Archive for qalandar

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

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).

Preservation of the Satyajit Ray paper archive (V&A Museum; 2002)

Posted in Refugee with tags , , on November 7, 2016 by Qalandar

EXCERPT: “The most valuable part of this collection from the point of view of the history of cinema, and also the largest single component (totalling over 10,000 pages), is the Khero Khata or ‘Red Books’. Averaging two for every full-length feature and one for every short film, they include scripts in various stages of development including the final shooting scripts detailing each scene and shot. There are also detailed sketches, diagrams and designs.

Other ‘treasures’ include screen plays, music notation sheets, designs and sketches for costumes and sets, production stills, drafts of Ray’s own fiction, advertising and book designs, correspondence, over 1000 personal photographs, examples of his early drawings and sketches, typographic and calligraphic designs, diaries and personal scrapbooks.”

Complete article HERE

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