Sia to release new single Together on 20 May; song will feature in soundtrack of her film Music

Singer Sia will release her new single titled ‘Together‘ on 20 May.

The song will feature on the official soundtrack for her upcoming movie, Music, which also marks her directorial debut.

The Australian singer’s team shared the news on Wednesday on Twitter.

“New Sia single: Together – out everywhere May 20th! pre-save on – Team Sia (sic),” read the post on Sia’s official page.

According to Billboard, Music, which was announced at the 2015 Venice Film Festival, is “due for release” in September.

It features Kate Hudson, Maddie Ziegler, and Leslie Odom Jr.

Sia has co-written and co-produced the film with writer Dallas Clayton and producer Vincent Landay, respectively.

Check out the posts

(With inputs from Press Trust of India)

Updated Date: May 15, 2020 10:37:04 IST

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Jyothika’s Ponmangal Vandhal, Keerthy Suresh’s Penguin, among others, to directly premiere on Amazon Prime Video

Following the announcement of the upcoming direct-to-digital premieres of Gulabo Sitabo and Shakuntala Devi, Amazon Prime Video India has announced five other highly-anticipated South Indian films will release directly on the streaming service.

These include Tamil film Ponmagal Vandhal starring Jyothika, Keerthy Suresh’s Penguin (Tamil and Telugu), Sufiyum Sujatayum (Malayalam), Law (Kannada), and French Biryani (Kannada).

“Indian audiences have been eagerly awaiting the release of these seven highly anticipated films, and we are delighted that Amazon Prime Video will now be premiering these movies for our customers, who can enjoy watching these from the safety and comfort of their homes, and on a screen of their choice,” says Gaurav Gandhi, Director and Country General Manager, Amazon Prime Video India.

Here is Amazon Prime Video’s direct-to-service slate for South Indian films


Ponmagal Vandhal – 29 May

 Jyothikas Ponmangal Vandhal, Keerthy Sureshs Penguin, among others, to directly premiere on Amazon Prime Video

Poster of Jyothika’s Pon Magal Vandhal

Starring Jyothika, Parthiban, Bhagyaraj, Prathap Pothen, and Pandiarajan, Ponmagal Vandhal is a legal drama. The movie is written and directed by JJ Fredrick, and produced by Suriya and Rajsekar Karpoorasundarapandian.

Also read on Firstpost — Coronavirus Outbreak: Pon Magal Vandhal releases on OTT; TN theatre owners threaten to boycott Suriya, Jyothika’s films

Tamil and Telugu

First still of Penguin. Twitter

First still of Penguin. Twitter

Penguin – 19 June

Starring Keerthy Suresh, Penguin is written and directed by Eshavar Karthic. The film is produced by Stone Bench Films and Karthik Subbaraj.


Law – 26 June

Poster of Law. Amazon Prime Video

Poster of Law. Amazon Prime Video

Starring Ragini Chandran, Siri Prahlad, and veteran actor Mukhyamantri Chandru, Law is written and directed by Raghu Samarth, and produced by Ashwini and Puneeth Rajkumar.

French Biryani – 24 July

First look of French Biryani. Twitter

First look of French Biryani. Twitter

French Biryani features actors Danish Sait, Sal Yusuf, and Pitobash as leads. The movie is written by Avinash Balekkala, directed by Pannaga Bharana, and produced by Ashwini and Puneeth Rajkumar, and Gurudutt A Talwar.


Sufiyum Sujatayum – TBA

Sufiyum Sujatayum poster. Amazon Prime Video

Sufiyum Sujatayum poster. Amazon Prime Video

Starring Aditi Rao Hydari and Jayasuruya, Soofiyum Sujatayum is written and directed by Naranipuzha Shanavas, and produced by Vijay Babu’s Friday Film House.

Updated Date: May 15, 2020 09:56:12 IST

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Karan Johar, Kajol, Ajay Devgn, Akshay Kumar, Ranveer Singh, Abhishek Bachchan recall favourite ’90s films on Twitter

The nostalgia about the ’90s is up in the air with actors such as Kajol, Ajay Devgn, Akshay Kumar and Abhishek Bachchan all recalling their favourite movies from the decade on Twitter.

The microblogging site has started a new campaign where it asked celebrities to name their favourite movies from the ’90s while tagging others for the same. Twitter has also launched a new emoji to commemorate the era.

“First up, what’s your favourite ‘90s movie? Respond with #90sLove #BackToThe90s or #90sNostalgia and tag five friends to continue the conversation. And look who’s kicking it off – ’90s sweetheart herself @itsKajolD !” read the post from Twitter India.

To this Kajol replied, “Love this @TwitterIndia . My favourite movies are ”Kuch Kuch Hota Hai” & ”Pyaar To Hona Hi Tha” and I’m tagging @ajaydevgn @aamir_khan @karanjohar @TanishaaMukerji @iamsrk Tell me yours!”

Ajay reminisced about his 1998 movie Zakhm from the era as he tagged Akshay and Abhishek for the challenge.

“So my most favourite film from the 90s till date is Zakhm. And I am further tagging @akshaykumar & @juniorbachchan to tell me theirs.. #90slove” he tweeted.

In his reply to Ajay, Akshay tweeted, “Thank you @ajaydevgn …so my favourite films from the 90s would have to be ”Sangharsh” and ”Andaz Apna Apna”. I’m further tagging @ranveerofficial and @karanjohar to share theirs. #90slove.”

Abhishek said his father, Amitabh Bachchan’s Agneepath was his favourite movie from the decade.

“Thanks AJ @ajaydevgn my favourite film from the 90’s would have to be Agneepath. I would like to further tag @Riteishd @iHrithik and @TheJohnAbraham to tell me theirs #90slove” he replied to Ajay.

Filmmaker Karan Johar, who was nominated by Akshay, wrote, “Hey Akshay ! I owe my journey in cinema to the 90s! My favourite films in that decade are #HumAapkehaikaun and #Lamhe ( not including my most favourite #DDLJ as I worked on it)”.

Check out the posts

(With inputs from Press Trust of India)

Updated Date: May 15, 2020 09:15:26 IST

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Focaccia Art

A foccacia in a baking tray with a floral decoration

One of our lovely bake club members posted a gorgeous photo a few weeks back. It was an image of someone’s beautiful Focaccia art. Many of us decided that we needed to give it a go. It was a work of art, and lots of fun.

You can use whatever recipe you want for this, I used my sourdough recipe, but any Focaccia or Pizza base recipe will work fine. Just make sure you prove it properly. In my experience, that’s where most people make mistakes with their bread making.

A foccacia in a baking tray with a floral decoration

Focaccia art

Making focaccia or pizza dough by hand can be fun. Of course, you could use a Thermomix or Stand mixer to do the kneading for you.

Prep Time 1 hr

Cook Time 25 mins

Total Time 1 hr 25 mins

Difficulty Easy

Course Bread, Dinner, Lunch

Cuisine Italian

Servings 8

Method Thermomix and Conventional

  • Thermomix (optional)

  • Stand mixer (optional)

  • 500 g strong white bakers flour
  • 2 tsp flaked sea salt
  • 1 ½ tsp dried yeast
  • 2 tsp caster sugar
  • 300 ml lukewarm water
  • olive oil
  • melted butter for brushing on the top
  • Fill a measuring jug with 300 g of lukewarm water then add the yeast and sugar and mix with a fork. Set this aside for 5 – 10 mins to activate the yeast.

  • In the meantime, place the flour and salt into a large bowl, and make a well in the centre

  • Check the yeast and, when it starts to foam, slowly pour it into the well, mixing as you go.

  • As soon as all the ingredients come together, which may take a minute or so, knead vigorously for around 5 minutes or until the dough comes together and is smooth and soft.

  • Lightly oil a large bowl with some olive oil and transfer the dough to the bowl. Cover with cling film or a tea towel and leave to prove in a warm place for 30 minutes or until doubled in size.

  • After around 15 minutes of proving time set the oven to preheat to 220°C and get your baking tray ready. Rub the whole base of your baking tray with olive oil.

  • Take the risen dough out of the bowl and place it on the benchtop, (lightly dust if needed, try not to use too much flour) flatten it by pressing down with the palm of your hand or using a rolling pin. You’re trying to make the same size as the size of your tray. Place it in the tray and shape as best you can. Remember it will even out a bit when it rises in the oven.

  • Brush the melted butter over the surface of your dough and decorated however you wish. Have fun.

To knead with a Thermomix bring together on speed 4 -5 then knead for 2 minutes.  Or for a stand mixer bring together then knead for 5 mins with a dough hook.

Now to make the decoration. I started by using melted butter to brush over the surface to give my Focaccia that lovely golden brown glow. Then for the fun part, the decorating.

I went out into the garden and grabbed what I could find. It’s getting chilly here now in Melbourne (May is late Autumn) so things are starting to die back. I managed to get some spring onion, parsley, rosemary and a few tomatoes. The red onion and corn was in the pantry.

Topping ideas for focaccia art

  • parsley
  • spring onion
  • red onion
  • tomato
  • sun-dried tomato
  • seeds
  • herbs like rosemary, thyme etc
  • corn kernels
  • capsicum
  • olives
  • capers
  • celery stalks and leaves
  • zucchini and zucchini flowers
  • limited only by your imagination and taste buds
Small tomatoes used to decorate the focaccia
Small tomatoes used to decorate the focaccia

One of the girls asked what did I use to make the tulips. I used these little tomatoes to make my flowers. I cut the fat end into points. I love tomatoes and eat them pretty much every day, although I don’t really like my tomatoes baked. I would have used capsicum if I had any. Do you like soft warm tomatoes? 🙂

Coronavirus Outbreak: INOX ‘disappointed’ at scheduled theatrical releases heading directly to OTT platforms

In an apparent reference to the decision of Gulabo Sitabo makers to release the film on a streaming platform, multiplex INOX on Thursday expressed its “extreme displeasure and disappointment” over the move.

Also read on Firstpost: After Gulabo Sitabo, Amazon Prime Video announces Vidya Balan’s Shakuntala Devi biopic will premiere directly on streaming platform

Starring Amitabh Bachchan and Ayushmann Khurrana, the Shoojit Sircar-directed movie will debut on Amazon Prime Video on 12 June.

 Coronavirus Outbreak: INOX disappointed at scheduled theatrical releases heading directly to OTT platforms

Cinema theatre. Representational image

Without naming the production house or the film, the theatre chain released a statement on Twitter, saying such a move was “disconcerting”.

“INOX would like to express extreme displeasure and disappointment on an announcement made by a production house today, to release their movie directly on an OTT platform by skipping the theatrical window run.

“The decision of the production house to deviate from the globally prevalent content windowing practice is alarming and disconcerting,” the statement read.

INOX said cinemas and content creators have always been into “mutually beneficial partnerships” where one’s action provided fillip to another’s revenues.

“In these troubled times, it is disturbing to see one of the partners not interested in continuing the mutually beneficial relationship, especially when the need of the hour is to stand shoulder to shoulder with each other, and bring the film industry back to its vibrant best.

“Such acts, though isolated, vitiate the atmosphere of mutual partnership and paint these content producers as fair-weather friends rather than all-weather life-long partners,” the statement further read.

The multiplex chain said it will now be “constrained to examine” its options, and reserves all rights, including taking retributive measures, in “dealing with such fair-weather friends”.

“INOX would like to urge all content creators not to skip the theatrical run, and stay with the age-old and established windowing pattern, which is in the best interests of all stakeholders in the value chain,” the statement concluded.

Here’s the entire statement

(With inputs from Press Trust of India)

Updated Date: May 15, 2020 08:54:22 IST

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Coronavirus Outbreak: Shah Rukh Khan seeks citizen contributions to Meer Foundation to support ‘healthcare soldiers’

Superstar Shah Rukh Khan on Thursday asked people to support healthcare workers amid the coronavirus pandemic by contributing towards Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and other essentials.

(Click here to follow LIVE updates on coronavirus outbreak)

Shah Rukh said many people have been asking how can they partner up and take the cause of supporting healthcare workers forward, but usually Meer Foundation, his NGO, doesn’t function on donations.

However, “these are dire circumstances that would require all of us to unite and chip in if we can”, he added.

In a video released on the official handle of the NGO, Shah Rukh said it is important right now for everyone to support the medical staff who are risking their lives to save people.

“We are all facing a crisis against a force we can’t see- the coronavirus. To fight the virus, our country’s doctors, scientists, medical professionals and everyone involved in the healthcare sector are like our soldiers…”

“The medical personnel require PPE, which include gloves, masks, overalls or any equipment that one may need to protect ones physical self from the virus whole treating the patients,” he said.

In a separate tweet, Shah Rukh appealed to the people should to donate to Meer Foundation to help protect “our healthcare soldiers.”

“Let’s support the brave health officials and medical teams that are leading the fight against the coronavirus by contributing towards supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE). A little help can go a long way. @MeerFoundation,” he added.

Check out the post

Earlier, the 54-year actor had announced that Meer Foundation will work with the Maharashtra and West Bengal governments for the supply of 50,000 Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for the healthcare professionals.

Shah Rukh, along with wife Gauri Khan, had also offered their four-storey personal office space for treating COVID-19 patients.

(With inputs from Press Trust of India)

Updated Date: May 15, 2020 08:41:46 IST

Tags : Buzz Patrol, BuzzPatrol, Coronavirus, Coronavirus Outbreak, COVID-19, PPE Kits, Shah Rukh Khan

Paatal Lok review: Anushka Sharma-produced Amazon Prime series is a slow burn with the ambition of a pacy thriller

Let me tell you at the onset that Anushka Sharma’s Amazon Prime Video series Paatal Lok — created by Sudip Sharma (writer of Udta PunjabNH10, Sonchiriya) — isn’t a show for those who like to multi-task while watching TV.

If you find yourself in the middle of the series, wondering how the hell the protagonist, Hathi Ram Chaudhry (the ever-so-brilliant Jaideep Ahlawat), landed in the interiors of Punjab or Chitrakoot (MP), it’s because you weren’t paying enough attention. Because Paatal Lok’s brilliance lies in its details and authenticity; in the contrast between a big city like Delhi versus the interiors of the North-Indian heartland (Sudip Sharma’s trump card — as seen in his earlier films); in the expressions between characters who aren’t saying much with dialogues but with their eyes and body language.

So put that Scrabble game on pause, and let’s dive in.

 Paatal Lok review: Anushka Sharma-produced Amazon Prime series is a slow burn with the ambition of a pacy thriller

Within the first few seconds of the pilot episode, Delhi Police officer Hathi Ram tells his subordinate Ansari (Ishwak Singh) about the three Loks and their distinctions. Swarg Lok (heaven; where the rich/upper class resides), Dharti Lok (the world as we know it, purveyed by the middle-class) and Paatal Lok (the netherland, where crime and oppression overlap to create its own brand of hell). Through the nine episodes of the series, Hathiram becomes the representation of Dharti Lok, and gets embroiled in a high-profile attempt to murder case that brings together the other two widely separated worlds: Swarg and Paatal.

As he sinks further into the case, he will understand more about the systemic dance of power and oppression — regardless of gender, religion, caste and class — and how they align with crime and the system. Everything is connected, even though it may not seem so in the first five episodes.

The plot of Paatal Lok is admittedly loosely based on ex-Tehelka editor-in-chief Tarun Tejpal’s book The Story of my Assassins. We are told right at the beginning that the attempted murder victim is reputed journalist Sanjeev Mehta (Neeraj Kabi). Hathiram takes it upon himself to find out more about the four suspects in the case, while also trying to understand who hired them. His journey takes him to the interiors of Punjab, MP and Haryana, as he tries to uncover the nexus between heartland crime, caste and religion-based oppression, and vote-bank politics.

As we’ve seen in Sudip Sharma’s previous work (most notably Nh10 and Sonchiriya), the writer-director is really adept at bringing out the disparity between the different Indias: the India of a big-city like Delhi with rampant media and bureaucratic culture, and the India of a small town like Chitrakoot (Madhya Pradesh), where caste, crime and oppression go hand-in-hand. Hathiram keeps going back to Chitrakoot as it holds the key to the backstory behind one of the suspects, Hathoda Tyagi (Abhishek Banerjee). We are also told backstories of the other suspects, Tope Singh (a Dalit from Punjab with a heartbreaking origin story), Cheeni (a trans street-dweller from Nizamuddin in Delhi who does seedy jobs to survive) and Kabir M (a driver who Delhi Police is convinced is related to ISI and is sitting on a larger terrorist plot).

Jaideep Ahlawat in Paatal Lok.

Even though Hathiram is at his wit’s end in his thankless job, he becomes the underdog who must get to bottom of happenings in the series. As the trope goes, he is equally troubled — an alcoholic with fractured relationships with his wife (Gul Panag) and son. As he uncovers more about the case, the lists of murders increase. It becomes very clear that someone is watching Hathiram and trying to eliminate any possible way of his getting to bottom of the case. The answers will come from the back stories of the suspects — and therein lies the core of Paatal Lok as well.

Jaideep Ahlawat is the clear star of the show, and about time he got a series to shoulder. We’ve seen that he can do urban roles like in Dibakar Banerjee’s Lust Stories short, and also gritty rural characters, like Shahid Khan in Gangs of Wasseypur. Ahlawat stands right in front of a stellar cast, including Abhishek Banerjee, Neeraj Kabi, Rajesh Sharma, and Gul Panag (who plays a sometimes-gullible, sometimes-feisty homemaker) among others.

Eventually it becomes clear that Paatal Lok suffers from too much being packed into every episode. Sometimes the tease works as you start to deconstruct in your head what symbols and glances and edits mean. But often, the plot becomes a bit too scattered, paying attention to arcs that could have easily been cut out (steamy affairs and unnecessary gore) and arcs that could do with a more indepth look (the link between guerilla crime gangs and politics in Chitrakoot, and how it’s the hotbed for vote-bank politics in North India or the history of violence and oppression against a particular Dalit community in Punjab.)

The primary problem with Paatal Lok is that it is trying too hard to be too many things: a thriller, a social commentary, an “edgy” take on new India and its fault lines.

The thrills can be seen mostly in the technical department (with crisp cinematography and post-production work), the social commentary bits are routinely thrown in your face, and whenever the show wants to be “edgy” or “dark” either the stakes are raised with violence, or incessant swear words. And in the midst of all this, it never really becomes any of the above things.

What you can’t fault Paatal Lok with is its attention to detail and its production value, credit of which goes to Anushka Sharma’s Clean Slate Filmz. For a debut web production, the show has a decent mix of familiar and fresh faces, and excellent world-building. At several points during the series, I wanted to pause and take a break to soak it all in, but also found myself scratching my head to put the pieces together. To its credit, at the end of nine-episodes, enough curiosity had been built to want to watch season 2.

Which brings me to the ultimate question behind this review: in a sea of content options, where does Paatal Lok stand? I’d say give it a shot. Don’t expect anything spectacular and you may be surprisingly hooked.

Rating: ★★★

Updated Date: May 15, 2020 08:02:15 IST

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Amazon Prime Video announces Vidya Balan’s Shakuntala Devi biopic will premiere directly on streaming platform

Amazon Prime Video India on Friday announced that the much-awaited Hindi biopic Shakuntala Devi will exclusively premiere on the streaming platform.

 Amazon Prime Video announces Vidya Balans Shakuntala Devi biopic will premiere directly on streaming platform

Vidya Balan in a still from Shakuntala Devi. Twitter

Featuring National Award-winning actress Vidya Balan, the film is based on the life of Shakuntala Devi, nicknamed the “human computer” for her innate ability to make incredibly complex calculations within seconds. The film also stars Sanya Malhotra, who will be seen playing the role of Shakuntala’s daughter, with whom the genius enjoyed a complicated but extraordinary relationship, alongside Amit Sadh and Jisshu Sengupta in pivotal roles.

Written and directed by Anu Menon, the film has been produced by Sony Pictures Networks Productions and Vikram Malhotra. The screenplay is written by Menon and Nayanika Mahtani, while the dialogues are penned by Ishita Moitra. Menon and Moitra have previously collaborated on the first season of Amazon Prime Video India Original show Four More Shots Please!.

The announcement comes merely a day after the streaming platform announced the the direct-to-digital release of Shoojit Sircar’s comedy Gulabo Sitabo, starring Amitabh Bachchan and Ayushmann Khurrana. It became the first film out of the ones that were scheduled to release theatrically but were indefinitely postponed because of the coronavirus outbreak and the subsequent lockdown.

(Click here to follow LIVE updates on coronavirus outbreak)

Shakuntala Devi was initially scheduled to release in theatres on 8 May. On Thursday, cinema hall chain INOX issued a statement criticising the producers of Gulabo Sitabo for setting an unfair precedent by moving the premiere of a planned theatrical release to a digital platform. It accused the producers to be “fair-weathered” friends and not “all-weathered” companions.

Now that another major film will soon make its premiere directly on a streaming platform, it may further disappoint INOX and other cinema hall chains. But given the uncertainty of the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, the producers may not afford to wait.

Updated Date: May 15, 2020 08:00:50 IST

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Lord Badrinath temple all set to open tomorrow morning with grand flower decorations

Lord Badrinath temple all set to open tomorrow morning with grand flower decorations

Lord Badrinath temple all set to open tomorrow morning with grand flower decorations

Amid the coronavirus lockdwon, Uttarakhand’s Lord Badrianth temple is all set to open at  4.30 am on Friday with the holy sound of Ved mantras. The temple has been decoarted with flowers in a grand manner and several pictures have made it to the internet that are simply breathtaking. This will be the first time that a limited number of people will be present during the opening of the temple doors.

According to officials, only 27 people, including the head priest, will be allowed when the portals of the Badrinath Temple reopen on May 15. “Devotees will not be allowed entry into the temple during that time. The decision has been taken in view of the guidelines issued by the Centre amid Covid-19 pandemic,” Anil Chanyal, Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM), Joshimath, had said in a statement earlier.

One of the most visited pilgrimage centres of India, Badrinath is one of the Char Dhams or the four main pilgrimage centres of the Hindus located in Garhwal hills.

The Badrinath Temple is along the banks of the Alaknanda River in Chamoli district at a height of over 10,000 feet.

Fight against Coronavirus: Full coverage

Cannes Film Festival flashback: Most memorable editions, from post-WWII beginnings to its 2009 pinnacle

May holds a special place in the calendar of film lovers across the world. It is when the privileged few of them gather at that most hallowed rendezvous on the Croisette for Cannes Film Festival — and it sure is a privilege to discover the best films of the year, before they are coated with all that promotional sheen.

Sadly, Cannes 2020, originally scheduled to run from 12-23 May, will not be held in its “original form” this year due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis; but it was announced on Sunday that it will screen an official selection of its films at fall festivals like Venice. Meanwhile, all its parallel sections — Directors’ Fortnight, Critics’ Week, ACID — have been cancelled. With many other festivals also cancelled, cinemas closed, and productions on hold, the COVID-19 pandemic has paralysed the film industry. 

It is unfortunate especially following the success of last year’s edition, which proved exactly why Cannes is still considered the barometer of quality in cinema. Some of the most beloved films of 2019 began their journey at the festival: Beanpole, Bacurau, I Lost My Body, Invisible Life, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Pain and Glory, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, The Lighthouse and, not to mention, the eventually Oscar-winning Parasite. It was truly an exceptional line-up, in terms of scale, variety and substance. Turning back the clock, we time-travel to Cannes film festivals over the years with equally exceptional line-ups.

End of a war, birth of a festival

Highlights | Beauty and the Beast (Jean Cocteau), Brief Encounter (David Lean), Gaslight (George Cukor), Gilda (Charles Vidor), The Lost Weekend (Billy Wilder), Notorious (Alfred Hitchcock), Rome Open City (Roberto Rossellini)

 Cannes Film Festival flashback: Most memorable editions, from post-WWII beginnings to its 2009 pinnacle

Beauty and the Beast (Jean Cocteau) – Cannes 1946

Proposed as an alternative to Venice Film Festival (then politicised by Mussolini), the first edition of Cannes was initially supposed to be held in 1939. Louis Lumière, the man who gave us cinema, was announced as president. MGM had chartered an ocean liner to bring all the stars from Hollywood. Cary Grant, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Gary Cooper, James Cagney, Mae West, Norma Shearer, Spencer Tracy, and many more had arrived on the Croisette. Then, Germany invaded Poland and they all had to book return tickets. The world had to wait till the war ended for a taste of what Cannes had to offer — and boy, did they deliver.

Alfred Hitchcock got everyone’s hearts racing and adrenaline pumping with Notorious. Billy Wilder followed up Double Indemnity with a grim portrait of alcoholism in The Lost Weekend. David Lean served a romantic tearjerker for the ages in Brief Encounter. Italian neorealism began to take shape with Roberto Rossellini’s Rome, Open City. Jean Cocteau crafted an anti-Disney treatment of Beauty and the Beast, where the surreal and real, the ugliness and beauty come together in a magic realist concoction. Out of the 44 feature films screened, 11 of them (one from each participating country) were awarded the top prize, Grand Prix (now called Palme d’Or), for reasons of diplomacy. This included India’s sole Palme d’Or crown (till now) in Chetan Anand’s Neecha Nagar

However, it was anything but a smooth-running operation. In a comedy of errors, the reels of Hitchcock’s Notorious were reversed, screened with the ending reel first, while the projection of George Sydney’s The Three Musketeers was turned upside-down. There was also tension brewing over the beginning of the Cold War. Russia blamed every technical issue on the US; the US cried sabotage over last-minute parties being scheduled at the same time as Hollywood films. 

Despite reversed reels and upside-down projections, Cold War scandals and consolation awards, the inaugural edition proved it could only get better. Cannes 1946 helped France regain its status as an economic power in Europe post-WWII, also enhancing its cultural weight over the rest of the world — at least, in terms of cinema. 

The glitz and glamour

Highlights | Ballad of a Soldier (Grigori Chukhrai), La Dolce Vita (Federico Fellini), L’avventura (Michelangelo Antonioni), The Virgin Spring (Ingmar Bergman), The Young One (Luis Buñuel)

La Dolce Vita (Federico Fellini) - Cannes 1960

La Dolce Vita (Federico Fellini) – Cannes 1960

Within a decade, Cannes had set a new precedent for other festivals. Call it a temple of cinema or a glamorous vanity fair, it was beginning to attract the best filmmakers in world cinema. It also became the new locus for the golden age of Italian cinema, as two of its canonical entries, Fellini’s La Dolce Vita and Antonioni’s L’avventura, were both screened at the festival. Not without controversy of course.

La Dolce Vita and L’avventura divided the critics and the public, stirring the deepest admiration and aversion. The former ended up winning the Palme d’Or, the latter the Jury Prize. However, for a large portion of the public, La Dolce Vita was an overlong decadent affair intended to outrage all good taste and sensibilities. They also didn’t care for the pacing or abstract narrative of L’avventura, having expected it to be a straightforward investigative thriller. The boos and barbs got so severe, lead star Monica Vitti left the screening hall in tears.

Cannes has become a stage for glitz and glamour, parties and photo calls, and the army of paparazzi that comes with them. With La Dolce Vita, Fellini sums up the hope and despair, the beauty and ugliness to this superficial celebrity lifestyle, testifying to the social malaise underneath. In L’avventura, Antonioni created a new visual language of his own, one which reflected its synthetic nature while merging the realms of reality and abstraction. Before Come and See and Ivan’s Childhood, Grigori Chukhrai gave us an equally lyrical meditation on war in Ballad of a Soldier. Also screened at the festival were Bimal Roy’s Sujata and William Wyler’s Ben-Hur (out of competition).

With Marché du Film established just the previous year, Cannes had also set the stage to become the premier global film market we know it as today, giving film professionals the opportunity to shake hands with the best in the business.

Pulp Fiction puts American indie films on the world cinema map

Highlights | Exotica (Atom Egoyan), The Hudsucker Proxy (Coen Brothers), Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino), Three Colours: Red (Krzysztof Kieślowski), Through the Olive Trees (Abbas Kiarostami), To Live (Zhang Yimou)

Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino) - Cannes 1994

Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino) – Cannes 1994

Cannes 1994 will forever be remembered as the year Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction won the Palme d’Or, thanks to jury president Clint Eastwood. The film beat favourites like Krzysztof Kieslowsk’s final feature, Three Colours: Red, and Nanni Moretti’s Dear Diary, which was eagerly championed by jury vice-president Catherine Deneuve. The victories of Sex, Lies, and Videotape in 1989 and Pulp Fiction in 1994 gave American independent cinema global validation. Pulp Fiction of course benefited from producer Harvey Weinstein’s “Iron Curtain Strategy” to increase the buzz with limited screenings, while targeting selected American critics to deliver glowing reviews. It began his enduring love affair with Cannes, as he returned as jury president 10 years later and delivered three more of his films (Death Proof in 2007, Inglourious Basterds in 2009, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood in 2019) in the race for Palme d’Or. 

The edition boasted a particularly rich line-up across the various sections. Un Certain Regard, the official selection which was created in 1978, and favoured atypical films and lesser-known filmmakers, included Olivier Assayas’ Cold Water (L’eau froide), Pedro Costa’s Down to Earth (Casa de Lava), Claire Denis’ I Can’t Sleep (J’ai pas sommeil) among others. Adding to the festival’s scale and eclecticism were the parallel sections. Critics’ Week featured Kevin Smith’s Clerks, while Directors’ Fortnight had a commendable line-up of films from Aki Kaurismäki (Take Care of Your Scarf, Tatiana), Ang Lee (Eat Drink Man Woman), Michael Haneke (71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance) and Shekhar Kapur (Bandit Queen). John Waters’ hilariously absurd satire, Serial Mom, was also screened out of competition.

The pinnacle of eclecticism

Highlights | Palme d’Or: Antichrist (Lars von Trier), A Prophet (Jacques Audiard), Bright Star (Jane Campion), Broken Embraces (Pedro Almodóvar), Enter the Void (Gaspar Noé), Face (Tsai Ming-liang), Fish Tank (Andrea Arnold), Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino), Thirst (Park Chan-wook), The Time That Remains (Elia Suleiman), Wild Grass (Alain Resnais), Vincere (Marco Bellocchio), Vengeance (Johnnie To), The White Ribbon (Michael Haneke)

Un Certain Regard: Dogtooth (Yorgos Lanthimos), Father of My Children (Mia Hansen-Løve), Mother (Bong Joon-ho)

Out of Competition: Drag Me to Hell (Sam Raimi), Pixar’s Up (Pete Docter)

The White Ribbon (Michael Haneke) - Cannes 2009

The White Ribbon (Michael Haneke) – Cannes 2009

Andrea Arnold, Bong Joon-ho, Jane Campion, Gaspar Noé, Lars von Trier, Park Chan-wook, Quentin Tarantino, Michael Haneke, Pedro Almodóvar, Yorgos Lanthimos and more. Talk about an umissable festival line-up. But with this diversity came division, as some of the jury members ended up in a bitter battle. Jury President Isabelle Huppert and fellow juror James Gray reportedly fought over the former favouring Antichrist, and in the end, reached a compromise with The White Ribbon.

The 2009 edition was also an example of how Cannes is a unique showcase for little-known filmmakers to introduce their films to larger audiences. It is hard to imagine if we would all have been raving about Lanthimos and the Greek Weird Wave, if Dogtooth hadn’t won Prix Un Certain Regard. Ditto, with Mia Hansen-Løve. It is no wonder filmmakers and producers organise their production schedules in order to be able to present their films at Cannes.

Cannes 2020 could have matched the 2019, if not 2009, edition with a line-up, which would have probably included Annette (Leos Carax), Bergman Island (Mia Hansen-Løve), The French Dispatch (Wes Anderson), Last Night in Soho (Edgar Wright), Memoria (Apichatpong Weerasethakul), Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon (Ana Lily Amirpour), Peninsula (Yeon Sang-Ho), Pixar’s Soul (Pete Doctor), Tenet (Christopher Nolan) and many more. We’ll know more when Cannes chief Thierry Frémaux makes an announcement on the selection in June. Even if there’s no physical or online edition of the festival, just imagining a “What if” wishlist makes for a comforting exercise in these strange times.

Updated Date: May 14, 2020 20:06:41 IST

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Coronavirus Outbreak: BTS announces livestream concert for June after postponing Map of the Soul tour

South Korean pop sensation BTS has announced that it will perform a live-streamed concert in June.

The seven-member band, which was forced to postpone its Map of the Soul concert in April due to the coronavirus pandemic, will reconnect with its legions of fans worldwide through the live streamed concert.

 Coronavirus Outbreak: BTS announces livestream concert for June after postponing Map of the Soul tour

K Pop boyband BTS. Image from Twitter/@965TDY

The band said that its Bang Bang Con The Live concert will be held on 14 June, at 6pm Korean time (2.30 pm Indian Standard Time).

The band said that the paid-for concert will run for approximately 90 minutes and be followed with other content.

The Map of the Soul tour was initially scheduled to kickstart from 25 April with the group performing in Seoul, Japan, Europe and North America, writes Variety. The band was to take the stage at London’s Twickenham Stadium on 3 and 4 July, followed by shows in Berlin and Barcelona.

(With inputs from Press Trust of India)

Updated Date: May 14, 2020 18:27:18 IST

Tags : Bang Bang Con, BTS, Buzz Patrol, BuzzPatrol, Coronavirus Outbreak, Map Of The Soul, Tune In, TuneIn

Michael Madhu, popular Kannada actor and comedian, passes away aged 51

Popular Kannada actor and comedian Michael Madhu died of a heart attack on Wednesday evening. Known for his roles in films such as 1993 film Shhh! and 2013’s Bhajrangi, the 51-year-old actor is survived by his wife and two daughters.

According to a report in Mid-Day, the actor collapsed in his house in Bengaluru and was rushed to the KIMS hospital where he breathed his last.

Karthik Gowda, creative executive producer at Hombale Films, tweeted about Madhu’s demise.

Here is Gowda’s tweet

Madhu acted in over 300 films in a career spanning 15 years. First coming into prominence with the 1993 film Love Training, he held pivotal roles in films like AK 47, Vaali, Suryavamsha, Neelambari, Yamalokadalli Veerappan, Meese Hottha Gandasige Demandappo Demandu, Suprabhatha and Minugathare.

A Times of India report revealed Madhu had entered the industry to become a choreographer and added Michael to his name since he was a fan of pop singer Michael Jackson.

The actor was known for his unique style of comedy, involving body language and expressions that would leave fans in splits.

The Kannada film industry recently lost another comedian Bullet Prakash. The veteran actor died on 6 April after suffering from a liver infection.

Updated Date: May 14, 2020 18:16:37 IST

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Aerobics at any age a super treat for your brain

Aerobics at any age a super treat for your brain
Image Source : PIXABAY

Aerobics at any age a super treat for your brain

It’s never too late to lace up shoes and work up a sweat for brain health as older adults, even couch potatoes, may perform better on certain thinking and memory tests after just six months of aerobic exercise, says a new study.

Researchers found that after six months of exercise, participants improved by 5.7 per cent on tests of executive function, which includes mental flexibility and self-correction.

Verbal fluency, that tests how quickly you can retrieve information, increased by 2.4 per cent. This change in verbal fluency is what one can expect to see in someone five years younger.

“As we all find out eventually, we lose a bit mentally and physically as we age. But even if you start an exercise programme later in life, the benefit to your brain may be immense,” said study author Marc J Poulin from University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada.

Aerobic exercise gets blood moving through your body.

“As our study found, it may also get blood moving to your brain, particularly in areas responsible for verbal fluency and executive functions. Our finding may be important, especially for older adults at risk for Alzheimer’s and other dementias and brain disease,” Poulin said in a study published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

The study involved 206 adults who prior to starting the six-month exercise intervention worked out no more than four days per week at a moderate intensity for 30 minutes or less, or no more than two days per week a high intensity for 20 minutes or less per day.

They had an average age of 66 and no history of heart or memory problems.

Participants were given thinking and memory tests at the start of the study, as well as an ultrasound to measure blood flow in the brain.

“Our study showed that six months’ worth of vigorous exercise may pump blood to regions of the brain that specifically improve your verbal skills as well as memory and mental sharpness,” informed Poulin.

“At a time when these results would be expected to be decreasing due to normal aging, to have these types of increases is exciting,” the authors wrote.

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The New Mutants, Disney’s X-Men spinoff starring Maisie Williams, to now release on 28 August

The New Mutants, the horror-tinged X-Men spinoff, is slated to be released in theatres on August 28, Disney has announced.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the much-awaited film was earlier scheduled for a spring release but was taken off the calendar due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Disney inherited the film upon acquiring 20th Century Fox.

Here is the new release date announcement 

Directed by Josh Boone, the film follows a group of young mutants trapped in a secret facility. It features Maisie Williams, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Heaton, Alice Braga and Blu Hunt.

The New Mutants, based on the comic of the same name, was the first X-Men spinoff and released in 1982.

Taylor-Joy plays Russian mutant Illyana Rasputin/Magik, who uses teleportation discs and sorcery to move from place to place. Williams portrays Scottish mutant Rahne Sinclair/Wolfsbane, who straddles between her religious beliefs and her desire to turn into a wolf. Heaton is American mutant Sam Guthrie/Cannonball, who is invulnerable when he propels into the air.

Henry Zaga is Brazilian mutant Roberto da Costa/Sunspot, who can manipulate energy from the sun. Hunt is the Native American mutant Danielle Moonstar/Mirage, who can create illusions using the fears and desires from people’s personal thoughts. Finally, Braga plays Cecilia Reyes, a doctor and the group’s mentor, who has the ability to generate a protective bio-shield around herself.

The movie has had a tumultuous journey to release which led to intense speculation that it would skip theatres and go directly to streaming, which wasn’t the case.

Shot in 2017, the film was originally was set to arrive in theatres on 13 April, 2018, before being pushed back 10 months to 22 February, 2019.

The release date was further pushed to 2 August, 2019, with insiders suggesting reshoots would happen to tweak the film.

Reshoots never took place, and the film remains largely what test audiences saw back in 2017, but with finished visual effects.

(With inputs from Press Trust of India)

Updated Date: May 14, 2020 11:28:03 IST

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Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris vs the Steven Soderbergh version, plus a diss about Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey

One of my favourite disses in cinema history is Andrei Tarkovsky calling 2001: A Space Odyssey a “comic book”. It can be found in Naum Abramov’s interview — catalogued in Andrei Tarkovsky: Interviews, in the chapter “Dialogue with Andrei Tarkovsky about Science Fiction on the Screen” — from 1970. That was during the time Tarkovsky was adapting Stanisław Lem’s novel, Solaris, into a film. (The film came out in 1972.)

Abramov mentions that most sci-fi directors focus less on the central idea of the film than on impressing the viewer with art direction: the details of everyday life on other worlds, or the details of a spacecraft’s construction. “I think Kubrick’s Space Odyssey is guilty of that,” he says, leadingly. We can practically hear his whispered prayer that Tarkovsky will pick up the cue and respond with a quote for the ages.

 Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris vs the Steven Soderbergh version, plus a diss about Stanley Kubricks 2001: A Space Odyssey

A still from 2001: A Space Odyssey

And boy, he does. “Design is design. Painting is painting. And a film is a film. One should ‘separate the firmament from the waters’ and not engage in making comic books.” In all the science-fiction films he’s seen, Tarkovsky says, the filmmakers force the viewer to examine the material structure of the future. “More than that, sometimes, like Kubrick, they call their own films premonitions. It’s unbelievable! Let alone that 2001: A Space Odyssey is phoney on many points even for specialists. For a true work of art, the fake must be eliminated. I would like to shoot Solaris in a way that the viewer would be unaware of any exoticism. Of course, I’m referring to the exoticism of technology.”

Can you imagine the clickbait value of this statement in this digital age? Sample headline: “Tarkovsky says ‘2001’ is ‘phoney’ and just a ‘comic book’!” But what he means is this. The moon landing in 2001 is staged like an “event”. In Tarkovsky’s view, it should be staged like a bus arriving at a stop, because that would be the drab reality — the everyday environment — of the situation in the future.

In other words, the event should not be exoticised, but “conveyed to the viewer through the perception of the film’s characters”. (And to these characters, this event would not be the “event” it is to us, the audience.)

In Tarkovsky’s view, the detailed ‘examination’ of the technological processes of the future transforms the emotional foundation of a film into a lifeless schema with only pretensions to truth.

I wonder if Tarkovsky would be singing a slightly different tune if he’d been born in a capitalist country, with a Hollywood budget to spend on his movie. I also disagree with his contention that 2001 is just “lifeless schema.” The death of HAL 9000 is one of the most emotional set pieces in cinema history, plus it’s backed by the man/machine philosophy that runs through the film, right from the time the apes made their first “machine”. But generally speaking, I am with Tarkovsky. All he’s really saying is that the world should not be laid down for us like a high-school presentation. We should feel that the world already exists, that it has existed even before we stepped into the theatre.

A still from Andrei Tarkvosky's Solaris

A still from Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris

This world, in Solaris, is a planet apparently capable of reaching into the recesses of your mind, the places where you’ve tucked away your most painful memories. In the case of the psychologist, Kris Kelvin, these memories are of his wife, Hari. Solaris creates a replica of her and sends her/it to the space station he’s in, orbiting the planet. The thing that looks and walks and talks like Kris Kelvin’s wife back on earth, who killed herself, is simply a repository of alien intelligence.

The most touching — most emotional — aspect of the story is that this replica is a blank slate, which is slowly filled with knowledge of what happened back to the original Hari. The supreme irony for me, given Tarkovsky’s dismissal of 2001, is that Hari is a lot like HAL 9000. She has been “programmed” with a semblance of what it means to be human, but she has never led a life that’s allowed her to actually experience these emotions.

The Steven Soderbergh version of Solaris (2002) — which was truer to the spirit of the novel than to Tarkovsky’s film — made these emotions its focus. We get more flashbacks of the woman’s earlier life, before she died. The man ends up in space, and he’s revisited by replicas of this woman created by the planet — this much is similar in both films. But Soderbergh looks at the situation as an opportunity for some sort of couple’s therapy.

A still from Steven Sodenbergh's Solaris

A still from Steven Soderbergh’s Solaris

Stanisław Lem did not mind this adaptation, but he said, “I am not delighted with the prominence of love. Solaris may be perceived as a river basin — and Soderbergh chose only one of its tributaries.” Is that wrong? Is a creator not allowed to take only the parts of a book that interest him, and not feel obliged to “represent” the entire book?

Tarkovsky would have hated Soderbergh’s version. He died in 1986, but it’s almost as though he anticipated a narrower, love-centric adaptation in the future, and therefore embedded a critique in his film.

When yet another incarnation of Hari dies, Kris Kelvin is distraught. But a colleague tells him, “Don’t turn a scientific problem into a common love story.” You could call the Tarkovsky film an uncommon love story, a love story that’s just one of the many facets of an inscrutable prism. It’s not just about man and woman. It’s about life itself.

Near the end, Kris Kelvin asks his colleague, “Listen, having spent so many years here on the station, do you still feel a clear connection to your life down there?” The colleague is dismissive. He replies, “When man is happy, the meaning of life and other eternal themes rarely interest him. These questions should be asked at the end of one’s life.” And the camera’s focus slowly drifts to the shawl Hari used to wear, now draped on a chair. Tarkovsky’s film could be described with a line from Soderbergh’s: “There are no answers, only choices.”

You could argue that this is true about any difficult film. We choose one interpretation over another, the one that makes most sense to us. But one thing is certain. Tarkovsky was serious about that Kubrick diss. He was serious when he said, in that interview, that he wanted his film to be free of “the exoticism of technology.” The space station feels lived in and dingy, unlike the clinically cool interiors of Kubrick’s film. When Kris Kelvin asks his colleague that question, we really feel the weight of these words: “having spent so many years here on the station…” The premise may be new, but it unfolds in a world that existed (convincingly) long before we enter the theatre, or sit before a smaller screen.

Baradwaj Rangan is Editor, Film Companion (South).

All images from Twitter.

Updated Date: May 14, 2020 10:55:43 IST

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James McAvoy, Riz Ahmed cast in audio adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s bestseller The Sandman for Audible

Actor James McAvoy will voice the lead role in Audible’s upcoming audio-drama series adaptation of author Neil Gaiman’s popular novel The Sandman.

The Amazon-owned company, which produces audio entertainment content, unveiled the star-studded cast of the audio series on Wednesday.

Check out the announcement here

The Sandman, which Gaiman created alongside artists Sam Kieth and Mike Dringenberg, was originally published by DC Comics’ Vertigo imprint.

Besides McAvoy, the audio series will also feature Riz Ahmed, Justin Vivian Bond, Arthur Darvill, Kat Dennings, Taron Egerton, William Hope, Josie Lawrence, Miriam Margolyes, Samantha Morton, Bebe Neuwirth, Andy Serkis, and Michael Sheen.

According to the official plotline, the story begins with an occultist who attempts to capture the physical embodiment of Death (Dennings) in a bargain for eternal life.

But he instead mistakenly traps Death’s younger brother Dream (McAvoy), another of the seven god-like siblings known as The Endless who oversee aspects of human existence, including Desire (Bond) and Despair (Margolyes), Destiny, Destruction and Delirium.

After 70 years of imprisonment Dream finally escapes, embarking on a quest to reclaim his lost objects of power and rebuild his kingdom, the world of sleep and imagination called The Dreaming.

Gaiman will narrate the series, which will be directed by his longtime collaborator Dirk Maggs. The duo will also serve as executive producers.

The first installment of the multi-part original audio drama series is set for release on 15 July.

The show adapts volumes 1-3 of the graphic novel series — Preludes & Nocturnes, The Doll’s House and Dream Country.

“A truly exceptional cast of artists will be bringing this cultural phenomenon to life. We are honored to be working alongside Neil Gaiman and DC to create a truly immersive adaptation that we know fans and listeners will love,” Audible Originals editor-in-chief David Blum said in a statement, posted on the company’s website.

(With inputs from Press Trust of India)

Updated Date: May 14, 2020 10:30:29 IST

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

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

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

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

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

A still from the Paatal Lok trailer

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

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

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

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

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

Jaideep Ahlawat in a still from Paatal Lok

Jaideep Ahlawat in a still from Paatal Lok

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

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

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

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

Neeraj Kabi in a still from Paatal Lok

Neeraj Kabi in a still from Paatal Lok

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

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

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

Abhishek Banerjee in a still from Paatal Lok

Abhishek Banerjee in a still from Paatal Lok

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

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

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

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

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

All images from YouTube.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Click here to follow LIVE updates on coronavirus outbreak)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is Deshmukh’s tweet

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

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

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

Here is the post

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(With inputs from ANI)

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

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

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

(Click here to follow LIVE updates on coronavirus outbreak)

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

Check out the announcement and trailer of the film here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bhushan Kumar

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

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

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

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

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

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

But Bhushan said the chain will continue.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(With inputs from Press Trust of India)

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

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

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

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

Check out the post

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

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

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

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

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

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Healthy eating in childhood cuts heart disease risk later

Healthy eating in childhood cuts heart disease risk later

Healthy eating in childhood cuts heart disease risk later

Dear parents, kindly take note. Researchers have found that healthy eating behaviours in childhood may reduce the risk of, overweight, obesity and cardiovascular disease later in life. Published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, the study focused on providing evidence-based strategies for parents and caregivers to create a healthy food environment for young children that supports the development of positive eating behaviours and the maintenance of a healthy weight in childhood.

Allowing children to choose what and especially how much to eat within an environment composed of healthy options encourages children to develop and eventually take ownership of their decisions about food and may help them develop eating patterns linked to a healthy weight for a lifetime, according to the study authors.

“Parents and caregivers should consider building a positive food environment centred on healthy eating habits, rather than focusing on rigid rules about what and how a child should eat,” said study researcher Alexis C Wood from the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, US.

The statement suggests that parents and caregivers should be positive role models by creating an environment that demonstrates and supports healthy food choices, rather than an environment focused on controlling children’s choices or highlighting body weight.

Parents and caregivers should encourage children to eat healthy foods by: providing consistent timing for meals, allowing children to select what foods they want to eat from a selection of healthy choices, serving healthy or new foods alongside foods children already enjoy.

Regularly eating new, healthy foods while eating with the child and demonstrating enjoyment of the food, paying attention to a child’s verbal or non-verbal hunger and fullness cues and avoiding pressuring children to eat more than they wish to eat.

The researchers noted that some parents and caregivers may find it challenging to allow children to make their own food decisions, especially if the children become reluctant to try new foods and/or become picky eaters.

These behaviours are common and considered normal in early childhood, ages 1 to 5 years, as children are learning about the tastes and textures of solid foods.

Imposing rigid, authoritarian rules around eating and using tactics such as rewards or punishments may feel like successful tactics in the short term.

In addition, the authoritarian approach has been linked to children being more likely to eat when they are not hungry and eating less healthy foods that are likely higher in calories, which increase the risk of overweight and obesity and/or conditions of disordered eating.

On the other hand, an indulgent approach, where a child is allowed to eat whatever they want whenever they want, does not provide enough boundaries for children to develop healthy eating habits.

“Children’s eating behaviours are influenced by a lot of people in their lives, so ideally, we want the whole family to demonstrate healthy eating habits,” said Wood.

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

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

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

Excerpts from an interview with Samit Basu.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Current Indian cricket team lacks ‘complete package’ when it comes to fielding, says Mohammad Kaif

The current Indian team has good fielders but none of them is a “complete package” like Yuvraj Singh and he himself, reckons Mohammad Kaif.

Current Indian cricket team lacks complete package when it comes to fielding, says Mohammad Kaif

File image of Mohammad Kaif. Reuters

The hero of India’s Natwest victory played more than 100 ODIs, primarily because of his superb fielding. The superior fielding skills prolonged his career even as his batting form declined steadily.

Asked about his take on Indian fielding compared to the times when Yuvraj Singh would man the point and he would stand at extra cover, Kaif outlined the lacking in the current set-up.

“To be a complete package, you need to be a good catcher, you should be able to hit the stumps often, you should be able to run fast, you should have the right technique to grab a moving ball,” Kaif said on YouTube channel ‘SportScreen.

“When we were playing, me and Yuvraj made our mark as good fielders. Today, you will find a lot of good fielders in the Indian team, but I don’t think there is anyone who is a complete package as a fielder.

“A person who can catch in the slips, who can take a catch at short-leg, can field in long-on boundary by running fast.that package I think is missing,” said Kaif, who has always been hailed as one of India’s best fielders.

The 39-year-old said that Ravindra Jadeja is becoming better with age but India’s slip catching has still left a lot to be desired. “Ravindra Jadeja is a good fielder, in fact as he is adding on the years, his fielding is also improving. But India’s slip fielding isn’t up to scratch.”

In the debate between Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma in white-ball cricket, Kaif said that if he had to choose between the two had they been playing for different teams, he would prefer watching the stylish Mumbaikar.

“If there are two matches happening in the same city simultaneously and Virat is playing in one and Rohit in another, then I will head to the match featuring Rohit Sharma.”

“No doubt, Virat has an outstanding record in Tests and white-ball cricket both, but Rohit has the elegance, so much time while facing a bowler. He is one batsman who can smash a bowler without the bowler even realising that he is under attack.”

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Updated Date: May 10, 2020 19:39:53 IST

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

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

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

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

Check out the announcement here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The convention’s official Twitter handle shared the news.

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

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

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

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

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

(With inputs from Press Trust of India)

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