Fenil and Bollywood

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VIR SANGHVI (Hindustan Times)

Here are two images you may remember from television. The first was the Oscar ceremony. Simon Beaufoy won the Oscar for best adapted screenplay for Slumdog Millionaire. It is no secret that Beaufoy’s script differed significantly from the book by Vikas Swarup on which Slumdog was based. But Beaufoy made it a point to thank Swarup on stage and to say that without his book there would be no screenplay, no movie, and no Oscars.

Later that same night Slumdog director Danny Boyle, while accepting his own Oscar, apologised to the choreographer Longinus, whose name had been left out of the end credits of Slumdog. When the film won the Best Picture Oscar, the entire unit went on stage including Vikas Swarup who had been flown in to Los Angeles by the makers of the film at their expense.

And here is a second image. It is a press conference in Noida on Friday. The cast and makers of 3 Idiots are answering questions from the press as part of the publicity campaign for the film. When journos keep asking about the lack of recognition accorded to author Chetan Bhagat, on whose book the film is based, producer Vidhu Vinod Chopra stands up, points a finger at an inquisitive journalist and shouts ‘Shut up’. Chopra is prevented from saying much more by his colleagues and Aamir Khan then swings into damage control mode. He tries to sound reasonable but manages to abuse Chetan Bhagat, calls him publicity hungry — a bit rich considering the stunts Aamir staged to gain publicity for 3 Idiots — and berates journos for believing Bhagat.

What is the difference between the two images?

I think one word sums it up: grace.

Danny Boyle, Simon Beaufoy and the Slumdog unit behaved with grace. Vinod Chopra and his star behaved with a complete lack of grace.

If you’ve missed the controversy, here’s what it is about. Vidhu Vinod Chopra bought the rights to Chetan Bhagat’s novel and then turned it into 3 Idiots. Nobody disputes that 3 Idiots is based on the Bhagat novel and indeed Bhagat is credited as such in the movie.

The point of discord is the placing of the credit. Bhagat suggests that it should have been at the beginning along with all the other writer credits. Instead it appears at the very end.

In his defence, Chopra says that the end is an appropriate place for the credit because his scriptwriters, including Rajkumar Hirani, the film’s director, changed so much of the story that the final film has little to do with Bhagat’s novel.

Bhagat says that this is not true. Yes of course there is a lot in the film that he did not write but it is still recognisably his story and on his blog he lists several points of similarity.

For the purposes of argument, I am quite prepared to believe Aamir and Chopra when they deny Bhagat’s version of events. I am also prepared to accept that the screenplay is significantly different from Bhagat’s novel.

But here’s the thing: it shouldn’t make a difference.

Vidhu Vinod Chopra is contractually obliged to give Bhagat credit as the writer of the source material for the movie. So, the issue is not whether the script is 95 per cent based on the book or 25 per cent derived from Bhagat’s novel. The only issue is one of placing. Should Bhagat have been part of the opening credits? And was it graceless to bury his name in the end credits?

In Hollywood, it is not uncommon for scriptwriters to significantly alter the plots of source material or to only use a part of the book. Slumdog differs significantly from Vikas Swarup’s Q&A. The Firm dispenses with John Grisham’s ending and invents a new one. In Papillon, a major character who was not even in the book was invented by the scriptwriters. David Lean’s Dr Zhivago junked the second half of the book. The recent My Sister’s Keeper differs substantially from Jodi Picoult’s bestseller of the same name.

In every single case, however, the original novel was properly credited and the author mentioned in the opening credits. Nobody believed that this detracted in any way from the screenwriter’s achievements. It just demonstrated a certain grace and honesty on the part of the movie’s maker.

So why, you may well ask, is Vidhu Vinod Chopra being so bloody-minded about denying Chetan Bhagat his opening credit?

The honest answer is I simply cannot understand Chopra’s pettiness.

I hold no brief for any of the principals in this drama. At the HT, we’ve had a bad experience with Chetan Bhagat, who we believe behaved unprofessionally when he was a columnist. On the other hand, I have met Vinod Chopra, have worked with his wife and have always thought well of him. Personally, I have the highest regard and admiration for Aamir Khan, whom I know slightly.

So, this is not about personalities. It’s not even about principle — Chopra has conceded the principle by giving Bhagat his credit even if he has buried it in the end.

It is about grace.

What does it cost the makers of 3 Idiots to give Chetan Bhagat his credit in the space where a writer’s credit is traditionally placed in the international movie business? It would make no difference to the movie’s massive box-office performance. We would not think any less of Rajkumar Hirani, a fine director with a great track record. And Aamir’s reputation as the most consistently successful star of our times would remain intact.

Finally, it comes down to how big a human being is prepared to be. Even people who did not think much of Slumdog Millionaire were overwhelmed when Danny Boyle used the Oscar platform to say sorry to Longinus for leaving his name out of the credits. That was the single-biggest night in Boyle’s life, a culmination of everything he had worked for. And he still found the time to mention an Indian dance director he would probably never meet again.

That’s what I call class.

Our own film industry, however, has not covered itself in glory by the way in which it has behaved over Bhagat’s credit. Our producers, directors and actors have come across as mean-spirited and petty and ready to get into fights over something as minor as the placing of a credit.

Just as India has the potential to become a superpower in the 21st century so Bollywood has the opportunity to become the world’s leading film industry in this century. Certainly, we are not short of talent or of audiences.

What we are short of, however, is grace. And our directors need to learn that no amount of box-office success can buy you class. Our film industry will never hit the big time if its leading lights continue to think like small-timers.

It’s time for Aamir, Chopra and Hirani to show some grace. Otherwise they risk coming across as three idiots.

The views expressed by the author are personal

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FINGERS CROSSED: A R Rehman
A R Rahman has got two nominations for Slumdog Millionaire

SUBHASH K JHA Times News Newtwork (BOMBAY TIMES; January 2, 2010)

A R Rahman, the most talked about Indian of last year, is counting down to the 52nd Grammy Awards. They’re being held on January 31, at LA, and the Oscar-winning music composer has won two nominations for his soundtrack from Slumdog Millionaire. The song Jai Ho – which fetched Rahman two Academy awards and a Golden Globe – has been nominated for ‘Best Song Written for Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media’ and also for ‘Best Compilation Soundtrack Album for Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media’. Rahman, naturally, is pleased. While he’s aware the Oscar Awards for Slumdog Millionaire required a whole lot of lobbying, the Grammy needs no such push. “All I’ve to do is wait and watch what happens. The Grammy is as exciting as the Oscar. It’s the ultimate music award, isn’t it? Although it’s a nomination for a film song, the Grammy is still another shot in the arm for Jai Ho. Any recognition is welcome. Jai Ho is an important song.” Not strangely, he feels a huge sense of responsibility. “I hope I never let down my country, my people, my music, my family and myself,” said the music genius who has just returned home after being in his “other base” — Los Angeles.

Rahman, meanwhile, is unhappy with the outcome of his first Hollywood soundtrack. “The music of Couples Retreat got a good response. But I feel my music was not used properly. It was a comedy. I guess you can’t expect music to have much of a place in a comedy. They were more into laughter than music,” he complained, adding, “The music has all been used. But not the way my fans would expect. I was prepared for the outcome when I entered this project.” So he’s not really disappointed by his first foray into Hollywood. “If I had waited for the perfect Hollywood vehicle, I might have had to wait endlessly. It’s not easy for an Asian to enter into Hollywood camps. It’s a new beginning for me. I got great reviews.”

He’s got a lot of offers but also has a tough schedule this year to be able to give any more time to new commitments. And, contrary to rumours, acting is not one of Rahman’s forthcoming commitments. “That’s completely false news,” he said shocked. “I am not going into acting. I’m going to be speaking in a documentary on my friend, the musician P. J. Mortan. We’ve known each other for some time. He collaborated with me for a track in Couples Retreat. That’s it. It’s not a feature film. I’ve no aspirations to go into acting. God has given me one skill and I’m very happy with it.”

After closing the year with films such as PAA and 3 IDIOTS, the year 2010 sure looks bigger and brighter for Reliance BIG Pictures with a mixed bag of films ranging from mainstream and masala to regional and art house.

With maverick directors such as Shyam Benegal, Mani Ratnam, Anurag Basu, Shaji N Karun, Rituparno Ghosh and Buddhadeb Dasgupta bringing the best out of Hrithik Roshan, Barbara Mori, Abhishek Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Mamootty, Boman Irani, Jishu Sengupta, Indraneil Sengupta, Kangana Ranaut amongst many others the Reliance BIG Pictures slate is sure to watch out for!

Have a sneak peek into Reliance BIG Pictures’ slate of films for the year 2010:

view KITES movie stills
KITES

KITES:

A truly international film KITES tells the story of a young con-man who lives ‘life’ in Las Vegas, always ready to make fast money in any way possible, always looking for the big score. Directed by Anurag Basu and produced by Rakesh Roshan the film stars Hrithik Roshan, Barbara Mori, Kangana Ranaut and Kabir Bedi. It is shot in Mumbai, New Mexico, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles. The film will have and Indian and international version which will release simultaneously. Brett Ratner, best known for the RUSH HOUR series, FAMILY MAN starring Nicholas Cage and X-MEN THE LAST STAND is currently at work on the English version of KITES and tailoring it to appeal it to an international audience.

view WELL DONE ABBA movie stills
WELL DONE ABBA

WELL DONE ABBA:

WELL DONE ABBA is the story of Armaan Ali, a driver working in Mumbai. He takes leave for a month to find a husband for his teenage daughter, who lives in a small locality close to Hyderabad. Armaan Ali returns to work only after 3 months. His young employer wants to sack him but is persuaded to listen to the reason why Armaan got so delayed.

Directed by Shyam Benegal stars Boman Irani, Minissha Lamba, Sammir Dattani, Ila Arun, Sonali Kulkarni, Ravi Kishen, Rajit Kapur, Ravi Jhankal and Yashpal Sharma.

RAAVAN:

Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan come on screen together in Mani Ratnam’s RAAVAN – a modern day adaption of the epic Ramayan, being readied in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu.

MIRCH:

Directed by Vinay Shukla MIRCH revolves around the protagonist Maanav, a committed struggling filmmaker whose girlfriend Ruchi, a successful film editor, arranges for him to meet film producer Nitin, who is not very convinced about Maanav’s script. Maanav then suggests four stories on infidelity, woven together by a common story.

The film stars Konkana Sen Sharma, Raima Sen, Shahana Goswami, Shreyas Talpade, Rajpal Yadav, Boman Irani, Sushant Singh, Arunoday Singh and Prem Chopra with special appearances by Saurabh Shukla & Tisca Chopra.

view CHALOO MOVIE movie stills
CHALOO MOVIE

CHALOO MOVIE:

The police raid a theatre where movie tickets of a very successful film are being sold in black. When Police Inspector Sher Khan interrogates Khoji, a man in his 20s, he claims that he is the director of the very film whose tickets he is selling in black. The cynical Sher Khan puts Khoji behind bars after which he receives two phone calls – one from the Police Commissioner and another from the dreaded don ‘WC’, both of whom support Khoji’s detention. A hilarious turn of events reveal who Khoji is, whether he is really the film’s director, why is he selling his film’s tickets in black and what do the Police Commissioner and don ‘WC’ want from Khoji.

Starring Rajpal Yadav, Shekhar Suman, Divya Dutta, Hrishta Bhatt and Sayali Bhagat, CHALOO MOVIE is directed by Vinod Pande.

Reliance BIG Pictures, the most committed motion picture company producing regional films in 8 Indian languages is working persistently towards taking them beyond the conventional Diaspora

The slate of films includes:

KUTTY SRANK: Shaji Karun’s Malayalam film KUTTY SRANK starring Mamooty, Kamilini Mukherjee, Padmapriya and Meenakumari brings out three distinct personalities of a dead boat-man from the perspective of three women each of whom claims to be his wife.

ABOHOMAAN
ABOHOMAAN

ABOHOMAAN: Rituparno Ghosh’s Bengali film ABOHOMAAN starring Dipankar De, Mamata Shankar, Ananya Chatterjee, Jishu Sengupta and Ria Sen brings to the screen a sensational relationship between a film-director, a young actress and a wife who swears to ruin her husband’s life and career and a son who gets caught in the cross-fire in this extravagant drama.

JANALA: Buddhabed Dasgupta’s Bengali film JANALA starring Tapas Paul, Swastika Mukherjee and Indraneil Sengupta is the journey of a solitary man against the wrath of circumstances when he decides to pursue his little impulsive dream.

IJJODU: by the maestro M S Sathyu is a film about a photo journalist who finds an interesting girl who has been exploited on the name of religion. He succeeds in breaking her blind belief but fails to accept her to give her an alternative life. This Kannada flick stars Meera Jasmine and Anirudh.

GLAMSHAM.COM

Posted on: December 18, 2009

Paresh Mokashi screened Harishchandrachi Factory at various American universities when he visited the country recently

By Subhash K Jha (MUMBAI MIRROR; December 18, 2009)


Last month, while Paresh Mokashi was in the US to check his film Harishchandrachi Factory’s prospects at the Oscars, he got a chance to screen the biopic on the father of Indian cinema, Dadasaheb Phalke, at the Smithsonian University in Washington, followed by another screening at the University Of Southern California.

“These two major screenings were followed by other smaller screenings in schools and universities. I was completely floored by the American curiosity about Dadasaheb Phalke,” says Mokashi.

Paresh Mokashi

Mokashi, who is happy with the response he is getting to his film, says, “The Americans had vaguely heard of the father of Indian cinema. But not many of them were familiar with our films. To my surprise, they responded to my Marathi film on Phalke without language barriers. They laughed at the right places, cried at the right places and held their peace when needed.”

But for the India release of Harishchandrachi Factory on January 22, Mokashi is gearing up for a dubbed Hindi version. He reveals, “I know the flavour of the dialogue will be lost in translation. But the important thing is to take the film to a wider audience. I’d rather have Phalke speak in Hindi than restrict his views to a Marathi-speaking audience.”

Mokashi refuses to see the Oscars as a reason to lobby. He denies having any interaction with the judges and says, “The process of selection for the nomination is done in utmost secrecy. I wasn’t supposed to meet any member of the Oscar committee or jury. I just submitted the film for their viewing and left.”

On the way back from Los Angeles, he stopped in London to submit Harishchandrachi Factory for the BAFTA (the British Academy Of Film & Television Arts) too. “Now I’ll go back only if I’m nominated for the Oscars or the BAFTA,” promises Mokashi.

Harishchandrachi Factory

CROSSING BORDERS: John Abraham
Talks are underway with the Hollywood hotties to step the Indian silver screen opposite the hunk

HARSHADA REGE Times News Network (BOMBAY TIMES; December 17, 2009)

Bollywood babes better watch out, as apna hunk John Abraham is all set to sizzle alongside a Hollywood hottie on the big screen. It could just be the sexy Scarlett Johansson or the gorgeous Anne Hathaway! That’s the big plan kept under wraps for John’s film that will be directed by Shirish Kunder. The film titled Alien Sahib will be produced jointly by Shirish Kunder and Farah Khan along with John himself, and will be shot on an international level.

A source reveals, “Shirish is already in talks with Hollywood A-list stars like Scarlett and Anne and is flying down to Los Angeles finalise the deal. Shirish and John are doing everything possible to ensure that the movie is as perfect as it was conceptualised.” Shirish, who admits that talks are underway, says that they are also scouting for another Hollywood actor for the villain’s role. “The story has a tremendous intentional appeal. The female protagonist is a foreign national so we decided to cast a Hollywood actress for it. Today, actors abroad are aware of the work we do and are open to working in films here. We have the means and we are doing what’s best for the film,” says the filmmaker. John was noticed by the audience on the international circuit when his movie Water was screened at various film festivals across the globe. And now, with this film the actor seems ready to kickstart his career in the West.


Shirish says, “John is one of the few actors who can carry off a project like this. He has a huge fan base abroad. I see him fitting perfectly in a venture like this.” Not just the cast, but also the crew behind the camera will include a lot of technicians from the West, we hear.

Shekhar’s Paani is ready to roll in Spain

By Subhash K Jha (MUMBAI MIRROR; December 16, 2009)


Shekhar Kapoor flew into Chennai earlier this month to record his first song for Paani, officially flagging off his first feature film undertaking since the sequel to Elizabeth two years ago.

Says Shekhar, “Paani is now completely on. We start shooting in April 2010. We’re at a pre-visualisation stage. And I needed Rahman’s song for that. Since it is located in a futuristic city, I’ve artistes in Los Angeles, Singapore and India creating my city.”

While the film is set in futuristic Mumbai, Shekhar plans to shoot in Spain. “I’ve had a big offer from Spain to shoot the film in their country. They too are fascinated by the water theme. It’s a massive project. Otherwise it wouldn’t interest me.”

The film will star newcomers in the lead. Says Shekhar, “The girl has to be a 17-year old French-Canadian who lives in the Upper City (the posh area) of  Mumbai. And the young Indian boy is a desi Leonardo DiCaprio who’s a water revolutionary.”

The film is a forbidden love story. “The girl’s father is the global head of a water company. We need another girl, a smouldering entertainer like Shakira, who’s a big star in the Upper and the Lower City. Then there’s an Oracle called Amma.”

Shekhar will cast the hero from India while the girl will be cast internationally. He swears he hasn’t decided a single member of the vast cast as yet. “You know I had planned whole schedules of Elizabeth and I hadn’t found the actress to play the lead. And since Elizabeth wasn’t cast, no one else was. The studios were getting frantic with worry. We tested a hundred actresses. I wasn’t the least worried. I knew I’d find my Elizabeth. I saw two shots of Cate Blanchett in a film no one had seen and I decided on her. The most difficult actor to cast was Richard Attenborough. Likewise I’m not worried about Paani.”

The spoken language of Paani would be English. But there will be a dubbed Hindi version. “Even the characters of the Lower City would be speaking English. Slumdog Millionaire has proved that language is no barrier. Even though all the Indians spoke English, the language didn’t come in the way of credible self-expression. I will have a dubbed Hindi version too.”

Paani will be readied in time for the Venice Film Festival in 2011.

FLYING HIGH: Rakesh Roshan

Rakesh Roshan says the Hrithik Roshan-Barbara Mori film will be released in the summer of 2010

MEENA IYER (BOMBAY TIMES; November 18, 2009)

Hrithik Roshan’s movie Kites is generating a lot of curiosity, but it is also surrounded by many speculations. Filmmaker Rakesh Roshan clears the air…


Why has Kites been delayed?
Well there are two versions — the Hindi version that is two hours and six minutes, and the international version (English). The Indian version was ready on Sept 30, 2009. However, the English version is being supervised by the Hollywood director Brett Ratner. Ratner is a friend of mine, and he is formatting the English version according to the Western sensibilities.

Is this the first time that a mainstream Hollywood director will be ‘editing’ a Bollywood film?
Yes. Ratner has films like Rush Hour 1, 2 and 3 to his credit. He has directed A Family Man, and has done episodes of the TV series Prison Break. To get someone who is so sought after in Hollywood to step and personally supervise Kites is something very prestigious.
Have you set a release date yet?
We’ve not set a release date. It should come in the summer of 2010. I’m flying to Los Angeles on November 29 for a meeting with Ratner. The mixing and the background score for the English version is also being done there. I will announce a date only after I know what progress has been made. Kites is my most ambitious release. I’m looking at releasing almost 2,500 prints globally.

The buzz is that Hrithik is keen on a Hollywood career?
Hrithik is very happy with the work he is doing here. He is currently shooting with makers like Sanjay Leela Bhansali (Guzaarish), and he is also committed to make movies with Karan Johar, me and perhaps Vishal Bhardwaj. After watching Kites, Ratner felt that Hrithik has the potential to make it big in the West. So there is a definite possibility of his doing films there. But all that’s for a later date. Right now, Hrithik and I are both obsessed with Kites.

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