Gautaman Bhaskaran
an indian journalist
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© Copyright 2004

 

INDIAN CINEMA

Cinema In General

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Pans & Tilts…The Oscars fiasco, Headed for Berlin, skimpy Shriya…

Bhavna Talwar has been vindicated. Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s big banner, “Eklavya: The Royal Guard”, with the almighty Amitabh Bachchan himself playing the title role, was sent up from India for a possible Oscar nomination. It failed to be shortlisted.

The writing was on the wall when “Eklavya” was chosen despite the fact that there was a more deserving Talwar's film “Dharm”
(Religion).”My movie was extremely relevant as it showcased the turbulent times we are living in. It depicted the vicious atmosphere created by communal fundamentalism. Yet it was overlooked in favour of a big banner film. The result is for everyone to see," she said.

Talwar went to court last year contending that the Film Federation of India, in charge of selection, had turned down her movie in favour of a big banner and Big B. But she was not successful. “It is all about personal agendas and string-pulling”, she had fumed.

She is not off the mark. For years, money power and star status have ruined India’s reputation at the Oscars. Rumours had it that Bachchan had a hand in getting “Eklavya” selected as the country’s official entry.

Admittedly, there have been exceptions, like in the case of “Lagaan”, which made it to the nomination stage. Otherwise, some of India’s best talents, like Bengal’s Buddhadeb Dasgupta and Kerala’s Adoor Gopalakrishnan, have been ignored by the Film Federation, controlled by Bollywood bucks and mafia. In fact, both helmers made a movie each last year that could have been easily sent up to the Oscars, with excellent chances of being nominated among the five.

Gopalakrishnan’s “Four Women” premiered at Toronto last year, and Buddhadeb’s “The Voyeur’s” was part of the Masters Section in the same festival. Talwar’s “Religion” went to Palm Springs, and was also shown at Cannes last year. Yet, the Federation sent a rather weak film like “Eklavya”, obviously for considerations other than strictly merit, and with shameful consequences. Talwar stands justified.

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Two Indian movies are on their way to the Berlin International Film Festival, starting in the second week of February: Ameer Sultan’s Tamil entry, “Paruthiveeran” and Farah Khan’s Hindi language “Om Shanti Om”. There could be more entries from India, because the Berlin list is not yet closed.

Khan’s work works at one level, and fails at another. As a spoof of the 1970s Bollywood with its star tantrums, weak directors, rank indiscipline and moral decay, “Om Shanti Om” is well executed and powerful enough to make an impression. But the story of rebirth that Khan uses to push her message is old hat. It has been beaten to death over the years, and despite Shahrukh Khan’s shirtless appearance and Deepika Padukone’s debut, the movie is not much to rave about.

Ameer Sultan’s film is set in the Tamil Thevar community heartland of Madurai, and is again an old story of a Romeo and Juliet like doomed love. Family feud, caste clashes and suicidal lovers have been around since the days of Shakespeare, and despite Sultan’s detailing of rural life with all its rustic charm, conveyed wonderfully by newcomer, actor Karthi, and actress Priyamani, “Paruthiveeran” works, again, only up to a point.

Berliners are going to be wondering whether India makes only this kind of cinema.

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Bollywood’s bad boy Salman Khan never seems to let go his former heartthrob, flaming beauty Aishwarya Rai. Not long after she was immortalised at the London Madame Tussaud’s, Khan is now there to open his own wax wonder. Worth 200,000 pounds, the figure will rub shoulders with other Bombay celebrity statues, such as those of Amitabh Bachchan and Shahrukh Khan, not forgetting the country’s political leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and Indira Gandhi.

Khan in wax looks uncannily like Khan in flesh and blood, and his current girlfriend and Bollywood star, the oomph Katrina Kaif, who has gone along to London would probably wish that she gets a birth there as well. If Ash deserves it, “I deserve it more”, must be Kat’s thoughts.

Well, the Salman look-alike took 12 weeks and five artistes to be shaped out of wax. Silicon-like materials and a special wax have been used to give the macho star’s six-pack abs and biceps a realistic look. But his diehard fans would be shattered to see a fully clothed figure, the actor’s bare-chested body has been his scoring point and has made many a maiden swoon in ecstasy.

Khan beat nine other Indian stars, including Rai’s husband Abhishek Bachchan, and Madhuri Dixit, to be honoured at Tussaud’s after a public poll last August where 10,000 people voted.

Despite his many movie flops and brushes with the law that included serious offences like running over and killing sleeping pavement dwellers in Bombay, shooting endangered black buck in Rajasthan and physically abusing Rai when they were together, he still manages to win fans and attract sexy women.

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Tailpiece: Tamil actress Shriya wore a skimpy dress for the silver jubilee celebrations of “Sivaji”. The Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, M.K. Karunanidhi, was the chief guest. I do not know whether he took offence, but the Hindu Makkal Katchi, a quasi-political organisation, did, and wanted the police to take legal action. Shriya quickly apologised. How rotten can we get, curbing with gusto personal freedom.

(Webposted January 17 2008)