Home Products: the filmi connection

home%20products%20cover Home Products: the filmi connection

Having temporarily rebelled against the required reading for certain pieces  to come, I’ve been devouring Amitava Kumar’s  2007 novel Home Products.      The protagonist is a writer from Bihar (hey, wait a minute…) who comes to Bombay and works as a film journalist, and then gets involved in writing a screenplay.   As if it were not already a great read (with unexpected humor and much expected beautiful turns of phrase), Home Products  is also bursting with filmi references and commentary:

Ajay was less interested in telling you whether Hindi films are good or bad; instead he tried hard to make his readers aware of the enormous importance these films had in their lives.   In one piece, he had challenged his readers to deny that every one of them had a favorite Hindi film song.   By way of example, he had offered that many Indian men, in the late seventies and eighties, looking for the first time at their bride’s face on their wedding night, recalled the scene from Kabhi Kabhie when Amitabh lifts the veil and looks at Rakhee.   Kabhi kabhie mere dil mein khayal aata hai

More than once, Ajay had said that no one in India has as much influence as the Indian film hero: he runs the barber’s shop simply by smiling from a photograph on the wall, he tells a woman what a man wants by looking into her eyes from the screen, he teaches a man how to cry when his mother dies, he gets voted into office and runs the country from his seat in the parliament, and, as was clear during the textile strike, even Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on a visit to Bombay cared enough for the filmstar lying in a hospital bed at Breach Candy but not for the thousands of workers and their families starving because of lost wages and lost jobs.

Rajnesh Domalpalli, Friday evening in NYC

 Rajnesh Domalpalli, Friday evening in NYC  

To mark the release of the DVD of his film Vanaja, director Rajnesh Domalpalli will be appearing at an event Friday evening, May 30, at the Borders in the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle.

Domalpalli will discuss four scenes from the film (of his choosing), and audience members will ask about another four (of their choosing).

The event starts at 7pm.

Big delays?

Reliance%20logo Big delays?  

No, friends, not a reference to the hunk in that movie opening on May 30th….

But rather, I’m  wondering what’s the hold-up with the East coast cinemas of the Big chain that Reliance Capital has bought, for the purpose  of  screening Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and other films in areas with large South Asian populations.

They’ve already done a soft launch in California, and were due to start their openings in the New York / New Jersey area by now, but it’s gone eerily silent and nary a  word from the folks at Reliance as to why.

I guess maybe the paint’s still drying in some places

Update: Just heard today (May 28) that the Columbia Park 12 in North Bergen will start showing “one or two” Indian films in about six weeks’ time.   This is indeed an interesting development, given that this was the location of the departed Cineplaza, which shut down last summer.

Vanaja: What’s New on the DVD

Vanaja%20DVD Vanaja: Whats New on the DVD  

For anyone who doesn’t live in a city where Vanaja was released last year, or who just happened to miss it, the great news is that Emerging Pictures has just released the DVD, with some terrific  additional features.

First, there are four short films (each around 10 minutes in length) that the director, Rajnesh Domalpalli, shot in the summers of 2002 and 2003:   The Fisherman’s Daughter, Firecrackers, Poison in the Well, and Just for Him.   People who have already seen Vanaja will recognize some of the actors, and you can see the director’s first steps towards what his later work would become.

In addition, there are two short introductory pieces, again, each not more than 9 or 10 minutes.   The first is of Domalpalli introducing Vanaja, and, after discussing the making of the film, and how he discovered his lead actor, Mamata Bhukya, he proceeds to discuss and lament the passing of many cultural art forms in Andhra Pradesh.

 Vanaja: Whats New on the DVD

In the second piece, an off-camera voice interviews Mamata Bhukya in January 2008.  

If anyone read my comments on the film when I saw it last year, it was plain for all to see that I was smitten with this amazing, talented young woman, who went from being a schoolgirl in 8th Standard to actress and dancer, in one year.    

Part of what is so interesting in the interview with Mamata is to see glimpses of her family life, some early clips of her acting – when she still had the short, boyish haircut that almost cost her her big break –  and to consider her now, some five years since the whole life-changing adventure began, and see how she’s shapeshifted from a child into an adolescent, who’s now on the brink of adulthood.

Here’s part of an interview I did with Mamata Bhukya last year.

Stay tuned for an interview with Rajnesh Domalpalli next.

Some music for your book, Madame?

Does anyone else do this too?   You’re on the train or bus to work and you’re reading a book, and then you start scrolling through the albums and playlists on your MP3 player, sommelier-like, trying to find the perfect musical accompaniment?

Playing%20cover%2c%202 Some music for your book, Madame?

For Melanie Abrams’ sometimes very steamy Playing, I chose an amorous  playlist of  that included Bob Marley, Mary J Blige, Janet Jackson, Kailash Kher, and so on.

age%20of%20shiva%20cover%202 Some music for your book, Madame?

Then, while moving through Manil Suri’s The Age of Shiva – a lot of which takes place in film-drenched Bombay through the 1950s, ’60s and onward –  it was some five  CDs’ worth of historical movie music from a collection called 50 Golden Years, with oldies sung by the likes of Sonu Nigam and Anuradha Paudwal.

love%20marriage%202 Some music for your book, Madame?

The last book read, V.V. Ganeshananthan’s Love Marriage was a bit more challenging.  

Aside from MIA, no other Sri Lankan Tamil artists came to mind, as my knowledge of Sri Lankan music is sorely lacking.   The next best solution I could come up with was the soundtrack to Mani Ratnam’s Kannathil Muthamital (the tale of an adopted girl and her search for her birth mother in northern SL), and after that I just wandered off to A.R. Rahman’s Golden Collection 1, and then finally the soundtrack to the Surya/Jyothika starrer Peralagan.  

True,  the connection between the music and the literary subject matter is tenuous,  but in does  help to create an aural environment.  

Before the Rains: opening today

poster%202 Before the Rains: opening today

Master cinematographer Santosh Sivan has again put on his director’s hat for Before the Rains, opening today in NY and LA.

(Not to be confused with the gorgeous 1994 Macedonian film Before the Rain by Milcho Manchevski.)

Before%20the%20Rain%202 Before the Rains: opening today

Here  in Manhattan, we’ve  seen a lot of the director and his cast in the past week or so.

First, there was a press day and reception at the Indian consulate.   Yesterday, Jennifer Ehle

jennifer%20ehle%202 Before the Rains: opening today

was a guest on Leonard Lopate’s show on WNYC to talk about her role in the film, and in the evening, film critic Jeffrey Lyons hosted a screening of the film with Q&A afterward with Santosh Sivan and producer Paul Hardart.

Reel Talk will soon have an interview up on their site with one of the film’s lead actors and now local boy (while he’s starring in Law and Order), Linus Roche.

Will post my thoughts on the film soon.

Meanwhile, Mr. Sivan has departed NY today to attend the Silk Screen festival in Pittsburgh, where Before the Rains will be featured.