Making movies in India

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Making movies in India

Post  eddie on Mon Feb 20, 2012 12:28 am

India: best exotic movie hell?

A new generation of western directors are bringing their outsider perspective to India. But can films such as The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel avoid the cliches of poverty and spiritualism, chaos and capitalism?

Sukhdev Sandhu

guardian.co.uk, Thursday 16 February 2012 20.30 GMT


Clockwise: The River; Trishna; The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel; Slumdog Millioniaire. Photograph: Rex Features; Ishika Mohan; AP

Making films in India is hard not because of the heat, or the bureaucracy, or the traffic. Not even, says Liz Mermin, the director of Bollywood underworld exposé Shot in Bombay, because its superstar subject Sanjay Dutt grew nervous about the project. "The hardest thing for a film-maker is that you fly there, look around, take out your camera – and everything is a cliche. Poverty, chaos, cows, flowers: I was going around desperately looking for a shot I hadn't seen before."

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Production year: 2011
Country: UK
Cert (UK): 12A
Runtime: 118 mins
Directors: John Madden
Cast: Bill Nighy, Billy Nighy, Celia Imrie, Dame Judi Dench, Dame Maggie Smith, Dev Patel, Judi Dench, Liza Tarbuck, Maggie Smith, Penelope Wilton, Ramona Marquez, Ronald Pickup, Tom Wilkinson

That difficulty – to say nothing of the challenge of depicting India in more than just western terms – led Louis Malle to name the first section of his six-hour Phantom India (1969) "The Impossible Camera". Yet, even though "India" in its teeming multiplicity may be as much a conceit as "the west", many directors have stepped up to this challenge. Jean Renoir's The River (1951), Roberto Rossellini's India: Matri Bhumi (1959), Fritz Lang's The Tiger of Eschnapur (1959), Pier Paolo Pasolini's Notes For A Film On India (1967), Werner Herzog's Jag Mandir (1991), and, yes, Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire (2008) are just a fraction of the films that have sought to make their outsider perspectives a virtue.

Now joining that list are John Madden's The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Michael Winterbottom's Trishna. The former, an adaptation of Deborah Moggach's 2004 novel These Foolish Things, follows a group of English pensioners (Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilton) as they travel to a retirement sanctuary in Jaipur that, although more decrepit than either the brochure or its manager (Dev Patel) let on, proves to be a much-loved base for them as they go about re-envisaging and rebuilding their lives.

Trishna, meanwhile, is the latest instalment in Winterbottom's ongoing dedication to bringing the novels of Thomas Hardy to the big screen. Following Jude (1996) and The Claim (2000), his version of The Mayor of Casterbridge, he has relocated Tess of the d'Urbervilles to modern-day India. In the title role, Freida Pinto plays a smalltown girl who, after her father has an accident, goes to work for a rich British businessman (Riz Ahmed) with whom she falls in love. They move, first to a turbulent Mumbai, later to palatial Rajasthan where he runs a hotel, but over time their relationship fractures and darkens.

In some ways, these films are poles apart. Madden, best known as the director of Shakespeare In Love, describes The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel as "a comedy of dislocation" that "evokes the form of a William Shakespeare comedy whose characters are transplanted to a different environment". Ol Parker's screenplay is informed by politics – its starting point is the outsourcing of old age, a phenomenon promoted by Indian finance minister Jaswant Singh in 2003 when he pushed for the nation to become a "global health destination" – but certainly not defined by it.

By contrast, Trishna is a tragedy marked by improvised acting, cityscapes full of MTV-style billboards, yuppie bars and dance studios, and, in no small part due to Marcel Zyskind's atmospheric, hand-held photography, a persistent mood of ellipsis and in-betweenness. Winterbottom is more attuned to the social and economic niceties of his characters: "In the novel, Tess's family is one of the poorest in the village," he says. "In Trishna they're the equivalent of a lower middle-class family. They aspire to benefit from the changes but find themselves in a situation that's difficult with the growing economy, urbanisation and changing values."

Yet it's precisely this fascination with India as a place in flux that the two films have in common. Historically, outsider artists have tended to portray the nation as old, spiritual, rural, in thrall to tradition. For some, this was its appeal, for others, a curse. In Dick Fontaine's Temporary Person Passing Through (1965), a melancholic James Cameron (the veteran journalist, not the director) laments: "There's too much of everything, too many people, too many cows, too many problems. Too much India, really."

Now, in 2012, when Indian politicians are increasingly embracing neoliberalism and boasting of the country's Bric status, it's more likely to be depicted as a modern, urban, entrepreneur-friendly tiger economy. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel relocates Moggach's novel from IT hub Bangalore to more picturesque Jaipur, but still shows an India that's the dynamic antithesis to – even the cure for – a Britain defined by failed internet ventures, hip-operation waiting lists and cramped bungalow homes. "Transformation is at its heart," argues Parker.

For Winterbottom, whose In This World and Code 46 showcased his appreciation of the cultural dynamics and faultlines that animate contemporary globalisation, the transformations in India serve to cast a cruel spotlight on Britain. "Hardy's novels are often about modernity and speed and energy. But it's hard to get that sense of a dynamically changing world if you set one in this country. Here the problems are more to do with a lack of mobility rather than an excess of it."

Is there a danger that this fascination with the turbo-economics of the east becomes a new kind of orientalism, one in its own way as romanticising as Eat Pray Love's ascription of superior wisdom to India? Ashim Ahluwalia, Mumbai-based director of John and Jane (2005), a brilliantly disturbing drama-documentary mashup about urban identity in modern India, believes it is: "In order to understand with any depth what it means to be Indian today, we should stop endorsing the collective fantasy of 'India Shining' – this laughable state of mind in which many modern Indians imagine a new incredible India that looks and feels like a first-world nation."

Anjalika Sagar, one half of the Otolith Group, whose films explore radical and utopian flashpoints since the war, says: "India is proud of its film industry and its tourist industry. Often these are the same thing. The country's history, nature and air are under threat. Mining companies are setting its agenda. Millions of people are being displaced. How can you make a film about the country without engaging with its socio-political underclass?"

Sagar looks back on the 80s with a touch of nostalgia. Although films and TV series such as Gandhi, The Far Pavilions and The Jewel In The Crown were sometimes accused of stoking a Raj revival, a foretaste of what writer Pankaj Mishra has dubbed the "neo-imperialist vision" of Niall Ferguson and other evangelists for the empire, she defends them for "at least engaging with questions of power. Independence wasn't so far in the past back then. Now, with a tiny number of exceptions, there's no attention to the history of colonialism. There's an amnesia within India."

If that's true, it might represent an opportunity for British directors and screenwriters – though they shouldn't assume that taking it will guarantee them either audiences or appreciation. "In the big cities especially there's often a real fuck-off attitude towards the west," laughs Mermin. "There's not a trace of cultural insecurity that a particular postcolonial sensibility might wish to see."

Ahluwalia puts it another way: "We've always been eating brains in Indiana Jones films or stammering awkward English sentences in various other western productions, so I don't think we have high expectations."

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is released on 24 February; Trishna on 9 March

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Re: Making movies in India

Post  eddie on Mon Feb 20, 2012 12:49 am

Will Hollywood ever conquer Bollywood?

US-Indian co-productions have performed dismally – but Bollywood's need for global expertise could reverse the trend


Fox Star India's My Name is Khan is Hollywood's 'one palpable hit' in India. Photograph: Rafiq Maqbool/AP

When WikiLeaks went public with diplomatic cable 248355 last April, it revealed that even the Americans weren't too optimistic about their chances of breaching one of the last bastions against them: "Unfortunately, all of the joint Hollywood-Bollywood productions released thus far have been unsuccessful at the box office, signalling that a successful entry into Bollywood is not easy," some unsparing bureaucrat had written. Perhaps there was also a note of admiration there, for another country with a formidable popular cinema (about a 90% share of its own market), and a deep resistance to watching anything foreign.

But Hollywood isn't quitting yet. This week sees the release in India and the UK of the latest Hollywood wolf in Bollywood clothing, 20th Century Fox's Ekk Deewana Tha. A glossy-looking romantic drama with a pair of extremely winsome leads in real-life couple Prateik Babbar and Miss England finalist Amy Jackson, it's following Hollywood's current worldwide mantra of conquering from within. Traditional US blockbusters, hobbled by being so culturally alien, had been struggling to gain more than a 5% clawhold in the Indian market during the noughties. Efforts at assimilation, like adding Hindi songs to Casino Royale (but unfortunately not forcing Daniel Craig and Eva Green into a dance sequence on the Eurostar), haven't had much impact. So by late last decade, most of the Hollywood majors had decided to make Hindi-language movies.

Returns, as the cable said, have been mixed. Sony's first effort, the pricey romantic drama Saawariya, based on a Dostoyevsky story, was steamrollered at the box office in November 2007 by the Bollywood dream-team musical Om Shanti Om. Roadside Romeo, Disney's first Indian animation, bombed. Warner Brothers India tried to talk up the international credentials of its wuxia-masala hybrid Chandni Chowk to China, but it performed indifferently. Only 20th Century Fox, through its Fox Star India imprint, has come close to the big time: with crime thriller Dum Maaro Dum, which took a respectable $11m in India, and Shahrukh Khan vehicle My Name is Khan – the "desi Forrest Gump" and Hollywood's one palpable hit ($16.4m in India/$44m worldwide).

Why the disappointments? It is Indians, through local companies, who are making these films, so there's been nothing culturally off about them. Hollywood is simply suffering more than most from the law of averages in cinema because it's not investing anything like as seriously as it needs to if it wants to break into this vast territory. In 2009, Warner Brothers India promised Rs200 crore (about $40m) for Hindi-language projects. That's enough for about four big-budget films by Indian standards, but it's unlikely all of them would make a splash. In another WikiLeaks cable, Siddarth Roy Kapur, the CEO of the studio UTV, estimated that only 5% of all Bollywood films made any kind of profit. The Americans are going to need more than a thin scattering of films to sow this terrain sustainably.

It doesn't help that the newcomers don't have a deep understanding of how things function in India – at least according to an executive at Reliance Big Pictures quoted in the cables: "US studios need to reorient their strategies, rescind control and empower local people if they want to succeed in India. The Indian film-making process is not organised, and, unlike the professionalism in Hollywood, dealing with creative talent in India requires tact and flexibility."

And at the end of the day, Hollywood remains the competition – the communiques also highlight how reluctant Bollywood studios are to partner with American ones. Which leaves boardroom belligerency as the only remaining way of breaking in, as with Disney's recent acquisition of the controlling stake in UTV (and, of course, Indian studios are busy looking for the same opportunities in the States, like Reliance Big's financing of DreamWorks).

One thing could make this suspicion dissipate: China, and its repeated attempts to give an adrenalin shot to its own blockbuster production, something Reliance Entertainment chairman Amit Khanna has said he follows with "enormous attention". The area in which Bollywood can really learn from Hollywood, the cables suggest, is global marketing and distribution; if Bollywood has to shed its traditional insularity in order to stay competitive with Chinese films, it might have to learn how to apply a little American-style snake oil. It was 20th Century Fox that pushed My Name is Khan into the global mainstream, carefully exploiting Shahrukh Khan's star glow, the pertinence of its 9/11 plotline and the huge Indian diaspora. Bollywood's trade-off for a full apprenticeship in these ploys might be helping Hollywood with its dance moves, and holding the door of Indian box office open to it.

The WikiLeaks cables show that governments really do think along these strategic lines about the entertainment industry. They call it soft power. Let's hope that they don't forget that someone – Hollywood, Bollywood, or Chinese – is supposed to be making the next generation of classic films at the same time.


Ekk Deewana Tha is out on Friday.

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Re: Making movies in India

Post  pinhedz on Sun Feb 26, 2012 5:57 am

eddie wrote:But can films such as The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel avoid the cliches of poverty and spiritualism, chaos and capitalism?
Why not? Indian movie directors have been avoiding that kind of thing for decades.

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Re: Making movies in India

Post  Yakima Canutt on Sun Feb 26, 2012 5:15 pm

Bombay is not the only game in Indiatown. There are many regional cinema scenes in Bharat Gaṇarajya. The pretentious Bengali film-wallahs have been doing poverty, chaos and capitalism since the 1950s.



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Re: Making movies in India

Post  pinhedz on Mon Feb 27, 2012 12:17 am

Not the only game, which means there's a choice, yes?

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Re: Making movies in India

Post  pinhedz on Tue Feb 28, 2012 10:55 am

Due to the changing demographics of Northern Virginia, some theaters are now playing Hindi and Telugu films.

Right now you can see these two (imagine the hi-jinks What a Face ):




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Re: Making movies in India

Post  eddie on Sat Mar 03, 2012 6:07 pm

Hindus protest against Bin Laden film that portrays Pakistan on Indian soil

Film by Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow has converted parts of Chandigarh to look like the Pakistani city of Lahore

Reuters in Chandigarh

guardian.co.uk, Friday 2 March 2012 17.30 GMT


Indian film extras wearing burqas for a scene depicting Abbottabad in Kathryn Bigelow's forthcoming film on Osama bin Laden. Photograph: Strdel/AFP/Getty Images

Hindu radicals in India have protested against the shooting of a film by Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow on the hunt for Osama bin Laden on the grounds that the film-makers were portraying Pakistan on Indian soil.

Bin Laden was killed by US special forces in Pakistan in May last year.

The film-makers, denied permission to film in Pakistan, converted parts of the Indian city of Chandigarh to look like the Pakistani city of Lahore.

But for right-wing Hindus, the use of India to portray sworn enemy Pakistan was too much.

"They have made Chandigarh like Pakistan, as if it is Pakistan," said Vijay Bhardwaj, a leader of the radical Vishva Hindu Parishad group.

"We strongly oppose this and we will not let them put Pakistani flags here and we will not let them shoot for the film."

Billboards with Urdu signs were put up on shops in a market in the north Indian city and auto-rickshaws were running with Lahore number plates. Burqa-clad women and men dressed in traditional Pakistani clothes roamed the streets.

The small group of protesters shouted slogans and some of them were seen arguing with cast and crew members as police tried to intervene.

The protesters said the government should have denied permission to make the film on Indian soil.

Bigelow, who won an Oscar for her Iraq war movie The Hurt Locker, was developing a film on the hunt for Bin Laden before the al-Qaeda leader was killed in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad.

The film, Zero Dark Thirty, is due for release in late 2012.

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Re: Making movies in India

Post  Yakima Canutt on Sat Mar 10, 2012 12:34 pm

Before Concert 4 Bangladesh, before Monsoon Slumwhore, there was, simply, Uttam Kumar and the Rays Collective. The picture Indira Gandhi didn't want you to see. The one that bleu the lids off the Naxalite Betel Nut McAloo Tikki Contraband Conspiracy.

Is Uttam a Nayak? More like one part kahapurush, two parts mahapurush, and not the most formidable pratidwandi acha. Hey Uttam, you're not in Santiniketan anymore. Laughing



Cool





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Re: Making movies in India

Post  pinhedz on Sat Mar 10, 2012 1:26 pm

pinhedz wrote:Due to the changing demographics of Northern Virginia, some theaters are now playing Hindi and Telugu films.
An acquaintance of ours says that she can lend us both Bollywood and Tollywood DVDs. What a Face

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Re: Making movies in India

Post  Yakima Canutt on Sat Mar 10, 2012 7:31 pm

See if the aqcquainted has tubercular fever dream Meghe Dhaka Tara The Star is Cloud-Capped, by incorrigible dipso Ritwik Ghatak.

Rituparnajee says realism in Indian cinema dates back to the 1920s and 1930s. One of earliest examples was V. Shantaram's 1925 silent film classic Sawkari Pash (Indian Shylock), about the poor peasant (portrayed by Shantaram) who "loses his land to the greedy moneylender and is forced to migrate to city to become the mill worker. Acclaimed as the realistic breakonthrough, its shot of the howling dog near the hut, has become the milestone in the march of Indian cinema."


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Re: Making movies in India

Post  pinhedz on Mon Mar 12, 2012 8:33 am

Aqcquainted has cheerful tendencies, and might not have the downers in stock.

Will there be enough singing and dancing?


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Re: Making movies in India

Post  pinhedz on Mon Mar 12, 2012 8:33 am


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Re: Making movies in India

Post  pinhedz on Tue Mar 13, 2012 1:46 am

This is the first song I ever heard performed by "3 Mustaphas 3," with Lavra Tima Daviz singing I love you


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Re: Making movies in India

Post  pinhedz on Tue Mar 13, 2012 1:49 am

I used to know a guy named Rodg.

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Re: Making movies in India

Post  eddie on Fri Mar 30, 2012 2:33 pm

Bollywood's Bond banned by Pakistan's film censors

Agent Vinod, an Indian film about a secret agent who prevents the Pakistani secret services from detonating a nuclear bomb in Delhi, is accused of being 'anti-Pakistan'

Ben Child

guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 28 March 2012 13.32 BST


Mission impossible ... Agent Vinod on sale in a video shop in Rawalpindi, Pakistan – the film has been banned from Pakistani cinemas. Photograph: Anjum Naveed/AP

An Indian film about a suave James Bond-style secret agent who thwarts a Pakistani secret services' bid to detonate a nuclear bomb in Delhi has been banned by censors in Islamabad.

Agent Vinod
Production year: 2012
Countries: India, Rest of the world
Cert (UK): 12A
Runtime: Hindi mins
Directors: Sriram Raghavan
Cast: Gulshan Grover, Kareena Kapoor, Prem Chopra, Ram Kapoor, Saif Ali Khan

The Pakistani Film Censors Board said the film, titled Agent Vinod, contained "anti-Pakistan material". Its producer and star Saif Ali Khan has defended the action thriller, which depicts a globetrotting Indian agent who battles rogue Pakistani spies and terrorists while dodging assassins.

"Our film shows that there are good Pakistanis and bad Pakistanis," he told AFP. "There are people who want to be friends with India and there are people who want to create trouble in India. We have shown both the sides."

Nevertheless Agent Vinod, which grossed $9.7m on its opening weekend in India, features a storyline in which the Pakistani ISI agency is seen colluding with the Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist group. In real life, Pakistani secret services have been criticised for apparently failing to spot that al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden was living in a compound in the garrison city of Abbottabad in the north of the country for several years. Lashkar-e-Taiba has been blamed for the 2008 Mumbai attacks which left 166 people dead in November 2008 and grounded peace talks between India and Pakistan for more than three years. The two countries have gone to war three times since independence from Britain in 1947 and came to the brink of nuclear conflict in 2002.

Indian films are popular in Pakistan, where the movie industry has suffered in recent years due in part to increasing Islamisation. Only 15 films were produced in 2011, while the number of cinemas has fallen from more than 1,000 in the late 1980s to just 230, according to Jalaluddin Hassan, secretary of the Pakistan Film Producers Association.

"What do you expect from Indian films?" Hassan said of Agent Vinod's banning. "There, leaders have been saying we do not need to wage a war on Pakistan. We will defeat them culturally."

Pakistani censors also banned the Indian Bin Laden-baiting comedy Tere bin Laden in 2010, apparently due to concerns that it would incite suicide attacks.

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