Links: Naming names, Apple Watch, Deepika Padukone vs TOI and more

If you thought bad movies are all that turn me into the wordy version of Angry Birds, think again. The police raid a hotel, discover an actress moonlights as a sex worker. They release her name to the press. Her “high profile” clients, however, remain anonymous and shielded from the public gaze.

More cheerfully, what Bollywood thought of yesterday, Apple creates today. Case in point: Mr India’s Device versus the Apple Watch.

Deepika Padukone picked a fight with The Times of India, and at least as far as the court of public opinion is concerned, Padukone won. She was helped by the fact that Bombay Times’s attempt at defending itself was way more tasteless than the original tweet against which Padukone (or her social media manager) had initially objected. 

While ISRO’s mission to Mars got off to a jubilant start, it was a good occasion to remember fondly how often the red planet has popped up in books and movies. 

The first UN report on gender and the film industry made for interesting reading. It turns out  that according to their analysis, India is the only country in which film jobs for female characters revealed only a small difference from real world statistics. Woohoo!

Is there a film in your book? Bollywood certainly hopes so. 

A new season of Satyamev Jayate began last week and it was a lovely, heartwarming episode in which Aamir Khan showed viewers the transformative powers of sport. If only he and his research team had thought of looking eastwards, beyond mainland India, while putting the episode together. 

JK Rowling put out an anagram-flavoured tweet, disclosing a little bit about the project she’s currently working on, on October 6th. It took a day or so for the Internet to react, but once it did, everyone, including Rowling, seem to have had a lot of fun. So, as marketing ploy, how does that compare to a full-page ad in The Times of India?

Links: A catch-up of movie reviews

September has been a pretty cruel month. The jury’s out on October.

Mary Kom, directed by Omung Kumar and starring Priyanka Chopra.
In one line: “To really tell Kom’s story, we’re going to need a braver and more talented film industry.”

Sin City: A Dame To Kill For, directed by Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez; starring Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Josh Brolin, Eva Green and others.
In one line: “It takes rare skill to take actors as talented as those in Sin City 2’s cast and present a film that is as forgettable as this one.”

Creature 3D, directed by Vikram Bhatt and starring Bipasha Basu.
In one line: “Most people watch Bhatt’s films expecting a comedy and although Creature has some moments of delight, there’s only so much of Bhatt’s CGI snarl that you can take.”

A review of the old Khoobsurat, directed by Hrishikesh Mukherjee and starring Rekha. As it turned out, this film and Shashank Ghosh’s new Khoobsurat have only two names in common — of the films themselves and Manju.
In one line (the new film): “Ghosh’s decision to effectively make Fawad Khan’s Vikram Singh Rathore a sex object is a masterstroke that makes Khoobsurat one of the more enjoyable chick flicks that Bollywood has produced in a while.”

Daawat-e-Ishq, by Habib Faisal and starring Parineeti Chopra and Aditya Roy Kapur.
I
n one line: “Daawat-e-Ishq is a Bollywood-shaped tick mark supporting the argument that Section 498A is used to harass people side.”

Liar’s Dice, directed by Geetu Mohandas and starring Geetanjali Thapa and Nawazuddin Siddiqui.
I
n one line:  “Thapa and Siddiqui deliver riveting performances that blind you to the weaknesses in the script and characterisation.”

Mardistan, directed by Harjant Gill.
In one line: “Gill speaks to four men about their understanding of masculinity and how they negotiate conservative patriarchy in their everyday lives.”

Haider, directed by Vishal Bharadwaj and starring Shahid Kapoor, Tabu and Irrfan Khan.
I
n one line: “The real story of Haider is not in the lives of these main characters, but in the nameless others who together create the most poignant and realistic portrait of Kashmir that Hindi cinema has seen so far.”

Bang Bang!, directed by Siddharth Anand and starring Katrina Kaif and Hrithik Roshan.
In one line: “Quite obviously, Viren’s death must be avenged and by the power of Pizza Hut, Mountain Dew, Ray Ban, Hokey Pokey and other brands, Rajveer Nanda (Hrithik Roshan) is here to do so.”

Art: Amrita Sher-Gil and Lionel Wendt

My review of In Dialogue: Amrita Sher-Gil and Lionel Wendt is up at Mumbai Boss. 

Untitled (Torso of a Sinhalese fisherman), by Lionel Wendt
Untitled (Torso of a Sinhalese fisherman), by Lionel Wendt

We can debate how realistic these artists’ visions were and the potentially uncomfortable politics embedded in the work of two people rooted in privilege who moulded their subjects to embody a certain worldview, but that would be missing the most powerful aspect of Sher-Gil and Wendt’s art: their determination to find beauty in themselves and the world around them.

It’s in the fragments of Sher-Gil’s self-portraits that the difference between Wendt’s and her gaze becomes evident. Both used their art to work out issues of identity. Wendt’s homosexuality was an open secret in his circle and this is evident in his photographs. He clothed his subjects with a distinct sexuality, highlighting their desirability and his gaze placed his models in a limbo between being a human subject and a sexual object. Sher-Gil’s gaze, on the other hand, was more inward as she tried to establish an empathetic connection between the viewer and those whose portraits she was painting. Had In Dialogue included Sher-Gil’s nudes — of herself and other women — there could have been a fascinating comparison of how sexuality and the human body was depicted by these two artists. Unfortunately, the selection in In Dialogue doesn’t allow for that conversation. It does, however, hint at it with a sketch and self-portrait that Sher-Gil made of herself.

Art: Noise Life by Desire Machine Collective

It’s been a while since I wrote about an art show and while writing a review of DMC’s Noise Life had me tearing my hair for a bit, I have missed writing about art.

The review was first published on Mumbai Boss. Here’s an excerpt:

Beyond the sonic force field created by the projection, the video and the floor installation (made of speakers), Noise Life has two objects: a table and a cabinet. The well-used and unremarkable table emits the rhythmic clicking of a typewriter at work. From the cabinet, you hear the high-pitched squeal of a dot matrix printer from time to time. They’re objects that make noises from another time; noises that don’t match the objects but are synonymous with the idea of creating a record. That’s when it strikes you that tables and cabinets like these have filled countless offices where people with varying degrees of power have decided which story — and whose — would be heard and which wouldn’t.

Noise Life is not a show that’s easily accessible and it takes pride in being difficult. This is, after all, an artist collective and exhibition inspired by the work of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, whose hard to pronounce surnames are the first indication of how impenetrable their writings are. Fortunately, you don’t have to have read Deleuze or understand terms like “schizoanalysis” to find Noise Life thought provoking. Ultimately, Noise Life is about stories — the ones that survive in memory and sensations, as well as those contained in files and archives.

Links: August catch-up

Eep. It’s been ages since I updated this. Here are the links from end-July and August. 

Why did the Censor Board cut four minutes of The Grand Budapest Hotel?

My review of Kick, the new Salman Khan blockbuster.

The schizo boss in the new Airtel ad.

Five things teaches you about Indian psychiatrists.

My review of Hercules.

My review of Lucy.

Remembering Kishore Kumar on his birthday.

Book review of Private India, by Ashwin Sanghi and James Patterson.

My review of Guardians of the Galaxy.

My review of The 100-Foot Journey. 

My review of Akshay Kumar’s Entertainment.

RIP, Robin Williams.

If there was a Navaratna of storytellers in post-independence India, who would be in it?

My review of Njan Steve Lopez.

My review of Singham Returns.

The real love story in Singham Returns.

Korean pop, Mary Kom and more.

On Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda (yes, indeed. I listened to Nicki Minaj. And then wrote about her. Life is cruel).

My review of Mardaani.

Live-blogging Emmys 2014. 

Red carpet highlights from Emmys 2014.

Links: The Grand Budapest Hotel in India

There was a time when we were grateful when a foreign film got an India release. Now that Hollywood blockbusters come to India almost at the same time as they are released everywhere else, some of us are becoming a bit more demanding. So while it’s lovely that The Grand Budapest Hotel has been released in India, it’s deeply disappointing that the Censor Board decreed that four minutes of it be snipped off. Which four minutes and why were they objectionable? Glad you asked.

the Censor Board doesn’t want The Grand Budapest Hotel to teach Indian audiences how to break out of jail using tiny tools that were hidden in chocolate-based confectionery.

Read the whole piece, complete with a detailed description of the most offending scene as per the Indian Censor Board.

My review of Wes Anderson’s latest film is here. It’s a gem and definitely my favourite of his filmography so far. This longer rambling post explains why.

gbh4

Links: Madhu Kishwar, Mary Kom and more

Don’t go by her Twitter feed alone. Madhu Kishwar can make excellent, sensible arguments.  Her critique of the existing Women’s Reservation Bill is bang on target.

In stark contrast to some of the opinions Kishwar puts forward on Twitter, these are all well thought-out and sensible ideas that respond much more sensitively to the lopsided gender balance in Indian politics than the existing bill. The alternative bill is discussed in greater detail here.

As the document observes, “the participation of women in [Indian] politics has actually declined since the days of freedom movement.” It’s a statistical fact that tends to go unnoticed because there are a number of prominent Indian women politicians in play. However, this doesn’t mean that Indian women are adequately represented. India ranks 105th in the world when it comes to women’s participation in politics. That’s 53 places behind Pakistan, in case you were wondering.

However, while a bill to encourage more women candidates would be welcome, it’s worth keeping in mind that regulations are not enough to ensure the gender imbalance is fixed in actuality. According to the constitution of the Indian National Congress, 33% of seats in different committees as well as 33% of the seats for the AICC are reserved for women. In reality, only five of the 42 in the CWC are women and six of the 57 members of the AICC are women candidates. Thirty of the 35 state screening committees for elections don’t have a single women in them. The CPI(M) that has been so vocal about criticizing past governments for not pushing the women’s reservation bill has an abysmal record of its own: only one of the 12 members in its politbureau is a woman. …

In her article, Kishwar writes, “whatever the form and shape of the women’s reservation law, we cannot overlook the tragedy inherent in the fact that 67 years after Independence, women need to seek the quota route to entry in politics. This acquires more poignancy because, when the Constitution was coming into force, most prominent women leaders refused to accept the principle of reservation as a route to political power. They did so in the belief that as in the Mahatma Gandhi-led freedom movement, they would be able to carve out a respectable space for themselves without being offered crutches.”

Two quick pieces on the upcoming film biopic on Indian boxer Mary Kom’s life. Kom is being played by Priyanka Chopra, which should be a baffling choice but tragically, in India, it isn’t.

Mary_Kom_New_Poster_Priyanka_Chopra_with_her_twin_babies

In this one, I’ve tried to explain why Chopra isn’t a good choice to play Kom. This was written right after the film’s poster was unveiled. A few days later, the trailer came out, which was when I wrote this.

At one point in the trailer, Mary throws a chair at a podium and, with tears in her eyes, yells, “I am an Indian! India mera dil mein hai!” (India is in my heart.) You may wonder why she’s saying this because being Indian is not just in her heart but also quite obviously on her face too; and in her Hindi accent. Kom’s Manipuri identity was something that proved to be an obstacle for her on occasion, and given how she’s widely celebrated now as a national hero, she clearly overcame that hurdle in style. That’s a story that we won’t be hearing in Kumar’s Mary Kom.

The piece on why choosing a North Indian to play someone from the North East of India is offensive is here. The critique of the trailer is here.