Is it just me, or does anyone else see a similarity?
First, the Desi half of DesiLu Productions:
Then, Papa Deol:
Is it just me, or does anyone else see a similarity?
First, the Desi half of DesiLu Productions:
Then, Papa Deol:
He received praise all around for his role of the Ganguli patriarch in The Namesake, he took on a very lighthearted and comic role in Metro, and now Irrfan Khan is winning praise for his portrayal of the Captain in A Mighty Heart. Here’s the first part of a recent interview with him:
Did you actually meet the Captain before filming?
I was very eager to meet him. I was looking forward to it, but with the kind of relationship we have between our very friendly countries, India and Pakistan,and he’s in the Pakistani intelligence service, so for him to talk about things which nobody knows what happened… It didn’t happen.
But did you speak with him at least?
We were planning to meet but at the last minute I came to know that he was not coming to Paris so I couldn’t meet him. And for me, it’s a very foreign kind of thing to understand a guy who investigates like this at that time it was a newly formed kind of department, they never had an anti-terrorist squad, and from the book I could make out that they were not equipped at all, at all, so it was all his own personal interest and drive.
Has the Captain seen the movie? Was he pleased?
Yes, yes, he is.
Did you film in Pakistan also, or only in Pune? The unit filmed in Pakistan. I was supposed to go, but then there was a delay in visa so I couldn’t go.
I read somewhere that when Colin Powell had come to Pakistan then gone back to America, he called up Randall Bennett (the security officer at the US consulate in Karachi) and told him “Please see that the Captain takes some rest.” He was that involved in the case. In the 14-15 days he didn’t sleep for 10 hours. He didn’t have phones, they didn’t have anything, no office, nothing, they just asked some people to help them voluntarily. He trained them for three days how to tap the phones.
And you met Mariane?
I met Mariane after the film, when Cannes was through. I was supposed to meet Captain and Mariane but then, you know, it got cancelled.
What was the experience like, meeting with her?
It was more of a formal meeting, at a dinner, so it was not very personal. You always feel uneasy talking about these things, because she has lived it enough. She has lived it through both real life and the film, so I never felt very comfortable about talking.
Did she have anything to say about your part in the film?
No, I didn’t ask. I listened to her when we were doing the press conference in Cannes and I could make out that she was pleased with the outcome and she liked the film.
Did you read the book after you got the role?
Yeah, before that I knew the case, it was just a piece of news to me, that some journalist was killed. Then I read the book. It completely changed me. It was unbelievable. How can somebody turn around this kind of tragedy into something else which is more positive, more constructive.
In that period where she was going through so much immense tension and pressure and pain she had her journalistic instinct in tact, she had space for other people, you know even like, Asra gets pregnant.
After reading the book, there were so many things which were going in my head, except Captain, I just forgot to think about Captain. How to think about this tragedy just took me over, I started thinking about the parents, what they must have gone through, and somewhere I feel that we must know what really happened, because still we don’t know what really happened.
Yes, this is one of those tagging thingies.
Atanu, who, though he does not understand and detests my filmi leanings, is a friend nonetheless and the one who got me.
According to his own blog post, here are the rules of the tagged game :
1. Each player starts with 8 random facts/habits about themselves.
2. People who are tagged, write a blog post about their own 8 random things, and post these rules.
3. At the end of your post you need to tag 8 people and include their names. Don’t forget to leave them a comment and tell them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.
4. If you fail to do this within eight hours, you will not reach Third Series or attain your most precious goals for at least two more lifetimes. [Er, okay"¦.]
Almost as Atanu did, I would ask for a pardon from my 8 nominees in advance, but, when you’ve temporarily lost touch with friends due to the vagueries of fate in your own life, this could be an interesting way to learn a few new things about those I haven’t contacted in a while”¦..:
8 random things about me:
1. I taught myself Spanish the summer of my 14th year.
2. I once was on the same flight as Caroline and John Kennedy Jr. He came back into our cabin to watch a scifi film because they were showing a romantic movie up in First Class. Though I was only a kid at the time, I do regret not having seized on the opportunity to make a move. Lord knows he’d never have gotten me on that little plane up to the Cape”¦
3. I usually think about death (my own) a week or two before I have to fly, and I used to notice that while I’d be away on a holiday, often three different air crashes would happen (e.g. TWA 800, the Concorde at Paris), though I haven’t observed that recently.
4. I turn the TV on the minute I enter a hotel room and surf through all the channels quickly before I do anything else.
5. I once followed Peter O’Toole when he appeared out of a lane in Dublin, hoping to get closer look, and in spite of his height and visibility, he vanished.
6. One summer, I took a month off work for a cross-country road trip with a friend. We drove west as far as Seattle and back east through Canada. While initially thrilled at how cheap the food was at a Perkins (think Dennys) in who-knows-where, Ohio our first night, by the time we reached Washington, after weeks of bland food, we almost wept with joy at the sight of sushi.
7. I should have been in Kabul this week for work.
8. On the road back from Kanchipuram one afternoon, in the oncoming lane of traffic, a goat ran out and got hit by a truck, right before my eyes. I promptly burst into tears, leaving R, the driver, rather concerned.
And now, I tag
Q: How was it being with Mariane?
Very emotional. I mean in Cannes there was a standing ovation and the audience was so moved, and of course the critics in Cannes are the hardest to please, and everybody got up and everybody clapped. Angie and Brad were there, you know, the hottest couple and the entire room was just looking towards Mariane, trying to say ‘thank you’ and you’ve really touched us with your story and you’ve been an inspiration to all of us. I was holding the tears back, but she stood there, typical Mariane style, very graceful and just accepting and thanking which I thought was remarkable.
Q: How was it working with Angelina Jolie?
Great fun. We just clicked as soon as we met. I say it’s probably because we’re both Geminis, I tend to get on extremely well with Geminis, it’s like you find your twin. And we tapped into each other’s energies really well. Because it was the two of us and six men and not just in this industry I think women there’s always some sort of tension, more than likely the women don’t get on and the men do, but I think everybody was really surprised that we got on really well, so it was us against them and I think they were scared of us. (Laughing)
She’s a really lovely woman to work with and I think she’s a really good role model for me.
Q: From your role in Bend It Like Beckham to Asra Nomani, that’s quite a trajectory.
One of the things I love about my career is, if you choose your projects carefully, you can go from one character, and I think every actor has the ability to do it, and you can just completely transform yourself. Like with Angelina with the makeup and the hair, that’s the most unimportant thing, but it does make you feel a different way, and the accent and the background of the character. As soon as I get a project and I know I’m part of it, you sleep, eat, breathe that person. Everything about that person, like what sort of coffee would she drink? You just form this completely different character and it’s one of the most exciting things about being an actress.
With Bend It, I grew up with a lot of girls from Southall. I don’t know if you’ve been to England but there really are girls like that in England who walk around like they really think that they are it and they know it, and for me it was wearing the tight jeans and the backless top and the accent, I met a group of girls at Southall and the accent was just fantastic. You always pick up a little word and with Pinky I think it was “Laters” and that will help you get into character. When you realize that you’re getting paid to take somebody’s life and then throw it on screen in front of the whole world, it’s a great feeling, especially if it does well, with something like Bend It which was hugely successful.
Q: Was the wedding scene with all the dancing as much fun as it looked onscreen?
I trained as a dancer. I can’t sing to save my life, and in the script it was just like “Pinky and Dittu just dancing around and chatting and listening to the music”, but I said “No, let’s go for it!” and they put the music on and Kulwinder and I, we had worked together before, and we just went into this whole bhangra thing. But it’s that thing with an Indian wedding, isn’t it, even if you would never dance, but everybody gets up. And that’s what happened that day, everybody started to get into it. I think that’s what came across on the film.
Archie Panjabi was in New York in anticipation of the release of A Mighty Heart, in which she plays Wall Street Journal-ist Asra Q. Nomani, who was both a friend and colleague to Daniel Pearl and who played a major role as a member of the team involved following the kidnapping in Karachi. Here is the first part of an interview with her:
Q: Did you go to Pakistan for the shooting?
A: No I didn’t. Most of our stuff was done in India.
Q: What was your experience making the film? What did you think of Michael Winterbottom as a director and how did it help you as an actor?
A: I knew Michael as I’d worked with him before. But that wasn’t such a big film. I love Michael; I think Michael is one of the best directors in the world. He’s really good because he really trusts his actors. When he casts his actors he puts a lot of hope into them and that makes you immediately feel so grateful, you want to give him so much back.
Normally when you’re sent a script you go home and you learn your lines and you come on stage and you recite them, but what’s really good with Michael is he says “Ok go live with that character then come on set and then incorporate that character’s perspective through improvisation on set, so in a way it’s like documentary, you just want so much of that character to turn up on set, you can do whatever you want in that scene, you have an idea what has happened in that scene but the way in which you go into these is entirely left up to you. As an actor that’s incredibly challenging, as opposed to just reciting lines robotically.
You don’t have to hit any marks on the floor, your lighting’s very natural and if you feel a certain emotion, or angry and you just want to let it out, you can, nobody’s gonna shout “cut! That’s not in the scene.” Filming can be quite scientific. It’s all about time and money and every scene is boiled down to we’re gonna spend two hours on this scene, we’re gonna do it from this angle, or that angle, it’s always written down and specified, but with Michael it’s never like that. You don’t have to worry about anything, you just have to totally immerse yourself in this role and just see where it takes you, and that’s very exciting for an actor. It’s very rewarding.
Q: So you actually got a chance to meet the character that you played?
A: Yes, I did. That was quite an incredible experience. The airline lost my baggage on the way out, which is not unusual these days, so I didn’t have any clothes and I met Asra Nomani and I had to literally step into her shoes and her clothes. It was very surreal. Just arriving and suddenly wearing her clothes and her shoes.
Q: Did they fit?
A: They did! I ended up there for a week so I really got to know her. Asra’s one of these people where there’s no halfway. If you’re coming there to meet her she will stop her entire life and give you a whole insight into everything about her, so for me it was really incredible to have someone who was willing to give up their life for a week and tell some very private and personal stories. It was quite emotional listening to all of those.
Q: In the movie, why did they omit the fact that she discovers she’s pregnant when all of this is happening?
A: I don’t know. Even when I saw it I was a little surprised, but one of the things you become immune to as an actress is that at times, really personal stuff that you’ve had to involve that you feel should be in there just ends up on the cutting room floor. I don’t think it was anything intentional. Every actor that was in it was surprised when they saw the first version and said “Oh my God! That’s gone, that’s gone, that’s gone!” And then you just say “Well, it’s a film. Til today I don’t know why they left it out; I haven’t asked why. But I think it was an important story, that’s why I bring it up in every interview. What happened to Asra Nomani had such a huge impact on her life and today that child doesn’t have a father because of the events.
Q: Have you heard any talk about making a movie about Asra’s life? Because I think though she’s still a young woman, she’s done so much already. Would you be interested in picking up the role again?
A: I’m a great believer when you’re on something pretty big ”¦ My mother always says “When you’re enjoying yourself at a party, as soon as it’s great, leave.” And I think it’s the same with this. I think there’d be so much attention and focus on the girl, that if Asra did come up and do something, so soon, it wouldn’t work because it’d be compared and she’d probably be accused of trying to steal the limelight. But I think in time, by when she’d have done so much more in her life, definitely. I mean, now her life is like a film for what she stands for.
Q: And you visited with her here in the US?
A: Yes. I went to Washington and I was supposed to fly out to Pittsburg but because of my baggage she came to see me. I mean, that’s typical Asra: “No, no, I’m coming down, I’m coming right now.” We met in Washington and she took me to see her and Daniel Pearl’s Journal colleagues. She did sweet things like even take me to where they played volleyball, to touch the sand and it sounds silly but it was really emotional. And she had one of Daniel Pearl’s cards that she gave to me, to touch it. I really felt that I had some connection, in some way.
Q: And then you read the book for the first time?
Actually I read the script first. Reading the book gave me a whole visualization. It’s a very moving story. I think it’s a very important story to be told.
O.k., let’s just tackle the most obvious thing head on: this is Angelina Jolie’s vehicle.
If you happen to be touched - willingly or unwillingly – by the sea of pop culture and celebrity omnipresence around us nowadays, you can’t help but know who she is, and how famous she is, whether you were splashed with the earlier Gia images, or those of the Billy Bob years, or the more recent I-am-not-a-homewrecker-does-that-kid-have-any-parents period, there she is, lithe-bodied, big-eyed, full-lipped, larger-than-life.
You’re right, I haven’t mentioned her acting. Because I think any roles after Girl, Interrupted have been obliterated by her celebrity persona.
And that’s the main difficulty of A Mighty Heart (whose book rights her current squeeze bought when with his former wife, and who was rumored to have been destined for the lead role, which would have been a huge error too). If she had done this role back around the time of Gia or Girl, Interrupted, she might have been less distracting.
The first time she appears onscreen, all you can think is “That’s Angie in a curly wig and creepy brown contacts!” And it’s hard to silence that thought for the remaining 1 hour and 39 minutes.
Like the book it is based on, A Mighty Heart opens on January 23, 2002, the day that Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl (Dan Futterman of The Birdcage fame) disappears. It follows him and his very pregnant wife (and fellow journalist) Mariane (Jolie), as both go through their day. They are due to meet back at the home of their hostess, another WSJ reporter, Asra Q. Nomani (Archie Panjabi) for a dinner party she’s holding that night.
Danny never returns, a hunt ensues, the ending is gruesome and tragic (Danny’s captors behead him on film and post it on the Internet), but as the book (and Mariane’s public demeanor) reveal, the ending is not the point of the story. What Danny’s wife wanted their son, Adam, and anyone else to know, is that the father was so much more than a very sad marker in the post-9/11 world, and he was frantically sought after he vanished by an unlikely kabal of Pakistani police, American embassy and FBI staff, his Cuban-Dutch wife and his Indian colleague.
As difficult as it is for a filmmaker to portray a historic event whose conclusion is known to all, Michael Winterbottom manages through the pacing and documentary-like shooting to maintain the suspense and tension sufficiently so that you almost forget that you know the outcome.
Mariane, Asra, the Captain (Pakistani police anti-terrorism unit) and Randall Bennett (US embassy) quickly assemble and tighten into a focused and devoted team, extracting data, drawing web-like links on a whiteboard, and arriving at the cold metal realization that Danny was tricked into a trap as he pursued information about goofy shoebomber Richard Reid.
I was absorbed by every development of the Daniel Pearl kidnapping in 2002, and read A Mighty Heart as soon as it was released. It seems an almost all-too-perfect love story. Mariane writes early on in a flashback about her life with Danny, from how they met, to his intense passion applied to all that he did, to his massive leather Barcalounger that he shipped from one overseas posting to another, to the marriage contract that they wrote and recited before their witnesses when they tied the knot.
By the time you complete that section of the book, you may find yourself glancing at your spouse or partner and comparing him or her to Danny, and that’s not adviseable, as Mr. Pearl sets the bar pretty high. Based on Mariane’s telling, it seems safe to conclude that in the years they were together, Daniel was not trolling online dating sites or sharing stolen kisses with WSJ girls in darkened bars after work.
But this is where the movie falters. It’s not bad enough that the story is subsumed by the oversized persona of La Jolie, we also get shortchanged when it comes to Danny’s story, and we never fall in love with him, the way we do when reading the book, and that’s a pity, because I think it’s an important piece of why Mariane searched so frantically for him, and why it was particularly tragic that such a good person was cut down in his 30s, when he could have done so much more, not least of all as a father to Adam.
In addition, as sweet as Dan Futterman is, I think Noah Wyle, the former ER star, would have been great in this role. He’s pleasant-looking, bears a close resemblance to Daniel Pearl, and I think he would have had more presence in the scenes with Jolie than Futterman did. In Mariane’s book, you get a sense that they were equals in their relationship. In the movie, they seem more like those couples where one personality is larger and overshadows the other.
Fair play to Jolie, I do think she did a good job on the accent, her French pronunciation too, and the one scene, far, far into the movie where I did actually forget it was her is that where the Captain, Randall and the other men come home and tell Mariane about the video and how it contains undisputable proof that Danny is dead. She rushes to their bedroom, shuts the door and lets out a prolonged howl that is so anguished and so chilling that I felt the hairs on my arms stand up. Here, she hits the mark (though I think it could have been edited to a few seconds less) and does have an award-worthy moment.
The Captain’s character gets shorter shrift than in the book, which is also a shame, because he was a major part of the story, and he’s less so onscreen. This is not to say that Irrfan Khan does not do wonders with the role anyway, but I think Winterbottom could have made the film a few minutes longer to allow us to see more of the humanity of the Captain (who was actually quite distraught when he comes home and says to Mariane: “I’m sorry I could not bring your Danny to you.”) and more flashbacks of Danny and Mariane in their life before the ill-fated stopover in Karachi.
[Stay tuned for interviews with Archie Panjabi and Irrfan Khan.]
The movie opens in the US and Canada on June 22nd, and in India on September 14.
UPDATE, June 24: Asra Nomani voices her displeasure at the absence of Danny Pearl in the film, here.
See it or skip it?
If you’ve not read the book, see it. The story is compelling and touching, in spite of all the reservations I’ve mentioned above. Also, both Irrfan Khan and Archie Panjabi are solid.
If you’ve read the book, you may want to pass on it, as I think you’ll be disappointed.