Fenil and Bollywood

Posts Tagged ‘Satyajit Ray

BAAP RE BAAP: Amartya Sen and daughter Nandana

Nobel Laureate Prof. Amartya Sen discusses cinema exclusively for BT with actress daughter Nandana Sen in Mumbai

MARK MANUEL Times News Network (BOMBAY TIMES; October 25, 2009)


It’s funny, with a daughter like the lovely international actress Nandana Sen, you would have thought Nobel Prize economist Prof. Amartya Sen would be well informed about cinema. But he’s not. He knows just about five people connected with filmmaking. And these he counted for me with much difficulty and some prompting from Nandana. “I knew Satyajit Ray extremely well,” he began, “he and I studied at Santiniketan. I had huge admiration for him. And I know Mira Nair, Shyam Benegal, and, and… what’s his name, Mrinal Sen! I do know Nandita Das and like her films, also. And I met… what’s the name of the guy who acted with you in Rang Rasiya… I shook his hand? Randeep Hooda? Yes, I met him. I also met Amitabh Bachchan, whom I don’t know, and Shabana Azmi, who’s an old friend. I used to like her father’s poetry and now, I like her husband’s. And Salman Khan…”


He was in Mumbai to deliver a keynote lecture for the Indian Philosophy Congress yesterday and I was meeting the distinguished father and sexy daughter at his suite in the Taj. I was drinking coffee. The professor ordered a pot of Darjeeling tea. When it came, he was appalled. “This tea is too strong for Darjeeling,” he grumbled, “it’s got the strength of Assam.” Then to
Nandana, who was busy eating pistachios noisily, he said, “Chuck it in the sink!” He is unintentionally humorous, he speaks in a deep, rumbling voice, and he chooses his words carefully — as if aware that when Prof. Amartya Sen speaks, people hang onto his words even if he isn’t talking welfare economics. That’s his hobby horse. And he travels around the world at 76 on his Nobel Prize ticket, astonishing scientists and academicians with his philosophy on poverty, gender inequality and political liberalism. But I had got him onto cinema. And Prof. Sen was struggling.


“You’re wasting your time, I’m not knowledgeable about
films,” he said trying to discourage me. “You asking me who I like is like asking me a cooking recipe. I’m happy to tell you. But my recipe won’t alleviate the culinary world much!” Nandana, fortunately, was not having any of it. “Baba, you like Sharmila Tagore, isn’t she one of your favourites,” she chided him. “Yes,” Prof. Sen admitted. “And Katherine Hepburn… what a fantastic actress, so sharp and intelligent.” Then he surprised me by saying, “Jane Fonda, I know. I’ve had a couple of dinners with her. Her husband, Ted Turner, started the UN Foundation and was a trustee. So is my wife, Emma Rothschild. And the dinners where spouses gather, are quite impressive. There’s also Nelson Mandela.” But to come back to cinema, he doesn’t see too many films, though he thinks he’s seen all of Nandana’s. Rang Rasiya, in which she plays Raja Ravi Varma’s muse and appears topless in one breathtaking scene, Prof. Amartya saw at the London Film Festival and actually liked. “It’s not been released and nobody seems to know why,” he said querulously. “Has it been made for the archives? It would have been a great success in Europe and the US after receiving favourable notice in London.”


He hardly visits Mumbai. His work brings him to Delhi. And his
heart takes him to Kolkata. Now Prof. Amartya Sen looked out of the window at the Gateway and said, “I’ve not been here since the November disaster, but I have various memories here. The best one is of defeating the Australian cricket team! I was in the health club, exercising on the bike and watching a news channel, when they came in. They wanted the bike and to change the channel. I objected. They were a little assertive and gave me the democratic argument that there were more of them. But I was here first, I told them. Then their captain, Steve Waugh, came. He conceded that I had a point. I thought, no matter how poorly India did in cricket against Australia, I had done reasonably well!”

Anupam Kher writes from London on his experience of working with Woody Allen on his new film
Posted On August 27, 2009 (MUMBAI MIRROR)

A few months ago, my agent in London, Ruth Young, told me that Woody Allen had cast me in his untitled film as Freida Pinto’s father. That news came to me on May 24, as I was hosting the celebrations of the 25th anniversary of the release of my first film Saaransh. No award that I had received in my quarter century in cinema could have made me happier than this bit of news.

Buried as I was with work, the excitement abated only to resurface on August 23, when I was set to go to London for the shoot. It suddenly hit me that I was going to work with someone I had adored and almost worshipped for decades. Then, a strange nervousness gripped me; just like it did during the first day’s shoot of Saaransh. But that was understandable when I was a rookie being directed by Mahesh Bhatt. Now I had acted in almost 400 films. Yet I was nervous.

To understand this reaction, I spoke to my mentor Mahesh Bhatt and asked him how I should behave when I would be on Woody Allen’s sets. Nervous, confident or important? Mahesh said, “Just be the way you are: inquisitive, nervous, and, be yourself.”

I reached London the next morning and was taken for a ‘costume and look’ trial. I was told that Woody Allen would see me the next day as he only meets actors directly on the sets on the day of the shoot. But I pleaded and they reluctantly took me to a holding area near the location. The scene that was being shot was the exterior of a restaurant on a busy street in Notting Hill.

I was introduced to Freida who was warm and turned out to be a great admirer of my work. She introduced me to her co-star, Josh Brolin and I told him that he was brilliant in Milk. I then went out on the crowded street and some Bangladeshis waved to me. But there was an overpowering silence. I was searching for the man who I had seen only in films and whose books I had read and who was my icon. And suddenly I saw him. He was in his trademark beige trousers, light blue shirt and brown shoes. His specs were black. His hair had gone whiter and strangely, he looked taller and larger.

I had never seen anyone in my life who was as focussed as him. For him, the world did not exist, the crowds did not exist. There were no security guards around him. All that mattered was the frame of his shot. Even the crowd sensed his concentration. In respect, passersby moved in silence.

The executive producer was apprehensive, knowing Woody’s reluctance to meet actors in advance. On seeing the waving Bangladeshis, she knew I was as famous in the sub-continent as I had been made out to be and that made her apologetic as well.

There was a gap in the shoot; Woody had turned to his iPhone and was listening with great concentration to some music. The costume girl then walked up to him and showed him my pictures with the ‘look’ and told him that I was on location. I was wondering what his reaction would be.  My tongue was swollen and my mouth was dry.

He turned around and tried to match the face with the picture he had seen. And then, he spotted me and smiled. I tried to portray the confident look of Anupam Kher the veteran of almost 400 films and the winner of many awards. But all I managed was the anxious look that I had when I had watched my first shooting as a 16-year-old in Shimla. That was Rajesh Khanna, Sharmila Tagore and Rakhee in Yash Chopra’s Daag.

I wondered if Woody’s smile was out of politeness. But there was warmth in his eyes. I felt as if it took me a year to cover the five feet that separated us and I can vividly remember each step. His grip was firm and before I could say anything, he said, “It is a pleasure meeting you.” I heard myself saying, “I can’t believe it!” Woody insisted and repeated, “I am really am happy to see you!”

I told him I had seen all his movies, and he kept nodding, as he had heard such comments many times in his career. Then he looked at me as if to say, “Can I go back to my work…”

The next day I did my scenes with him and I realised that all what I had experienced as an actor in the decades was not of much use as one could not depend on any one school of acting. In my eye flashed scenes from Annie Hall, Manhattan, Sleeper, Crimes and Misdemeanors…

Suddenly the sun got brighter and the shooting stopped. I asked an assistant the reason and was told that Woody does not shoot in bright light. Imagine, everyone loves to shoot in bright light, save Woody Allen!

I discovered that I had left my camera in Mumbai and decided that it would be a pity to shoot pictures of the occasion on my cell. And as the day ended, Woody was more vocal. I told him that Indian cinema was changing and how we were making the kind of movies we always wanted. His cogent response was that it could only happen when the audience changes. He spoke of his early years in New York when he would watch films by Satyajit Ray and Kurosawa. “But now, it is the time of $200 million blockbusters,” he said.

Later that evening, I bought a camera and clicked some pictures. I also got some books for Woody to autograph and gifted him copies of the Ramayana and the Gita. One of the vintage memories of that day I will carry is when Woody was shooting a scene with lots of people and he wanted, in his typical style, for the camera to move from one speaking person to another. At the end of it, he told his cameraman, “You were a little lost…but I liked the chaos.”

Indeed, working three days with Woody Allen has been my most memorable experience in cinema. And I wish to thank Indian cinema for making all this happen. As I have said in my one-man play, “Kuchh bhi ho sakta hai…” Or, as my grandmother would say, “Allah meherban to gadheda pahelwan!”

Sanjay Leela Bhansali turns full-fledged music composer with his next film, Guzaarish
By Subhash K Jha (MUMBAI MIRROR; May 12, 2009)

Sanjay Leela Bhansali

Sanjay Leela Bhansali is turning into a full-fledged music composer for his next directorial venture Guzaarish, for which he starts shooting in Goa this July. The film stars Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai.

There have been several instances in the past when illustrious filmmakers notably Raj Kapoor, Raj Khosla and Subhash Ghai have ghost-composed songs for their films. Then of course, there was the legendary Satyajit Ray, who composed the background music for all his films since Teen Kanya in 1961. He chose to do so as he had too many musical ideas of his own, which professional music composers refused or were unable to accept and execute.

For reasons almost identical to Ray’s, Bhansali decided to turn into a full-fledged music composer for Guzaarish. Bhansali decided to be the director as well as music composer, only for the creative enhancement of his own cinema.

Vishal Bharadwaj, is today, perhaps the only other director who composes music for his own films, though they have been greats like Kishore Kumar in the past who did so.

A close friend of Bhansali said, “Sanjay has been toying with the idea for a long time. Even in his earlier films, he allowed professional composers to do the needful while he provided inputs that he thought would heighten his creative vision in musical terms. For Saawariya, which had music by Monty Sharma, Sanjay took credit as the composer for one song Hamari jaan ho tum. Entirely composing his film’s music was just a step away.”

Bhansali has already readied four out of the proposed eight tracks in the film. Those who have heard his compositions swear he will give professional composers of Bollywood a run for their money.

One of the actors from Guzaarish said, “The songs Bhansali has recorded for Guzaarish have an old-world charm but at the same time are fiercely original. They redefine contemporary film music.”

A tad reluctant to talk about his transition from direction to music composition, Sanjay Leela Bhansali said, “I’ve always been a musician at heart. I learnt how to convey human emotions on screen by listening to Lataji’s (Mangeshkar) voice. I feel I’d be more complete as a filmmaker by personally interpreting the musical emotions of my characters.”