Ema review: Pablo Larrain’s portrait of a punk 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 punk 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 to reunite with her son. 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 13:52:47 IST

Lovecraft Country teaser: Jordan Peele’s HBO series explores racism, supernatural horror in Jim Crow-era United States

The teaser of the highly anticipated gothic horror show Lovecraft Country was recently unveiled by HBO. Based on Matt Ruff’s 2016 novel of the same name, the story will explore the link between HP Lovecraft’s horror and racism in the United States during the Jim Crow era.

 Lovecraft Country teaser: Jordan Peeles HBO series explores racism, supernatural horror in Jim Crow-era United States

A still from Lovecraft Country. Image from YouTube

The official synopsis reads: “The series follows Atticus Freeman (Jonathan Majors) as he joins up with his friend Letitia (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) and his Uncle George (Courtney B. Vance) to embark on a road trip across 1950s Jim Crow America in search of his missing father (Michael Kenneth Williams). This begins a struggle to survive and overcome both the racist terrors of white America and the terrifying monsters that could be ripped from a Lovecraft paperback.”

The trailer shows Atticus return home from Chicago in a bus segregated with a board that says “This part of the bus for the colored race.” He soon discovers that his father is missing, but receives a letter from his father asking to meet in “Lovecraft Country.” “This place is dangerous,” Uncle George tells him, yet the three still decide to get on the road.

The clip features montages of three ambushed by police forces in the woods and being attacked by sharp-toothed alien creatures as they run for their lives. “I thought the world was one way and found out isn’t,” says Leti.

Watch the teaser here

Lovecraft was known for his weird and supernatural horror fiction short stories like ‘The Call of Cthulhu’, and books like At the Mountains of Madness.

Jordan Peele has executive produced Lovecraft Country via Monkey Paw Productions alongside showrunner Misha Green. JJ Abrams is also attached to the project as executive producer.

The 10-episode series is set to premiere in August.

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Updated Date: May 03, 2020 13:44:42 IST

HBO greenlights fifth season renewal of Issa Rae’s drama Insecure, actor confirms on Twitter

HBO has announced that popular dramedy series Insecure, starring Issa Rae in the lead, has been renewed for season five.

The announcement was made by Amy Gravitt, executive vice president, HBO Programming, in a statement posted on HBO’s parent company WarnerMedia’s website.

“We’re thrilled that Issa, Prentice, and the whole ‘Insecure’ team will be getting back together for a fifth season. As we laugh and cringe with recognition, their stories make us all feel a little less alone in the world,” she said.

The show, created by Rae and Larry Wilmore, started in 2016. Its fourth season dropped on HBO last month.

In the series, Rae stars as Issa Dee, who together with her best friend Molly (Yvonne Orji), navigates the single experience in Los Angeles; their peers sometimes feel intimidated by their success.

Insecure also features Jay Ellis, Natasha Rothwell, Amanda Seales and Alexander Hodge in pivotal roles.

Prentice Penny, Melina Matsoukas, Michael Rotenberg, Dave Becky, Jonathan Berry, Amy Aniobi and Jim Kleverweis serve as executive producers.

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Updated Date: May 03, 2020 13:32:29 IST

John Lafia, co-writer of horror film Child’s Play, passes away in Los Angeles; officials confirm it as suicide

John Lafia, who co-wrote 1988 horror film Child’s Play and also co-wrote and directed Child’s Play 2, died on 29 April in Los Angeles. He was 63.

According to the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office, the cause of death was suicide, reports Variety. His family confirmed the news of his death through a press statement though they did not mention anything about the suicide.

 John Lafia, co-writer of horror film Childs Play, passes away in Los Angeles; officials confirm it as suicide

John Lafia | Twitter -@variety

Child’s Play creator and screenwriter Don Mancini also said in a statement provided by Lafia’s family, “We’re devastated to hear of the passing of our friend John Lafia. He was a crucial part of the Chucky family from the very beginning. He co-wrote the original Child’s Play script along with director Tom Holland and myself, and John directed Child’s Play 2 — the consensus favorite film among Chucky fans.”

“John was an incredibly generous artist,” Mancini continued. “He let me tag along with him to every meeting, and shadow him on set; he taught me more about filmmaking during the production of that movie than several semesters in film school. John was also one of the most naturally curious and constantly creative people I ever met, someone who was always taking pictures, and jotting down ideas. We’ll miss him terribly. Much love to his wife Beverly and his children Kane and Tess, of whom John was so very proud.”

Lafia collaborated with Mancini and Holland on the horror movie screenplay, which won a Saturn award for best horror film, as well as a nomination for best writing. He also received a writing credit on the 2019 remake. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Lafia coined the name “Chucky” and contributed the infamous line: “Hi, I’m Chucky, wanna play?”

Lafia’s first big credit was for writing and directing 1988’s The Blue Iguana. This is a crime film starring Dylan McDermott, which was selected for a midnight showing in the official selection at the 1988 Cannes Film Festival.

He is survived by his children Tess and Kane and his former wife Beverly.

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Updated Date: May 03, 2020 12:42:51 IST

Watch: Michael Sheen, David Tennant discuss lockdown in Good Omens quarantine special episode

Actors Michael Sheen and David Tennant have reunited for a special version of Amazon series Good Omens to mark the 30th anniversary of authors Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s novel of the same name.

The new special, titled Good Omens: Lockdown, follows angel Aziraphale (Sheen) and demon Crowley (Tennant) as they check in with each other in lockdown.

The two friends are talking through their current pandemic situations in an audio-only clip, which was published on Terry Pratchett’s YouTube page.

Watch the special episode here

Good Omens, which premiered on Amazon Prime Video in 2019, was created and written by Gaiman, who also served as showrunner.

Set in 2018, the six-episode series follows Crowley and Aziraphale, longtime friends who, having grown accustomed to life on Earth as representatives of Heaven and Hell, seek to prevent the coming of the Antichrist.

The show also featured Adria Arjona, Miranda Richardson, Michael McKean, Jack Whitehall and Jon Hamm.

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Updated Date: May 03, 2020 11:29:13 IST

How Jaya Bachchan, face of middle cinema in India, carved a niche with her girl-next-door charm

Jaya Bachchan, née Bhaduri, celebrated her 72nd birthday on 9 April this year. In a short but wonderful career, she delivered several memorable performances in films like Guddi (1971), Mili (1975), Abhimaan (1973), Koshish (1972) and Sholay (1975), among others, thereby becoming a household name.

She was only 13 and unaware of Satyajit Ray’s stardom when she debuted as Bani, Subrata Mazumdar’s (played by Anil Chatterjee) younger sister in Mahanagar (1963), on being persuaded by some family friends. It was an experience so wholly enjoyable to the teenager that she began taking a keen interest in films thereafter. She would regularly watch Indian and international films screened by a local film society, and discuss them with her family. Once, during a dinner table conversation, her father, well-known writer and journalist Tarun Bhadhuri, commented on a certain actor lacking professional training or skill. His daughter was intrigued to know that such schools actually existed. Few years later, she enrolled in the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) in Pune, and passed with a first-class-first. When she joined the film school in the 1960s, the independent cinema movement was still thriving. Back then, celebrated cinema scholar PK Nair regularly held screenings at the institute, and stalwarts like Satyajit Ray would make frequent visits.

 How Jaya Bachchan, face of middle cinema in India, carved a niche with her girl-next-door charm

A young Jaya Bhaduri (now Bachchan) in a scene from Satyajit Ray’s Mahanagar (1963), with Madhabi Mukherjee and Anil Chatterjee.

Full of vigour and idealism, Jaya found herself at home in the “middle cinema” of the 1970s. Hrishikesh Mukherjee was a pioneer in this genre, and Guddi was also created in the same vein. The “fresh-faced, scrubbed-clean” Jaya totally fit the role of a school-girl, despite being in her early 20s at the time.

For film critics and the audience alike, Jaya came as a “gale of fresh air”. Heroines in the ’60s wore their hair elaborately, besides donning jazzy dresses and dramatic eyeliner, in contrast to which Jaya and her unfussy look made them feel like ‘one of them’ was on screen. “No girl going to college could think of dressing the way heroines in movies did. I may sound as if I am bragging, but girls felt closer to films when we joined, because we were like them. We brought cinema closer to the people,” she said, wearing her ‘modest’ appearance with pride.

Jaya Bachchan-1-825

“I couldn’t handle the weight of the hairdo and the make-up. And there has to be a gali somewhere for plain-looking actresses,” Jaya said in an interview to Girish Karnad. This attitude also marked her defiance. She wanted to prove the directors — who thought her appearance was only good for character-roles — wrong. So, she consciously held her own through her ‘difference’ and newness, distinguishing herself from the lot. “Moushumi Chatterjee ko le liya, usse achcha toh main kar leti (Moushumi Chatterjee was chosen for the role; I would’ve done a better job at it),” she said when she heard that Hrishikesh Mukherjee had finished casting for Guddi.

Her cheekiness was refreshing and endearing, and Guddi was created around this persona. In one of the early scenes in the film, she tells her friends, “Aisi acting ki, ki Meena Kumari ki bhi chutti kardi! (My acting will put even Meena Kumari to shame).” The Meena Kumari reference, however, is not cursory.

Jaya Bachchan sought to place herself in the league of actresses of the calibre of Meena Kumari and Waheeda Rahman, and even by her own admission, Geeta Bali. These leading ladies were known for their “effortlessness” — a word constantly attributed to her acting style.

But while effortlessness was one thing, the actress did not have a formal training rooted in the theatrical traditions of rasa or bhava. She was neither a stellar classical dancer like Waheeda Rahman, nor was she a poet with the ‘nazaaqat’ of Meena Kumari. In fact, her oeuvre boasts very few dance sequences. ‘Maine Kahaa Phoolon Se’ (Mili), ‘Pallo Latke’ (Nauker), and ‘Chakku-Chhuriyaan’ (Zanjeer) are among the more familiar ones, but none of them pander to the typically captivating image of a Hindi film heroine.

Jaya Bachchan-11-825

However, while we are on the subject, the song ‘Baahon Mein Chale Aao’ from Anamika (1973) deserves a mention. This track from Raghunath Jhalani’s only noteworthy film features the actress and the actor Sanjeev Kumar. Her character is seen seducing the hero. The words of the song by Majrooh Sultanpuri are evocative and sensual, especially when coupled with the music of RD Burman and the voice of Lata Mangeshkar, thereby hitting the right notes throughout. One would conventionally imagine the visuals to such a song as risqué, flaunting a heroine in a lacy dress or a transparent chiffon saree, delicate bangles, kohl-rimmed eyes, partly-wet hair, and raindrops lashing against the window, the works. But nothing of that sort happens in the song, where Jaya is seen wearing a baggy, high-neck, full-sleeved bright (phosphorous) orange kurta and dhoti-pants, with no flashy make-up. Her aadaayein barely dazzle, and yet, she manages to look adorable in the song, owning the screen with her contagious effervescence.

I believe in praxis, this departure from the traditional, or at least the customary, is what added to her ‘newness’ – her contemporaneity that made her relevant to the times. Besides her temperament, her acting technique that made her extremely relatable to her yesteryear audience was something she inherited from her mentor, Hrishikesh Mukherjee. There was a strict ‘no retake’ policy on his sets. All actors were briefed about the scene on the day of the shoot, and were encouraged to improvise. They had to remain on set throughout the shoot, and were expected to learn and contribute by observing others. This acquired spontaneity is what everyone called her “natural” acting, making her instantly relatable to her audience.

Jaya Bachchan and Sanjeev Kumar in a still from the song 'Baahon Mein Chale Aao' from the film Anamika (1973), directed by Raghunath Jhalani. YouTube screenshot.

Jaya Bachchan and Sanjeev Kumar in a still from the song ‘Baahon Mein Chale Aao’ from the film Anamika (1973), directed by Raghunath Jhalani. YouTube screenshot.

Jaya Bachchan in and as Guddi (1971), directed by Rishikesh Mukherjee. YouTube screenshot.

Jaya Bachchan in and as Guddi (1971), directed by Hrishikesh Mukherjee. YouTube screenshot.

Jaya Bachchan’s stardom would remain incomplete without her association with middle-class cinema. These films made a shift from hero-centric narratives to story-centric ones, and featured ensemble casts. But what made her stand out was how she dwarfed her co-stars – the tall, the seasoned, and even the mighty ones – each time. Her overshadowing of Dharmendra in Guddi, in a much-written about debut, won her a nomination in the Filmfare Best Actress category.

However, let’s take her second Hindi film Uphaar (1971), directed by Sudhendu Roy — an acclaimed art director and production designer — and revisit her introduction scene. It was one of the most memorable scenes for an actress of her times, where she’s shown laughing in the hero’s face after he trips. A big audacious laughter that instantly infuses energy into the film, and pushes it into second gear. From the first scene itself, it is clear as to who is in charge. Her co-actor in the film was Swarup Dutta, a well-known Bengali actor, but a stranger to the Hindi film audience.

Uphaar was perhaps Dutta’s only Hindi film, thereby implying that Jaya had already attained the ‘hero’s position’ in the production. The film not only won the actress her second Filmfare Award nomination, but was also India’s official entry to the Oscars that year. Even in Koshish (1972), Gulzar’s much-acclaimed directorial that won Sanjeev Kumar the National Award, Jaya, despite being only a year old in the industry, was a competent lead opposite the much senior and seasoned actors. And every time she worked with her contemporaries like Randhir Kapoor, Amitabh Bachchan and Danny Denzongpa (in Abhi toh Jee Lein), the artiste outwitted them all.

Each time she emoted, the camera was firmly in her grip. One can actually compare the number of times the lenses zoomed in on her, to the number of times it captured her male co-stars in wide shots. In fact, as is widely held, when all actresses refused to star opposite Amitabh Bachchan in Zanjeer (1973), Jaya stepped up and showed him the way to stardom. Ironically, it was also the film that ended her stardom by shifting the focus on to her husband’s newly-minted alter-ego of the ‘Angry Young Man’. So, would one be in the wrong to say that she shook the industry that was ruled by the heroes?

Jaya Bachchan in and as Mili (1975), directed by Rishikesh Mukherjee. YouTube screenshot.

Jaya Bachchan in and as Mili (1975), directed by Hrishikesh Mukherjee. YouTube screenshot.

There were other actresses — her contemporaries — who were also associated with the middle-cinema movement. Vidya Sinha, for instance, was someone who I would like to identify as the ‘queen of the middle-class cinema’, besides Deepti Naval, who came in much later. And yet, Jaya was the more successful face. Firstly, due to the credibility she built with her work in Indie cinema, she was able to transition into the mainstream effortlessly, boosting her following subsequently. There was an indisputable star quality to her. And secondly, she was comfortable doing smaller roles if the film was ‘good’, like Chupke Chupke, marking her history in film-school training.

Also, there was an undeniable larger factor at play. For all their thespian achievements, a ‘star’ in Hindi cinema is ultimately the sum total of their acting output and social capital. In this piece that I wrote recently on Guddi, I read the film as the story of a teenage girl’s family, who plot to arrange a traditional marriage for their daughter by purging her of her love for films, and her heartthrob Dharmendra. I explain my postulation by stating that Guddi was “intended by Hrishikesh Mukherjee to critique popular film culture and to unmask what he considered to be an illusionary ’reality’ constructed on the screen by Bombay film companies,” and how this task is carried out in the film by an agent of patriarchy — Kusum’s uncle, Professor Gupta, played by Utpal Dutt. I concluded my analysis of the film by saying that this triumph of the family unit over promising female aspirations is symbolically akin to Jaya Bachchan’s (initial) journey in the Hindi film industry. I stand by that argument.

Jaya Bachchan in a still from Uphaar (1971), directed by Sudhendu Roy. YouTube screenshot.

Jaya Bachchan in a still from Uphaar (1971), directed by Sudhendu Roy. YouTube screenshot.

Remember that these films were produced in the era of the Film Finance Corporation or FFC (now NFDC). The middle-class cinema was intended for an emerging urban bourgeoise class, promoted on the Nehruvian ideal of the greater social good. So Jaya’s contemporaneity, as discussed earlier, was not a radical one, but a product of the times, crafted partly by this cultural bourgeois project, and partly by her own assimilation. Just as Anand (1971) marked the end of a feudal era of heroes to birth a new era of the angry young man, Guddi, released in the same year, and part of the same Hrishikesh Mukherjee universe, defined the role that women played in this new nation – as citizen subjects and as spectators (who were movie-goers — an act normalised in the film).

So, when Jaya Bachchan remarks that people liked her because she “looked” exactly like them, it is because she subliminally created a world that the spectator saw themselves in, and reflected back to them through her. All her films through these years — Guddi, Piya Ka Ghar, Kora Kagaz, Uphaar, Abhimaan, Koshish, and Mili, were concerned with the consolidation of the middle-class, upper-caste identity, and the resolution of social tension through marriage.

Her characters in Guddi to Uphaar, and Piya ka Ghar to Abhimaan and Mili, could actually just be perceived as the story of the same girl passing through the various stages of socialisation — from childhood to puberty, with the ultimate goal of conjugal harmony. It’s amazing how each film presents Jaya’s character as “different” from the conventional Hindi film heroine, so much so that it convinces the viewer of the film’s progressive politics.

Jaya Bachchan and Amitabh Bachchan in a still from Abhimaan (1973), directed by Hrishikesh Mukherjee

Jaya Bachchan and Amitabh Bachchan in a still from Abhimaan (1973), directed by Hrishikesh Mukherjee

Meenu of Uphaar is an unruly-haired dame who sings her own tune; Mili is not materialistic like “other girls” (and is supposed to be an angel); Krishna of Bawarchi (1972) is a mother-less recluse; and Shobha of Silsila (1981) is an unwed, pregnant fiancée of a martyr. So, by creating the illusion of giving space to the unconventional, the narrative, bit-by-bit, curbs every single instinct and eccentricity that made Jaya different in the first place.

Though her visible impact is pleasant, she’s complacent in her transactions of the bourgeois sexual economy, by consciously (co-)opting for a desexualised image. In Shor (1972), for instance, she plays a foul-mouthed, petty-thief named ‘Raat Ki Rani’. When Manoj Kumar wanted her to wear “skimpy clothes”, she simply refused because it was against her dignity, as she’s noted saying in an interview with Belu Maheshwari in 1998.

Jaya Bachchan with her male co-stars in Sholay (1975), directed by Ramesh Sippy

Jaya Bachchan with her male co-stars in Sholay (1975), directed by Ramesh Sippy

Jaya Bachchan and Rekha in a still from Silsila (1981), directed by Yash Chopra

Jaya Bachchan and Rekha in a still from Silsila (1981), directed by Yash Chopra

This is why actors like Vidya Sinha, despite being a proponent of the same school of cinema, did not enjoy as much popularity as Jaya Bachchan. In Rajnigandha (1974) or Chhoti Si Baat (1976), her characters aspired for a sexual mobility that was dangerous to endogamy in the bourgeois imagination, as it presented the woman with the power to make choices through autonomy. While Guddi, Uphaar, Abhimaan and Piya Ka Ghar are also about purging any desire that may be transgressive to the bourgeois state of being, there is also a solid patriarchal machinery engineering her characters’ decisions and resolving them in favour of marital union within the film. There’s nothing that spells defeat more than that moment in Uphaar, when even before she could complete her sentence expressing her resistance to marriage, the scene cuts to the shot where she’s shown as a child bride. From asserting difference, the actress blends into a world bereft of it.


Soon, the rise of the angry young man overtook middle-class cinema, and the actresses were consequently reduced to mere glam-dolls. The heroes who were playing catch-up with their female counterparts even till a few years ago were now running the show. For the headstrong Jaya, it was simply beneath her to continue invalidated, thereby choosing to take a sabbatical from films, and build a new life with her family.

Jaya Bachchan in a still from Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (2001), directed by Karan JoharJaya Bachchan in a still from Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (2001), directed by Karan Johar

Jaya Bachchan in a still from Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (2001), directed by Karan Johar

Of course, there is also the (in)famous modern marriage fable, on which the film Abhimaan is said to be based. It tells us that domestic harmony is compromised when the wife decides to surpass her husband in public. The public imagination of Jaya Bachchan as the self-sacrificing wife was the foundation on which Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (2001) was built. Overshadowed by the supreme presence of her husband and his social status, her character of Nandini Raichand may have been devoted, dutiful, resigned, and suffering in silence. However, call me a contrarian, but that is not how I see Jaya Bachchan. It may have taken the arrival of a new millennium, but Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham staged the revenge of Abhimaan. In the epic moment when Nandini finally says to her patriarch, sovereign husband, “Keh diya na, bass keh diya,” she brings the house down by defying decades of (conjectures of her) obeisance to him.

If there is an actress who can shut down the persona that is the ‘Shahenshah‘ with one fierce gaze, it is Jaya Bachchan, and that is how I see her.

All images via Facebook, except where indicated otherwise

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Updated Date: May 03, 2020 11:24:36 IST

Kaun Banega Crorepati 12 registrations to begin from 9 May, announces host Amitabh Bachchan

The registration process for Season 12 of popular television game show Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) will kickstart from 9 May, host Amitabh Bachchan announced in a video message.

In the video Bachchan says that everything from meeting up for tea to chaotic train rides can come to a halt, but not one’s dreams. He adds that the show was returning to Sony TV once again.

Watch the video here

According to India Today, Nitesh Tiwari directed the video remotely amid the nationwide lockdown due to the coronavirus outbreak. “Each year, when we start deliberating about KBC, we go through various insights which may trigger an impactful narrative. This time however, the very environment that we are in, sets the context of the film,” says Tiwari.

Tiwari says that he shot a demo video first for the actor to get an idea of his vision. Bachchan then shot the entire video at home by himself.

Indian Express notes that the audition process will be divided into four stages — registration, screening, online audition and a personal interview. At 9 PM everyday, Bachchan will pose a question on Sony TV for potential contestants to answer through either a text message or the SonyLIV app.

Contestants will be shortlisted through a computerised process, followed by a telephone interaction. If they pass these rounds, they will be asked to take a general knowledge and submit an audition video. They will then have a video interview and if selected will have a chance to sit on the KBC hot seat.

Bachchan has been hosting KBC for Sony since 2010. The show has seen participants from all over the country and all walks of lives win cash prizes after answering questions on general knowledge and current affairs.

Season 11 had also featured Infoys Foundation chairperson Sudha Murty, Cuddles Foundation founder and CEO Purnota Dutta Bahl and social activist Shyam Sunder Paliwal in special “Karamveer” episodes.

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Updated Date: May 03, 2020 11:19:11 IST

For adults and young readers, 15 book recommendations that make for perfect reads during coronavirus lockdown

#LockdownList: Four HarperCollins India editors weigh in on books that are ideal companions for coronavirus crisis-related lockdowns, shutdowns, quarantines and self-isolation. This is list 3.

More reading recommendations here.


Diya Kar, publisher and rights director at HarperCollins India, on six perfect lockdown reads —

The lockdown has been a strange and difficult time: We’ve had to take each day as it comes. Social media can be overwhelming. Apart from the news that leaves one feeling utterly hopeless, the race for productivity and accomplishment is enough to leave you completely paralysed.

Routine helps keep anxiety and despair at bay. As do books.

Books are great companions. They help keep your mind off things. They also allow you to travel. So if you find the time — in the midst of baking bread, making Dalgona coffee, sweeping, swabbing, and all those Zoom meetings — here are six books (all available as ebooks) that are perfect lockdown reads.

1. The Swap, Shuma Raha — a stylishly written, risqué novel about sex and marriage. Especially for those who want to live vicariously!

2. Baking a Dream: The Theobroma Story, Kainaz Messman Harchandrai and Tina Messman Wykes — for all who love entrepreneurial stories (and home bakers who dream of making it big), a no-holds barred account of one of India’s best-loved family-run businesses. And for those baking during lockdown, the book includes their signature brownie recipe!

3. The Story of a Long-Distance Marriage, Siddhesh Inamdar — as much an ode to marriage, warts and all, as it is a celebration of Delhi. For all who are separated from their beloved and for those who miss being outside as the city sees the seasons change.

 For adults and young readers, 15 book recommendations that make for perfect reads during coronavirus lockdown

4. Ants Among Elephants: An Untouchable Family and the Making of Modern India, Sujatha Gidla — While the world is practising ‘no contact’, ‘social distancing’, there are sections of society that have always been ‘untouchable’. What is life like for them? This searing page-turner is a must-read for all who want to know real India.

5. No Regrets: The Guilt-Free Woman’s Guide to a Good Life, Kaveree Bamzai — Someone once said, ‘A woman’s work is never done’. This book is for all who celebrate women in their many avatars. An essential read if you’re a woman who wants it all; also essential reading for all men who have women in their lives. Worth reading also for the author’s references to books and films (they are fabulous recommendations).

6. The Forest of Enchantments, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni — Each time you read this novel (and you should read it more than once) you will discover something new. Sita’s version of the Ramayana is a powerful meditation on love. It will make you reflect on the relationships you hold most dear. It will make you look at nature, and the world, anew.

Happy reading!


Tina Narang, publisher — children’s books, HarperCollins India, on engaging reads for children —


1. Meet Zippy, Anitha Balachandran —

Zippy the zebra and his friends learn life lessons and discover the world around them. This warm and lively series is fun, educational and interactive, and very exciting for children who have just been introduced to reading.


2. The Gopi Diaries: Coming Home, Sudha Murty — A trilogy about a dog called Gopi, Coming Home is the first book in the series and narrates how Gopi settles in with his human family. Written in Sudha Murty’s inimitable style, these are simple stories that talk of basic values, and which children and adults will both treasure.

3. Koki’s Song, Ruskin Bond — A beautifully illustrated and lyrically written story of an unlikely, almost unspoken friendship between a young girl called Koki and a boy Somi, who plays the flute.

4. Lucky, it’s Summer!, Nalini Sorensen — A dog. A parrot. A tortoise. Summer holidays. Nana and Nani’s house. Can things get more fun? Lucky, it’s Summer! will make you shriek with laughter and wish summer never ends.


5. M Series: Magical Tales, Shashi Warrier — because life with magical creatures can never be dull!


6. Flipped Book 3: School Stories and Sports Stories, Various — Choose between exciting sports stories or hilarious school stories. The Flipped Anthology series gives you two themes, two covers and two sides to open the book from.

7. The Good Indian Child’s Guide to Eating Mangoes, Natasha Sharma — Does eating mangoes need a guide book? Do you need a personality quiz before you eat a mango? Natasha Sharma’s delicious humour makes for one crazy story.


8. Being Gandhi, Paro Anand — Through the lens of a teen called Chandrashekhar, Paro Anand’s novel explores not Gandhi the man, or his life as a leader, but the Gandhian way — a philosophy that must remain relevant to us especially today, when the world is becoming increasingly steeped in violence and hate.

9. All of Me, Venita Coelho — A historical mystery unlike any other, involving the Koh-i-Noor, a young Maharaja Duleep Singh and Coelho’s memorable protagonist Castor.

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Updated Date: May 03, 2020 11:03:23 IST

Sony TV to retelecast episodes of The Kapil Sharma Show featuring Irrfan Khan, Rishi Kapoor over the weekend

Sony TV has announced to retelecast the old episodes of The Kapil Sharma Show featuring late actors Irrfan Khan and Rishi Kapoor. The episodes will be aired during the weekend.

Khan and Deepak Dobriyal appeared on The Kapil Sharma Show along with music composer duo Sachin-Jigar for the promotion of their film Hindi Medium in 2017.

Kapoor also appeared on the show with wife Neetu Singh to promote his book Khullam Khulla.

Check out the announcement here

Comedian and actor Kiku Sharda, who is regular on The Kapil Sharma Show, shared screen space with Khan on Homi Adjania’s Angrezi Medium. He shared a photo with the actor from the film set in his condolence post.

Kapoor passed away on Thursday morning after a two-year-long battle with leukaemia, his family said in a statement. The actor returned to India last September after undergoing treatment for cancer in the US for almost a year.

Khan passed away at Mumbai’s Kokilaben Hospital on Wednesday due to colon infection. In March 2018, The Lunchbox actor first announced that he was suffering with a rare form of neuroendocrine cancer, following which he moved to abroad to seek treatment. He returned to Mumbai earlier this year.

(Also read on Firstpost: Looking back on Irrfan Khan’s performance in The Lunchbox, a role that celebrated the magnetic actor’s strengths)

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Updated Date: May 03, 2020 11:02:38 IST

Looking back on Irrfan Khan’s performance in The Lunchbox, a role that celebrated the magnetic actor’s strengths

Irrfan Khan was one of Indian cinema’s most magnetic actors. He passed away on Wednesday, at the age of 53.

With over eighty film appearances, ranging from Bollywood studio comedies to international arthouse fare, Khan was someone who could do it all. One performance in particular, however, has lingered with me off late, not only in the wake of his death, but in recent weeks and months, as we find ourselves dealing with widespread change and social isolation: his role as Saajan Fernandes in The Lunchbox.

Ritesh Batra’s epistolary drama hit Indian screens in 2013, and was a regular feature of the global festival circuit (everything from Toronto to Cannes) before its eventual BAFTA nomination. An understated tale of grappling with nostalgia as the world moves ever forward, The Lunchbox played to Khan’s strengths as a performer who spoke primarily with his eyes.

 Looking back on Irrfan Khan’s performance in The Lunchbox, a role that celebrated the magnetic actors strengths

Irrfan Khan in a still from The Lunchbox. YouTube

The film tells the story of two strangers — Ila (Nimrat Kaur), a young mother stuck in a loveless marriage, and the lonely widower Saajan — who begin exchanging letters when Ila’s dabba, meant for her husband, is accidentally delivered to Saajan’s workplace. As Saajan, Khan speaks fondly of the world he remembers. His hometown, Mumbai, is in a rapid state of westernisation and change. His wife’s favourite songs and films have slipped from collective memory, and are relegated to channels and radio stations playing classics of yesteryear. Even at his job as an accountant, he’s readying for retirement by training his own replacement, Shaikh (Nawazuddin Siddiqui).

Saajan tells Ila about all this through letters, though we, the audience, experience it as wistful voiceover, as Khan stares out from his balcony, reflecting on a distant past he holds so dear that he can almost reach out and touch it. However, Saajan’s present is almost nonexistent. His future is hidden by a fog of uncertainty. He has no idea how to exist in the now, except by preparing for obsolescence.

It’s frustrating, and he occasionally takes it out on the over-eager Shaikh; Khan’s reserved annoyance paints a picture of a man wrestling with his own prickliness, lest he blow a gasket. It’s a performance that feels all too familiar after six frustrating weeks on lockdown. But even without the current circumstances, it remains a poignant reflection of unspoken everyday hurdles, told by an actor silently reflecting on his surroundings — as if to ask: how do you let go of the past when it’s all you know? When you feel like the world has no place for you?

Admittedly, when I first saw The Lunchbox seven years ago, I was in a much more cynical place, so I filtered its ending through the lens of my own (in)experience. Saajan, after spending the film contemplating a retirement alone in Nashik, boards a train, and Khan silently reflects on his pen pal romance with Ila (they narrowly miss meeting each other in person). It felt, to my 21-year-old self, like Saajan had given up on finding her, and had left behind any possibility of happiness. After all, Khan was hardly the kind of actor to wear his emotions on his sleeve.

Watching the film back more recently revealed layers to Khan’s performance which I’d previously missed. As Saajan asks the local dabbawalas about Ila’s whereabouts, his face remains in its usual resting scowl — that’s just who he is; he barely lets people in — but Khan’s posture tells a different story. He shuffles anxiously between deliverymen, perhaps even excitedly. The scene unfolds from afar, and its sound is drowned out by voiceover from Ila, but a closer look at Khan reveals Saajan speaking quickly and with a hint of desperation, a far cry from his otherwise languid demeanour.

A still snapshot of Saajan’s face in this moment would be indistinguishable from one of Saajan when the film begins. But throughout The Lunchbox, Khan tells Saajan’s story through movement and familiar nuance, as if creating an emotional labyrinth for us to follow him through. Does Saajan find Ila in the end? I don’t know. The film cuts to black before telling us. I once read its ending as a firm “No” — but I was asking the wrong questions.

Saajan and Ila meeting has never been important; the final few shots of the film reveal a much more compelling answer. As Saajan sits among chanting and singing dabbawalas, dressed in a suit, like he doesn’t belong — he never seems to belong, and it’s more energy than he’s used to — his discomforted reserve is betrayed, once more, by Khan’s excitable poise. He never lets the character’s mask slip, but he tells us exactly what lies beneath it.

His hands are clasped anxiously, like he’s keeping a lid on a newfound zest for life. His eyes dart around the train compartment, fixating on nothing in particular. Perhaps he’s daydreaming. Perhaps about Ila. And when Saajan finally turns to look out the window, you can almost catch a glimpse of contentment. Like there’s finally something waiting for him at his destination.

Man, what a storyteller.

The Lunchbox is available on Netflix India.

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Updated Date: May 03, 2020 09:27:22 IST

Aparna Sen and Madhabi Mukherjee on Satyajit Ray, the man, and his enduring legacy

Aparna Sen’s initiation into cinema as an actor happened at the young age of 14 — an event she remembers as “a tremendous amount of coincidence”. It was the summer holidays, and her mother (like most Bengali mothers) had persuaded her into reading Rabindranath Tagore’s Golpo Guccho (a collection of short stories) as an assignment. Soon after, as Sen lay in her bedroom reading Samapti on one such sultry afternoonshe thought to herself how wonderful it would be if the story were to be adapted into a film, imagining herself in the role of the bright-eyed Mrinmoyee.

Clearly, the stars had aligned, as the phone rang only minutes later, and even before Aparna had answered it, she knew who was on the other side. “I don’t know how I knew it, but I just did. And there he was, saying to me in his booming voice, ‘Ami Satyajit Ray bolchhi. Chidu achhe?’ (‘This is Satyajit Ray speaking. Is Chidu home?’)”. Her father, the late filmmaker and critic Chidananda Dasgupta (nicknamed Chidu), was a friend of Satyajit Ray’s, and had founded the Calcutta Film Society with him in 1947.

By the time he had hung up, the actress knew what conversation her father had had with his friend. “He told me that Manik Kaka (Satyajit Ray) was making a film on Samapti and wanted to cast me as Mrinmoyee. Even though we already knew I’d become an actor on growing up, he told me that they’re letting me do this only because it’s a Satyajit Ray film and a Tagore story, and that I shouldn’t get my hopes up since a look-test was still going to happen,” she recalls.

Aparna Sen in Teen Kanya (Samapti)

The actress, however, was a little disappointed on learning that she wasn’t required to recite poetry or read out lines from the script to showcase her acting chops for this test. “They just put me in a saree, pulled my hair back in a bun, pasted a nose-pin on my nose and probably put some kajal too. Then, I was asked to look up, look down, look sideways; that’s all. I think Manik Kaka just wanted to check my angles,” she says, digging up six-decade-old memories of her debut in the Teen Kanya anthology released in 1961.

Satyajit Ray, born on 2 May, 1921, changed Indian cinema as the world knows it. Celebrated Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa, who also happened to be the auteur’s friend, had once famously likened a life devoid of Ray’s cinema to an existence “in the world without seeing the sun or the moon” — a gross anomaly.

“I can never forget the excitement in my mind after seeing it (Pather Panchali). It is the kind of cinema that flows with the serenity and nobility of a big river. People are born, live out their lives, and then accept their deaths. Without the least effort and without any sudden jerks, Ray paints his picture, but its effect on the audience is to stir up deep passions. How does he achieve this? There is nothing irrelevant or haphazard in his cinematographic technique. In that lies the secret of its excellence,” Kurosawa had gone on to say. And it is in this very ‘relevance’ — a now-overused term denoting the currency used to determine one’s social capital — that Ray’s century-old existence and legacy continues to thrive, primarily as a political commentary on the world and its dogged greyness.

As a graduate of the Ray school herself, Aparna Sen’s regard for her friend-turned-mentor is rooted in his fierce advocacy for one’s freedom of expression and dissent. As a result, the two often and rather unsurprisingly, agreed to disagree, even on projects where they collaborated. In case of Ray’s Pikoo (1980), a short-film based on his short-story Pikoo’s Diary, Aparna Sen’s character Seema has been portrayed as an adulteress through the eyes of her son, the eponymous character.

In an interview to Cineaste Magazine, the director mentioned how the film — originally made for France 3, a French television channel — is very “complex”, and is a “poetic statement which cannot be reduced to concrete terms”.

“One statement the film tries to make is that, if a woman is to be unfaithful, if she is to have an extramarital affair, she can’t afford to have soft emotions towards her children, or, in this case, her son,” Ray said. According to him, “the two just don’t go together”. He believed it was imperative for the woman in this situation to be “ruthless”, and perhaps Seema wasn’t so unrelenting after all. “She’s being very Bengali. A European in the same circumstances would not behave in the same way,” he said.

The actress, however, contests his views, which she believes were firmly rooted in his “Brahmo ideals of adultery”. Despite the fact that her character cries after watching her son paint in the garden, Sen believes she was vilified. “The reason he gave me was that it’s because she was cheating on her son. When I said no, she was cheating on her husband, he said it’s the same thing,” the actor recalls. She found this rationale unacceptable, even though she never argued about it with him.

For Aparna, the freedom of sexual choice is fundamental to life, even when exercised within the confines of a marriage. And adultery is not an act of villainy, as she conveys through her National Award-winning film Parama (1985), starring Rakhee Gulzar. “Not that he made me a villain, I show pangs of remorse also. But even so, he couldn’t treat adultery with sympathy. He never showed why she was an adulteress; it was all sex, and nothing else. It could be that she was not fulfilled in some way, but none of that was shown,” she rues, before adding that perhaps the story inherently had little scope for exploring such nuances on account of being framed by a young boy’s perspective.

Aparna Sen in Pikoo

“He was so Brahmo in so many ways,” she laughs, on looking back at Ray’s reaction to her film Sati (1989), in which the scene of a cow giving birth roused his disapproval. “Apparently he was quite embarrassed, and had said, ‘Uff, ei Reena (Aparna) ta na!’

Another one of Ray’s leading ladies, Madhabi Mukherjee, also remembers being at odds with the auteur on several counts, including “the political nature” of his films. “I didn’t like the fact that his films were always so political, which is why I eventually stopped working with him,” the 78-year-old actress says. Her memories of their first encounter, however, are still vivid and rather cherished.

Having spotted the actress in Mrinal Sen’s Baishey Shravana (1960), and subsequently on several magazine covers, Satyajit Ray was “keen to see her performance”. “Mrinal’s film proved that she had quite a reserve of talent, and I offered her the leading role in my film Mahanagar,” Ray said in an interview.

For Mukherjee, the proposition brought to her by Satyajit’s production manager and sound recordist seemed too outlandish to be true. “They came to my place and informed me that he wanted to meet me at his place. Back then, I used to live in North Kolkata, and travelling all the way to South Kolkata to meet him would mean paying a hefty amount for a cab ride. I wasn’t financially well off, so I told my mother that there’s barely anything likeable about me, and that I should pass this up. It would only burn a hole in my pocket. But my mother insisted I go,” she recalls. Soon after, their conversation was interrupted by the two men, who returned to inform Mukherjee that they’d made a “grave error”, and would like to pay for the cab ride.

Satyajit Ray and Madhabi Mukherjee

“I was extremely embarrassed, and was wondering if they’d heard me! There was no way I could wriggle out of this, so I went to meet him wearing my usual simple saree, only to be told that I need to wait and come back later, as he was busy with his outdoor shoot for Abhijaan. It reminded me of the conversations people have while fixing arranged marriages,” the actress laughs. Another two rounds of meetings later, Mukherjee was finally handed the script for Mahanagar, a film based on Narendranath Mitra’s short-story Abataranika.

Set in 1950’s Calcutta, the story revolves around the life of Arati (played by Mukherjee), a home-maker compelled to take up the job of a saleswoman in order to meet the piling financial needs of her family. Often touted as one of Ray’s best, the film, undoubtedly, was far ahead of its times.

“Back in those days, the norm was for women to stay at home and not step out, since the world outside was for men. But had Arati, or any X, Y, Z in her place, not stepped out of her home to do her job, she would not have discovered herself or her self-confidence,” Mukherjee says. Having met quite a few Aratis in real life, the actress was not daunted to play one on screen. However, she does recall a minor hiccup during the film’s shoot, when a bad bout of conjunctivitis had left her eyes swollen. “I felt so terrible about the timing of the infection, but I later realised it wasn’t visible in the film at all,” she heaves a sigh of relief.

Weighing in on the film and its female lead, Aparna Sen believes Mahanagar is among the first and finest feminist films to be made in India. She remembers interviewing Ray for The Economic Times, for which she quizzed him extensively on the women in his literature. She asked him if he felt that a particular female character from one of his Feluda stories was “strong”, to which he replied in the affirmative. “He said he believed that women are morally and mentally stronger, because they’re physically weaker than men,” she says, adding that even though she has a “problem” with this sentiment, she does agree that women are more resilient than men.

“Sarbajaya’s character in Pather Panchali is such a strong one. So is Aparna (played by Sharmila Tagore) in Apur Sansar. The way she adjusts with her husband’s poverty, despite being from an affluent family, shows just how strong she is. Similarly, in Mahanagar, Madhabi’s character Arati is shown as an equal to her male counterpart; not a superior, but an equal,” Sen says. With Arati transcending her social conditioning to take a moral stand for her Anglo-Indian colleague who had been wronged at work, Ray firmly establishes his nonconformism.

Madhabi Mukherjee in Mahanagar

“It was rather unusual for its times, and that is what I love about it. The fact that the story wasn’t man-hating, and shows a rare and equal partnership between the man and the woman, is something that we don’t see much in films even today,” the actor-turned-director says. She, however, admits that her Manik Kaka did not always eulogise women, and depicted them as corrupt too.

“But that’s okay; women can be corrupt. The idea is to humanise them, and that is exactly what he did,” she says. Sen believes his ability to defy the male gaze can be attributed to his “androgynous” streak. According to her, all great artists have this inherent androgyny, “which makes them sensitive to both male and female emotions. There’s a perfect balance of the yin and the yang in them.”

For Aparna, Ray turned into a mentor figure only much later in life, even though he had been around since her childhood. “I didn’t know he was noticing me. When I was a child, we would usually meet at social gatherings or some relatives’ weddings, or at the film society screenings. But I’d never gone up and talked to him,” she says. The director had initially thought of casting Sen as Aparna in Apur Sansar, but changed his mind on seeing her at her younger sister’s birthday party. “He realised I was too young to play the role, as I was probably 11 going on 12 back then. As a result, he cast Sharmila instead, which proved to be great news for the film industry since she was brilliant in it.”

The actor, however, has a bone to pick with her Kaka, whom she accuses of having guided her a little too thoroughly on the sets of Teen Kanya. “I didn’t get the chance to show my talent!” she laughs. “However, there was this one time during a scene with Chorki, my squirrel in the film, who was supposed to run away while I held her in my hands,” she recalls. The squirrel would usually wriggle out of her grip, except on that day, while shooting for the scene, Chorki decided to stand surprisingly still on her palm. In order to make the squirrel move, Sen had to improvise on camera, to which she received a nod of approval — and a hearty laugh — from her director. “That meant a lot to me,” she says.

Circa 1976, their relationship took a turn towards friendship, with Ray inviting Sen to be one of the jurors at the International Film Festival of India. Terrified of public speaking, the latter first thought of turning down the offer, only to be convinced into accepting it later by Satyajit. “I told him that he’ll have to tell me what to do, to which he said that I already knew what I had to do, having grown up watching world cinema. All I needed was a little exposure, he thought.”

Eventually, their bond assumed the shape of a mentor-mentee equation, as Ray went from discussing his personal struggles while making his first film, to talking about issues with his script of Jana Aranya with Sen. “I never gave him solutions, because he wasn’t seeking any from me. But the mere fact that he would even discuss it with me was a matter of great honour. It was also the time when I was going through my first divorce, and I would talk to him a lot about my personal life too,” she tells me.

Madhabi Mukherjee in Charulata

For Madhabi Mukherjee, her memories of him are underlined by his respectable, “reserved and measured” demeanour — “a man of utmost beauty and self-discipline,” is how she defines him. After the last scene of Mahanagar was shot, Mukherjee remembers being surprised on hearing that the filmmaker wished to work with her again. “I thought that’s something I should be telling him,” she says. Soon after, Ray called her and asked her to re-read Rabindranath Tagore’s Nashtanirh, the novella on which the film Charulata (1964) is based.

For Ray, the actress required “very little guidance” from him on his sets. In his own words, Madhabi was so “intelligent and so quick on the uptake”, that directing her even for her complex role in Mahanagar was a breeze. By the time Charulata went on the floor, Mukherjee had blossomed into a more mature actor. “(When) she played the role of Charu… I had even less difficulty with her. I don’t think she required a second take or a third take; it was mostly first take which was okayed. And she absolutely scored heavily with her performance in the film,” Ray said in his interview. Their third and final collaboration was in the film Kapurush in the year 1965.

But for Mukherjee, what really stood out about the man were his efforts to “create an audience for cinema”, something she believes went largely missing in the past couple of decades. “All of his films are important. If you miss any shot or dialogue while watching one of them, you miss out on a lot. Nobody attempts to hold on to the audience’s attention that way anymore,” she says.

Satyajit Ray and Suhasini Mulay, his assistant director on the sets of Jana Aranya

For Sen, who admits to have “hankered to be in his films” on being dissatisfied with the mainstream cinema she was part of, the filmmaker became her subject of study as she observed him at work. Her curiosity in the process of filmmaking made her shadow Ray on his sets of Jana Aranya (1976), in which she was also cast in a cursory role. “When I started taking photographs, I would often take them to him when I’d have some gaps during my shoots. I’d watch him editing on this outdated device called the ‘Moviewallah’ — I don’t know how they used it. So, on one of these visits, I’ll always remember what he told me on seeing my photographs; he said, ‘No, we’ll have to take this girl seriously now.’ He liked what he saw. It was high praise coming from him,” she says.

The actress takes note of the pivotal role he played in making her directorial debut — the National Award-winning 36, Chowringhee Lane (1981) — come to life, as he was among the first ones to read its script. “I had been asked to put it away in a drawer by people, since it was in English, and I was told I wouldn’t get any producers. But one day, he called me and asked me to meet him. He told me the script was very good and that it ‘had a lot of heart’ by thumping his chest really hard,” she remembers, adding that it was Satyajit Ray who had suggested Shashi Kapoor as a producer for the project, even more so since she had already decided on casting his wife Jennifer Kendal in the film.

Satyajit Ray and Shashi Kapoor

“He gave me some valuable advice, and asked me to get good assistant directors on board, as he thought I might need help with the technicalities. He told me how he had problems while shooting for Pather Panchali. I did take his advice, even though I had been in the profession long enough to know about most of its technicalities,” she says.

Four years later in 1985, when the maestro went on to make his National Award-winning Ghare Baaire, the actor was crestfallen to learn that she hadn’t been chosen for the role of Bimala, which ultimately went to Swatilekha Sengupta. Even though she never expressed her disappointment to him, he had “very sweetly” said that she had every right to be upset with him. “Reena’r toh obhimaan hotei paare,” he’d said. “I had even forgotten about it later on,” Sen admits.

But what she cannot seem to forget was his disappointment with the world and its eroding morals in the final few years of his life. His movies on the metropolis held a mirror to this rot.

“When he started out, he was a young filmmaker with dreams of an India that was still being shaped post-Independence. But as he gradually witnessed the country attain the shape of what it eventually became, he turned increasingly depressed and angry with the corruption, and all of that came out in his films,” Sen trails off. She believes he would’ve been deeply unhappy and disturbed had he been alive today, and assumes he died only months before the Babri Masjid’s demolition for a reason. “He wouldn’t have been able to take it,” she says.

Satyajit Ray and Mrinal Sen

As the film fraternity gears up for Satyajit Ray’s centenary celebrations next year, Madhabi Mukherjee believes it’s time to revisit the lessons left behind by him and his peers, and realise them in praxis, failing which might render his legacy as a “royal flop”. Her words remind me of the last scene of Mahanagar, where in the film’s most poignant moments, Arati and her husband Subrata (played by Anil Chatterjee) reconcile to take on the world with renewed vigour.

On learning that his wife had quit her job over her colleague’s unjust firing, Subrata says he’s not upset with her call. “Rojgaarer taagide amra bheetu hoye gechhi, Arati. Kintu tumi toh howni. Eta ki kom holo?” (“Earning our daily bread has turned us into cowards, Arati. But that didn’t stop you from standing up for what’s right. Is that any less of an achievement?”) he tells her, thereby simplifying the answer to a conundrum that continues to riddle a world without Ray.

All images via Facebook

Coronavirus Outbreak: Farhan Akhtar, Ritesh Sidhwani’s Excel Entertainment pledges support to Mumbai Police Foundation

New Delhi: Actor, director Farhan Akhtar on Saturday announced that his film company Excel Entertainment has pledged to help police personnel in the fight against COVID-19 by contribution to the Mumbai Police Foundation.

The Rock On actor took to Twitter to make an announcement in this regard and also urged others to contribute by sharing details of the foundation.

“Saluting the courage of those who stay on guard – always! We can’t match their level of selflessness, but we can surely have their backs. We at Excel have pledged to contribute towards safeguarding our Mumbai Police Heroes. What about you? #MumbaiPoliceFoundation,” Akhtar tweeted.

Check out the tweet here

The film production company Excel Entertainment is co-owned by Akhtar and film producer Ritesh Sidhwani.

Earlier this week, Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar had also donated a sum of Rs 2 crore to the Mumbai Police Foundation.

With inputs from Asian News International

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Updated Date: May 02, 2020 17:25:43 IST

Satyajit Ray’s 99th birthday: Final volume of Professor Shonku’s adventures released as an e-book

On his 99th birthday, fans of legendary film director Satyajit Ray could not have asked for more — his final volume of Professor Shonku’s escapades which has been translated into English with a portion by the master himself was launched on Saturday.

The Final Adventures of Professor Shonku was released as an e-book by Puffin.

Translated by Indrani Majumdar and a portion by Ray for the first time in English from the original collection of Shonku adventures, the book features stories that are funny, imaginative and exciting, and are perfect for sci-fi and Satyajit Ray fans, young and old alike, the publishers said.

 Satyajit Rays 99th birthday: Final volume of Professor Shonkus adventures released as an e-book

File photo of Satyajit Ray. AFP

Featuring the ever-popular mad scientist Shonku, The Final Adventures of Professor Shonku is a companion volume to the hugely popular Diary of a Space Traveller and Other Stories, The Unicorn Expedition and Other Stories and The Mystery of Munroe Island and Other Stories.

Actor Dhritimaan Chaterji, who portrayed the character of Professor Shonku in the Bengali sci-fi drama, has written the introduction to the book.

“In Shonku, we have the finest writing for children anywhere in the world. And why just children, grown-ups are avid readers too. I have been a lover of crime fiction for the longest time, but even I was not aware of the pulp detective fiction (Satyajit Ray) introduced me to,” he says.

Majumdar, the translator of the entire collection, says 2020 marks the appearance of the final and the fourth volume of Professor Shonku containing nine adventures, finally completing all his 38 exploits written in the original Bengali by Ray.

The volume begins with an escapade translated by Ray himself and the concluding and introspective adventure in this book begins at his cosy house in Giridih but the action starts to unfold from Jharkhand and takes readers to London and Berlin with a nail-biting finish.

According to Sohini Mitra, Publisher (Children Division), at Penguin India, “With this final volume, we now have the complete oeuvre of stories featuring the madcap Professor Shonku and his extraordinary adventures available for readers young and old.”

In this last volume of Professor Shonku’s escapades, the scientist travels around the world once more to face near-death situations. Each nerve-wracking experience is faithfully recorded in his diary.

The books tell about Shonku being outwitted by his own invention, the Tellus computer; his helplessness when his arch-rival in Rome deliberately misplaces his wonder drug, Miracurall; and the thrilling discovery of a three-and-a-half-thousand-year-old sparkling diamond necklace and a papyrus in an ancient tomb in Cairo.

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Updated Date: May 02, 2020 17:19:27 IST

Coronavirus Outbreak: Matteo De Cosmo, art director of Luke Cage, The Punisher, passes away aged 52

New York-based art director Matteo De Cosmo, who worked on popular series such as Luke Cage and The Punisher, has died at the age of 52 due to complications from COVID-19.

(Click here to follow LIVE updates on coronavirus outbreak)

He also worked on ABC Studios series Harlem’s Kitchen, which halted production in March because of the pandemic.

‘Making television is challenging. But there are people that assure you every day with their talent, passion, and smile that anything is possible. Matteo was one of those people. We will miss him,’ said Harlem’s Kitchen showrunner Zahir McGhee in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter.

De Cosmo is survived by his wife, Aris, and son, Marcello.

Check out the posts

(With inputs from Press Trust of India)

Updated Date: May 02, 2020 16:36:00 IST

Tags : Art Director, Buzz Patrol, BuzzPatrol, Coronavirus, Coronavirus Pandemic, COVID-19, Dies, Luke Cage, Matteo De Cosmo, The Punisher

Coronavirus Outbreak: Eagles postpones Hotel California tour for second time; shows to take place in 2021

Popular rock band Eagles have postponed their Hotel California tour to September and October of 2021.

 Coronavirus Outbreak: Eagles postpones Hotel California tour for second time; shows to take place in 2021

Eagles. Image from Twitter

The tour, in which the group was scheduled to perform the entire Hotel California album, was initially slated to take place early this year but was pushed to later dates due to coronavirus outbreak.

(Click here to follow LIVE updates on coronavirus outbreak)

The band on Saturday announced that it has decided to further delay the tour to late 2021.

The Eagles – Don Henley, Joe Walsh and Timothy B Schmit, with Deacon Frey and Vince Gill have announced that their Hotel California concerts in Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Francisco, and St. Paul, have been rescheduled, the statement posted on the band’s website read.

Fans with tickets to the previously announced 2020 dates are encouraged to hold on to their tickets as they will be honoured for the new dates.

Refunds will be available with more information at livenation.com or through contacts at the point of purchase.

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Updated Date: May 02, 2020 16:26:32 IST

Rishi Kapoor passes away: Wife, actress Neetu pays tribute with his picture, says ‘end of our story’

Neetu Kapoor shared a heartfelt tribute to husband, veteran actor Rishi Kapoor, cherishing their love-filled journey.

Kapoor died at the age of 67 on Thursday morning after a two year long battle with leukemia at HN Reliance hospital in Mumbai.

On Saturday, Neetu shared a throwback photograph of Kapoor enjoying his drink and smiling at the camera.

“End of our story,” she captioned the picture.

Check out the post

Rishi and Neetu Kapoor, one of the most loved on-screen and off-screen couples of Bollywood, were married for almost four decades.

The two first met on the sets of 1974’s Zehreela Insaan, became good friends, and soon started dating.

The couple went on to star in blockbusters movies like Rafoo Chakar, Khel Khel Mein, Kabhi Kabhie, Doosra Aadmi, and Amar Akbar Anthony.

After getting engaged in Delhi, they got married in Mumbai in 1981.

Rishi and Neetu Kapoor share two children, Riddhima Kapoor Sahani and actor Ranbir Kapoor.

In his second innings in the movies, Rishi featured opposite Neetu in films like Do Dooni Chaar and Besharam, which starred Ranbir in the lead.

(With inputs from Press Trust of India)

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Updated Date: May 02, 2020 15:46:36 IST

Coronavirus Outbreak — John Wick: Chapter 4 release pushed by a year; new release date set as 27 May, 2022

Keanu Reeves’ John Wick: Chapter 4 is being pushed a year from May 2021 to 27 May, 2022.

 Coronavirus Outbreak — John Wick: Chapter 4 release pushed by a year; new release date set as 27 May, 2022

Keanu Reeves in John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum. Image via Twitter/@IGNMovies

The new date is part of Lionsgate’s release calendar shuffle due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has brought the global film industry to a standstill.

(Click here to follow LIVE updates on coronavirus outbreak)

Check out the announcement of the new release dates here

The studio also pushed back Chris Rock’s new take on the Saw franchise called Spiral, moving it a full year to 21 May, 2021 and The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard to 28 August, 2021.

This year the studio will release Deon Taylor thriller Fatale on October 30, Neil Burger’s sci-fi Voyagers on November 25 and Antebellum on 21 August.

Apart from these titles, The Asset, an assassin film with Michael Keaton and Maggie Q, will open on April 23, 2021. Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar, starring Kristen Wiig is scheduled for July 16, 2021 and American Underdog: The Kurt Warner Story, has been set for December 10, 2021.

(With inputs from Press Trust of India)

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Updated Date: May 02, 2020 15:44:12 IST

Rishi Kapoor passes away at 67: With natural charm and tremendous tenacity, how the beloved actor straddled past and present

I cried along with his ‘kids’ when Rishi Kapoor was hanging on to a cliff in Anil Dhawan’s 2000 directorial Raju Chacha. Sixteen years later, I cried with Rishi Kapoor when he urged his ‘grandsons’ Fawad Khan and Sidharth Malhotra to return because he misses them after his son Rajat Kapoor’s sudden demise in Shakun Batra’s 2016 family drama Kapoor & Sons.

And between both these times when Rishi Kapoor brought me to tears, he also made me laugh uncontrollably on several occasions. He even made me cringe, and left me in awe of his impeccable charisma.

 Rishi Kapoor passes away at 67: With natural charm and tremendous tenacity, how the beloved actor straddled past and present

A promotional still of Raju Chacha

To me, a millennial born at the cusp of age group, Rishi Kapoor was never a heartthrob, like he was to many women my mother’s age in the 1970s and ’80s. He was the Raj from Bobby, a ladies’ man, much before Shah Rukh Khan owned the character name in Aditya Chopra’s 1995 romantic drama Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge.

He was always a father-figure to me, “papa” as he was called in Raju Chacha. It was also the first film, Rishi confesses in his memoir Khullam Khulla, that he changed his perception as an actor. As the new millennium kicked off, much like his longtime co-star Amitabh Bachchan, he chose to graduate into a character actor rather than sticking to only the leading man.

And boy, what a gift that decision was! What started with Raju Chacha went on till Anubhav Sinha’s courtroom drama Mulk two years ago. Though Rishi only had a supporting role that lasted till the interval of Raju Chacha, his omnipresence could be felt throughout the film. I would think of his amiable face as I rooted for Ajay Devgn’s titular character to avenge Kapoor’s death in the film.

Two years later, I saw him in a completely different shade, probably like no one else would have witnessed him as before. It was in Anurag Basu and Amit V Kumar’s horror thriller Kuchh Toh Hai in 2002. Though I had seen the original film of which it was a shoddy remake, Jim Gellispie’s I Know What You Did Last Summer, I still could not see Rishi Kapoor’s major villainous reveal coming.

Kapoor, however, mentions in his memoir that he was dissatisfied with the final product, and even had a minor argument with producer and good friend Jeetendra. The friendly favour gone wrong prevented him from giving his nod to yet another pal, Rakesh Roshan’s offer to play Hrithik’s father in his sci-fi directorial Koi… Mil Gaya. Rakesh ended up playing the short part himself, and the film turned out to be a blockbuster.

Rishi Kapoor really came into his own, and the box office would agree, when he played Saif Ali Khan’s father in Kunal Kohli’s 2004 hit Hum Tum. While the film was a Hindi remake of Rob Reiner’s 1989 romantic comedy When Harry Met Sally, it was stepped in the colours of Raj Kapoor’s 1973 film Bobby, starring Rishi and Dimple Kapadia. Even the title of the film was an ode to the Bobby song ‘Hum Tum Ek Kamre Mein Band Hon,‘ and the name of Kirron Kher’s character was Dimple, yet another nod to Bobby.

Rishi’s character in the film was introduced in retro style, with him playing the piano and singing, ‘Main Shayar To Nahin,’ another gem from Bobby. I realised I was missing out on something when my parents laughed to all the Bobby references in Hum Tum. It compelled me (or rather my parents, and I had no choice but to comply) to watch Bobby. I remember at that time I found it to be yet another boy-meets-girl romance but that was only because I got introduced to it much later. Bobby was truly the first young romance of Bollywood, decades before the genre became a staple.

Rishi reunited with Kirron in another Kunal Kohli film, Fanaa in 2006. It gave me the pleasure to watch him with two of the finest actors of all time, Kajol and Aamir Khan. Again, when he dies towards the end of the film, I jumped with joy that his death was avenged by Kajol when she shot Aamir. It may be a true love’s sacrifice for the bleeding hearts but for me, it was revenge served Kashmiri cold.

Rishi Kapoor in a still from Fanaa

Rishi Kapoor in a still from Fanaa

Later, Rishi returned to films in the capacity of a leading man, through duds like Pyaar Mein Twist (where he reunited with Dimple after decades) and Chintu Ji. He confesses in the memoir that he figured out he was no longer bankable as a lead star, and would thus limit his presence to what he did the best — supporting roles. He was remarkable in even underdeveloped character roles like Namastey Lonon, Delhi-6, Patiala House, and Housefull 2.

Around the time when Rishi was gradually making a mark with his second innings, came his son Ranbir Kapoor’s debut film in 2007. He was the new guy in the town and naturally invited comparison to his legendary father from the 1970s and ’80s, particularly because of the boyish charm and perception as a romantic hero.

I was already intrigued by Rishi Kapoor’s work and the constant comparison to Ranbir further prompted me to watch his past work. Unfortunately, the first film I picked was Nasir Hussain’s 1977 potboiler Hum Kisise Kum Naheen because it had the iconic song ‘Bachna Ae Haseeno,‘ which was rejigged for the Ranbir Kapoor-starrer 2008 film of the same name. I got why the father-son comparison was inevitable but I still could not fathom why Rishi Kapoor was a phenomenon back then.

What I also could not fathom was his histrionics in Zoya Akhtar’s 2009 directorial debut Luck By Chance. He played Romi Rolly, a has-been film producer. A little birdie told me his role was inspired by his Karz director Subhash Ghai. The remake of that film, Himesh Reshammiya’s Karzzzz, had released a year before. Naturally, my next pick from Rishi’s vast body of work was the 1980 revenge drama. All the masala aside, what I found extremely magnetic was Rishi’s ability to woo the audience with his irresistible charm and unparalleled energy in songs like ‘Om Shanti Om‘ and ‘Paisa O Paisa.’

Rishi Kapoor in a still from Luck By Chance

Rishi Kapoor in a still from Luck By Chance

Ten years later, when I re-watched Luck By Chance, I could not help but marvel at how Rishi masked the ache of a forgotten mentor with his antics. A couple of months later, when I re-watched Imtiaz Ali’s Love Aaj Kal, the same Rishi Kapoor fondly remembered the ‘golden days’ with moist eyes and his signature half-smile.

That is what Rishi Kapoor was — a man who straddled the present and past with tremendous skill and tenacity. He milked the same versatility to strike a balance between parts as hilarious as Do Dooni Chaar, Student of the Year, Shuddh Desi Romance, Kapoor & Sons, and 102 Not Out, and performances as evocative as Agneepath, Aurangzeb, D-Day, and Mulk.

He lent flamboyance to characters where he was supposed to be a bad guy. And he ensured to not rob the funny ones of their vulnerability. This duality was also abundant in my interactions with him. His face would turn angry and annoyed seconds after he was all smiles.

The first time I interviewed him was for Patel Ki Punjabi Shaadi, months after I loved his performance in Kapoor & Sons. As much as I wanted to discuss the 90-year-old grandfather with him, he was very particular about sticking to the context of the interview. He would give a disclaimer unfailingly before every interaction, “No questions on past films, politics and my son. If you want to know my thoughts on anything else, check my Twitter or read my memoir,” he would say, without a trace of leniency.

But during his last interview in December, after he returned from his cancer treatment in the US, he was uncharacteristically calmer. He schooled us for probing him on the release ahead, Jeetu Joseph’s whodunit The Body. “It’s a suspense film yaar! Don’t ask any more questions about it. We can discuss something else…,” he said, before narrating yet another filmy anecdote.

He probably knew why he chose to bend his own rules: to give us stories to cherish for a lifetime. That was Rishi Kapoor for you.

All images from Twitter.

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Updated Date: May 02, 2020 14:19:30 IST

Ramayan sets record as most-watched entertainment program globally with 7.7 cr viewers, announces Doordarshan

Aired again after 33 Years, Ramayan has set a world record by becoming the highest viewed entertainment program globally.

 Ramayan sets record as most-watched entertainment program globally with 7.7 cr viewers, announces Doordarshan

A still from Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayan

The re-telecast of the TV show started on Doordarshan National in March soon after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of novel coronavirus.

(Click here to follow LIVE updates on coronavirus outbreak)

DD National said on 16 April, 7.7 crore people across the globe watched the show.

Also read on Firstpost — Doordarshan viewership rating witnesses 46% decline after Ramayan airs final episode, says BARC

Check out the tweets here

Written, produced and directed by Ramanand Sagar, Ramayan, first aired on Doordarshan in 1987 and acquired a cult status over the years.

The show featured Arun Govil as Rama, Dipika Chikhlia Topiwala as Sita and Sunil Lahri as Lakshman. It also starred veteran actors Lalita Pawar as Manthara, Arvind Trivedi as Ravana and Dara Singh as Hanuman.

Ramayan concluded the rerun on 18 April and it was followed by the retelecast of Uttar Ramayan.

The final episode of Uttar Ramayan will air on Saturday.

The show will be replaced by Sagar’s another popular series Shri Krishna, which will start airing from Sunday.

(With inputs from Press Trust of India)

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Updated Date: May 02, 2020 13:23:50 IST

Coronavirus Outbreak: Chris Evans joins Instagram, reveals he’s reuniting Avengers cast to raise funds

Captain America Chris Evans has officially joined Instagram. The actor has pledged to reunite all six of Marvel’s original Avengers cast and fans can win the chance of a virtual hangout session with them. The effort is aimed at raising money for the fight against coronavirus.

(Click here to follow LIVE updates on coronavirus outbreak)

Fans can get a chance to meet Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Jeremy Renner, and Mark Ruffalo through a raffle.

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In a video, Evans can be heard saying that he is accepting the “All In Challenge” and he was challenged by Guardians of the Galaxy actor Chris Pratt.

The challenge will help to get food to people who are in need during the COVID nightmare, he says in the clip.

The actor said that fans chosen can do a private Q&A and ask them anything. “We can spill the beans,” the actor can be heard saying.

Chris has challenged Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, and Billy Porter.

The clip, which has already been viewed over 15 lakh time since being posted, also saw Mark Ruffalo taking to the comment section.

“Maybe not ask us anything… #Spoilers,” the Hulk in Marvel Cinematic Universe commented.

As per a report in DailyMail, the money raised through the auction will go to Feeding America, Meals On Wheels, World Central Kitchen, and No Kid Hungry. The report also added that it takes $10 to enter the raffle and whoever wins will receive a 40-minute virtual hangout with Christ Evans and other stars. The winner can be accompanied by two guests.

Earlier, Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro offered a chance to fans for a walk-on role in their next cinematic outing, Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon.

DiCaprio posted a video on his Instagram along with a caption that revealed that the actors launched the #AmerciasFoodFund campaign to “help make sure every family in need gets access to food at this critical time.”

Updated Date: May 02, 2020 12:42:10 IST

Tags : Avengers, Buzz Patrol, BuzzPatrol, Captain America, Chris Evans, Coronavirus, COVID-19, Instagram, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr.

On Satyajit Ray 99th birth anniversary, Madhur Bhandarkar, Parambrata Chatterjee remember the filmmaker

A man of many talents, Satyajit Ray is considered to be one of the greatest filmmakers of all time.

Ray, who was born on 2 May, 1921, would become the first Indian filmmaker to be awarded an honorary Oscar for his contribution to the world of cinema on 30 March, 1992. He breathed his last on 23 April, 1992.

He was the man behind classics such as Pather Panchali, Devi, Charulata, Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne, and Shatranj Ke Khilari among others. One of Ray’s biggest inspirations that prompted him to enter film-making was Vittorio De Sica’s 1948 film Ladri di biciclette (Bicycle Thieves). Writing for the Calcutta Film Society, Ray had said Bicycle Thieves “creates a norm which few films aspire to, let alone attain.”

On the filmmaker’s 99th birth anniversary, a number of well-known personalities posted messages on Twitter remembering him.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee wrote, “Fondly remembering Satyajit Ray, legendary filmmaker, on his birth anniversary …Maharaja Tomare Selam.”

Director Madhur Bhandarkar posted a message on Ray’s birth anniversary, remembering him as the “Renaissance Man of India.”

Sand artist Sudarshan Pattnaik shared the image of a ‘SandArt’ from Cannes Film Festival 2014 as his tribute to Ray.

“Maestro, it’s that day again, when we thank you for being born,for giving us so much, & not just the films! The music, the literature, the ethos, the legacy… Happy Birthday, #SatyajitRay,” wrote Kahaani fame actor Parambrata Chatterjee.

Maharashtra Information Centre’s official Twitter account paid tribute to Ray through a short clip that had snippets from Ray’s life. They wrote that the director “maintained that the best technique of filmmaking was the one that was not noticeable.”

Kolkata Police too paid homage to Ray on his birth anniversary in an innovative manner. The official Twitter handle of Kolkata Police shared a clip from a song sequence from Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne where they changed the lyrics of the song to one that aims to create awareness on the importance of self-quarantine during the coronavirus pandemic.

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Updated Date: May 02, 2020 12:27:28 IST

How Irrfan Khan, among the few Indian actors to achieve crossover success, became ‘touchstone connecting two worlds’

It’s quite ironic that the actor who was once not paid for his work in a television show in India — reportedly because his performance was substandard — went on to become a global crossover star. But then Irfan Khan, who became Irrfan, didn’t really stick to the beaten track.

Television’s loss was definitely cinema’s gain. A famously truncated role in Mira Nair’s Salaam Bombay in 1988 was just a teaser for things to come from the Irrfan reservoir of acting. It was Asif Kapadia’s lyrical The Warrior, three years later, that put the National School of Drama graduate firmly in the limelight.

Irrfan Khan dies at 53: A rare and magnetic talent that held filmmakers, writers and audiences in thrall

In a 2002 piece for The Guardian newspaper, Kapadia wrote about casting Irrfan. “As soon as we met, I knew we had our guy. He had a real presence and I knew he could carry the film… He was known for TV roles, but didn’t have the looks for commercial cinema. All the better for us, as there was no way we could’ve afforded him if he were a huge star.”

A few years later, Mira Nair’s beautiful adaptation of Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake saw Irrfan play Ashoke Ganguly, an Indian raising a family in America. Speaking from her home in New York, Nair described the character as being “in a way far from his experience, and in some ways not”. The shoot for The Namesake also marked the actor’s first visit to the US.

“He was a stranger to America and a journeyman. He took that encounter with a new country, the new light and brought it into Ganguly’s world,” said Nair.

That role opened up the cinema world for Irrfan, who evoked so much sympathy for this character that it hurt.

Nair and Irrfan were consistent collaborators. She later cast him in her episode of New York, I Love You in which he played a Jain jeweller opposite Natalie Portman.  “He disappeared into the part with a twinkle in his eye, which he never lost. He could really play anything, but he had the good taste to play only what he wanted to play,” said Nair.

 How Irrfan Khan, among the few Indian actors to achieve crossover success, became touchstone connecting two worlds

Few other Indian male actors have so seamlessly straddled Indian and international cinema the way Irrfan did. AP Photo

Lanky, with big bulging eyes, a halting almost hesitant manner of speaking, and an aversion to looking directly at the camera or his co-star made him an unlikely candidate for a conventional Bollywood hero. But these very facets, as well as his self-awareness, became his cachet on the international stage. Few other Indian male actors, with the exception of Shashi Kapoor, Om Puri and Anupam Kher, have so seamlessly straddled Indian and international cinema the way Irrfan did. Award-winning, big-name directors such as Ang Lee, Ron Howard and Danny Boyle cast Irrfan in meaningful roles.

Many other Indian actors who have tried have been cast in blink-and-miss parts or delivered their lines as if reciting Shakespeare on a Mumbai stage or, worse, played to a stereotype of the awkward Indian abroad that made audiences at home cringe.

Irrfan played the police inspector interrogating Dev Patel’s character in Slumdog Millionaire, the owner of the park in Jurassic World, the adult Piscine Molitor ‘Pi’ Patel in Life of Pi, Harry ‘The Provost’ Sims in Inferno and a widower coming to terms with his loneliness in the HBO series In Treatment.

On his passing, Marc Webb, who directed him in The Amazing Spider-Man, tweeted, “In Irrfan, power and gentleness co-existed perfectly. When he sings to his new wife at the bathroom door in The Namesake or speaks of his father in Life of Pi, his talent is positively mystical. He is the most nuanced actor I’ve worked with.”

As impressive as these credits are, he infamously turned down offers to work with Stephen Spielberg and Christopher Nolan, opting to fulfil his commitments to Indian filmmakers.

If Hollywood tent-poles cemented his fan following in the West, Irrfan balanced it with fiercely original and independent cinema such as playing Saajan Fernandes in the Cannes favourite The Lunchbox (2013) and Umber Singh in Qissa which was feted at the Toronto International Film Festival (2013).

“When I started writing Qissa, I had Balraj Sahni in mind,” said Singh from his home in Switzerland. “But he had died many years before. So I thought: who is that actor in our time with that dignity, who does not degrade through performance and who doesn’t cheapen us. Irrfan’s name came to mind.” The duo also worked together on The Song of Scorpions in which Irrfan plays a camel trader.

“Emotions are not always black and white. We live in the contours and within the impermanence of emotions. He was able to inhabit that space, playing under the drama. That is what brought me to him again and again.”

Adaptable and versatile, he did not lean on loud Bollywood theatrics but was admired for being able to absorb the script and convey a lot even while doing little. For a filmmaker, that’s a dream, because such an actor would not seek to overshadow the script or grab extra attention. The less-is-more-school of acting was beautifully showcased in The Namesake, for example. As Irrfan’s co-star Kal Penn tweeted, “Never seen someone use the beats of silence so beautifully to convey so much about who we are.”

During a photocall for the film A Mighty Heart, at the 60th International film festival in Cannes. AP Photo

During a photocall for the film A Mighty Heart, at the 60th International film festival in Cannes. AP Photo

With the Slumdog Millionaire cast at the the 15th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles. AP Photo

With the Slumdog Millionaire cast at the the 15th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles. AP Photo

Irrfan’s versatility allowed him to be considered ethnically ambiguous, and not limited to playing a South Asian origin character. For years, Indians have found it difficult to be cast in American films due to their accent, which either points them out as foreigners or forces them to adopt an inauthentic intonation. But Irrfan didn’t appear self-conscious about his accent or his origins.

One of the things that also helped was his unique style of dialogue delivery.

Ang Lee has spoken of how, like Robert De Niro, Irrfan too was a mumbler. But it didn’t matter on important occasions, like in that seminal and emotional speech in Life of Pi where you hang on to every word.

Nair summarises Irrfan’s authenticity and commitment, two traits that distinguished him from peers whose attempts at crossing over were often embarrassing. “Over the years, I have entertained a lot of actors who are stars within the Indian context, but many are fearful of stepping out of their comfort zones. They have insecurity of not being gods here (in the West), notions in their minds that basically come from fear.”

She added, “Irrfan didn’t have that. I don’t even think he thought of ‘going to Hollywood’. He thought of himself as a solid, good Rajasthani man who would do work at home. Those who came to him approached him for his distinctiveness.”

Singh could think of only Irrfan and Om Puri as two Indian actors to effectively and successfully reach a global audience. “They had a similar integrity and authenticity. Irrfan was an actor who was not playing stereotyped Indian characters — typically loud, unsteady and restless. Thus the filmmakers and audiences learnt that he respected himself and the viewer, whether Indian or non-Indian,” Singh said.

In small and large parts he made his mark on The Darjeeling Limited, A Mighty Heart, Puzzle and Tokyo Trial as well, making the transition look effortless. As Irrfan’s Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle said in a 2010 interview to Time, “He is a touchstone connecting two worlds”.

Also readIrrfan Khan passes away at 53 — From The Amazing Spider-Man to Slumdog Millionaire, a look at the actor’s international work

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Updated Date: May 02, 2020 12:24:48 IST