Thursday, May 30, 2013

Filmmaker And Gay Icon Rituparno Ghosh Dies At 49

Rituparno Ghosh, the flamboyant film director and one of the very few openly gay figures in Indian cinema, died Thursday at the age of 49 of a massive heart attack at his residence in his native Kolkata in Bengal.

Despite his relative youth, Ghosh enjoyed a long career spanning almost two decades, winning many national and international awards for his films along the way. Some of his most prominent directorial accomplishments included “Hirer Angti,” “Unishe April,” “Dahan,” “Asukh,” “Chokher Bali,” “Bariwali,” “Antarmahal,” “Noukadubi,” “Abohoman” and “Chitrangada.”

Ghosh was finishing his latest film, “Satyanweshi,” a thriller based on the popular Bengali detective character Byomkesh Bakshi, when he passed away. His films generally depicted the foibles and concerns of the urban, educated middle class of India in a realistic fashion, as the nation's status progressed from developing to global emerging power.

Ghosh also worked as an actor. In the movie “Chitrangada,” he portrayed a transgender person in an unusually frank depiction of a part of Indian society largely shunned by the mainstream, particularly by the conservative film industry.

Ghosh’s death triggered tributes from across the Indian film world, as well as from politicians in West Bengal. “Rituparno Ghosh had great sense of humor. He had a brilliant understanding of human behavior. Will miss him and his cinema. RIP my Friend,” wrote famed actor Anupam Kher on his Twitter account. “Shocked by passing of Rituparno Ghosh. He was dreaming of getting into what he called his 'next phase'. Hugely creative explorer on film," tweeted film director Shekhar Kapur.

The chief minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, also expressed her condolences. "We are stunned. In his sudden demise, Bengal has lost an eminent filmmaker. It is a very sad day for us," Banerjee said.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari told reporters: “It is tragic and his demise is not only a loss to the film industry but also to creativity. Right now, our hearts and minds should be with his family. We offer condolences to them.”

Ghosh was part of a long tradition of exemplary directors in Bengali cinema, which is quite different from Mumbai-based Bollywood, stretching back to world-renowned auteur Satyajit Ray. Unlike Bollywood’s focus on music, dancing and happy endings, Bengali cinema (sometimes called "Tollywood") tends to be more serious, penetrating, dark and complex.

One of the greatest actors of Bengali films, Soumitra Chatterjee, now 78 years old, praised Ghosh: "He was a great genius and the void left after his death cannot be easily filled.”

Similarly, Raima Sen, the granddaughter of legendary Bengali actress Suchitra Sen, said of Ghosh: "[He] gave the turning point to my career in the film 'Chokher Bali.' He was more than a director to me; he was almost a part of our family. He was [an immeasurable] genius."

Aside from his skills as a film director, Ghosh will also be remembered for his sexuality in a country that remains extremely hostile to homosexuality or any other form of what society regards as “deviant behavior.”

Amitabha Bhattasali, a BBC correspondent in Kolkata, noted that Ghosh loved dressing as a woman, wearing makeup and jewelry, and that his open sexuality marked him as a maverick in very conservative India. “Initially he wore men's clothes, but in the last few years he completely switched over to women's dresses,” Bhattasali wrote. “Film analysts say that through his films, writings and acting roles, Mr. Ghosh gave a voice to disempowered sexual minorities. Though mocked by many, he lived life on his own terms and never shied from taking up verbal fights with those who mocked him.”

Bhattasali added that women loved working with Ghosh since he, of course, would not sexually harass them in any way – in dramatic contrast to the “casting couch” mentality of many powerful men in Indian cinema. Indeed, Ghosh’s films were widely admired for how they explored the sufferings and feelings of the fairer sex. Onir, another gay Indian filmmaker, said Ghosh’s death marked a “big loss” for India’s LGBT community as well as for Indian cinema.

In an interview with Indian journalist Subhash K. Jha, Ghosh explicitly discussed his view of the portrayal of homosexuality in global cinema and found much to criticize.

“I didn’t like 'Brokeback Mountain' at all,” he said. “In fact, I quite hated it. I was put off by the abruptness with which the love scenes between the two male actors came on. I thought they were unnecessarily sensationalistic and seemed to be put there for titillation… I found it contrived.”

Despite his own career as an openly gay man, Ghosh expressed some skepticism that Indian films (or society) would ever treat homosexuality with total honesty or acceptance. “I don’t think 'Brokeback Mountain' can be done in Indian cinema,” he said. “I don’t know about our cinema. … The sexual mores, family structures and parameters of [what is] permissible are different.”

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Mollywood's most-loved moms

Retirement post marriage was the unsaid yet widely accepted norm for most actresses across the film industry. Though, a close introspection of Mollywood would reveal that the industry has always welcomed back its talented actresses, post their wedding and mother roles in real life... so much so that the most-loved young moms in recent times are setting new yardsticks for the yummy mummy brigade! TOI takes a dekko.

Shwetha Menon
She's been controversy's favourite child right from the time she sent shockwaves across puritan hearts with the condom ad with Milind Soman. Ironical as it may sound, Shwetha entered matrimony at a time when she played the protagonist, Rathi, in the remake of Rathinirvedam, where she played the muse of an adolescent boy. The actress stirred a hornet's nest yet again when she let her delivery be filmed for Blessy's Kalimannu, sparking off a new series of debates. However, Shwetha is unfazed by the series of criticisms, continues to make bold statements with her choice of films and has even declared that she'll give an apt reply to a politician who snubbed her (saying her next delivery would be in an open ground) once Kalimannu hits the screens. Bold and beautiful, did we hear?

Bhagyadevatha and Pazhassiraja set the ball rolling for Kaniha for a successful stint as an actress in M-Town post her marriage. While her marriage to US-based software engineer Syam seemed to have spelt the end of her career as an actress, Kaniha continued to get good offers from the industry.

And motherhood (she's mom to a three-year-old son) was no reason to put a full stop to her career. The actress went on to act alongside the big Ms of Mollywood in Spirit and Bavuttiyude Namathil, and also has a handful of films that will hit the screens this year. Way to go!

She bid adieu to films with Veruthe Oru Bharya, where she starred alongside Jayaram, after she wed Ajilesh Chacko and settled down in Ireland. Though, she returned to do Swa Le with Dileep a little later. Now the mom of a three-year-old girl, Gopika is back on the screen once more to team up with Jayaram in Akku Akbar's recent release. Incidentally, the same team of Veruthe Oru Bharya that gave the actress a warm send-off years ago, have now welcomed her back to the industry, with the recent release having almost the same crew. Welcome home, Gopika!

Nadia Moidu
Now, age sure has forgotten to catch up with this actress! Nadia, who was the most-loved bubbly actress in her heyday, will soon be back in M-Town with Aaru Sundarikalude Kadha (ASK). The actress, who has sizzled onscreen in Telugu and Tamil besides Malayalam, settled down abroad post marriage and made a comeback of sorts with M Kumaran S/o Mahalaxmi. While Sohan Seenulal's Doubles had her team up to do a sister act alongside Mammootty a handful of years ago, ASK will see her in an entirely different makeover. We can't wait to watch the bundle of energy once more...

Navya Nair
Here's another actress who has pulled out at all the stops to be in the limelight even after marriage and motherhood. Nandanam's Balamani starred alongside all the leading heroes of her time before she took a break from films. Scene I Nammude Veedu paved the way for her comeback last year. While the actress is busy judging dance reality shows and giving stage performances, fans are eagerly looking forward to her next signing in M-Town.

Comedy ensures big returns on investment in Mollywood

It maybe the age of new generation movies in Mollywood; where experimentation is the key word. However, cash registers seem to tell a different story. When it comes to box office collections, Mollywood seems to stick to tradition — if the top grossers in the recent past are any indication.

Dileep-starrers My Boss and Sound Thoma, and Kuchacko Boban-Biju Menon-starrers Romans, which were box office hits, fall under the comedy genre. While films like Da Thadiya, Immanuel and Bavuttiyude Namathil just managed to break it even, Rajeev Ravi's Annayum Rasoolum and the award-winning Celluloid do not feature in the top grossing list, though they did not run on losses. The only exception is Lijo Jose Pellissery's Amen, which fetched record collections. However, Amen could not be slotted as a typical new-gen film, say experts, and it had its share of comedy as well.

"The reality is that the majority of new gen films is running at huge losses. Nearly 50 such films are on hold because there are no takers for their satellite rights. You can't blame the channels because these films were box office duds. The channel authorities reason that people stop watching them after breaks and they lose TRPs," says Sabu Cherian, producer. He further adds that, too many movies are getting released now and it is also adversely affecting box office collections.

Sleeba, an ad film maker, says comedy has always been an integral part of the Malayali psyche. "It is films like In Harihar Nagar which we watch over and over again on TV. Earlier, serious films too used to be a hit with the audience along with comedy but now people prefer entertainment over everything else," says Sleeba.

However, according to an industry insider, who doesn't wish to be named, the real reason is that people don't have much choice now. "Humour in most of these films is not classy or really entertaining. But people still love them!" According to him, a major chunk of movie goers, who used to enjoy watching emotional dramas of Mohanlal and Mammmotty in the past, now don't have a substitute for these films. "This is one of the main reasons why Mayamohini was the highest grosser last year," he says.

"It could also have to do with the fact that nobody wants to see a disturbing film with violence, bloodshed and stunts these days," says Prashanth R, a movie buff. "If I want to watch action, I'll watch Iron Man3 or some other Hollywood film. And if I want to see a rom-com, I prefer a Bollywood film with pretty actresses. But when it comes to comedy, nothing can beat Malayalam," he points out. So does that mean that the new wave of experimentation and going against the formula are just a hype?

"People today prefer pure entertainment, and it doesn't have to be a good film per se; as long as it is entertaining they will watch it. That doesn't mean that all the so called new generation films are of a lesser quality," adds Sleeba.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Old and new favourites delight music fans at Bollywood concert

BOLLYWOOD playback singers Dipalee Somalya and Samir Date claimed the hearts of thousands of mothers at Saturday night’s annual Mother’s Day spectacular.

The duo performed a range of selections from popular Bollywood movies. The event was held at the Centre of Excellence in Macoya and featured a concert performance by local entertainer Indar Kanhai and his band Active Trishul Orchestra.

The concert was dedicated to the late legendary Indian singer Mohammed Rafi. Somalya and Date performed singles and duets including “Naina Barse”, “Jhumkaa Gira Re”, “Suhani Raat”, “Ye Mera Prem Patra”, “Jo Wada Kiya”, “Jhil Mil Sitaroka”, “Dewanna Hua Bada”, “Sau Sail Pehele” and “Lak Kaa Gales”.

Date, who got his first break singing for the film Maine Pyar Kiya—the English version titled When Love Calls—delighted the packed audience.

Canadian Shweta Subram had mothers dancing as she performed her spicy hits, including “Fevicol” from the Bollywood movie Dabangg, Sheila Ki Jawani and Chikni. A favourite was “Heer” from the recent movie  Jab Tak Hain Jaan.

But the night belonged to Indar Kanhai and his band. Dressed in a dark-coloured suit and pink shirt, Kanhai performed songs from the old and new Bollywood movies.

He was accompanied by his sister, Nandini Kanhai, Nelisha Ali and Sunita Singh. Kanhai’s two young sons joined him on stage as they danced to their father’s upbeat selections. Kanhai, who has shared the stage with India’s Kumar Sanu, performed hits including “Piya Oh Re Piya” among others songs.

Anthony Batson, junior chutney singer, performed Sundar Popo’s classic “Mother’s Love”. He received a thunderous applause.

The San Juan Young Stars tassa group and comedian Kenneth Supersad added to the entertainment.
Supersad’s daughter, Peggy, was a member of the tassa group.