Cinema In General
Pans & Tilts…Sania Mirza, Talent hunt for Bollywood beauty, Loins of Punjab, Dev tales, Lear’s cry…
India’s tennis sensation Sania Mirza may soon get into another kind of sets. Sexy and seductive on court, she is being wooed by Bollywood bigwigs, forever seeking saucy sirens. Filmmakers and trade pundits are confident that Sania can have a second career in cinema, given her oomph and allure. Sania watchers aver that had she not been a Muslim, her sex appeal could have been greater, but the Mullahs of Hyderabad, the southern Indian city where she lives, have been playing spoilsport, shaking their heads contemptuously every time Sania’s skirt inched up or her cleavage popped out of her top. But Bollywood could not care less, and the other day when she shared the stage with Bollywood Badshah, Shah Rukh Khan, Sania was urged to wear greasepaint and dance to music and melody, not just to the volley of shots. Big Bollywood producer Subhash Ghai said he would love to cast her in an action movie, given her excellent physique. Her expressive eyes and fascinating face will be added attractions, he felt.
And now the British are wooing Bollywood, and a reverse colonisation may happen with Bombay capturing Britain. I am told the producers of one of West End’s longest running musicals, “Chicago”, are scouting for a Bollywood star for the iconic lead in the play that was also made into a film. Shilpa Shetty (who else?) was tapped, but she declined saying that it could be tiring to act night after night after night. “Chicago” has become a legend on New York’s Broadway and in London’s West End for its raunchy dances and raucous singing, and has been seen by 17 million people worldwide. Shilpa was offered the role of Roxie Hart – who essays a glamorous murderess eventually acquitted by a Chicago jury because she was adept in manipulating the media with her vile charm. But much like Roxie, the “Chicago” producers are not going to say die. They will continue to look for a Bollywood beauty who would get hearts pounding and feet tapping the way Hollywood actress Renee Zellwegger did in the screen version.
I saw “Loins of Punjab Presents” and quite liked it. It is a witty, one-liner gushing movie whose medley of characters speaks Indian English, a welcome relief from superficial sounding browns speaking the Queen’s language. There is no background score that is often so intrusive in Indian cinema, nudging, nay pushing, a viewer into a mood the director sets. For his first film, helmer Manish Acharya (who also plays the part of Vikram Tejwani, whose job is about to be outsourced to India) is extremely restrained and steers clear of the obsession among international Indian moviemakers for stereotyping desi characters. During a music competition sponsored by a big pork manufacturer in the USA, Loins of Punjab, a motley group of contestants parks itself in a New Jersey hotel. Among them is Rita Kapoor (Shabana Azmi), a social butterfly who controls judges and contenders through sexual or other favours. While she takes one of the judges for a romp, she tempts a couple of participants with lucrative assignments in return for them quitting the contest. Young Preeti Patel (Ishitta Sharma) – in tow with her entire family bent on seeing her win the huge prize money of $ 25,000 – however plays tough, not easily swallowing Kapoor’s bait of a fabulous modelling offer. At other times, Kapoor hits hard, like when she gets Bollywood aspirant Sania Rehman (Seema Rahmani) disqualified on a flimsy ground. Even the smallest parts have been intelligently penned, but I had one sneaking suspicion. Was Acharya inspired by the recent Hollywood film, “Little Miss Sunshine”, where a seven-year-old girl is carted by her family across America for a beauty pageant?
Dev Anand would have released his autobiography by the time this column appears. Called “Romancing with Life”, it is a bulky look at all Dev Sahib experienced and enjoyed in his 62 years of screen life. At 84, Dev Anand has more zest for living than people a third his age. We wish him many, many more years, many, many more movies. Here is wishing not just a great actor, but also a wonderful human being all the best.
Tailpiece: Rituparno Ghosh’s “The Last Lear” in English, starring Amitabh Bachchan, has been panned by critics. At Toronto, where the film premiered, journals such as “The Hollywood Reporter” ripped the “Lear” apart. I have not yet seen the movie, but here is what The Reporter had to say: “The Last Lear misfires at every level -- as an art or experimental movie, as a story and character study, even as a vehicle for India's most beloved star, Amitabh Bachchan. Which comes as a surprise since its Bengali director, Rituparno Ghosh, is no Johnny-come-lately, having made award-winning films for over a decade. The movie represents a major miscalculation in its adaptation of what must be a fairly static play and its use of Bachchan as an aging Shakespearian actor”..
(Webposted September 26 2007)