Gautaman Bhaskaran
an indian journalist
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© Copyright 2004

 

INDIAN CINEMA

Cinema In General

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Pans & Tilts…No Smoking, Taare Zameen Par, Shahid-Kareena, At Marrakech…

Director Anurag Kashyap is clearly unhappy with the way his latest film, “No Smoking” was panned by critics. Admittedly, it was never meant for mass consumption. It was far too experimental and far too implied for the ordinary moviegoer, fed on diet of song and dance and 100 per cent explanatory Indian cinema. Kashyap knew this even before the film opened, and accepted it after its release. But what he cannot understand is how two or three critics intelligent enough to grasp the nuances pretended to have missed the point completely. Now, I am beginning to wonder whether the critics too are getting lazy, used to being spoon-fed.

“No Smoking”, which was recently premiered at the Rome International Festival has very little to do with nicotine. It has more to do with another kind of addiction: hunger for power. The movie takes a brutally hard look at suppression of freedom and artistic expression. Kashyap calls it his most autobiographical work. Of course, we know that. We have seen him suffer.

His first two films – “Paanch” (Five) and “Black Friday” – ran into massive problems with the Indian movie censors. The first was denied a certificate on six grounds, including abusive language and glorification of violence. His second feature made in early 2000 on the police investigations after the Mumbai serial blasts of 1993 was not permitted to screen for a couple of years because of the sensitive nature of its subject.

Kashyap believes in living life on his own terms. And he is happy about it. I saw that, all clearly writ on his cheerful face, when I went to Mumbai to watch the first screening of “No Smoking’.

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Aamir Khan’s “Taare Zameen Par” opens this week, and it is a story about an eight-year-old boy and his schoolteacher, played by Khan. Misunderstood by his parents, the boy is eventually recognised and his talent encouraged by the teacher. Now, there have been some movies on the same theme, but Khan usually does not disappoint. Among the Bollywood’s four Khans, Aamir and Saif Ali are undoubtedly the best.

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Actor Shahid Kapoor lost Kareena Kapoor, despite the roaring success of “Jab We Met” and the pair’s great chemistry in the film. He does not say why the nearly five-year-old relationship broke. But both Shahid and Kareena have found partners: he reportedly Vidya Balan, and she Saif Ali Khan. In tinsel town, it is hard to remain partnerless beyond a few weeks. I suppose it is harder to hold on to a relationship given the pressures of stardom and the sexciting opportunities available on any set!

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Tailpiece: I just got back from the 7th Marrakech International Film Festival in Morocco. There was no Indian cinema there this year. Last year, “Omkara” (Shakespeare’s “Othello”) was screened to thumping success, and Moroccans are mad about Indian movies, some of the girls even dressing up like Indian stars. As I cleared immigration at the Marrakech airport on my way back home, an officer walked up to me, asked me whether I was an Indian and then folded his palms in a sign of namaste to say: Om Shanti Om!

(Webposted December 19 2007)