Archive for politics

Cobrapost’s Operation Karaoke

Posted in the ugly with tags , , , , , , on February 22, 2019 by Qalandar

On a lighter note, one of the more striking aspects about this affair for me was that anyone is willing to pay for these folks’ opinions!  🙂  – qalandar

“In an investigation, Cobrapost exposes three dozen Bollywood celebrities who are ready to promote a political party by posting favourable messages on their social media accounts to help create a buzz in the run-up to 2019 elections, all for money. Among these celebs are directors, actors, singers, stand-up comedians and dancers: Noted playback singers, Abhijeet Bhattacharya, Kailash Kher, Mika Singh and Baba Sehgal; actors Jackie Shroff, Shakti Kapoor, Vivek Oberoi, Sonu Sood, Amisha Patel, Mahima Chaudhry, Shreyas Talpade, Puneet Issar, Surendra Pal, Pankaj Dheer and his son Nikitin Dheer, Tisca Chopra, Deepshikha Nagpal, Akhilendra Mishra, Rohit Roy, Rahul Bhat, Salim Zaidi, Rakhi Sawant, Aman Verma, Hiten Tejwani and spouse Gauri Pradhan, Evelyn Sharma, Minissha Lamba, Koena Mitra, Poonam Pandey, Sunny Leonne; comedians Raju Srivastava, Sunil Pal, Rajpal Yadav, Upasana Singh, Krushna Abhishek and Vijay Ishwarlal Pawar; and choreographer Ganesh Acharya and dancer Sambhavana Seth. This is almost who’s who of the entertainment industry, both film and TV.

While we saw all these celebs succumbing to the lure of money and agreeing to indulge in this unethical and unlawful practice, there were some notable exceptions, though. When we approached Vidya Balan, Arshad Warsi, Raza Murad and Saumya Tandon with our proposition, these celebs chose to go by their conscience and straightaway refused to play ball.”

Read the complete piece HERE

Nicole Kidman Married Tom Cruise for Love — and Got Protection

Posted in the good with tags , , , , on October 18, 2018 by Qalandar

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Excerpt: “…That said, I got married very young, but it definitely wasn’t power for me — it was protection. I married for love, but being married to an extremely powerful man kept me from being sexually harassed. I would work, but I was still very much cocooned. So when I came out of it at 32, 33, it’s almost like I had to grow up.

Of course I’ve had #MeToo moments — since I was little! But do I want to expose them in an article? No. Do they come out in my work? Absolutely. I’m open and raw. I want to have my well of experience and emotion tapped into, used — and I’m not just talking about sexual harassment. I’m talking about loss, death, the full array of life. But it has to be by the right people so it’s not abused again. I’m making a movie with Charlize Theron and Margot Robbie about Roger Ailes. [Kidman is playing Gretchen Carlson.]” Continue reading

Bollywood Connection in Trump Hacking Story (NY TIMES)

Posted in Refugee with tags , , , on September 21, 2018 by Qalandar

Excerpt: “At least 19 of the hackers’ targets were senior officials or prominent citizens of the U.A.E., including diplomats whose emails have previously been leaked to the public. At least 15 of the targets are senior officials or diplomats from Egypt, a close ally of the U.A.E. and a foe of Qatar. Among the Egyptian targets was Gen. Abbas Kamel, now the director of the Egyptian Intelligence Service and previously the chief of staff to President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. … The Bollywood targets — including the stars Aishwarya Devan, Anushka Sharma, Meghanna Raj and Nikki Galrani — suggest the hackers may have been fans, the lawyers said. “My guess is this was a frolic of the hackers,” Mr. Wolosky said.””

Read complete article HERE.

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

Mammootty to Star in Bio-Pic on YSR

Posted in Refugee with tags , , , , , , , , on July 9, 2018 by Qalandar

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“In the upcoming biopic Yatra, Mollywood superstar Mammootty will be playing the role of the politician YS Rajasekara Reddy. A teaser from the film was released to celebrate the birth anniversary of YSR which falls on Sunday. Dressed in trademark politician white clothes, Mammootty makes a striking entry as the late Chief Minister.”

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Scroll on Censor Chief Pahlaj Nihalani

Posted in the good with tags , , on July 25, 2017 by Qalandar

Central Board of Film Certification chairperson Pahlaj Nihalani has issued his latest and by no means his final directive: actors can henceforth not drink or smoke on the screen. This is only the latest in a long line of diktats conjured up by the producer and distributor to purify Indian cinema for the sake of national interest.

He became the board’s chairperson on January 19, 2015, reportedly as a reward for having directed the Har Har Modi video ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Soon after taking over the censor board from Leela Samson, Nihalani made his political leanings clear when he told NDTV that he is proud to be a “BJP person” and that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is his “action hero.”

Read the complete piece HERE

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

A Brief Note on Visaaranai (Tamil; 2016)

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

I just saw Visaaranai, and I don’t think I can write a review of the film.  Or rather, there’s something obscene about (merely) reviewing this terrifying representation of four migrant laborers caught in a criminal justice system so pitiless, so oppressive, “corruption” is a banal term for it, banal and lying in its suggestion of hope that the norm might be something else; obscene, because Visaaranai does not so much indict “the system” as it does everyone who allows himself to consume uncritically a news report or a police story of gangs busted, terrorists nabbed, or policemen feted.  The most charitable thing one can say is that a great chasm of unknowing separates us, should separate us, from trust in such news stories: Visaaranai demonstrates, with almost mathematical precision, that any other response is unethical.  There are plenty of other reasons to watch this film: as a naturalistic representation of a politicized police force, it is unequalled by anything I have seen; the acting is uniformly good (perhaps none more so than Samuthirakani as Inspector Muthuvel); and the direction by Vetri Maaran superb, but these are not essential: the implicit proof that it offers of our own degraded complicity in the charade, is. I haven’t seen a better film in years, and I haven’t ever seen a more necessary one.

A huge thanks to Chandrakumar for writing this, and for affording us the privilege of hearing his voice at film’s end, and really to everyone associated with this film (including Dhanush, who gets a producer credit) for making this film possible.  Thanks also to Netflix for making this film available in the US (I can only hope it’s available at Netflix India as well).

How Bollywood Shuts Out the Poor (The Caravan, July 2016)

Posted in Refugee with tags , , , , , , on October 26, 2016 by Qalandar


Junior artistes, formerly known as “extras,” occupy the lowest rung on the Bollywood-actor ladder. They appear in the background—in scenes shot in railway stations, busy streets, bus stops; they are a villain’s henchmen, soldiers in a hero’s army, or corpses inside a morgue.

EXCERPT: “The geography of Bollywood stardom corresponds pretty much exactly with Mumbai’s geography of wealth.”

Read the complete article HERE

Wild Bias: The Reaction to Sairat (CARAVAN, July 2016)

Posted in Refugee with tags , , , on October 25, 2016 by Qalandar

EXCERPT: “Sairat, written and directed by Nagraj Manjule, premiered in Indian theatres on 29 April. It quickly became a phenomenon. Within two weeks, Sairat brought in over Rs 52 crore at the box office, becoming the highest-grossing Marathi film ever. Videos of people dancing in cinemas to the film’s soundtrack went viral on social media; kids mimicked scenes from it; theatres in Maharashtra’s Satara district scheduled extra screenings at three in the morning.

Sairat tells the story of two lovers—Parshya, a Dalit man, and Archie, an upper-caste woman—who elope from their village in south-eastern Maharashtra and are eventually murdered by the woman’s family. This makes the film’s success particularly exceptional, since Marathi cinema typically shies away from portraying the injustices of caste. Also exceptional was the fact that the film was made by Manjule, a Dalit filmmaker from a Maharashtra village in an industry dominated by upper-caste, urban people.”

The complete article may be read HERE.

How Bollywood Shuts Its Doors on the Poor (THE CARAVAN, July 2016)

Posted in Refugee with tags , , , , on August 22, 2016 by Qalandar

EXCERPT: “BOLLYWOOD STARDOM, though, has a particular geography. Historically, the Hindi film industry has recognised only certain parts of Mumbai. It knows Yari Road and Lokhandwala in Andheri West, where aspiring actors, screenwriters, assistant directors and directors live; Aram Nagar, where production houses hold auditions for films, television serials and advertisements; Juhu and Bandra West, home to film stars; and south Mumbai, or Town, where many movies are shot. But it doesn’t know Dharavi, Bhiwandi, Naigaon or Nalasopara, or any of the city’s other slums and sprawling suburbs.

Still, if you visit any of those slums or suburbs, you find thousands of people who don’t know this, who don’t want to know this. They, like so many of their fellow Indians, are in thrall to Bollywood. They crowd theatres to see new releases, follow stars’ lives, and, in indulgent moments, imagine some twist of fate landing them on the silver screen. Some of them take such daydreams more seriously than others. Some, like Jadav, make that dream the centre of their lives.

So they go knocking on doors, trying to find a way in. They look for acting classes that promise them a leg-up, and approach casting agents who promise to get them auditions. And, repeatedly, they find all doors shut. Because the truth is that Mumbai’s geography of Bollywood corresponds pretty much exactly to Mumbai’s geography of wealth. The city Bollywood knows is that of the haves. The city it pays no mind to is that of the have-nots.”

Here’s a LINK to the complete article

BOOK: Cut-outs, Caste and Cine Stars: The World of Tamil Politics

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 18, 2016 by Qalandar

I hadn’t heard of this book but it sounds fascinating — Qalandar

Penguin India’s blurb: “A must for [anyone] who wants to understand Tamil Nadu politics’ “New Indian Express Tamil Nadu is a state very different from the rest of India, both culturally and historically. It has retained a fundamentally separate identity for itself in language and caste structure, and this is most evident in its politics. Cut-outs, Caste and Cine Stars: The Word of Tamil Politics tells a political story that has all the elements of a blockbuster film, where ironies and larger-than-life characters abound: Periyar, a Kannada-speaker, who introduced the notions of Tamil self-respect and regional pride, yet dismissed Tamil as ‘a barbaric language’; the matinee idol MGR, a Malayalee born in Sri Lanka, who became Tamil Nadu’s most popular mass leader; the Dravidian movement which, by its own ideology, should have helped the Dalits but has instead supported only the upwardly mobile middle groups; and parties that rose to power by propagating anti-Hindi and anti-Brahmin sentiments but have now allied themselves with the BJP. It is fitting that this reel-like scenario is presently dominated by the electoral politics of Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa, one a scriptwriter and the other a former actress. Well-known writer and journalist Vaasanthi has observed the dramatis personae in this epic drama at close quarters for a decade. Now updated with an additional chapter on the war of succession Cut-outs, Caste and Cine Stars offers an objective and insightful view of a political world that is both fascinating and perplexing.”

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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

Calls to Ban Majidi Film on Prophet Muhammad

Posted in the bad with tags , on September 8, 2015 by Qalandar

The gap between our self-image as “tolerant”, and the reality of the “ban everything” culture that has been gathering force from decades, from every conceivable group across the ideological spectrum, is striking (showing that these different groups share at least one ideology in common: one that luxuriates in being thin-skinned).  This is a classic illustration of how nothing and no-one is safe: if the ban on The Satanic Verses (shamefully India was the first country to ban it) was justified by Muslim groups on the grounds of blasphemy, note that this film is sanctioned, funded, and released by the Iranian government itself, with the avowed aim of presenting a positive image of Prophet Muhammad, and even this is not immune to calls for a ban (making such a film is ITSELF deemed to be blasphemous, irrespective of the content of the message). Appalling stuff.

I’d love to watch this (I’ve seen a couple of other films by Majidi), and hadn’t realized the music was by ARR!  Hope the CD makes it to the market (aside: isn’t the Raza Academy itself a Shiite organization?) — Qalandar

INDIAN EXPRESS

“A Mumbai-based Sunni Muslim organisation has approached the Union Home Minister and the Iranian Consulate in India seeking a ban on the latest Majid Majidi film Muhammad: Messenger of God, calling it “blasphemous for more than one reason”…”

Read the complete article here

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

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

Twinkle Khanna on Our Unending Ability to be Offended

Posted in the good with tags , , , on February 16, 2015 by Qalandar

Thanks to agyaat for sending this my way — Qalandar

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EXCERPT: “In my heart my city will always be Bombay because that is what I have known it as, and it does not antagonize me that a political party decided that it needs to be changed to Mumbai because according to them it was a legacy of the British rule, but a few weeks ago even the word Bombay was bleeped from poor Mihir Joshi’s song and I have not been able to wrap my head around that.
In the last few months, we have been offended by Obama’s chewing gum, Modi’s suit, Kiran Bedi for various reasons and, of course, by the infamous roast.
If I had to be offended by a live show I would rather be offended by Arnab who invites people on his show and then doesn’t let them speak. I saw an episode where he is asking the education minister a question and then screaming over her answers.
Now that’s just bad manners, at least in the AIB roast they called guests over, let them say their bit, people laughed and went home. But we still have to get outraged even though they had made it clear that the show is for adults only.
We now also have an assortment of people up in arms about the gags made on a person’s sexuality but shouldn’t we be more offended by the fact that homosexuality is considered illegal in India and that Section 377 still exists?”

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 RAANJHANA (Hindi; 2013)

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

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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