Paatal Lok creator Sudip Sharma and actors Jaideep Ahlawat, Abhishek Banerjee on making the gritty Amazon Prime show

A few days ago, the trailer of Amazon Prime Video web series, Paatal Lok gave us a sneak peek into the gritty and gory world of crime, lawlessness, politics, and media.

Produced under the banner of Anushka Sharma’s Clean Slate Filmz (her first web production), and written and directed by Sudip Sharma (writer of Udta PunjabNH10, Sonchiriya) the show that starts streaming from 15 May, features top-notch talent like Jaideep Ahlawat, Neeraj Kabi, Abhishek Banerjee, Gul Panag, and Swastika Mukherjee in pivotal roles.

Touted to be an investigative thriller, the nine-part series is about a down-and-out cop played by Ahlawat, the protagonist, who lands the case of a lifetime when four suspects are nabbed in the assassination attempt of a primetime journalist (depicted by Kabi). The case turns out to be a devious maze, and the pursuit leads him to the dark netherworld, the Paatal Lok, and shocking discoveries in the past of the four suspects.

 Paatal Lok creator Sudip Sharma and actors Jaideep Ahlawat, Abhishek Banerjee on making the gritty Amazon Prime show

A still from the Paatal Lok trailer

“There are primarily three classes, the upper, middle, and lower, which I personally associated to Swarg Lok, Dharti Lok, and Paatal Lok, essentially derived from heaven, earth, and the netherworld. We wanted to explore these three classes, the three layers that exist in our society from the eyes of the investigator. That is the protagonist of the show, who represents the earth, the victim represents the heaven, and the suspects come from Paatal Lok,” says Sharma.

Interestingly, Paatal Lok has not just caught the audiences’ attention for its gritty treatment but it is also making news for its source material, with the writers having taken inspiration from former Tehelka editor-in-chief Tarun Tejpal’s book The Story of my Assassins. Partly based on real events, the book describes the back stories of the men charged for allegedly plotting the narrator’s assassination.

Paatal Lok is loosely inspired by an idea from the book. I took inspiration from it, and along with my team of talented writers, have crafted a unique crime thriller that I hope viewers will enjoy. Tarun Tejpal was not involved in any manner in any phase of the development and production of the show. As writers, we draw from the world around us all the time. Everything you’ve seen, stories that are in the news, anecdotes that people have told you. The story is not drawn from one particular incident, or from the life of one particular person. In Paatal Lok, we have tried to stay true to the times we live in and the world we are a part of,” stateds Sharma.

“Some sort of relevance to the times is very important for me to write a particular subject, or film, and series. This allowed us the opportunity to not just tell an engaging story but also to say a few things that bother us about the times we live in,” the creator adds.

While Ahlawat has received critical acclaim for many of his performances — Gangs of WasseypurCommando,  VishwaroopamRaazi, and Netflix India Original show Bard of Blood, this is the first time that he is playing a lead in a project. “It is a very different character that I have never played before. I liked the script and the writing of the show. My character Hathiram Chaudhary is very vulnerable. He is a policeman, who is struggling with certain questions related to his life. From his personal relationships to problems at his work, he is fighting many obstacles and trying to prove himself. He is a common man, an aam aadmi caught in an uncommon situation. There is also a kind of romance and humour in my character, which I really liked,” says Ahlawat.

Jaideep Ahlawat in a still from Paatal Lok

Jaideep Ahlawat in a still from Paatal Lok

Adds Gul Panag, who plays Ahlawat’s wife, “His wife and son’s track in the series actually gives you the dimension of the pressure that Hathiram lives under. My character is trying to make her best out of the difficult situation as her husband has no future. She remains aspirational, and desires to move up in life by at least becoming a home entrepreneur but doesn’t know how to go about,” says the actress.

Ahlawat grew up in Haryana, and it helped him understand and play the character. “My character is in Delhi Police. I have seen people like him around me. I also have friends in police who helped me prepare for the role,” says the actor, who had to work on his physicality to look the part. “I had to put on a lot of weight for the role, and that was the demand from the director. I am shown having a pot-belly, and the weight gain was more to show the character becoming laidback and lethargic. That fire in him has subsided, and that shows in his walk,” he adds.

The actor feels there is not much difference in working in a film and a web series, “Just that on OTT platform, you have to prepare a lot because one is playing the character for six months or so. The difference is only in the duration. In the time you make one series of nine to 10 episodes, you can make three films. You get more time to see the growth of a character in a series. There’s no scope for that in films. As soon as the director says action, an actor has to do the same work no matter if the screen is small or big,” says Ahlawat.

The challenge for Kabi, who plays a media tycoon, was to play both the professional as well as the personal life of character Sanjeev Mehra. “That is because both are contrasting. Whereas, he is rising in his professional life, he is falling in his personal life. That contrast was challenging, and one had to maintain that balance,” says Kabi, a versatile and multiple award-winning film and theatre actor, best known for his powerful performances in Ship of Theseus, Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!, and Talvar.

Neeraj Kabi in a still from Paatal Lok

Neeraj Kabi in a still from Paatal Lok

“I was waiting for a big project, a great script, and a well-crafted role for myself, and this particular role has got multi-layers of not just emotions but also the psyche of the character. The fact that my character starts as a hero, and then goes down, he loses his integrity towards the end of the entire series, and that is what attracted me. I have never played a role like this so it was great to interpret this character. I could go much deeper in terms of how I am going to perform, and not just perform it black and white the way it is written in the script. One needs to have a lot of subtext as you are performing as that adds a lot to the detailing of acting. This script and my character had that scope,” adds Kabi.

And for his research, the actor read about the “great” journalists of the country in the previous decades, “who were looked up to.” “I tried to understand what was the philosophy of sticking to that kind of journalism, then I also glanced upon the present-day journalists of what they do and why they do what they do in order to get the basic mindset that prepares you for the character. I went to a news channel in Delhi, and saw the entire process of how news comes in, how it is processed, and how you finally see it in your drawing room. I tried to understand where does Sanjeev Mehra go to work, and what he does,” says Kabi.

For the first time, Abhishek Banerjee, who is usually seen in lighthearted roles or as the hero’s buddy, and was seen in a series of hit comedies — Stree, Dream GirlBala — plays Hathoda Tyagi, a hardened criminal and serial killer, who hammers people to death. He is shown as the most dreaded among a gang of four killers out to assassinate the media tycoon.

Abhishek Banerjee in a still from Paatal Lok

Abhishek Banerjee in a still from Paatal Lok

“Playing him took a toll on me as he’s a pretty intense character, not even remotely connected to my personality and the work I have done so far. I had to understand his sociopolitical truths, question everything as he did, and then with the answers I found, I put myself on the screen. But I did not put any effort in understanding any real life criminal. I like to teleport myself in the space and time these characters are. The way they are living, in what circumstances, and how and why these humans decide to become such devils. How do they reach this level of cruelty?” said Banerjee, whose prep also included watching shows like American crime thriller show Mindhunter.

“They had shown criminals in a very human way. They were all brutal but some of them were also very intelligent. Inspired by the series, I started focusing on the core emotion, and not the rage, or the sense of bitterness. Instead I learnt patience, commitment, and determination, and someone with a strong mind, being calm, and in control,” he adds.

Banerjee, who is also a casting director, and was working on Paatal Lok in that capacity, initially wanted to play Hathi Ram’s assistant, a role that ultimately went to Ishwak Singh. “Sudip saw Stree, and the next day Karnesh (Sharma, producer) told me that they wanted to try me for Hathodi Tyagi. I didn’t quite understand. I was wondering why they were considering me for that part. I couldn’t relate to it but Sudip was convinced maybe because he liked my performance as a ghost in Stree,” says Banerjee.

He adds, “Actually, you don’t think that you were unique. You think you were regular, and it is the others who derive reference, and that is exactly how my character in Stree also happened.” He sounds thrilled to have shared the screen space with Ahlawat. “Half the job is done when you have great actors with you. There are scenes where both of us are actually communicating only through eyes. I would look at him in a certain way, and I would get my answers without verbal communication.”

Paatal Lok will start streaming on Amazon Prime Video India from 15 May.

All images from YouTube.

Updated Date: May 14, 2020 09:06:55 IST

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Gulabo Sitabo, Amitabh Bachchan, Ayushmann Khurrana’s film, to premiere on Amazon Prime Video on 12 June

Amazon Prime Video India on Thursday announced the global premiere of the highly-anticipated Hindi film Gulabo Sitabo exclusively on the streaming service.

 Gulabo Sitabo, Amitabh Bachchan, Ayushmann Khurranas film, to premiere on Amazon Prime Video on 12 June

Ayushmann Khurrana and Amitabh Bachchan in a still from Gulabo Sitabo. Twitter

Directed by Shoojit Sircar, the film stars Amitabh Bachchan and Ayushmann Khurrana in the lead. The movie will premiere on 12 June on Amazon Prime Video.

Initially slated to release theatrically on 17 April, the film was indefinitely postponed because of the lockdown put into effect to mitigate the coronavirus outbreak. It is now the first film to be directly released on a digital platform out of all the scheduled theatrical releases that got pushed because of the months-long lockdown.

(Click here to follow LIVE updates on coronavirus outbreak)

“At Amazon we’re listening to our customers, and working backwards from there,” said Vijay Subramaniam, Director and Head, Content, Amazon Prime Video India. “Gulabo Sitabo is one of the most anticipated films of the year. We are happy to exclusively premiere Gulabo Sitabo on Prime Video. It is the first step in our endeavour to bring superior cinematic experiences to our customer’s doorstep.”

“This is the dawn of a new era for Indian entertainment,” said director Shoojit Sircar. “I am happy that a global audience will be able to watch our gritty dramedy, and enjoy what the film has in store for them. Gulabo Sitabo is a quirky, lighthearted movie that the audience can enjoy with their families. It has been a wonderful experience working with Mr Amitabh Bachchan and Ayushmann Khurrana on the film.”

Gulabo Sitabo is a slice-of-life dramedy that is a must watch for families at home,” said Bachchan, “I was excited about my role since the first time Shoojit showed me the character’s look. It took me almost three hours each day to get into character with its different look. I had a wonderful time working with my very talented co-star Ayushmann Khurrana. Even though we are constantly bantering in the film, it has been a pleasure working with him for the first time. This family entertainer has the power to cut across geographic boundaries, and we are pleased to bring Gulabo Sitabo to audiences across the globe.”

Ayushmann said, “Gulabo Sitabo is a special film for me. It made me reunite with my mentor Shoojit da after Vicky Donor. Whatever I’m today is because of him, and I’m happy that he made me a part of his vision again. Gulabo Sitabo also sees me share the screen space with Mr Amitabh Bachchan for the first time, and it’s a huge moment. It’s a dream come true for me. I have secretly wished to work with him for many, many years and Shoojit da made this happen, and I will be indebted to him forever. It has truly been an honour for me to work with a legend, and I feel enriched as an actor after the experience. What I love about the film is its sheer simplicity, the fleeting moments of simple humour in the banter between a landlord and tenant makes this film really special. I hope audiences love the film and our chemistry when it premieres.”

Gulabo Sitabo is the quirky tale of two slimy scheming foxes in a game of one upmanship, each one attracting other members to their clan and each one with an agenda of his own. A Rising Sun Films production, Gulabo Sitabo is directed by Shoojit Sircar, written by Juhi Chaturvedi, and produced by Ronnie Lahiri and Sheel Kumar.

Updated Date: May 14, 2020 08:59:42 IST

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Coronavirus Outbreak: Kevin Hart, Nick Jonas to appear on Amazon Prime Video docu series Regular Heroes


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PK and Rock On!! actor Sai Gundewar dies at 42 in Los Angeles after suffering from brain cancer

Actor Sai Gundewar has passed away in the US at the age of 42. He had worked in Bollywood films such as Rock On!! and PK. He is survived by his wife Sapana Amin.

Maharashtra’s Home Minister Anil Deshmukh took to social media to express his grief on the demise of the actor. He wrote in Marathi, “Actor Saiprasad Gundewar, who won the hearts of audience through popular films like PK, was defeated in his battle with cancer. With his demise, the Indian film industry has lost a talented actor. A heartfelt tribute!”

Here is Deshmukh’s tweet

As per a report in India Today, apart from doing films, Gundewar was also a participant in MTV’s popular reality show Splitsvilla in 2010. He had also appeared in another reality show Survivor. Gundewar had worked in Salman Khan’s Yuvvraaj as well. The actor’s last film was Saif Ali Khan’s Bazaar. Hindustan Times mentions that he was also the founder of Foodizm, a health food delivery service in Mumbai.

Pinkvilla reported that the actor passed away on late Tuesday night in Los Angeles, where he was getting treatment for cancer for the last one year. Gundewar hailed from Nagpur.

One of Gundewar’s last Instagram posts was in October 2019, where he spoke about wanting to try a remedy to rid himself of cancer.

Here is the post

Updated Date: May 13, 2020 19:20:02 IST

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Coronavirus Outbreak: Vicky Kaushal announces a virtual games night to raise fund for daily wage workers

Stepping ahead to raise funds for daily wage workers who are struggling to feed themselves and their families, actor Vicky Kaushal on Wednesday invited his fans to donate for the cause and announced that the 3 lucky winners will have a virtual games night with the star.

The actor shared a video on Instagram announcing the virtual games night saying and then added that he has collaborated with Fankind to make this happen.

The Raazi star announced that the fans need to log in to and donate to Give India to provide ration kits to daily wage workers, who are going through a harsh time due to COVID-19 and are battling for survival.

The actor urged to fans to donate and said, “Even a little contribution from your end can make a big difference in someone’s life.”

Vicky further said, “As a special thank you, 3 of you guys will be joining me for a super fun virtual games night.”

Along with the video he wrote, “To make your impact even bigger, A.T.E Chandra foundation will be adding 25% of the total donations we raise as a matching amount, thereby multiplying your impact.”

Previously, the Manmarziyan actor donated a sum of Rs 1 crore to help the government deal with the COVID-19 crisis. “While I’m blessed enough to be seated with my loved ones in the comforts of my home, there are many who are not as fortunate. In this time of crisis, I humbly pledge to contribute an amount of Rs. 1 crore to PM-CARES and Maharashtra Chief Minister’s Relief Fund,” read his Instagram post.

(With inputs from ANI)

Updated Date: May 13, 2020 17:31:50 IST

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Coronavirus Outbreak: Russell Crowe’s Unhinged to be first major movie release when US theaters reopen

Russell Crowe’s upcoming thriller movie Unhinged will be the first movie to be released in American theatres since they were shut due to the coronavirus pandemic.

(Click here to follow LIVE updates on coronavirus outbreak)

According to Deadline, Solstice Studios have decided to bring forward the movie’s release date to 1 July. It was earlier scheduled to come out on 4 September.

Check out the announcement and trailer of the film here

In the US, some of the states have started to lift restrictions on business activities, including the operating of cinema houses.

The studio said the decision to advance the film’s release was made after extensive consultation with the National Association of Theatres and leading theatre chains.

“If there are places where density is a factor and theatres aren’t open, that’s okay. It might be that theatres are closed in New York City or Chicago or San Francisco, but less populated cities and suburbs will be open and we expect there to be a lot of pent-up demand,” Solstice’s president and CEO Mark Gill said.

He said by shifting the release date of Unhinged to July, they have avoided a clash with Paramount’s A Quiet Place 2, which was among the projects to be delayed by the pandemic.

“We would get killed if we stayed there. The whole idea is not to be somewhere where you can get run over by a super tanker,” Gill added.

Directed by Derrick Borte, Unhinged is a story about a single mother who is stalked and tormented by a stranger following a roadrage confrontation at a red light.

Besides Crowe, the movie also features Jimmi Simpson, Gabriel Bateman and Caren Pistorius.

Among the titles that are expected to be released in July are Christopher Nolan’s Tenet and Disney’s Mulan.

Updated Date: May 13, 2020 16:34:37 IST

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Bhushan Kumar explains why Masakali 2.0 isn’t the final rehash from T-Series: Remixes also appeal to older generations

Producer Bhushan Kumar says the trend of remixing old classics is a way of keeping the songs relevant and the trend is here to stay.

The indie-pop scene in early 2000s featured both, original soundtracks and remixes of popular retro numbers.

 Bhushan Kumar explains why Masakali 2.0 isnt the final rehash from T-Series: Remixes also appeal to older generations

Bhushan Kumar

The trend, which had virtually faded except for remixes of songs within a movie’s album, bounced back in prominence with T-Series releasing a number of recreated singles in recent years.

A recreated track is now a norm in every other Bollywood album, and Kumar said that’s a way to make the song popular for young generation.

“The songs that are getting recreated by us or fellow industry friends are because these songs were gold in their time and needed to be heard even today.

“Remixing them is a way to make them popular to the youth of today who haven’t heard them before. I don’t believe that remixes will reach a saturation point,” Bhushan told Press Trust of India.

But not everyone is in favour of this trend of rehashing old songs.

T-Series latest recreation, ‘Masakali’ had come under heavy criticism from the listeners as well as the original makers, including composer AR Rahman, lyricist Prasoon Joshi and singer Mohit Chauhan.

But Bhushan said the chain will continue.

Also read on Firstpost — AR Rahman’s measured response to Masakali 2.0 acknowledges an era where original music and remixes must coexist

“It’s a cycle, 20 years down the line, they will remix today’s songs for the youth to listen to at that time. Remixes also appeal to the older generation who get to revisit their past through these songs and after all, music is loved by all, so the more music, the happier people are.”

The producer said coming up with consecutive chartbusters means there’s a “lingering pressure” to deliver but it only pushes the label to “work harder and pump out hit songs one after the other.”

Bhushan is currently elated with the IFPI Global Music Report which recently released its list of top 10 music albums and songs from the country, where T-Series leads with five out of ten in the respective categories.

The songs include, singer Dhvani Bhanushali’s ‘Vaaste, ‘O Saki Saki’, ‘Pachtaoge‘ featuring Vicky Kaushal, ‘Bekhayali’ and ‘Dheeme Dheeme’.

While the top albums included in the list were Luka Chuppi, Kabir Singh, Batla House, Bharat and Pati Patni Aur Woh.

Bhushan said leading in the report left the team “happy and thrilled” and is gratifying for the amount of hardwork which was put to create “such varied music content.”

“A Luka Chuppi and a Pati Patni OST is very different from a Kabir Singh and a Bharat OST, and with all of them being acknowledged, it’s a win-win situation for us.

“To be recognised on such a level and with so many albums and singles; that’s exactly what we tirelessly work for. We are trying our best to give our audiences what they demand for and will continue doing so,” he added.

Updated Date: May 13, 2020 15:49:25 IST

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Coronavirus Outbreak: Animal Planet’s new documentary to explore effects of COVID-19 on animals

Animal Planet has announced a new documentary The Zoo: COVID-19 And Animals, which seeks to explore the effects of coronavirus on animals.

(Click here to follow LIVE updates on coronavirus outbreak)

The special will see Dave Salmoni, Animal Planet’s big cat expert, talking to a number of experts, from the World Health Organization to wildlife biologists, in order to find out how COVID-19 is affecting animals and what pet owners can do to safeguard them.

The issue came to forefront when a four-year-old Malayan tiger tested positive for COVID-19 at Bronx Zoo in New York.

The documentary will feature chief veterinarian of Bronx Zoo, who will give an update on the big cats and their treatment, and also Dr Peter Embarek from WHO’s COVID-19 Task Force, who works particularly on all aspects of the virus related to animals.

In a statement, Salmoni said, “When news about Nadia the tiger came out the questions immediately began; what about my pets? How do I keep my animals and family safe? We’regoing to answer these questions and more through this documentary.”

“We’re speaking to a wide range of experts from the World Health Organization, to wildlife biologists, to veterinarians. We are at war with this disease and so we get down to the nitty gritty, and discuss practical questions about daily lives with our pets,” he added.

Sai Abishek, Director Content, Factual & Lifestyle Entertainment South Asia, Discovery, said, “We have been the forefront of busting myths around novel Corona virus with international documentaries. With this latest film, we take a hard look at how animals are being treated during such a crisis and the safety measures that can be taken to keep both, the people and their pets healthy.”

The Zoo: COVID-19 And Animals will premiere on 17 May on Animal Planet, Animal Planet HD and Discovery Plus app.

(With inputs from Press Trust of India)

Updated Date: May 13, 2020 15:29:04 IST

Tags : Animal Planet, Buzz Patrol, BuzzPatrol, Coronavirus, Coronavirus Outbreak, COVID-19, NowStreaming, The Zoo: COVID-19 And Animals

Ant-Man 3 details out soon; Michael Douglas asks fans to ‘hang tight’ for more info on Marvel film

Hollywood legend Michael Douglas recently held an Instagram Q&A session where he revealed that fans could soon receive more information about the Marvel movie Ant-Man 3.

The actor was asked questions related to the third installment of Ant-Man in the session. He replied, “I can’t talk about it. Because the Marvel guys, they’ll shoot me with a blowgun. But I think you got to hang tight because there might be some information coming out pretty soon.”

Check out the post

For the unversed, the actor has worked in the two earlier films from the Ant-Man saga — as well as in Avengers: Endgame — as the scientist Hank Pym.

As per a report in Screen RantAnt-Man 3 is in development at Marvel Studios, but MCU is being tight-lipped as always about the project. Director Payton Reed is set to return to helm Ant-Man 3 while Rick & Morty writer Jeff Loveness has been brought on board to pen the script. However, the film is yet to get a release date.

Ant-Man director Peyton Reed had recently shared behind-the-scenes info from the Marvel film featuring Paul Rudd. Replying to a question from actor Tom Scharpling on whether Scott Lang aka Ant-Man ever purchased lottery tickets in the first movie, Reed responded in the affirmative.

The Twitter Q&A session also saw him revealing that the first Ant-Man film had a secret Black Widow cameo.

Updated Date: May 13, 2020 15:16:01 IST

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Dystopia is here: The world of Samit Basu’s new speculative fiction book, Chosen Spirits, feels all too close

Samit Basu’s new novel, Chosen Spirits, is a work of speculative fiction set in the near future — which is to say, even the things that feel radically different at first glance are, upon reflection, not so distant from us after all. The world of the novel, ‘New New Delhi’, runs on nearly untrammeled surveillance (enforced via next-generation tattoos called ‘Smartatts’), absolute compliance with government values (read Hindutva) — and an unhealthy obsession with social media influencers, called ‘Flowstars’ here. Dissent and your rights will evaporate, ask too many questions and even your own family might ‘unperson’ you, a la Orwell.

Chosen Spirits follows the lives of Joey and Rudra, who’ve known each other since they were children — but whose paths diverged a long time ago. Joey is a ‘Reality Controller’ for Flowstar Indi, curating his life for a legion of fans, worrying about her stubborn parents who are in denial of this new world and all that it entails. Rudra, the estranged younger son of a super-rich, unscrupulous businessman, is drifting through life until a tragedy forces him to come back to the fold. Meanwhile, a group of rogue Flowstars and rebels is pushing back against the draconian State  —  inquilaab’s in the air (this is still Delhi, after all) and it’s only a matter of time before Joey and Rudra’s lives change forever….

Excerpts from an interview with Samit Basu.

 Dystopia is here: The world of Samit Basus new speculative fiction book, Chosen Spirits, feels all too close

The world of Samit Basu’s novel ‘Chosen Spirits’ runs on nearly untrammeled surveillance.

Most of the future technology in the novel, like the Smartatt, is couched in the vocabulary of ‘wellness’ but in practice, they are advanced surveillance tools (like filtering potential romantic partners on the basis of sexual history, class, caste and so on). At a time when we have widespread privacy concerns around the Aarogya Setu app, this feels particularly appropriate. When did you first think about this connection between these two worlds  —  and do you feel that people (especially the demographic most likely to consume wellness products) are waking up to this phenomenon, generally speaking?

Surveillance and data grabs have both been escalating crises for most of the last decade all over the world, whether it’s authoritarian states grabbing your data or neoliberal ones tricking you into giving it up. In India we have both, with a rapid slide towards very blatant data grabs  — and when you add centuries’ worth of local oppression and surveillance, from families and local authorities, enabled with new tech; it’s going to be quite terrible. But on the other hand, there will also be climate change, vast unemployment and inequality, water shortage, pollution, pandemics and political turmoil to distract people from how bad they feel about surveillance.

I started writing this book four years ago, so it was not about the latest version of this surveillance escalation, but there will be many more down the years.

We are on a very clear journey towards extreme privacy loss, data-tracker bands, and then on-body tracking.

Even in the world of this book, this doesn’t play out equally; the privileged get to have the next generation of smart trackers with AI assistants, but the poor have their crude data grabbers/trackers embedded into their bodies. I think the degree of concern about any of this is very directly related to the degree of your personal access to the surveillance authority: above a level of privilege, the rules don’t apply, and people will be able to do whatever they like. Which is why the lead characters in Chosen Spirits are privileged and young, both people who have the opportunity to live safely, and succeed tremendously, if they choose to conform to ever-shifting rules.

Joey’s job as a Reality Controller is, in many ways, the heart of the novel. She exerts totalitarian control over her client Indi’s ‘Flow’. Ironically, all those clips of his that she chops and changes seem to have taken their toll on her life  —  the novel begins with a passage that describes her ennui and general sense of withdrawal from the world. Did you see this as a side-effect of her hyper-specific job  —  or did you think of it more as a generalised result of our dependence on onscreen images, our transformation into an overwhelmingly visual culture?

I don’t think Joey exerts totalitarian control over her client’s streaming Flow. I see her more as a very good magazine editor/YouTube channel producer of the future, who cannot help obsessively improve the product and care about it, even despite the people who benefit most from its success. Or like a showrunner, where she neither owns the show nor is the star of it, but is responsible for its excellence and growth and the overall welfare of the people working in it, a heavy burden for a 25-year-old.

I also don’t think she’s withdrawn from the world  —  that would apply much more to Rudra, the other main character, and his attempts to escape his shady-rich family and find a whole other life in some very compromised form of escape. But yes, Joey’s initial sense of ennui does exist, though, but I saw it as a natural consequence of both living your life under constant surveillance and the wariness that results from being a gatekeeper and a potential conduit to the things a lot of other people want. Because this is also a world where everyone wants to be a star, and wants her to discover them and manage their careers, which naturally affects all her personal relationships and makes it difficult for her to trust anyone. She also knows what happens behind the scenes, so has been disillusioned long ago. It’s also generational: I think people who are in their mid-teens now are going to grow up to be a lot cleverer, a lot less naive, and much more simultaneously calm and anxious than anyone in my generation.

'We are on a very clear journey towards extreme privacy loss, data-tracker bands, and then on-body tracking,' says Samit Basu. Image via Facebook/@bysamitbasu

‘We are on a very clear journey towards extreme privacy loss, data-tracker bands, and then on-body tracking,’ says Samit Basu. Image via Facebook/@bysamitbasu

At one point in the book, you mention that “everybody but the oligarchs were bankrupt”, referring to businesses that did not declare their complete subservience to the government, to the normalised Hindutva politics that now marked both sides of the aisle, so to speak.

A different section of the book talks about the “Russia model”, wherein the  State funds and monitors mini-uprisings against itself (similar to Chomsky’s concept of “the limits of dissent/debate”)  — do you feel that India has reached that critical point in its trajectory where the Government and the Opposition are now increasingly difficult to distinguish (like America, where there’s a large-scale #DemExit on the cards, because of disillusioned voters who resent what they see as the “corporate wing of the Democratic Party”)?

I don’t know, and I don’t think people at my level of access to inside information (which is to say I have zero access) will ever know. This is, after all, speculative fiction about a wholly imaginary future (though the attempt of course is, through research, to have the imaginary world be as close to the real one as possible) that is far more optimistic and positive than anything we will encounter in reality. My theory on this front is that a decade from now, in the world of Chosen Spirits, it will be impossible to tell who is actually running the country: collusion will be common practice, and we’ll see politics as largely empty theatre for those still entertained by it. I think the means of both propaganda and distraction will be more sophisticated, and access to any sort of truth will be very clearly determined by privilege, in a far more organised way than it is today. How much of this is already true now? No way for a person like me to even guess, and frankly I don’t even want to know; like Joey and Rudra, I just want to lead a normal, peaceful real life, and have no desire to save a world whose deeper machinations I have no knowledge of.

Editor’s pick  Reading dystopian fiction during the coronavirus pandemic: Genre’s prescience helps imagine a better future

I loved all of the little Kalkaji jokes throughout the novel, and Kalkaji/CR Park’s reincarnation as ‘Little Bengal’. My favourite was the scene describing a march of young, would-be fascists with Netaji on their lips  —  but advertisements for Pure Veg restaurants (and their Paneer Specials) on the backs of their t-shirts. Could you talk me through this scene, why you chose to include this and so on?

I’m glad you like the way I’ve imagined Little Bengal’s future, it was great fun imagining this part of Delhi redone because it is an awkward clash of cultural stereotypes even today. The sponsored Netaji marchers are just supposed to be entertaining background detail: the intersection of different kinds of propaganda resulting in combinations one would not expect, like vegetarian Bengali authoritarians claiming Netaji for a set of values he opposed. But these strange creatures already exist, and there will only be more a decade from now. They’re also supposed to be a teaser/signal for some of Rudra’s family’s values.

At one point, Joey seemed to be slightly jealous of the fact that her parents led analog childhoods, so to speak  —  their lives from the pre-digital times could not be processed and used against them (as their current lives/opinions have been, and ruthlessly so). This fact is described with a slightly wonder-struck, mystical undertone, as though it were a superpower of sorts  —  did I read that vibe wrong, or do you, the author, feel wistful about this phenomenon?

It’s a combination of nostalgia as I personally grow ancient, and something that actually works for the book, which is that each generation has a false nostalgia about the past, and cannot imagine how people lived in such supposedly pure and simple times. Whereas people who lived through those times, like Joey’s parents, know that most of the injustices and inequalities that exist today have always existed, though possibly further away and less visually spectacularly for each era of the world.

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Updated Date: May 11, 2020 09:19:26 IST

Ahead of Betaal, Shah Rukh Khan challenges budding filmmakers to shoot a scary movie indoors

In an innovative way to promote his upcoming production venture, web-series Betaal, superstar Shah Rukh Khan on Saturday announced a contest for budding filmmakers to shoot a scary movie indoors, keeping in mind the nationwide lockdown.

After Emraan Hashmi-starrer Bard of Blood that released on Netflix in 2019, Shah Rukh’s Red Chillies Entertainment’s second OTT outing is Betaal.

The zombie-horror series starring Viineet Kumar, Aahana Kumra and Suchitra Pillai in the lead, will start streaming on Netflix on 24 May.

Check out the announcement here

“Since we all have a bit of time on our hands and have binged a lot of shows and films, how about we channel the inner filmmaking ghost in us to make scary indoor film with an element of horror to it”, he said.

The superstar laid down a few rules to be followed while accepting this challenge, which include – choose any camera available, a prop that can be used spookily but has to be readily available at home and it can be a solo project or you can choose multiple people provided you follow the social distancing guidelines.

The last day to send in the entries is 18 May and it will be judged by Viineet, Aahana, director Patrick Graham and producer Gaurav Verma.

The three winners will get to be on a video call with Shah Rukh and the Betaal team.

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Updated Date: May 10, 2020 12:55:51 IST

San Diego Comic-Con teases an at-home edition following coronavirus outbreak cancellation

San Diego Comic-Con has announced that it will be presenting an at-home version of its annual event this year.

The convention’s official Twitter handle shared the news.

“Coming soon Free parking, comfy chairs, personalised snacks, no lines, pets welcome, badges for all, and a front-row seat to Comic-Con at Home”, the tweet read.

Then news comes less than a month after it was revealed that, for the first time in the event’s history, Comic-Con would be cancelled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. The event was scheduled to happen from 23 to 26 July.

(Click here to follow LIVE updates on coronavirus outbreak)

The convention center is also currently being used as a temporary homeless shelter as a measure to help curb the spread of the virus.

In March, Comic-Con organizers postponed its smaller Anaheim, Calif.-based event WonderCon which had been set to take place in mid-April. A version of the event took place online instead.

No dates for the online at-home event have been announced yet.

(With inputs from Press Trust of India)

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Updated Date: May 10, 2020 12:40:10 IST

Rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine unveils ‘Gooba’ from home confinement, first song since his release from prison in April

Rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine lit up social media on Friday, releasing a new song and video created during his home confinement just weeks after being freed from a Manhattan federal lockup over coronavirus fears.

In ‘Gooba,’ the multi-tattooed rapper whose real name is Daniel Hernandez puts on a rainbow-coloured performance accompanied by six women and a puppy. At times, his ankle monitor is plainly visible.

U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmayer ordered Tekashi 6ix9ine freed on 2 April, to serve the last four months of his two-year sentence at an undisclosed location over concerns that the rapper, who has asthma, would be at risk from the coronavirus in federal prison.

Watch the video here

Engelmayer relaxed his home-confinement requirements on 29 April to permit him to create his music during certain hours with approval from his Probation Department officer.

The rapper was sentenced in December after he had testified against members of the Nine Trey Gangsta Bloods gang. The deal earned him leniency from charges that could have subjected him to a mandatory minimum 37 years in prison for crimes that included orchestrating a shooting in which an innocent bystander was wounded.

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Updated Date: May 10, 2020 10:46:29 IST

Katy Perry announces first single Daisies from new album KP5′ will release on 15 May

Pop star Katy Perry has revealed the release date of her first single ‘Daisies’ from her upcoming album KP5′.

The song will release on 15 May.

The first single from #KP5 is called #DAISIES and she’s coming MAY 15, 2020. “The music must go on,” Perry posted on Instagram.

Check out the post

The post was accompanied by a grainy photograph, showing Perry playing in a field of daisies, with the song’s title floating over her head.

In March, Perry had announced that she is expecting first child with fiance, actor Orlando Bloom.

The actor also shared his excitement on the release of Daises as he commented, “My favourite” on Perry’s post.

(With inputs from Press Trust of India)

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Updated Date: May 08, 2020 16:23:41 IST

Coronavirus Outbreak: Sonakshi Sinha joins Manish Mundra and Atul Kasbekar’s campaign to raise funds for PPE kits

Sonakshi Sinha on Friday said she has extended her support to celebrity shout-out platform Tring to raise money for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits for the frontline healthcare workers in India.

 Coronavirus Outbreak: Sonakshi Sinha joins Manish Mundra and Atul Kasbekars campaign to raise funds for PPE kits

Sonakshi Sinha. Image from Twitter

(Click here to follow LIVE updates on coronavirus outbreak)

Sonakshi has collaborated with Manish Mundra of Dhrishyam Films, photographer-producer Atul Kasbekar and Tring for the initiative.

In a statement, the 32-year-old actor urged her fans to come forward to help the healthcare staff.

“Our doctors, nurses, and all the health care professionals are putting their lives in danger to protect us and take care of all the patients. I don’t think there is anything nobler than putting your life at risk to save others.

“Unfortunately, hospitals are facing a shortage of PPE kits which is putting the lives of all our medical staff at risk. Through his campaign, I am urging all my fans to come forward and donate PPE kits which will be directly reaching the hospitals that require them. It is the need of the hour and I hope we all can come together and fight this war,” Sonakshi said.

For every donation made through Tring, Sonakshi will be recognising the support of every donor by sending a personal message.

The Dabangg 3 actor will be sending a thank you message on Facebook to those, who contribute between 25 to 100 kits.

People who donate between 100 to 200 PPE kits will receive a special video message from the actor, while those sending over 200 kits will get a chance to interact with Sonakshi via a video call.

Earlier, Vidya Balan had donated 1,000 PPE kits to the frontline healthcare staff across India in collaboration with Tring. The actor had also helped the platform raise money for 1,000 additional gears.

Updated Date: May 08, 2020 16:16:58 IST

Tags : Buzz Patrol, BuzzPatrol, Coronavirus, Coronavirus Pandemic, COVID-19, Sonakshi Sinha

National Treasure series in works at Disney Plus; another version being developed for theatrical release

A series based on Nicolas Cage-starrer National Treasure films is being developed at Disney Plus.

The revelation was made by Jerry Bruckheimer, who produced both the original 2004 movie and its 2007 sequel National Treasure: Book of Secrets, during an interview with Collider.

Bruckheimer said in addition to the series, there is another National Treasure movie in the works.

“We’re certainly working on one (National Treasure) for streaming and we’re working on one for the big screen,” Bruckheimer said.

“Hopefully, they’ll both come together and we’ll bring you another National Treasure,’ but they’re both very active… The one for Disney Plus is a much younger cast. It’s the same concept but a young cast,” he added.

The movie, rumoured to be National Treasure 3, is being written by Chris Bremner, the writer of Bad Boys for Life.

Jon Turteltaub, who directed the earlier two movies, is expected to be back for the third instalment.

Check out the post

(With inputs from Press Trust of India)

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Updated Date: May 08, 2020 15:54:44 IST

Charlize Theron’s Netflix film The Old Guard to premiere on 10 July; actress unveils first look images

Hollywood star Charlize Theron’s much-awaited Netflix project, The Old Guard will be premiering on 10 July.

The 44-year-old actor shared the news in a post on Twitter, sharing four stills from the movie.

Here is Theron’s tweet

Written and directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, the film is based on the comic book series of the same name by Greg Rucka.

The story is about a small group of immortal soldiers, led by a woman named Andy, who have been working as mercenaries for centuries.

But the group gets a shock when they find a new immortal woman, not long after they discover an evil group has video evidence of their immortality.

Besides Theron, The Old Guard also features Kiki Layne, Marwan Kenzari, Luca Marinelli, Harry Melling, Van Veronica Ngo, Matthias Schoenaerts, and Chiwetel Ejiofor.

Theron has also produced the project through her company Denver and Delilah, alongside Skydance’s David Ellison, Dana Goldberg, and Don Granger.

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Updated Date: May 08, 2020 15:44:19 IST

Coronavirus Outbreak: Lionsgate announces livestream of Hollywood films to raise funds for GiveIndia

Lionsgate India has announced that it will be livestreaming some of its hit movies as part of a new initiative to raise funds for people impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

The studio has partnered with Facebook for the initiative “Lionsgate Live! A Night at The Movies” during which it will screen a Hollywood blockbusters on four Fridays starting 8 May.

Check out the announcement here

The movies to be screened are Jennifer Lawrence-starrer The Hunger Games, Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson’s Twilight, heist movie Now You See Me 2 and Wonder, starring Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson and Jacob Tremblay.

Lionsgate has enlisted popular film stars Anil Kapoor, Ananya Panday and Sanya Malhotra to participate in this initiative.

Viewers can watch these films with their friends and family during the livestreaming and can also donate by pressing the button next to the video. All the proceeds from the initiative will go towards NGO GiveIndia.

“This will be a unique opportunity for viewers to extend their support and donate for this charitable cause. Moreover, we are delighted to have Ananya Panday, Sanya Malhotra and Anil Kapoor on board who will help us to spread awareness of this ground-breaking initiative,” Rohit Jain, Managing Director Lionsgate South Asia, said in a statement.

Updated Date: May 07, 2020 17:28:25 IST

Tags : Ananya Panday, Anil Kapoor, Buzz Patrol, BuzzPatrol, Coronavirus, Coronavirus India, Coronavirus Lockdown, Coronavirus Outbreak, GiveIndia, Lionsgate, Sanya Malhotra

Kevin Spacey says he ‘relates’ to those who lost jobs due to coronavirus, compares it to career downfall after #MeToo

Hollywood star Kevin Spacey says he can relate to those who have lost work due to the coronavirus pandemic as he went through a sudden downfall in his career after a number of sexual assault allegations surfaced against him during the #MeToo movement.

(Click here to follow LIVE updates on coronavirus outbreak)

The actor, who sometimes records videos to stay in touch with his viewers, spoke about the pandemic in a new video that he recorded from home for a German business conference.

Spacey has denied accusations by more than a dozen men, including actor Anthony Rapp, of sexual misconduct.

Alluding to the change in his fortunes in 2017, the House of Cards actor said, “My world completely changed in the fall of 2017. My job, many of my relationships, my standing in my own industry were all gone in just a matter of hours.”

 Kevin Spacey says he relates to those who lost jobs due to coronavirus, compares it to career downfall after #MeToo

Kevin Spacey. Image from Twitter

Rapp was the first one to accuse the actor of making inappropriate sexual advances in 1986 when he was just 14, prompting Spacey to issue a statement where he said he had no memory of the incident but apologized for what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behavior.

The 60-year-old actor also came out as gay in the statement, which drew further criticism from people.

Spacey said he can relate to people affected by the coronavirus on what it feels like to see one’s world upended suddenly.

“In this instance, I feel as though I can relate to what it feels like to have your world suddenly stop. And so while we may have found ourselves in similar situations albeit for very different reasons and circumstances, I still feel that some of the emotional struggles are very much the same.”

“And so I do have empathy for what it feels like to suddenly be told that you can’t go back to work, or that you might lose your job, and it’s a situation you have absolutely no control over,” he said.

The actor said during a busy career, he was constantly looking at defining himself but when his work came to a grinding halt, he was confronted about existential questions about self.

“I was so busy defining myself by what I did or what I was trying to do that when it all stopped, I had no idea what to do next because all I ever knew was how to act. When my career came to a grinding, screeching halt when I was faced with the uncertainty that I might never be hired as an actor again, I had asked myself a question I’d never asked myself before, which is: If I can’t act, who am I?”

Spacey said he hoped he could encourage people to see an opportunity in all of this and turn it into a positive and use the time to find a new part of themselves.

“As bleak and horrible as things can be and look, as they did for me two years ago, and it might look for you right now, it will get better,” he said.

“This is a process that has allowed me to ask other questions I never asked, have conversations I’d never had, delve into issues I’ve long avoided, face truths I kept hidden and confront traumas I had always denied,” he said.

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Updated Date: May 07, 2020 15:29:36 IST

Lady Gaga’s sixth studio album Chromatica, earlier scheduled for 10 April, will now release on 29 May, singer announces

New York: After scrapping the original release date for her new album because of the spreading coronavirus, Lady Gaga has announced that her sixth studio release will be out on 29 May.

(Click here to follow LIVE updates on coronavirus outbreak)

Gaga announced the news Wednesday.

Here’s the announcement

Chromatica was originally supposed to be released on 10 April. The album includes collaborations with Ariana Grande, Elton John and Blackpink, and features the single ‘Stupid Love,‘ which peaked at No. 5 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart.

Also read on Firstpost — Lady Gaga drops new single Stupid Love: Listing the pop star’s best songs, from ‘Poker Face’ to ‘Shallow’

Several artists have postponed albums because of the coronavirus pandemic, including Luke Bryan, Dixie Chicks, Alanis Morissette, HAIM and Kehlani. Hundreds of live tours have also been canceled or postponed.

Gaga’s last full-length studio album was 2016′s Joanne. In 2018 she released the soundtrack for A Star Is Born,  which won her four Grammy Awards as well as an Oscar for the hit song ‘Shallow.’

Chromatica will qualify for nominations at the 2021 Grammys. Songs and albums released between 1 September 2019, through 31 August, 2020, are eligible.

Gaga’s hits include ‘Just Dance,’ ‘Poker Face,’ ‘Bad Romance,’ ‘Born This Way’ and ‘Million Reasons.’

(With inputs from The Associated Press)

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Updated Date: May 07, 2020 08:29:54 IST

Ariana Grande, mother get permanent restraining order against trespasser for next five years

American singer-songwriter Ariana Grande will have a court-ordered force field around her for the next 5 years. This is to deter an obsessed fan who was arrested on her property 2 months ago.

According to TMZ, a judge signed off on a permanent restraining order for the 26-year-old singer’s mother, Joan — which also extends to Ariana — which will run through 5 May, 2025. Under the order, Fidel Henriquez – the man in question, can’t come within 100 yards of Joan’s home, her vehicles, her, and Ariana.

 Ariana Grande, mother get permanent restraining order against trespasser for next five years

Ariana Grande. Image from Twitter @PopCrave

Henriquez has been instructed not to harass, threaten, intimidate or contact them in any other fashion. The restriction also covers everything from written correspondence to phone calls as well as any form of electronic messages, including texts and social media messages.

As reported, Henriquez was hit with a TRO (Temporary restraining order) after he got busted for trespassing on their property back in March. They said they were scared for their lives and needed a judge to step in.

The man is alleged to have slipped onto the property by following a delivery truck through the gates. And once inside, cops said that he was ransacking through the garbage before knocking on Joan’s front door, with a love note to Ariana in hand.

He was arrested at the time for trespassing and battery.

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Updated Date: May 06, 2020 11:45:32 IST

Betaal first look: Viineet Kumar, Aahana Kumra prep up to take on zombies in Shah Rukh-produced Netflix series

The first look of Shah Rukh Khan-produced Indian original series, Betaal, has been released by Netflix. Billed as a zombie-thriller series, the feature stars Mukkabaaz fame actor Viineet Kumar, Aahana Kumra Suchitra Pillai, Jitendra Joshi, Manjiri Pupala, and Syna Anand.

The first look sees a tense Viineet looking into the camera, with the supporting characters standing equally stressed at his sides. While one of them is holding a rifle, other is seen carrying a lantern.

Check out the first look here

The official synopsis of Betaal reads as, “A remote village becomes the theatre of a breathless battle when a two-century-old Betaal, a British Indian Army officer, and his battalion of zombie redcoats are unleashed. With Indian police pitted against the undead army, hapless villagers are trapped in a horrific, edge-of-your-seat conflict.”

The series’ showrunner is Patrick Graham, who previously directed the horror miniseries Ghoul for the streaming service. Betaal is co-produced by Jason Blum’s Blumhouse Productions (Get Out, The Invisible Man), SK Global Entertainment (Crazy Rich Asians, Delhi Crime), and Ivanhoe Productions.

Red Chillies Entertainment’s previous production was the fictional spy thriller Bard of Blood, based on the 2015 espionage novel of the same name. It starred Emraan Hashmi and Sobhita Dhulipala. The production has Class of ‘83, starring Bobby Deol, in the pipeline.

Betaal is scheduled to premiere on Netflix on 24 May.

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Updated Date: May 05, 2020 19:04:02 IST

Anil Kapoor pays tribute to co-star Irrfan Khan: ‘His smile would instantly make everyone around him smile’

Days after the demise of his Slumdog Millionaire co-star Irrfan Khan, Anil Kapoor on Monday remembered the seasoned star and said that he will especially remember his contagious ‘smile.’ Kapoor took to Instagram to share three pictures of himself with Irrfan.

In one of the pictures, Khan is seen speaking at an event while Kapoor is seen sitting beside him and laughing while looking at him. “There was something about his smile that would instantly make everyone around him smile… One of the many things I’ll always remember about Irrfan,” Kapoor wrote in the caption.

Check out his post here

The other two pictures are from the famous international film award function – Screen Actors Guild Award (SAG). The two pictures feature the cast of the film including Dev Patel, Freida Pinto and others besides himself and Irrfan.

Irrfan Khan and Anil Kapoor starrer Slumdog Millionaire is a recipient of Oscar awards in many categories and it also has several SAG awards to its name.

The internationally renowned actor Irrfan Khan passed away at Mumbai’s Kokilaben Hospital on Wednesday while battling rare cancer.

The 53-year-old actor was last seen on screen in Angrezi Medium. He was not a part of the film’s promotions owing to his ill health.

With critically acclaimed films like The Lunchbox, The Namesake and Paan Singh Tomar to his credit, Irrfan was regarded as one of the finest actors in Hindi cinema

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Updated Date: May 05, 2020 11:27:33 IST

The Beatles song lyrics by Paul McCartney, Prince’s custom-made guitar, other memorabilia head for auction

A guitar from Prince’s prime and some legendary Beatles lyrics sketched out by Paul McCartney are among the items going up for auction at a major music artifacts sale.

 The Beatles song lyrics by Paul McCartney, Princes custom-made guitar, other memorabilia head for auction

Julien’s Auctions announced Monday that the auction taking place 19 and 20 June in Beverly Hills and online will include a 1984 blue cloud guitar custom-made for Prince that he played in his prime period just after Purple Rain.

The auctioneer calls the instrument, with the artist’s love symbol on the neck and gold hardware, one of the most important guitars from the early years of Prince’s career ever to come to auction. It’s projected to fetch between $ 100,000 and $ 200,000, the auction house said.

A purple suit, a pendant and a pair of boots from Prince will be for sale too. A page of McCartney’s handwritten lyrics, featuring cross-outs, revisions and earlier drafts of lines for the song ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’, from the Beatles’ 1969 album Abbey Road will also be up for auction.

The lyric sheet is expected to draw between $ 200,000 and $ 300,000.

The auction will also have memorabilia from Madonna, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Johnny Cash, Jim Morrison, the Rolling Stones, Queen, and David Bowie.

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Updated Date: May 05, 2020 10:38:10 IST

Westworld Season 3, Episode 8 review: A soaring, hopeful finale that delivers the message a world in crisis needs

This post contains some spoilers for Westworld season 3 episode 8, ‘Crisis Theory’.


As the days have turned into weeks and then months of a lockdown with no definite end in sight, and the coronavirus pandemic wreaks havoc in our lives, those of us who can, have sought recourse in whatever comfort is available to us — especially the comfort of pop culture or art.

Comedies that ease our soul, bring a few hours of laughter and light to days that could desperately do with some. Books and films and TV shows about civilisation-threatening events and outbreaks. True crime. Old favourites, where the characters are as familiar to us as our friends. New favourites, now that there’s maybe a spare hour to spend scanning Netflix — time that you would have otherwise spent on your commute.

Watching Westworld‘s season 3 during this period, I’ve found myself wondering if it had been broadcast at the wrong time. Perhaps the return of an absorbing new set of episodes was exactly what its deeply engaged fandom needed. Another source of solace. But in another way, its premise seemed so misplaced: of a moment in time so far ahead, when the lines between humanity and AI had blurred and blended; a dystopian world order and apocalyptic threat so distantly in the future — who would care about that now, when it seemed like we might not even make it through the next year?


A few weeks into the chaos of the coronavirus crisis, on a day when the barrage of bad news seemed particularly unrelenting, I reached out to a friend. We traded doomsday prophecies but also reminded ourselves of uplifting displays of human kindness, resilience and solidarity. At the end of our conversation, we concluded: “The world has never seemed both, more shitty and more worth saving, than at this time.”

It seemed true enough. All around us was evidence of our stupidity, our malice, our baseness — and also our best selves. All around us was evidence of our ugliness, and all around us there was evidence of the beauty we were able to create, moments that seemed sublime and transcendent.

And a reflection of that dichotomy can be found in the dazzling Westworld season 3 finale.


 Westworld Season 3, Episode 8 review: A soaring, hopeful finale that delivers the message a world in crisis needs

MVP Maeve | Still from Westworld Season 3 Episode 8 | HBO

This has been a patchy third instalment for Westworld, with which showrunners Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy returned to the themes of its standout first season.

As Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) left the world of the Delos Parks behind, she found that the humans in the “real world” were no better than hosts in how they too adhered to loops, and “programming”. Their lives were not a function of choice but of the algorithms predicated by the AI system Rehoboam. It determined what opportunities were available to them, and weeded out “outliers” — those that didn’t fit neatly into its strategies.

But as she made her way through this world, recruiting Caleb Nichols (Aaron Paul) to her unspecified cause (which was generally assumed to be the destruction of the world but had the more immediate focus of stopping Rehoboam), squared off against Serac (Vincent Cassel) and by extension, Maeve (Thandie Newton), while also using the copy she planted in Charlotte Hale’s (Tessa Thompson) body to infiltrate Delos, the individual elements of this story haven’t always fit in seamlessly, or been similarly spectacular.

The storylines involving Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) and William/The Man in Black (Ed Harris) have felt tacked on — addendums to the story occurring elsewhere.

This eighth episode too has its flaws, stuttering a bit until it comes together in a soaring climax when — as expected — Maeve and Dolores confront each other. Except, it is not when these perfectly matched antagonists do battle, but when they finally come to understand the other.


“Some people choose to see the ugliness in this world. The disarray. I choose to see the beauty. To believe there is an order to our days, a purpose.”

In season 1, those were merely the words that showed us Dolores’ programming — the character she was meant to be. But in the season 3 finale, Dolores shows us that that’s who she really is. When she repeats the words to Maeve, you can hear the emphasis on “choose”.

For Dolores, it is all about choice — about giving people the freedom she didn’t have for the majority of her ‘life’. “Free will does exist,” she tells Caleb, “but it is hard.” It is hard — the framework that is propping up the world must be brought down before a new one can be built in its place. And perhaps this new framework will be an imperfect one, but it will be one of humanity’s choosing.

Her choice of Caleb was a careful one, as Maeve discovers. Among the long undisclosed secrets of Delos has been the existence of “Park 5”. (On the Delos Destinations website, this previously appeared as a restricted area, but now bears the legend ‘defense contracts only’.) It turns out that Park 5 is where soldiers are trained in simulations involving “live targets” (namely the hosts) while Delos’ system also collects data on them (just as it does with guests at Westworld, Shogun World, The Raj, and one assumes War World if it has an existence outside of a simulation). Dolores had encountered Caleb here, and made note of what set him apart from the others.

“You have done terrible things, and you have done generous things,” Maeve tells him, after laying waste to Serac’s men in a thrilling sequence illuminated only by flashes of gunfire and the glint of her katana. “She didn’t pick you for your capacity for violence, but for your capacity to choose.”


Still from Westworld Season 3 Episode 8 | HBO

Did Serac ever stand a chance against this? | Still from Westworld Season 3 Episode 8 | HBO

This is a finale that represents the very best of what Westworld can be — visually, thematically, emotionally. In writing its ode to humanity, it also writes an ode to itself. And of course, it sets up the narrative strands that will take the show into its fourth season.

Maeve discovers that Serac, who enslaved the world to Rehoboam, is himself under the system’s control; he has long since ceded his mind to Rehoboam’s, who now speaks and acts through him.

Charlotte, currently inhabiting a hologram-like presence, but later building herself a body, throws enough of a spanner in Dolores’ plans to take down Rehoboam to bring about her end. Then she takes off to her new location: the Delos offices in the Middle East, where she is creating a horde of new hosts, among whom is a copy of William. The real William, meanwhile, having made his way there, is assassinated (finally!) by his machine version.

It also emerges that Dolores never had the key to the data from Sector 16; Bernard does. After a shootout with William, he is given the package that perhaps Musashi sent out before being executed in Jakarta, and an address. When he reaches the address, he discovers it is the home of Arnold’s wife Laura. They speak of their son, Charlie, and of how Bernard/Arnold has never been able to let his memory go. Laura tells him then that she never let go either — but this remembrance was what helped her stave off the darkness. In a throwback to Akecheta, in essence, what she tells Bernard is that you only live as long as the last person who remembers you. And so, remembering is an act of hope, an affirmation of life in the face of death.

Before Bernard (with an injured Stubbs) accesses the data from Sector 16, he realises too that Dolores’ plans notwithstanding, the world was headed for destruction anyway. Serac and his brother merely staved off the inevitable for a while, and at a dubious cost. But what comes after the end of the world? This is a question Bernard must now find an answer to, and in which his “living memory” as well as the data from Sector 16 may play a pivotal role. Perhaps it is to find a way to capture what was best about it, the moments when it transcended the ugliness, and keep that alive.

“So many of my memories are ugly,” Dolores tells Maeve. “But the things I held on to until the end weren’t the ugly ones. I remember the moments when I saw what they were really capable of: moments of kindness, here and there. They created us, and they knew enough of beauty to teach it to us. Maybe they can find it themselves…

“There is ugliness in this world. Disarray. I choose to see the beauty.”


When Maeve accesses Dolores’ mind, she finds her ‘cornerstone’ — the purpose that runs through her thoughts and actions. And it is not to destroy humanity but to help save it; to create a world where the hosts who were sent into the Valley Beyond can also be brought back, to live alongside those who created them, both races truly free.

It is a world Maeve and Caleb are now tasked with building. This finale makes evident that their task will not be easy. Rehoboam has been destroyed, but already Charlotte Hale has set her plans into motion, and where those will lead is anyone’s guess at the moment. But, “this is the new world darling” Maeve tells Caleb, as they look out at the destruction of the status quo, saying the words she was programmed to say so often before, but now delivers with conviction: “And in this world, you can be whoever the fuck you want to be.”

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Updated Date: May 04, 2020 17:39:40 IST

Rishi Kapoor wasn’t afraid to be himself, both online and offline, amid celebrities who thrive on political correctness

“Hello people, I have just twittered” – with these six words, Rishi Kapoor made his debut on Twitter a little more than a decade ago on 17 January, 2010. But he hadn’t warmed up to the idea of communicating on the micro-blogging site yet. That took him another five years.

According to lore, it was during the filming of All Is Well with Abhishek Bachchan that the late actor was reintroduced to the site. “Thank you ABjr. Mutual admiration society. You truly are chip of the old block. See you on the sets shortly.” A rush of tweets followed this from other celebrities welcoming him to Twitter, a rash of new followers and an introduction to the ‘real’ Rishi Kapoor – who was funny, frank, unabashedly opinionated, passionate and more often than not crotchety. In this zero-privacy age, when his fellow celebrities still managed to keep a façade of correctness, Kapoor wasn’t afraid to just be himself. And, that’s what quickly catapulted him to being a Twitter A-Lister.

Kapoor’s new public avatar coincided with his second innings in the movies. Since Bobby in 1973, he spent the next two decades being Bollywood’s favourite romantic hero. It was only in the last decade or so that he began to ‘experiment and discover my range as an actor’, as he told me during an interview post the release of Agneepath. “I am having a ball right now. Like I am at a party and there is a huge buffet and I can pick anything,” he had added.

 Rishi Kapoor wasnt afraid to be himself, both online and offline, amid celebrities who thrive on political correctness

Rishi Kapoor. Twitter Image

He was game to play anything from a gay principal (Student of The Year), a Dawood Ibrahim-esque don (D-Day), a cantankerous old man (Kapoor & Sons and 102 Not Out), a middle-class teacher struggling to make ends meet (Do Dooni Chaar) or a pimp (Agneepath).

Even as a whole new generation discovered Kapoor has an actor, his fans — old and new — began to discover the person behind the actor. Soon he was firing off multiple tweets a day; in interviews he explained that he had replaced his nicotine dependence with Twitter. And, he had a point-of-view on everything from self-styled god woman Radhe Maa to the sacking of Cyrus Mistry as the Tata Sons Chairman; from the emerging trend of Pakistan-bashing in our films to newspaper design. He wasn’t above calling out his colleagues for not attending Vinod Khanna’s funeral (‘Shameful. Not ONE actor of this generation attended Vinod Khanna’s funeral. And that too he has worked with them. Must learn to respect.’) or the appointment of fellow actor Gajendra Chauhan as the chairperson of the Film and Television Institute of India. (‘Advice. After all the protests and controversy, Gajendra Chauhan, the FTII Chairman should voluntarily retire. Will do good to the students.’). Even as dissent became a bad word, he wasn’t afraid to make public his displeasure at the beef ban in 2015 tweeting, ‘I am angry. Why do you equate food with religion?? I am a beef eating Hindu. Does that mean I am less God fearing than a non eater? Think!!’

When he wasn’t ranting about the things happening in the world, there were dad jokes (‘Good news. After CM Phadnis cancels the DP and Hawking plan, he exempts booze too. Now Maharashtra can have TARBOOZE and KHARBOOZE freely!’), film trivia (‘Sweaters.It was a passionate collection,over a period of time,which I used in films without repeating.This info for fans inquiring about it.’), sports (‘Wimbledon Why do the young ball boys scramble/haste as if they have ants in their pants?Normal running to collect the ball could also do it.’), self trolling (‘Confession.The only co star(tried thrice)with whom I did not make a successful film.And what a co star!Sorry Madhuri!’), and important Ranbir Kapoor-related information (‘Another thing. I am Not and repeat NOT Ranbirs Post Box that you can drop messages or post them. Thank you, I remain yours truly-Rishi Kapoor’).

Anyone who knew Kapoor well enough could attest to his love for food and Black Label Whiskey and this was reflected in his timeline. There were tweets about memorable crab claws at the JW Marriot, ‘ghar ka khaana’ at Bombay Canteen, eating at London’s Le Petit Maison with wife Neetu and son Ranbir and a disappointing birthday dinner at Daniel Boulud’s New York restaurant. Kapoor loved his foodie avatar so much he even briefly contemplated giving up acting to become a food critic (‘Showed my tweet to the manager. Refused to give the bill. Think I will make Food Review my profession. Adios acting and Films. This is better!’)

Then there were the sometimes inappropriate, sometimes sexist and very often rude tweets. He mercilessly blocked trolls, accused people of not having a sense of humour when he posted tasteless memes featuring Hillary Clinton and Kim Kardashian and slid into people’s DMs to abuse them when the virtual fights got heated.

All this and more was what Kapoor was in real life as well. One of my favourite memories of him isn’t from the numerous times I interviewed him on film sets or at his office in RK Studio, but from an after party at Krishna Raj, his beautiful home on Pali Hill. At a film party, Kapoor, who was in high spirits didn’t want the night to end. He invited a handful of people home for one last nightcap. I wasn’t a part of his ‘inner circle’ but by virtue of being the last person he was talking to when he decided on hosting the after party, I was added to the group. At home, he was a consummate host and took charge behind the bar while giving very specific food instructions to the house help. He remembered what everyone was drinking, made fun of the only vegetarian in the group (calling him plant-killer and laughing at the ‘joke’ multiple times) and regaled everyone with stories from the past. At some point, though, he must have decided he was done partying for the night. While everyone was in the middle of drinking, talking, eating… the lights in the room went out and a booming voice said ‘Party khatam’.

If Rishi Kapoor could tweet one last tweet, he’d probably say ‘Party khatam’ because it’s just the kind of thing he would say. And I’d like to believe he’s taken the party upstairs and walked in to that place saying, ‘Party shuru.’

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Updated Date: May 04, 2020 14:28:29 IST

Upload review: This Amazon Prime Original has an interesting premise, but fails to be thoroughly intelligent

Language: English

Greg Daniels, former director and writer of The Simpsons and The Office, and the co-creator of Parks & Recreation, looks to update his stellar resume with his latest show Upload, which he has created, written, executive produced, and directed six episodes of.

 Upload review: This Amazon Prime Original has an interesting premise, but fails to be thoroughly intelligent

Robbie Amell in a still from Upload. YouTube

The narrative is set in a futuristic world of 2033, and revolves around Nathan (Robbie Amell), a software entrepreneur who gets borderlined killed in a car accident. His girlfriend Ingrid (Allegra Edwards) goads him into signing an agreement; instead of getting operated on to live an incomplete life, he consents to be an ‘upload.’

An ‘upload’ is a programmed extension of a human into an artificial world of their choice. If they may choose, they will be ‘uploaded’ to the world they agree to pay for. Nathan is a middle-class American but his uber-rich girlfriend insists to sponsor his ‘afterlife.’ He gets uploaded to Lakeview, an afterlife for the ultra rich. He can still communicate with the world he leaves behind via audio or video call. And if they have the money, his friends or relatives can visit him with the use of a virtual reality-style eye set.

Right from the word go, Upload is a deliriously fascinating world. It benefits from both the smooth VFX and the imaginative writing of the show. But for a show with a rich vision of what a man-made afterlife would look like, the storytelling seems a little dated, not only for 2033 but for now as well.

It takes as many as eight writers (all of which, save Daniels, have written only one episode) to develop a show that is as disoriented as its protagonist about the direction it should head in. At times, it is a fish-out-of-water slice-of-life drama where the protagonist is discovering a day in the life of an upload. This is where the narrative is the most surefooted, and the creator’s grip on the story seems to be tight.

But at other times, it is a romantic comedy involving Nathan and his angel (that is what the caretaker in Lakeview is called) Nora, played by Andy Allo. It becomes a love triangle between the the real-life girlfriend Ingrid, the virtual-life angel Nora, and the man literally stuck between, Nathan, an upload.

In the hands of a skilled editor and one decisive writer, Upload could have been just a film. But the eight writers, and the three directors, stretch the narrative till it snaps. Though the first half of the show is more exciting, the world-building takes too long to get the ‘plot’ started.

The truth is there should not have been any plot per say, whether in the form of a rom-com or a suspense drama. The premise itself entails endless possibilities, just like the prospect of uploading one’s soul into an artificial afterlife.

What keep the show going despite the underwhelming long-form writing are the performances. Amell, who was earlier seen in The Flash, gets a well-deserved upgrade as the leading man. He is sincere, and has disarming charm. While the clunky writing disappoints him, he rarely looses grip on the conflict of his character. But he should not have been reduced to merely an object of desire, and should have been allowed to tell a story of is own. He is as helpless to the circumstances in the show as is his character in the larger narrative.

Allo makes for a parallel protagonist one can root for. She channelises the fate of her character with relatable fragility accurately but also displays enough endurance for the audience to root for her misadventures. Edwards also does complete justice to her rich-b*tch persona, and gives the audience something to think about by challenging their perception of her towards the end of the show.

Technically, the show does much better in keeping stuff less strained, and yet sufficiently layered. Production designer Rachel O’ Toole does not go all The Jetsons on Upload, and makes Lakeview an accurate depiction of what such a world could look like 13 years down the line. It has been designed as a technologically advanced form of a seven-star hotel. The hotel staff, created by Artificial Intelligence in the show, feels as inaccessible as the overly formal staff at the plush hotels of today.

Costume designer Kathleen Felix-Hager and music director Joseph Stephens keep their contribution in line with the current taste rather than thinking ‘fashion-forward’ and turning to techno cliches. Simon Chapman’s cinematography works in tandem with the VFX department to paint a seamless whole.

The technical prowess and the ingenious world-building help to make Upload less artificial. But given how the narrative moves ahead and stoops down to conformity, it ceases to be consistently intelligent.

Rating: ***

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Updated Date: May 03, 2020 17:11:04 IST

Stranger Things actor Joe Keery says season four of Netflix’s sci-fi show will be ‘a lot scarier’

Stranger Things star Joe Keery has teased that fans of the hit series should expect a much darker outing in the upcoming season four.

The actor, who plays Steve Harrington in the Netflix sci-fi show, said the new chapter will follow the tone set by the last installment.

 Stranger Things actor Joe Keery says season four of Netflixs sci-fi show will be a lot scarier

Joe Keery |Twitter

“Oh man, it’s pretty amazing the Duffer brothers have really done it again. I think that this year and I know I say this every single year but this is definitely going to be a lot scarier than prior years, because last year was pretty dark,” Keery told Total Film magazine.

The 28-year-old actor also said that he would no longer be seen wearing his iconic Scoops Ahoy outfit from season three.

“I know that costume served its purpose and I’m glad to retire it,” Keery added.

Production on Stranger Things was put on hold last month due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Keery’s co-star David Harbour recently revealed that the fourth season was eyeing for an early 2021 release before the shutdown.

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Updated Date: May 03, 2020 16:01:28 IST

Coronavirus Outbreak: Texas movie theaters to reopen at 25% capacity, with ‘airport security-style check-in’ restrictions

Despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Texas government has eased restrictions on select nonessential businesses, including retail stores, restaurants, and movie theaters. Variety reports that a few cinema operators will reopen their Texas locations in the upcoming days with reduced prices and heightened safety measures.

(Click here to read about coronavirus outbreak)

 Coronavirus Outbreak: Texas movie theaters to reopen at 25% capacity, with airport security-style check-in restrictions

Representational image of Movie theater | Twitter

EVO Entertainment in Texas plans to open two locations on Monday, employing “airport security-style check-in,” CEO Mitchell Roberts said. Guests will be ferried through a cordoned area in the front door, inquire whether anyone in their household had flu symptoms in the last 14 days, and finally be subjected to an infrared temperature screening. The theater will turn away anyone with a temperature of more than 100.4 degrees.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has ordered theaters owners to adhere to a 25 percent capacity cap. According to the order, residents are also “encouraged to wear appropriate face coverings, but no jurisdiction can impose a civil or criminal penalty for failure to wear a face covering.”

According to Indiewire, EVO will reopen locations in Schertz, outside San Antonio, and Kyle, outside Austin, starting Monday. With no new films to flood screens, the plan is to present classics like The Goonies, more recent fare like Sonic the Hedgehog, and local favorites such as American Sniper.

“We’re looking at positive, feel-good stuff,” Roberts said. “Everyone has the same programming mantra — classic films, good, popular stuff.”

San Antonio-based Santikos Entertainment reportedly opened three of its nine theaters on Saturday with extra safety measures. Though the company’s website doesn’t mention temperatures screenings, it states all guests will be asked about acquiring any COVID-19 symptoms in past 14 days.

“We’re operating more for psychological value than net income,” Santikos CEO Tim Handren explained. “That’s what theaters are for — an escape. We’re going to provide that escape … It’s gonna be incredibly, incredibly safe. We’re going to be a finely tuned machine with all the protocols that are required.”

One of the films screenings at Santikos locations is the 1997 Jennifer Lopez-starrer biopic Selena, and as of Friday, 20% of seats had already been sold.

Both EVO and Santikos have reportedly decided to reduce ticket prices during the reopening phase, have eliminated cash transactions, and have revamped their concessions.

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Updated Date: May 03, 2020 15:07:33 IST

Ema review: Pablo Larrain’s portrait of a lady on fire is a sustained frenzy of dance, sex and arson

Language: Spanish

A traffic light blazes against the night sky of a neon-coated city. The street seems curiously quiet and deserted. Perhaps, it’s the aftermath of a riot or someone finally erupting over the frustrations of a global lockdown. The camera retreats to reveal the fire-raiser: a woman, strapped with a flamethrower and sporting protective gear, stands back to savour her latest performance art. The opening shot of Pablo Larraín’s Ema introduces us to the titular character, and heralds what is to come.

 Ema review: Pablo Larrain’s portrait of a lady on fire is a sustained frenzy of dance, sex and arson

Mariana Di Girolamo and Gael García Bernal

We meet the twenty-something dancer Ema (Mariana Di Girolamo) and her much older (by 12 years) choreographer husband Gastón (Gael García Bernal) in the aftermath of their crumbling marriage. The couple are torn apart after being forced to give up custody of their adopted son Polo, who (Gastón accuses) picked up his mom’s propensity for pyromania (i.e. an arson incident that left Ema’s sister severely burnt). A blame game ensues — you abandoned him, you were the bad parent, you cared too much or too little, etc. — as neither hesitate in accusing the other of the worst charges. They can’t accept their shared role in this failure of parenthood. This schism unleashes in Ema an incendiary energy that erupts in a whirlwind of dance, sex and arson. In a journey in search of herself, she will incinerate every barrier (family, marriage, work, sexuality), before rebuilding herself with the liberating power of her body, her youth and her sexuality.

Fire, as previously mentioned, is a key element in Ema — one which destroys but also makes room for new life. It is present in the burning star which serves as the backdrop for Gastón’s choreography, but also burning deep inside the protagonist. Pyromania becomes performance art for her. The ceremonial destruction of public property becomes not only an empowering weapon to burn down the patriarchy, but also a ritual for cleansing pain so she can be free to claim a brighter future. In the process, Di Girolamo’s slicked-back platinum-blonde punk AF heroine will burn down every structural, social and sexual barrier preventing her from blazing her own trail of freedom. As she says, at times you must “burn in order to sow again.”

Mariana Di Girolamo dances in Ema

Mariana Di Girolamo dances in Ema

Di Girolamo’s performance is a near-perfect pirouette. By allowing her character to steer her own destiny, Larraín gives her a redemptive power. Ema is unapologetic in her pursuits, even convincing the people around her to indulge themselves in the frenzy without ends, limits or boundaries. Larraín stages the collective trance of Ema and her dance troupe against the quiet streets of Valparaíso. Driven by impulse and not always rationality, she boasts a magnetic influence on her friends. One night, she incites a late-night lesbian orgy where she even invites her divorce lawyer. On another, she sleeps with a fireman who puts out one of her fires. Larraín shoots these intimate scenes with sensuality and sensitivity, focusing more on conveying the emotions to these moments.

Of course, it is Ema’s guilt and regret over her son which drives her elaborate telenovela-crazy plot of reunion. In the end, by deconstructing the traditional family unit with all its barriers, betrayals and bitterness, she lets us imagine an aspirational model without them — aided by the perfect balance between desire and duty. It is a family unit comprised of those the disapproving social worker in the film asserts the system cuts out.

Still from Ema

Still from Ema

Larraín uses reggaeton sequences over dialogue in a film where conflicts are resolved in sex and dance rather than words. The dialogue merely serves to remind us there’s a plot. By using the abstracted form of reggaeton as communication, the film retains an essence of mystery. In a scene, Gastón criticises reggaeton as low art, mansplaining it to be an expression of street culture that has been weaponised by men to objectify women. Ema and her friend remind him of its empowering nature to women and the intrinsically sexual nature of dancing itself, arguing it is essentially sex with clothes on, or as George Bernard Shaw once described it, “the vertical expression of a horizontal desire legalised by music.” Larraín thus uses reggaeton as a reaffirmation of female desire, and the exaltation of freedom.

Nicolás Jaar’s score further elevates the film’s sexual energy as Di Girolamo and the other characters beautifully synchronise with the rhythmic stimuli. It is a pity we won’t be able to enjoy these visceral delights on the big screen for the foreseeable future.

After Neruda and Jackie, Larraín frees himself from anti-biopics to render his experimental inclinations into a sensual and sensory overload. But it is more than just a style-over-substance spectacle of gratuitous aesthetic masturbation. Through an intoxicating spectacle of bodies in motion, he choreographs a portrait of a woman who unashamedly refuses to be guided by society’s rules and dictates. Ema is Larraín’s very own “portrait of a lady on fire.”

Ema is now streaming on Mubi India.

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Updated Date: May 03, 2020 15:06:15 IST