Mausam – Review

BY SWATI DEOGIRE

When you look away from the picture-perfect frames and beautiful cinematography of Mausam (courtesy Binod Pradhan) you understand that not all the seasons of love in this film are suitable for you.

Mausam is veteran actor Pankaj Kapur’s directorial debut with son Shahid and Sonam Kapoor in the lead, along with Supriya Pathak, Anupam Kher and Manoj Pahwa. Kapur Sr. has put forth commendable work in his debut film with respect to attention to detail. The art direction and cinematography makes the Punjab ka pind look very real and believable, with loud, noisy middle aged women, a tonga wala and sarsoon ke khet in the background. But with Pankaj Kapur at the helm of affairs, one expects something close to perfection. And sadly, the film disappoints with a dragging screenplay and unnecessary melodrama that it offers.

The film starts in the early 90s set in a small village in Punjab with Harry (Harvinder Singh), played by Shahid, and Aayat, played by Sonam, as the main characters. As Harry awaits his letter from the Indian Air Force, he falls in love with a Kashmiri refugee, Aayat. Love blossoms between the two and just before you think the two will soon bind together in matrimony, Babri Masjid is demolished and hence, Aayat relocates to an undisclosed location. The political undercurrent and terrorist activities in India and the West for over a decade set the tone of the film. They come together again only to be separated by another series of attacks. The longing and wait of the couple seems endless and highly annoying as in an era of cell phones and emails, the two of them depend on traditional sources of communication and as a result, the two finally meet after a decade, that too in the midst of the Gujarat riots.

Pritam Chakraborty’s music seems refreshing and adds more beauty to the film. Shahid’s restrained acting in the second half as an Air Force officer and his village boy act in the first part show his commendable growth as an actor. Sonam looks dignified and giggles her way through most of the first half of the film which is replaced only by her yearning and pining act till the end. A good script on paper gone awry on screen, the Mausam vibhaag here at Ink gives it a thumbs down!

Beauty ‘Con’tests

BY NIKITA MUKHERJEE

 A very prominent disconnect is prevalent between expectations and reality. However, this detachment seems to get wider and wider, when it comes to the likes of beauty pageants.  A dry spell for India, on such international platforms has been certified for over a decade now and very recently, another opportunity has also been lost.  The continuing tradition augments many questions in the minds of young Indian audience. Are our Indian lasses losing on their poise & prowess? Are they not well groomed to represent a cosmopolitan country like India? Or have the changing stratagems of these beauty pageants resulted in India arriving at such a standpoint.

The new shining glory at the Miss Universe this year, Leila Lopes quipped that she hopes her victory will allow her to assist her native Angola in escaping its history of war and impoverishment, and that she plans to focus on fighting HIV around the globe.  The quote though reasonably unambiguous, makes the prude in some of us question the redemptive nature of such pageants. The opportunity to highlight Leila’s troubles pertaining to her continent was grappled by every possible media channel. Call it an advertising tactic or the penetration of sponsors associated with these competitions to the third world countries, ‘gimmicks’ sums up these pageants. Pageants invariably are now thriving on a country’s economy, and ideally a developing economy. So few years back the focus was on India, owing to its illustrious position at the international market. Now, it is some other developing economy being solicited over by such authorities. India previously opened its gate for all multi-national corporations, making it an oasis in the desert of countries, thereby attracting travelers in terms of advertisers and sponsors. Now perhaps, some other country is in India’s shoes.

Scandals and controversies are no stranger to these beauty pageants.  It surfaces at every competition and makes rounds for a consistent period. Be it Vanessa William’s alleged nude pictures controversy in 1983, Miss India Universe Usnoshi Gupta’s ‘evening gown’ controversy in 2010 or the very recent Miss Universe 2011 Leila Lopes’ fake-documents controversy. The connection between these pageants and scandals are parallel and exclusively dependant.  These cases again bring the most clichéd question to the forefront. Are these pageants indeed rigged? Are these pageants through and though deceitful?

Maybe a similar question, if asked to the contestants in one of the final rounds of the pageant, could fetch us an answer.

‘Modern’ Times for ‘Mad’ Men!

BY SUNETRO LAHIRI

It was a night for stars alright, replete with resplendent show-tunes, spiffy tuxes and Elie Saab’s and Armani Privé’s in every palette of red. Funny hostess – check, surprises springing up like Halloween décor – check, gushing speeches oscillating between funny and ridiculous – check. The night was set for television’s very own grand gala ball as the 63rd Emmy Awards were doled out on 18th September at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles. Needless to say, after a long starving wait, the Awards turned into a night many would remember, not least for the surprising victors that thwarted the predictions of every television pundit worth his dime!

On a night that began with two straight – up wins for Modern Family’s incessantly bickering couple, Julie Bowen and Ty Burrell, one could safely say that a lot of toasts would be coming the show’s way! Not surprising one and all with its fourth straight win, equalling The West Wing’s previous record, Mad Men racked up the Best Drama gong walking hand in hand with another funny ‘Modern’ as the usual suspects! And yes all the while we learnt that Jane Lynch ISN’T always the mean machine Sue Sylvester is and to prove the point, she even ‘slashed’ her alter ego in the introductory piece.

As expected she induced a few guffaws and gnarls but it didn’t quite hit the benchmark set by Neil Patrick Harris who hosted the Awards two years back. Dressed in a white Armani Privé that seemed like memorabilia from the storehouse of Star Wars (the prequels!), Julianna Marguilles avenged her previous year’s ouster with a sure-fire Best Drama Actress win for The Good Wife that didn’t cause so much as a raised eyebrow. And of course, Miss Winslet, the lovely English Rose, well she gushed and we swayed, she smiled and we swooned. In short, draped in a red Elie Saab number that hugged her in the right places and swathed her in a temperature raising red, Winslet said boo-ya to the ‘Oscar Curse’ and her divorce with a win for her stunner of a performance in HBO’s eponymous ‘Mildred Pierce’.

However, the night also must have made some bookies very happy and some really mad! For starters, Mildred Pierce got ‘pierced’ straight in the heart to be outdone by a geriatric yet weighty Downtown Abbey in the TV Movie/Miniseries category. And the world knew that HBO could sometimes lose at the Emmys! While Margo Martindale’s quietly murderous mother from the sinister western Justified nabbed for the team, ousting bookie favourite The Good Wife’s Kalinda Sharma, Tyrion Lannister’s dry wit won Peter Dinklage the gong, giving the superb Game of Thrones at least a few wins! However, the biggest surprises were reserved for the Emmys for the other Acting Leads.

Jim Parsons may have expounded every scientific theory on The Big Bang Theory, but his Sheldon Cooper could not possibly explain how, in an honour reserved for few, he won his second trophy in the running especially when a wincing Steve Carell bade adieu to his ‘Office’ without a single Emmy on his platter for the record!

Big girls are back in fashion, for sure, as Melissa Mccarthy continued her brilliant year with a jaw-dropping win for the ho-hum comedy, Mike and Molly.

However, the night’s biggest upset was Jon Hamm not being rewarded for his BEST acting turn of the year for Mad Men. Kyle Chandler may have gotten the sympathy vote, what with being snubbed year after year, but if Hamm doesn’t win next year, we’re pretty sure there will be some bounties on some heads and some heads shall roll!

A trip to Leh and a mountain of memories

BY BIBARTAN GHOSH

A lot has been spoken about hill stations in different parts of India and how scenic and breath-taking they are. However, in all of these, the best one surprisingly remains low-profile. If you have a week’s time in hand, head off for the best of the hill-top experiences in India to a quaint little city called Leh.

Situated at an altitude of 3400mtrs above sea level in the trans-Himalayan range, Leh is the district capital of Ladakh. One of the smallest cities in the world, Leh faces the extremes of climatic conditions. While winters are stretched and temperatures fall as low as -30°c, summers can be as high as 25°c. The tourist season falls between May and October. Post that, the roads from Manali and Srinagar are closed due to extreme snowfall.

You can either choose to fly or go by road. There are daily flights available from Delhi reasonably priced at around Rs 6000 for a round trip.

While road trips are much more exhilarating, it takes almost 2-3 days to reach Leh from either Manali or Srinagar. However, there is nothing like taking a road trip to Leh, driving across mountains and high-altitude passes while experiencing the vastness of the Himalayan mountain ranges.

Decent accommodations are easily available within Rs. 1000 a day on a twin sharing basis. The day can be utilized to roam around Leh, visiting local monasteries and Leh Palace, markets, interacting with extremely simple Ladakhi people and sampling Tibetian delicacies. Most of the restaurants here make incredible momos, thukpas, teemoks and thanthuks at extremely reasonable costs. Though chicken items are a little difficult to find, Ladakhi cuisine features lamb, sheep and mutton in abundance. The Tibetian Wok, the Himalayan Café (in the main market), Lamayuru and Little Tibet of Fort Road are some of the best restaurants in Leh.

Leh can be seen extensively even in a day or two. The best places to visit in the trans-Himalayan range are Nubra Valley, Khardung La, Pangong Tso, Magnetic Hill among others. If you are a biking enthusiast then you can hire motorcycles from Leh or pool-in cabs and taxis are also available. The second day can be ideally used to visit Magnetic Hill and a village called Nimmu, about 30kms from Leh. While Magnetic Hill actually defies the law of gravity, Nimmu is a quiet, small town with rich Tibetian culture. On the way back, the Hall of Fame by the Indian Army is a must-visit. The Hall of Fame preserves the actual ammunitions and stories of India’s battle for Tiger Hill in 1999 and the Kargil War.

The next day could be spent travelling to Nubra Valley while passing through the world’s highest motorable pass, Khardung La. It is at a height of 18380ft above sea-level. Pool-in cabs will cost anywhere between Rs 1000-1200 per person and an entire cab would cost around Rs 4000 – 4500. If you are an adrenaline junkie, then self-drive Enfields can be hired at around Rs 800 – 1000 per day. The road to Nubra is extremely rocky with a steep incline for 40kms till you reach Khardung La. After that, the descent continues till you see plain lands stretching for kilometers. Nubra is the most fertile valley in Ladakh with lush green fields & plantations. It is one of the most beautiful places in an otherwise dry and arid Ladakh region.

After a visit to Nubra, the next destination is Pangong Tso. It’s a 134 km long lake, with some parts even stretching to China. The lake became famous to Indians after the film ‘3 Idiots’.

Sooner than you realize, the week-long holiday comes to an end. There is something about the barren mountains, or the chapped cheeks of innocent Ladakhi kids or just the city that sleeps before even its eight in the night that will make you feel like coming back even before your flight has taken off.

What’s brewing this season?

Swati Deogire | SIMC Ink

What better way to get a conversation started than with a steaming cup of coffee? The hot brew acts as a catalyst and manages to extract words from even the most introverts. But the coffee served on television chat shows seems to be spiked to bring out the devil in you.

Case in point is the popular television chat show “Koffee with Karan”. Started in 2004, the candid director-producer, Karan Johar’s idea of a tete- a- tete with celebrities from the Indian film industry, is a major hit.

The opulent set and rich decor is an extension of the show’s format. However, somewhere down the line, the show notwithstanding its popularity, has lost its identity and has relegated to being a personal battlefield of these stars.

With the likes of Deepika Padukone and Sonam Kapoor blatantly taking on Ranbir Kapoor on national television and Kareena Kapoor badmouthing rival Priyanka Chopra, the Karan Johar- hosted chat show is anything but modest! While on the one hand Ranbir’s character was dissected and his acting prowess scrutinized by the two young ladies, on the other hand, Kareena made public her feelings about Priyanka’s “fake accent”. This agenda (or so it seems) of mudslinging has emerged as a ritual of sorts.

Every Sunday at 9pm, stars from the film industry leave no stone unturned in punching their colleagues in the face. Johar prods and pokes these celebrities constantly to eke out gossips which are doing the rounds in the entertainment industry.

What’s so eye catching about this season is the celebrities’ frankness about each other.  Their newfound bold avatar and candidness about personal rivalries and friendships are simply unmatched. Earlier, actors had a sense of camaraderie and self respect for each other but now it seems that being creatively superior on screen is not enough! Taking digs at each other off screen is necessary to satiate the devil in them.

The audience six years back switched on their television sets to enjoy a cup of coffee with their favourite stars, but with the new season giving the sugar cubes a miss, the audience is not complaining. The increasing ratings every week stand testimony to that fact. Hic!

 

GST: Dark Days ahead For Indian films

Avishek Datta Roy | SIMC Ink

We might be at the threshold of a new year and are really excited about it; but for the Indian film producers the year 2011 could be nightmarish.

The Indian Government’s decision to impose the Goods and Services Tax (GST) on the entertainment sector (from 1.4.2011), which is anyway reeling under the burden of a relatively high taxation, could prove to be a disastrous affair.

On the one hand, the multiple tax regime would take its toll on the film producers whose revenue share would come down drastically. The bigwigs of the industry might be able to sustain themselves in the long run after the initial hiccups. The small time producers and independent filmmakers however would be unable to weather the GST storm and shall subsequently perish.

On the other hand, at the end of the day, it is the audience who shall be affected the most as the high cost of production and exhibition of films would be recovered through exorbitantly expensive ticket rates.

Isn’t it a strange paradox that while film industries throughout the world enjoy priority status and are subject to reduced taxes and other fiscal incentives, filmmakers in India receive such a step-motherly affection? Films are the ambassadors of the rich Indian culture on foreign shores and should be nurtured and not crippled with multiple tax systems. Such heinous steps on the part of the Government would only deter the creative aspirations of our filmmakers and quality in cinema shall take a backseat.

Bollywood, which has been in the doldrums this year with biggies like “Raavan” and “Kites” sinking at the box office without a trace, is in urgent need of films that evoke a strong response at the box office to bail itself out. But from what it looks like, its woes are far from over. The only silver lining as of now is the assurance by the Centre that all taxes levied by the state government would be subsumed. However, a clarification of the taxes imposed by the local administrative bodies is yet to be made.

So the next time, your mother cautions you against watching a film at the theatre and instead advises you to rent out a DVD, I think she has a point.

 

The Ravi of Marathi cinema

Sneha Krishnan & Avishek Datta Roy | SIMC Ink

“The whole idea is to communicate to the audience effectively in the simplest of ways,” quips director Ravi Jadhav whose maiden venture “Natrang” has won         accolades on foreign shores and literally proved to be a breath of fresh air for Marathi cinema.

For the man who changed the definition of Indian ads with jingles like ‘doodh doodh piyo glass full’ and ‘kuch khaaas hain zindagi main’, simplicity is the key word in filmmaking, while it is also vital to have faith in the audience and not take them for granted.

Interacting with aspiring filmmakers during SIMCinema, a three day student film festival in Pune, Jadhav spoke about the success that regional films have gained in the last decade.

His internationally acclaimed film, ‘Natrang’, unravels the life of a farm labourer, Gunya (Atul Kulkarni) who starts his own tamasha group to escape financial hardships. “My main aim was to connect with the youth, who are ignorant of the rich lavani culture and hence I had to rely on new age music”, clarifies Jadhav, who believes that the fate of his film was furthered, thanks to its foot tapping sound tracks which brilliantly catered to the youth.

“Inspiration will come knocking at your door once in your life; don’t let it go”, says Jadhav; on being asked the reason behind suddenly opting out of ad filmmaking and foraying into full time film direction.

Currently working on a biopic on the famous Marathi theatre artist Bal Gandharv, he wishes to rescue the age old Natya Sangeet from fading into the oblivion.

About 150 Marathi films hit the theatres annually, but only a handful of them get critical acclaim and only some win accolades in international film festivals.

With trendsetters like Ravi Jadhav leading from the front, it is only a matter of time when Marathi cinema shall proudly herald its arrival on the world stage.

 

Midnight’s children

Shraddha Panicker & Sneha Krishnan | SIMC Ink

The twilight hour brings your breath up in a fog, as you try to fight the biting chill of a particularly cold winter. But, for those who made their way to the traditional midnight mass service across the city on Christmas Eve, the strength of their faith proved to be warm enough. As the night sky slowly twinkled with star-shaped Christmas lanterns hung outside homes; at the newly renovated St. Patrick’s Cathedral, candles were being lit in earnest. Add to this the harmony of a choir’s rendition of Christmas carols and you have the stage set for a picture perfect Christmas.

As the clock strikes 12, the ground behind the St. Patrick’s Cathedral is chock-a-block with people, many dressed in their Christmas best, while a few others come curious, just to get an experience of the celebration. But for most, Christmas is all about family.

MBA student Avina Gonsalves recounts, “Every Christmas, my sister and I would sit down to listen to the story of Christmas narrated by my father, who would always end the story by relating it to a practical example. For me the best part this Christmas was that I spent it with the people I love the most and even got my Christmas wish!”

Meanwhile, the 160 year old St. Patrick’s Cathedral wears a new spruced up look just in time for Christmas. “Keeping in mind that it is a heritage structure, the challenge was to do the renovation and restoration work, and still manage to retain its essence”, says Architect Joaquim Rodrigues who contributed to the project.

Psychology student Rachael Mascarenhas appreciates the effort, “The Church looks great, especially the stained glass paintings on the windows that signify the life of Jesus from birth. The holy altar and the Blessed Sacrament, both have been done very well which give the Church a grander look.”

Audio-visual student Mrudhula Sridharan sums up the experience of a perfect beginning to a perfect Christmas by adding, “The message of putting aside our differences and striving for peace really struck a chord and the positive vibes all around during the midnight mass was comforting.” So on that note, here’s wishing all our readers a merry Christmas and a very happy and prosperous New Year!

 

 

Seeking a reINKarnation

Soumya Rao | SIMC Ink

While sitting with some friends today, I heard one of them say: “In today’s world, different is cliché.” He went on to elaborate: “Everyone today is trying to be different, and they’re messing it up. Just do the same old thing, but do it well.” I want to thank my friend for giving me the lead to my article. I also want to tell him that I couldn’t disagree more.

Being different has far too long been perceived as being a cut above the rest, or being unique from others. While that, of course is an element of it, to me, it’s more important that you reinvent yourself. So every time you do the “same old thing”, you have to do it differently. The quest to that ever elusive perfection lies in experimentation. If you fail, at least you’ll know what not to do in the future. As I write this editorial, this piece of “wisdom” is meant as much for myself as for others. Change has always been something I’ve been afraid of, second only to experimentation. It’s easy to stick to one-winning formula, and easier to do what you know you’re good at.  The chance of failing is what makes it so hard to try something new. But the antonym of reinvention is monotony. And there are no prizes for guessing the better word.

So when we at Ink met again, after six-odd weeks of separation, we knew we needed to launch the paper again. We also knew that we couldn’t go on the same way. And so, we look forward to a reinkarnation.  We have plans, dreams and aspirations of where we want to take this paper that we’ve all grown to love. And beginning next week, you too are going to see the change. You may love it, you may hate it, but you won’t miss it.  And the process of change won’t end here. Pretty soon, the baton is going to be passed on to the batch of 2012. And then, it’ll be their charge, to take the paper to heights we couldn’t have even dreamt of.

So here we are. We’ve set the ball rolling. And as to where it’ll go next, my guess is as good as yours.

 

Sniff, swirl and sip: Wine fests arrive in Pune

Sneha Krishnan | SIMC Ink

There is no better way to spend a Sunday than with some classic wine and delicious cheese at a wine tasting festival, which is a perfect combination of leisure and luxury, mixed with style and savour. It is the latest trend in a city like Pune, which has become very cosmopolitan in merely a decade.

This growing popularity of this emerging culture could be seen recently as the city organised its 4th annual wine tasting festival, where wine lovers flocked by the dozen, getting a chance to interact with some of the best sellers of wine in the country.  The festival was a celebration of the senses, with over 16 varieties of wine and 31 kinds of gourmet cheese, specially made in Ooty, Kodaikanal and Bangalore.

The gusto for this drink which is not originally a part of Indian culture is interesting to observe. At the same time, awareness levels about it are still low in the country. And this is where these festivals play a role, by not only showcasing Indian and foreign wines, but also showing how an evening with wine can be made exotic with delicacies like cookies and kebabs. “The entire concept of a wine tasting evening is to familiarise people with wine appreciation,” says Meghna Desai, member of Pune Gourmet Club. “Pune is being recognised as the wine center and is a growing market for Indian and imported wines,” she adds.

Navjyoti Dalal, a food critic, voices a similar opinion, “The common man doesn’t know much about wine except for the fact that red wine is had with red meat and white wine is served chilled with pasta, pizza or fish; there is more to wine which is vital like taste and its original source.”

Wine has always been known as an element of one’s status, but that does not apply to a multi-cultural city like Pune anymore. “I look forward to this event every year; some of the wines are just beautiful and sold at the festival at a much lower price,” she adds.

These events are a complete package of modern day Pune and through these wine tastings we hope this concept of wine appreciation spreads to other cities as well.