabana Azmi her career and unfortunately this remains her most under-rated performance. Playing a Carnatic singer is no mean feat but Shabana Azmi gets into the skin of the character and excels. She had undergone a great deal of training for this part in order to understand how Carnatic singers sing, their body language and mannerisms when they sing. She did not sing the songs but the lip-sync is done exceptionally well that one seldom realizes that someone else is singing.

 

4. Godmother

Godmother was stated to be inspired by the life of Santokben Jadeja,  who ran the Mafia operations in Gujarat in the late 1980s and later turned politician. Shabana Azmi got her fifth national award for the portrayal of ‘Rambhi’. Right from the accent to the body language, she gets it all correct. Shabana Azmi essays the ruthless confidence with great elan. I would be at a shortage of adjectives if I start writing about how much I loved her in the film.