Archive for Hindi

Qalandar Reviews MANMARZIYAN (Hindi; 2018)

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 16, 2018 by Qalandar

This review contains spoilers.

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Manmarziyan opens with a shot of the Golden Temple, the sort of thing that in recent times has been one of the lazier clichés in Hindi cinema: if Sikhs are involved (and sometimes even when they aren’t), Amritsar’s sacred shrine is a given.  However, the vantage point here is a bit different, enabling the viewer to take in not only the iconic building, but also an incongruous neon sign perched on top.  One is almost tempted to say it doesn’t belong, except that in India, it sort of does.

That opening shot, if re-visited after the end credits have rolled, tells you a lot about director Anurag Kashyap’s aims in taking up one of the most hackneyed Bolly-genres of all – The Love Triangle – and in trying to give it his own twist.  That is, Kashyap scrupulously adheres to the genre’s conventions in several respects Continue reading

How Pa Ranjith’s Kaala changes the way we imagine the city (THE CARAVAN)

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 28, 2018 by Qalandar

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Sadly, I still haven’t seen Kaala but it is definitely on the list!  — qalandar

Excerpt: “Across India, the dominant story of any megacity is untouched by the stories of the marginalised communities that live there. You could be a Pardhi tribal living in and around the same street corner in Mumbai for the last three generations, but your story would always be of the “migrant in the city” or “the homeless in the city”; it would never be the story of the city. This is precisely what makes the Tamil film-director Pa Ranjith’s films path-breaking. When Ranjith tells the stories of Vyasarpadi or Dharavi—auto-constructed neighbourhoods laden with histories of oppressed castes—he is insisting they are the stories of Chennai and Mumbai. Drawing from legendary anti-caste thinkers, Ranjith is moving us towards a greater understanding of a new third-world urbanism.

Ranjith’s first film to buck the trend in urban portrayals was 2014’s Madras, a film about a rivalry between two political parties in Vyasarpadi. …  In this, Ranjith’s ancestor seems to be the American writer James Baldwin, who wrote in his Notes of a Native Son: “The story of the Negro in America is the story of America. Kaala does for Mumbai what Madras did for Chennai. Ranjith gives us a quintessential Mumbai film, except through the eyes of a lower-caste Tamil basti in Dharavi fighting to keep its land, which is under the threat of seizure from a politician. …”

Read the complete piece HERE

Veere di Wedding trailers (updated)

Posted in the bad with tags , , , , , , on May 28, 2018 by Qalandar

thanks to Sanjana…


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Qalandar Reviews PHILLAURI (Hindi; 2017)

Posted in Refugee with tags , , , , , , , , on April 4, 2017 by Qalandar

There is a certain magic to Phillauri, Anshai Lal’s directorial debut for actress-producer Anushka Sharma, and it isn’t because of the supernatural element (Sharma plays Shashi, the ghost of a woman from 1919 who haunts nervous Kanan (Suraj Sharma), on the verge of his wedding to Anu (Mehreen Peerzada) a century later in the same village).  It’s because the old-fashioned virtues of focused storytelling, memorable characterization, strong casting, and above all fresh dialogues and lyrics by Anvita Dutt, elevate what could so easily have been the hackneyed Punjabi love story of Shashi and Roop Lal (Diljit Dosanjh), making of it a story about two individuals, not mere instances of the Bollywood hero and heroine, and in a particular time and place, the Jalandhar village of Phillauri on the verge of the Indian national movement.

Unusually for Hindi films, both members of the pair (not just the male half) are imbued with strong personalities, and this isn’t accidental.  A gentle current of feminism runs through the film, brought to mind by an initial effacement: Continue reading

Why I Have Nothing to Say on Dangal

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 18, 2017 by Qalandar

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I more than enjoyed Dangal: it was fantastically well-made, uniformly well-acted, and pulled off the difficult feat of making wrestling interesting, even deeply engrossing – that’s creditable, when you consider that most sports movies rely on the built-in appeal of sports that are already popular, with great cultural resonance. Heck, to even make a sports film – i.e. a film in one of the most hackneyed genres – half decent, let alone excellent, is pretty darn impressive.

And yet, when I (more than once, and over a period of a few months) sat down to write a review of Dangal, I found I had nothing to say. Which might make this piece nothing more than a narcissistic exercise in my writer’s block, but I’d like to believe there’s more going on here. The “nothing” is symptomatic of a wider issue, namely that Dangal is a very impressive film – just not a very interesting one. Continue reading

The Saddest Song of Them All

Posted in Refugee with tags , , , on June 5, 2016 by Qalandar

This might be the single best piece I have read on Hindi film music; thanks to agyaat and @joycarpediem for sharing (and, I hope Salim is online and sees this post!) — Qalandar

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Excerpt 1: “In Hindi film music, there is too much artifice to arouse pathos: techniques of dramatisation and sentimentality are used to cajole the listener’s sensibility. The problem with Madan Mohan’s ‘Rasm-e-Ulfat’ is that the song hurries the poetry, and Lata Mangeshkar makes it too melodious. In fact, melody is the central problem in Hindi film music; it cushions the effect of sadness, and makes it consumable. A similar problem afflicts a host of Lata songs, from ‘Betab Dil Ki Tamanna’ to ‘Na Koi Umang Hai’ from Kati Patang There is more elegance in songs like ‘Haal-e-dil Yun Unhe Sunaya Gaya’ and ‘Woh Chup Rahe To’, both from Jahan Ara. A gentle air of melancholy pervades ‘Pal Bhar Mein Yeh Kya Ho Gaya’…”

Excerpt 2: “Talat Mahmood and Kishore Kumar are the exact opposite of Rafi and Dey. Talat’s quivering voice is the epitome of sadness. In ‘Phir Wohi Shaam Wohi Gham’ or ‘Zindagi Dene Waale Sun’, he is more involved in the sadness than the singing. But melody chases his despair to prevent him from losing himself completely, and keeps him measured and poised. About Kishore, Zakir Hussain once said the most striking thing ever: When you hear him, you feel as if he is singing for you and you alone. Kishore, perhaps more brilliantly than others, manages to individualise the feeling of pathos, creating an intense, private relationship between himself and the listener. Though he mastered all moods, it is in songs like ‘Badi Sooni, Sooni Hai’, from Mili, or ‘Panthi Hoon Main’ that you find him, completely himself, thoroughly involved in mapping the contours of sadness.”

the BOmbay report (2016): 15th Jan–21st Jan

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 21, 2016 by abzee

It is week 3 of a Box-Office experiment that attempts to understand Box-Office beyond the numbers, and hopes to arrive at the less tangible, but perhaps more genuine, indicator of how well-liked and well-received any film is/was.

We will be taking into account all the screens in the Mumbai region, inclusive of Navi Mumbai, Thane and Kalyan-Dombivali as well. The films will be assigned points based on an algorithm that takes into account parameters such as- a) how many screens did the film open on; b) the capacities of these screens; c) the occupancy in comparison to the capacity; d) daily sustenance/growth/drop in the occupancy; e) change in the number of screens in successive weeks; f) change in capacities; g) occupancy in relation to changed number of days and screens; h) occupancy in relation to newer and existing releases; and so on.

These points, the Audience Interest Index (AII), encapsulate buzz, desire to watch translating to actual occupancy and finally acceptability… and that most prestigious of all goals- trending.

 

Top Ten Films In Mumbai (15th January 2016 – 21st January 2016) 

A staggering 28 films released in Mumbai this week, of which those in the Marathi language numbered the most with 5 releases, while there were 4 releases each in English, Hindi and Tamil. Of the English releases, The Hateful Eight also released on IMAX screens. Wazir, which had released last week, also expanded to IMAX in its second week. Bhojpuri and Telugu had 3 releases a piece.

With 13 films ending their run, the total number of films playing at the cinemas this week was 44! If you count Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge which resumed screening at Maratha Mandir this week, that number is 45.

More films did not mean more viewers however. The overall AII for this week is 89.69 compared to last week’s 133.62, a drop of 32.87%. With lesser viewers and an incredible amount of new releases, Wazir still remained the number one choice, even if the number was low. In fact many films operated in the middle range this week, so much so that this week’s 15th ranked film has earned twice as many AII points than last week’s number 10 film.

Honourable mentions then to the Tamil film Rajini Murugan and the Telugu release Nannaku Prematho as both put up impressive AII numbers despite not making it to the top ten.

Rajini Murugan performed the best of all the Tamil releases with 105 AII points, while the Telugu language Nannaku Prematho did even better with 119 AII points. Continue reading

Qalandar on BAJIRAO MASTANI (Hindi; 2015)

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 29, 2015 by Qalandar

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There are really two films in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Bajirao Mastani: Continue reading

NYT: ‘Masaan’ and Other Indian Films Steer Away From Bollywood Escapism

Posted in Refugee with tags , , , , , , on September 21, 2015 by Qalandar

Not a huge fan of this sort of piece, with its neat (perhaps even imaginary) “before/after” dichotomy, and its lack of any nuance in writing about popular cinema (not to mention the pretty explicit, and inaccurate, classist assumption that the upwardly mobile are leading this revolution; or the notion that being “in tune with the movements and language of global cinema” is the only respectable way — that way lies the illusion that we are telling new stories, about different people, but unfortunately the stories are increasingly being told in the same way the world over), but hey, can’t NOT post this 🙂  — Qalandar

EXCERPT: “At the Cannes Film Festival this year, “Masaan” won the Fipresci Prize, awarded by international critics, and the Promising Future Prize in the Un Certain Regard section, becoming the first Indian movie to receive two awards at Cannes since the Oscar-nominated “Salaam Bombay” in 1988. “Masaan” is the surest sign yet that a fresh crop of filmmakers is ushering Indian movies in a new direction in tune with the movements and language of global cinema.”

Read the complete piece HERE.

Irrfan & AIB Destroy B’Wood Party Songs…Forever

Posted in Refugee with tags , , , , , on August 4, 2015 by Qalandar

[Agyaat, you made my day.  “Kyunki, yeh gaana hai / censors will let it go” — Qalandar]

 

Rajeev Masand Interview with Rajamouli & Johar

Posted in Refugee with tags , , , , , , on August 2, 2015 by Qalandar

[Thanks to agyaat for pointing me to this interview.  I think it’s especially interesting because it pre-dates the film’s release — Qalandar]

 

Qalandar Reviews BAAHUBALI (Telugu/Tamil; Hindi (dubbed); 2015)

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 30, 2015 by Qalandar

EXCERPT: “What makes Baahubali striking is precisely this “world-making”, director S.S. Rajamouli’s ability to imagine the particulars of every scene to such a degree that this make-believe world becomes real for the audience, even plausible.  Plenty of other filmmakers can focus on the battle scenes and grand sets, but absent this eye for the little, it can all seem a bit lifeless … In Baahubali, this eye is seen everywhere: think of the bales of straw the castle’s defenders use to try and prevent Sivudu from riding out of Mahishmati’s capital on a chariot; or of the hollow (wooden?) tube the hero uses to hold the green snake he’s going to release on Avantika while she’s taking aim atop a tree … or the way in which Mahishmati’s rulers discuss the battle plan in the film’s second half.  At every step, Rajamouli and writer Vijayendra Prasad seem to have thought long and hard about how such a world might work if it existed — and because they have done so, that world comes alive for us.  Compared to Baahubali, even the best of Bollywood’s grand fables –think Lagaan — seem airbrushed, most historicals superficial in the face of its thoroughness — Jodha-Akbar comes to mind, or Asoka — and the less said about wannabe fantasies (like Krrish) the better.  In this it is inspired by the best of contemporary American TV (and, much like Game of Thrones, ends with a sensational cliffhanger). Walking out of the cinema after the film I had a stupid grin on my face, the sort that meant: This too is possible.”

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Qalandar Reviews MASAAN (Hindi; 2015)

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 26, 2015 by Qalandar


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By the end, Masaan (“Cremation Ground”) was very different from the film I thought I was watching after the first fifteen minutes: the opening sequence, involving a sexual encounter violated and sullied by policemen intent on cruelty and extortion, is one of the most riveting, and nauseating, representations of the police in years (only the sequence in Anurag Kashyap’s Ugly (2014), where the father of a missing girl tries to register a missing person-complaint, comes close). I was filled with loathing, and wanted to hurt someone. That feeling stayed with me – Bhagwan Tiwari as Inspector Mishra has an important and continuing role over the course of the film – but Masaan turned out to be about something other than misogyny or the workings of a corrupt and oppressive state machine. What that something is I’m not quite sure, but in its moodiness, its air of mystery, its poetry, I am confident Masaan heralds the arrival of an exciting, reflective new directorial talent in Neeraj Ghaywan. To the extent Vikramaditya Motwane’s Udaan (2010) may be said to have spawned successors, Masaan is among the worthies. Continue reading

Qalandar on BAJRANGI BHAIJAAN (Hindi; 2015)

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 25, 2015 by Qalandar


Excerpt: “Everyone deserves a second chance, and in retrospect, Ek Tha Tiger was the appetizer to the main course that is Bajrangi Bhaijaan: and a damn good meal it is (and, it must be noted, one not without some Andhra spice, written as it is by K. Vijayendra Prasad, a man credited with more blockbusters – including the continuing phenomenon of Baahubali — than most have hits). By now everyone knows the plot — good-hearted Hanuman bhakt Pawan Kumar Chaturvedi finds a mute Pakistani girl lost in India, and resolves to cross the border to re-unite her with her family — but let’s pause to acknowledge that this itself is a welcome relief from the nauseating flood of routine love stories packaged as something different; or the clothes, fashion, and lifestyle ads that masquerade as films in Bollywood. And then there is the question of the social milieu the film is set in: I found myself rooting for the fact that this film isn’t populated by people toting D&G and acting as if progressive cinema consisted of ripping off off-beat American filmmakers, rather than plagiarizing other sources. In Bajrangi Bhaijaan, people take the bus, eat at dhabas, drink tea from roadside stalls, not because the director is trying to tell us something (in far too many contemporary Hindi films, these representations would mean either that we are talking about the hinterlands of UP and Bihar, with crazy violence sure to follow; or that it’s a question of a film about some “them”, made for some “us” that is assuredly not “them”), but because that’s simply where his characters live and how they commute to work. It’s delightful because it’s so normal. (That I have to make this point at all testifies to the sad pass the industry has come to.)” Continue reading

Walking Manto’s Bombay

Posted in Refugee, the good with tags , , , , , , , on May 13, 2015 by Qalandar

Related post HERE.

Excerpt: “This spring I went on a journey in search of Manto’s city with the journalist Rafique Baghdadi, flaneur par excellence of Bombay. Rafique himself could have stepped out of one of Manto’s tales. He lives in a tiny single room near Mazagon docks, surrounded by canyon walls of books stacked floor to ceiling. A narrow passage of floor leads to a table and chair by the window. Rafique not only has an encyclopedic knowledge of Bombay and its history, he has also walked all of its streets. He seems to know every shopkeeper in every quarter of the city, and he is steeped in the world of cinema.”

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Interview with NH-10’s Navdeep Singh

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 29, 2015 by Qalandar

Thanks to agyaat for pointing me to this interview — love Nh-10 or hate it, Navdeep Singh’s passion and bitterness does shine through here. The bit about the censor board’s elitism, determined to protect “the masses” from thinking for itself, convinced that only “educated” folk can be trusted with representations of violence, is not only absurd but ironic for those of us who have seen NH-10, given the mess the “educated” Arjun lands the leading couple in. — Qalandar

EXCERPT: “You had to fight with the Censor Board to get the film released. What were you told to cut?
Words like randi, saali, kutti were cut. We were allowed to show the word “randi” scribbled on the wall, but nobody could speak it. We were told to tone down the fights in the honour killing scene and when Meera (Sharma) gets beaten up in the sarpanch’s house. The second time when Meera sees the word “randi” written on the wall after her husband dies, we were asked to cut the shot from six seconds to three seconds. I asked the board members why we had to cut it the second time when it was allowed the first time in the bathroom scene, and the answer was that the first time she erases it. That’s so arbitrary! But the first time we went for the censor certificate, half the members wanted to ban the film.

Read the complete interview HERE

A Note on NH-10 (Hindi; 2015)

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , on March 20, 2015 by Qalandar

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There was a fair amount in the NH-10 trailers that I find off-putting about contemporary Bollywood: the utterly (and to me, somewhat alienating) Hollywood cinematic idiom, the sense that the film’s audience must share the socio-economic aspirations of the two lead characters, the sort of de-racinated upwardly mobile Indians presented as normal, almost the only “normal” in a milieu where to be “ethnic” is to be associated with violence and deprivation’s dark heart. Director Navdeep Singh’s film (his second, after the atmospheric Chinatown remake Manorama Six Feet Under) certainly pushes those buttons, but there’s much more to the film, making it one of the best (and certainly the most harrowing) Hindi films of the last few months. Continue reading

A quick note on PK…

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , on January 10, 2015 by Qalandar

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The biggest intellectual issue I take with PK is one I often have with very many “well-intentioned” Hindi films, namely that it re-characterizes a straightforward political position into notions of fact/falsehood, even more so sincerity/insincerity. Thus the trope of the two-faced politician is a common one in Hindi films, but also in Indian society (I couldn’t even begin to count the number of times people have told me that communal statements by politicians don’t matter because what these chaps are “really” interested in is making money); the resulting cynicism has the virtue of not accepting the authority of those in power as a given, but is associated with the vice of paralyzing any kind of political thinking — since the practice of politics ends up viewed as essentially the deployment of a kind of hypocrisy. PK’s godmen suffer from the same problem: although the narrative arc initially seems to target the un-reasonableness of religious practice (and, delightfully, its complete relativism: the wine that is the blood of Christ itself becomes disgusting when transposed to a Muslim context), by the end it muddles into questions of fraud, and these take over the film. Any number of other issues are also loaded onto the charlatan (played with trademark comical nastiness by Saurabh Shukla), and before too long we also find in him the Muslim-baiter, the media manipulator — in short, he becomes the very bete noire of the (imagined?) liberal audience. But Continue reading

Qalandar Reviews HAIDER (Hindi; 2014)

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , , , on October 6, 2014 by Qalandar

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Haider is at once the strongest and weakest of Vishal Bhardwaj’s Shakespeare adaptations: most of the film has little to do with Hamlet, except in the loosest sense, and focuses on the efforts of one Kashmiri Muslim youth (Shahid Kapoor, the Haider of the film’s title) to find his father Dr. Hilal (Narendra Jha), who has joined the ranks of the disappeared after he secretly treats a militant leader in his home, even as Haider’s mother Ghazala (Tabu) draws closer to her brother-in-law Khurram (Kay Kay Menon) in the wake of the tragedy. Paradoxically, these are in fact the strongest portions of the film, which is perhaps the only popular Indian film “on Kashmir” to be made for adults. Freed of the need to draw cartoon characters (the Good Kashmiri Muslim oppressed by the state; or the Good Indian Army Officers protecting the state from evil jihadis), writers Basharat Peer and Bhardwaj give us human ambiguity. It would have been easy to have Dr. Hilal treat the militant because of his devotion to the Hippocratic oath – but the doctor is coy about his political sympathies (even to his wife), and it is entirely possible that he is a sympathizer; his son Haider is more openly hostile (and nor is this a function simply of his father’s disappearance, as a flashback shows); and his wife Ghazala isn’t ideologically committed so much as fearful. Even the Claudius of this tale is not hateful: Khurram’s name is well-chosen, the writers preferring to evoke the specter of the Mughal Empire’s most glamorous fratricidal monarch, Shah Jahan, rather than its most infamous, Shah Jahan’s son Aurangzeb. This concern with his characters’ irreducible humanity, be they Kashmiri militants or ruthless local politicians (but not, it must be said, Indian soldiers), is perhaps the most Shakespearean thing about Bhardwaj’s adaptation. As homages to the Bard go, one could do worse. Continue reading