Archive for Hindi

From Manipur, stories of the women actors who didn’t get to play Mary Kom (INDIAN EXPRESS)

Posted in Refugee with tags , , , , , , on August 17, 2014 by Qalandar

Excerpt: “While Priyanka Chopra ended up playing Kom, Laishram bagged a role of the boxer’s friend and sparring partner. “Two years ago, when I spoke to the director, I think they were looking for someone from the Northeast. Only much later did they decide on PC, and I completely get that — to be able to make a movie saleable and a hit, you have to cast big stars,’’ says the actor, who is in her twenties. There are other actors from the region in the film, like Rajni Basumatry from Assam who plays Mary’s mother. “They are key members of the cast, and they made Priyanka Chopra’s character seem real and rooted,” says Omung Kumar, who has directed Mary Kom (the film releases in September) . … But she has very few illusions about how the system works. When she enters an agency to audition for an ad film, she ticks the box which says “foreign” because she knows she won’t be considered for the Indian roles.”

Read the complete article HERE.

Prints of old classics go up in flames — Mumbai Mirror

Posted in Refugee with tags , , , , on July 2, 2014 by Qalandar

A sad day indeed! In general, the neglect of our cinematic heritage is pitiful (most of the time the prints of even famous films are in such poor condition that when watches a film like — e.g. — Kinara (from well into the 1970s; I saw this a few months ago but one could come up with any number of films) it is very difficult to appreciate the visuals; the film might as well be from World War I. — Qalandar


Indian cinema lost some of its greatest milestones forever to a fire which broke out at the Borivli office of the legendary film studio, The Bombay Talkies Limited, on Thursday.

Mirror has it, masterprints of around 60 films were reduced to ashes. These included Continue reading

Qalandar on QUEEN (Hindi; 2014)

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , , , on March 8, 2014 by Qalandar


It would be easy to dismiss director Vikas Bahl’s Queen as the sort of movie one has often seen in Hollywood, and that is increasingly common in Bollywood: suffused with a kind of cheap liberalism that makes one root for a sympathetic and intensely imagined female character, in a world populated by a number of men who are, not to put too fine a point on it, assholes, and who in some way, shape or form will get what’s coming to them. Queen certainly is that, but it is also quirky, charming, and at times very funny, so much so that by the end I was reminded that cheap liberalism isn’t the worst thing in the world. If movies had hearts, this one — about a bride-to-be who won’t let a little thing like having a wedding called off get in the way of a “honeymoon” to Paris and Amsterdam, each city with gurus ready to initiate her into “real life” — would have its in the right place, even if there’s never any doubt about what you’ll find there. Continue reading

Phir se aayee…

Posted in the good with tags , , , , on February 22, 2014 by Qalandar

I just saw Namkeen, a film I hadn’t previously seen, and nor had I heard any of its songs. The highlight was undoubtedly “Phir se aaiyo, badariya bidesi,” a song of heartbreaking loveliness. Asha and R.D. Burman suffuse this song with great longing as well as restraint (the latter embodied in Asha’s low vocal ranges here); this has to be one of the best songs from the 1980s that I’ve encountered — it is simply bewitching:

In both Namkeen and Mausam, Gulzar uses the somewhat discomfiting trope of the woman/women who need rescue, and can’t be free unless and until saved by a man; that is hardly new, but in both films Gulzar also features the empathetic male figure who seems to be culpable precisely because of his engagement with the women stuck in a horrible situation; this commitment is in fact what enables him to be a traitor of sorts, to enable irreparable injury out of feebleness. The result isn’t entirely satisfying, but perhaps Gulzar is best appreciated as an evoker of mood, of a nameless melancholia that pervades so many of his films: I don’t find it the most successful aesthetic when married to the figure of the lost woman, but transplanted to the terrain of a ruined city — the Mandu of Kinara — it works a quiet magic.

Qalandar Reviews RAANJHANA (Hindi; 2013)

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 23, 2013 by Qalandar


Over the last few years, my interest in contemporary Hindi films has plummeted; perhaps my move to Bombay has played a part in my diminished engagement, as no longing for home, no desperation for a whiff of its scent clouds my vision. Largely, though, it is a function of the increasing soullessness of the industry’s “mainstream” products (and the films are increasingly products rather than embodiments of a living tradition), and also because the “off-beat” films themselves are often formulaic, intellectually timid and irredeemably – there’s no other word for it – bourgeois once one gets past the edgy attitude. Old habits die hard, however, and I still end up watching many – I just don’t enjoy the experience as much as I used to, even if the thrill of anticipation as I find my seat in the hall and wait for the film to begin, hoping for trailers to delay the moment of gratification, and my willingness to give myself over to the experience (until the film itself jars me out of attentiveness first), remain the same. Through it all, very few films surprise me – and not in the sense of plot twists (I hardly ever guess those, being much more likely to live in the present of the scene before my eyes, as it were), but in the sense of taking me somewhere I hadn’t expected to go, or showing me a glimpse of something I hadn’t expected to see. That I expect these from cinema at all reminds me that I’m not yet jaded, merely disappointed.

Raanjhana surprised me. Continue reading

Qalandar Reviews Special 26 (Hindi; 2013)

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 9, 2013 by Qalandar

Little in cinema is as enjoyable, as seductively charming, as a good caper film, centered around a dashing thief and con-artist the audience has no choice but to root for against the agents of the staid State trying to foil him, a harmless outlet for what Hannah Arendt once called the bourgeoisie’s fascination with criminality. And, on paper, Special 26, Neeraj Pandey’s film about a bunch of thieves who in the late-1980s impersonate one of India’s pre-eminent agencies, the Central Bureau of Investigation (“CBI”), conducting raids on, and looting, dozens of people with “black” money to hide (with the real CBI in hot pursuit), should have been that kind of film. It isn’t: despite a generally solid cast and a high-quality plot (Pandey himself wrote it), the film is seriously let down by a directorial style that isn’t nearly as nimble as this material needs it to be. In short, what Special 26 needed was elan; what Pandey offers is filmmaking that plods. That the film is nevertheless likely to end up as one of 2013’s better films is a depressing commentary on the state of the Hindi film industry. Continue reading

NYT Quickie on DAVID

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , , on February 4, 2013 by Qalandar


“David,” a Hindi film directed by Bejoy Nambiar, asks a simple question: Why make a single movie when you can pack three into one? Behold the complicated, entertainingly erratic result: separate story lines set in 1975, 1999 and 2010 that encompass gangster daddy issues, religious extremism and the coveting of a best friend’s fiancée.

The tie binding the stories, with a certain jaw-dropping purity of intention, is that the protagonists share the same first name. Shot in black and white (with a lot of leather, shades and hair) for no evident reason, the 1970s David is a brutal but soulful London assassin (Neil Nitin Mukesh) embroiled in dramas of romance and revenge with his boss’s family. The millennial David, a mild-mannered aspiring guitarist (Vinay Virmani) in Mumbai, goes on the warpath when a rabble-rousing politician targets his father as a Christian zealot and incites supporters to attack. Last but not least of the Davids is a Goan beach-bum fisherman (Chiyaan Vikram) who zanily falls in love with a deaf-mute woman shortly before she is to marry his buddy.
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Qalandar on Freedom

Posted in the good with tags , , , , on January 9, 2013 by Qalandar

I was recently asked to write a piece for an online journal called Pratilipi. The issue’s theme was “freedom”, and writers were free to define that term any way they wanted to. My take is at the link below:


Qalandar’s Note on ENGLISH VINGLISH (Hindi; 2012)

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 7, 2012 by Qalandar

[Image courtesy]

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Qalandar’s Note on GANGS OF WASSEYPUR II (Hindi; 2012)

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , on August 14, 2012 by Qalandar


I hadn’t thought there would be much to write on Gangs of Wasseypur II; in the sense that I’d thought it would be just like the first film (my review HERE; discussion thread HERE) — indeed director Anurag Kashyap had gone to some lengths in stressing that we were dealing with one film here, and that the second film was simply the latter half of a whole. This, to my mind, and especially because I had enjoyed Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s character the most in the first film (he looked to be the lead protagonist in the second), was, in my mind, a good thing.

Ouch. I didn’t enjoy the second outing very much. Continue reading

Bring Back The Magic (THE CARAVAN, June 2012)

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on July 30, 2012 by Qalandar

EXCERPT: “What a sight for sore eyes and treat for straining ears, then, are the new ‘Cinemas of India’ DVDs released by the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) in collaboration with the media content conglomerate Shemaroo Entertainment. These well-restored prints of non-mainstream films (insert your label of choice: Art or Parallel Film, New Wave Cinema) produced by NFDC in the 1980s and early 1990s represent what the movie-watching experience can be—the images are nearly spotless, the colours vivid, the audio clear. View a couple of them and you’ll find it difficult to go back to regular DVD-watching.”

Read the complete article HERE.

The Resented

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , on July 22, 2012 by Qalandar


I’m in a distinct minority among my friends and acquaintances in the esteem in which I hold Abhishek Bachchan. To me, he’s one of the few understated actors we have, tapping into some of his father’s brooding iconicity in his dramatic roles, and possessed of a comic mode that, at its best, combines deadpan delivery with a kind of earnestness, a special talent there aren’t very many roles for in the contemporary Hindi film industry. But most people I meet are far more derisive. It isn’t that they disagree with me, and believe that he is a mediocre or poor actor — that would be unexceptional. No, what is striking to me is the extent to which people will, even if they feel I’m overdoing it when it comes to Abhishek Bachchan, go further than simply saying that he isn’t a good actor, or that he has many flop films. I’ve heard him referred to as “lazy,” “dheela,” “pathetic,” “un-smart,” and even “disgusting,” “dirty,” a parasite off his wife’s celebrity, as the beneficiary of nepotism and connections a sign of everything that is wrong in India, and a source of embarrassment for his parents. Moreover, at least some of the people I’ve met who have expressed these opinions agree that he has performed very well in this or that film, which makes the intensity of the reactions somewhat curious. Continue reading

Qalandar Reviews GANGS OF WASSEYPUR (Hindi; 2012)

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 14, 2012 by Qalandar

Updating this post as Qalandar’s piece has now been published on the Outlook site

Gangs of Wasseypur opens with two of my pet peeves: a voiceover, and an explanation of where we are and how we got there (it’s cinema, people, show me, don’t tell me!). But – and I’m not sure how he does this – director Anurag Kashyap uses these clunky props to pull off some of his best filmmaking yet, in a fantastic hour that situates us in Dhanbad, in Bihar’s (now Jharkhand’s) coal belt, the casual and systematic brutality of its mining industry, and the complicity of the state (both pre- and post-colonial) in all manner of oppression. Marking incident, place and time is Piyush Mishra’s gravelly voice, informing us that our special Purgatory is Wasseypur in the 1940s, south of Dhanbad, a Muslim-village locked in permanent struggle between the Qureshis (butchers by trade) and every other kind of Muslim. Continue reading

Qalandar Reviews ISHAQZAADE (Hindi; 2012)

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 12, 2012 by Qalandar


In recent years, there have been a number of Bollywood films to return to the “Hindi heartland,” not necessarily in search of a “social” film seeking to make a point about inter-caste violence or some such issue, but as part of a kind of backlash against the addled juvenilia and sentimentality of nearly two decades of Hindi films, a large number of them set amidst frolic in foreign locations (often, in malls, hotels, and other generic foreign locations, a reminder that what these films imagined was the (triumphal inhabiting of the) foreign — often laced with insularity, if not outright xenophobia — as symbolic marker of affluence). Some of these mofussil-centric films — Baabarr (2009), for instance — have been unfortunately shallow; others, such as Ishqiya (2010), far more interesting; but all have to negotiate the tension between the desire of their filmmakers (many of whom are from India’s smaller cities: Abhishek Chaubey, the director of Ishqiya, is from Gorakhpur; Habib Faisal, from Bhopal) to represent worlds that all too often are overlooked in Bollywood’s universe of representation (in the latter, to be “ethnic,” certainly cheerful and ethnic, is all too often to be Punjabi); and the metropolitan audience’s predilection to locating its own other in the mofussils “out there” — violent and blood-strewn, and at once backward and suffering from a dysfunction of democracy itself (imagined as a kind of ghundaa raj from which the metropolitan audience has itself seceded). The line, that is to say, between filming untold stories and pandering is thin indeed.

It is a line Habib Faisal’s Ishaqzaade must also straddle, but does so with great aplomb, with perhaps the least self-conscious portrayal of the U.P. badlands I have seen in years, especially in its language, with Faisal himself writing the piquant and naturalistic dialogs. Continue reading

Disco Dancing in Russia (The Caravan)

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , on May 12, 2012 by Qalandar

A recent film festival evokes memories of a long intercontinental love affair.

“The cans, it turns out, contain reels of films, and it’s only when the same old man is seen posting a notice outside the local cinema that we find out just which one: the 1982 Mithun Chakraborty-starrer Disco Dancer. “Movie from India!” a villager announces to the kids who have gathered round. “Ticket will cost two eggs… Lots of dancing and fighting in the film!” He kicks and punches the air.

The audience in Delhi’s Russian Centre for Science and Culture was laughing with delight as they watched Russia’s entry to the BRICS Youth Short Films Festival, a first-of-its-kind initiative held in March that formed the cultural leg to the fourth annual BRICS summit. The story of a boy named Ilnur who is an ardent fan of Indian movies, the film Enmesh depicts the extent to the Soviet love for Bollywood in a small village. It is a love held, too, by 24-year-old Ainur Askarov, the film’s director.
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Qalandar Reviews ROCKSTAR (Hindi; 2011)

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 12, 2011 by Qalandar

[Minor spoiler warning].


Early on in Rockstar, Khatana (Kumud Mishra), the resident sage of Delhi University’s Hindu College’s canteen, pooh poohs the musical ambitions of Janardhan Jakhar (Ranbir Kapoor): for Khatana, art is borne of suffering, and sorrow in turn of love and a broken heart. The callow Janardhan (who will in time be re-christened “Jordan”) promptly decides to fall in love with the next pretty girl he sees, with an artificiality the film knows better than to take seriously. I found myself chuckling at these scenes, reading in them director Imtiaz Ali’s send-up of a bourgeois misreading of Romanticism in the arts.

I was wrong: Imtiaz Ali was dead serious. His Jordan really can become, not only a musical success but even a genuine musical talent, only once he has loved and lost Heer (Nargis Fakhri). Not a trace of irony may be discerned here, and the result — a “rockstar” who might see “Free Tibet” signs at his concerts, but whose military fatigues and lyrics about “Sadda Haq” cannot hide the fact that there is no cause, no politics, nor even any social awareness here but a highly personal loss. Continue reading

Manto on Ashok Kumar (OPEN Magazine, Oct. 20-26, 2011)

Posted in Refugee with tags , , , on October 29, 2011 by Qalandar

[This is a must-read for all those interested in, not just Hindi cinema, but Indian popular culture: an essay by arguably the most lauded (in our day; in his, the most controversial) Urdu prose writer of the twentieth century) on the first male numero uno of the Hindi industry. The reference to the “village” of Malad (now, very much one of Bombay’s mall-istans) is itself tremendously evocative. — Qalandar]

When Najmul Hasan ran off with Devika Rani, all of Bombay Talkies was in turmoil. The film they were making had gone on the floor and some scenes had already been shot. However, Najmul Hasan had decided to pull the leading lady out of the celluloid world into the real one. The worst affected and the most worried man at Bombay Talkies was Himanshu Rai, Devika Rani’s husband and the heart and soul of the company.

S Mukherjee, Ashok Kumar’s brother-in-law, who was to make several hit movies in the years to come, was at that time sound engineer Savak Vacha’s assistant. Continue reading

My Friend Guru — Dev Anand (OPEN, June 4, 2011)

Posted in Refugee with tags , , on June 21, 2011 by Qalandar

In 1946, I was on the payroll of Prabhat Film Company and was playing the lead in my first film, Hum Ek Hain. One day, as I was walking out of the studio, I saw a young man of about my age entering, and we exchanged polite hellos. “Are you doing the main role in the picture?” he asked, and I replied, “Yes.” He offered me his hand. “Well, my name is Guru Dutt and I’m an assistant director. Great to meet you. I hope to see you here more often,” he said. He gave me a beautiful smile and started to leave. A few seconds later, he turned and stared at my shirt. I looked at his. I realised he was wearing my shirt and I was wearing his. Obviously, the washerman had interchanged them. We had a hearty laugh and embraced each other. We were to be friends for all times.
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The Pornography of Violence (Abzee’s Review of RAKHT CHARITRA – 1)

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 23, 2010 by Qalandar

Dir- Ram Gopal Varma
Cast- Vivek Oberoi, Abhimanyu Singh, Shatrughan Sinha, Radhika Apte, Zarina Wahab, Ashwini Kalsekar, Kota Srinivasa Rao and others
Rating- **

‘Rakht astra, rakht shastra, rakht shatru, rakht charitra’ blare the lyrics in the background as multiple men and women get killed in Ram Gopal Varma’s first installment of Rakht Charitra. The lines, aided by typically loud and harsh background score that you’ve come to expect from RGV’s films, do more than just underline the blood-curdling bloody gore being played out on the screen. It points to a sad but natural culmination of a filmmaker who once pioneered the shift from sappy romances and profligate wedding videos in the name of cinema to raw stories told detachedly but with great technical aplomb. Rakht Charitra is RGV’s most violent film to date yes… but it is more problematically a window into his mind. And going by what’s on display, he needs to be checked into an asylum without more ado!
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