The pair have known each other so long and collaborated on so many projects, you could tell they knew each other’s stories and lives well.
The pair have known each other so long and collaborated on so many projects, you could tell they knew each other’s stories and lives well.
Starting tonight and continuing through June 3rd, the Museum of Modern Art here in aamchi NY is launching Revisiting The Quiet Man: Ireland on Film, a festival curated by Ireland’s cultural ambassador and fellow New Yorker Gabriel Byrne, with the intention of examining how Irish identity has been presented on film. (If you caught him on today’s Leonard Lopate show on WNYC, you will have heard him express the same sentiment oft-repeated by Mira Nair (who directed him in Vanity Fair): “If we don’t tell our own stories, no one else will“, though I think the star of HBO’s acclaimed In Treatment would add words to the effect of “…, or someone else will tell them badly.”)
The fourteen films from and about Ireland to be shown over the next two weeks have been selected by Byrne to further the discussion of themes such as the immigrant’s sense of home, politics, religion, the role of women and Irish identity, all which the actor and writer observed to be present in the opening film - which he will introduce tonight – The Quiet Man. Yes, that movie with John Wayne and that “fiery redhead” Maureen O’Hara shot in Ireland that you may have caught on one St. Patrick’s Day or another, as that’s usually when it’s aired in the U.S.
Right after, on Saturday and Sunday (May 21st & 22nd) there will be a screening of Dreaming the Quiet Man, a documentary exploring the legacy of the John Ford film.
It’s a great line-up, a mix of titles from the past 30 years or so that you may recognize – The Wind that Shakes the Barley, Into the West, In the Name of the Father, The Dead - and older and perhaps lesser known films from before then - The Informer, This Other Eden.
We’re so fortunate to have a chance to view and discuss them all for the next fortnight. (I’ve seen and own Into the West, The Dead and In the Name of the Father, but I would still happily watch them again on the big screen.)
Pete Hamill ventured out from his beloved downtown Manhattan earlier this week, crossing the Hudson, on to the wilds of New Jersey to read from his latest novel, Tabloid City, at Bookends in Ridgewood. (On the way there, somewhere around Secaucus I passed a wall that said “Osama/Obama – one down, one to go” which really took me aback.)
There was a smaller turnout than you would see when he reads in Manhattan, which was lovely for those of us in attendance, as it gave the hour or so he was there a much more intimate feeling, almost like a master class with a favorite instructor.
The book – with over a dozen characters – takes place in one twenty-four-hour period in Manhattan in 2009. Much of the story is centered around a newsroom at a moribund paper, which allows Pete Hamill to examine the lives of newspapermen past and present, and the history of the news business in NYC over the past 50 years or so. I’m only about 1/3 of the way through it, but so far it demonstrate’s the author’s familiar gift for succinctly and lovingly portraying so many details of this city and its people.
During the Q & A after he read, I asked him about his recent launch of a Twitter account - @petehamillnyc - and before I could finish the question he interrupted, saying “Let me explain about that!” He went on to say that his daughter had been after him for a while, urging him to get on Twitter. At first he resisted, “I can hardly say ‘hello’ in 140 characters!” he remarked. But he gave in, and now he writes the tweets, sends them to his daughter, and she posts them on his Twitter account for him.
So the email-writing campaign did not achieve its objective and NBC has cancelled Outsourced, which was sad news to wake up to on a Saturday morning.
I watched every episode of the season and am sorry to see it go. Ok, the writing may have been a bit uneven at times, but I chalked that up to the writers trying to write the show for the largest American audience they could hope to interest and entertain, while somewhere in the back of their minds attempting to not totally dumb-down (or water-down) Indian culture for the members of the South Asian community who would most certainly tune in to see how they’re being portrayed for middle Amrika.
While some critics (and others) piled on early and hard in expressing their dislike of the show, I ignored them. I watched and I stayed with it for a variety of reasons: first, because I was so pleased to see so many actors of South Asian origin (as well as five of the writers) employed and showcased in one sitcom on a major US network, and as part of a line-up on what has traditionally been a big TV night at NBC. It was thrilling to witness this historic and ground-breaking moment in time taking place, and I was really pulling for the show to succeed.
Moreover, I was curious to see which other South Asian actors would make guest appearances during the season (such as Samrat Chakrabarti as the arrogant head of the elite call center on the Holi episode or Ajay Mehta as Vimi’s haughty Dad).
Another reason I stayed with the show was because I was curious to see how they would explain Indian and American cultural practices while also managing to be funny, and I wondered if they’d ever accidentally step on any toes.
But finally, I tuned in every week because Outsourced grew on me. There was humor, but there was also heart as the characters’ lives and worries and foibles were revealed bit-by-bit. The story lines around sexual harassment in the workplace, going on an office retreat and competing on an Indian Idol type show were some of my favorites, as different cast members had their chances to shine. These scenes often included music, such as Madhuri (Anisha Nagarajan) singing her solo in the competition and revealing what an amazing voice she has, or Gupta (Parvesh Cheena) leading a dance number (or actually, as it would turn out, several dance numbers).
As a Hindi movie fan, I was delighted by how many times the show managed to insert excerpts of recent fillum songs (like when they played Dil Se’s legendary “Chaiyya Chaiyya” as Todd attempted to squeeze onto the train to get to the retreat? Perfect!) and hoped that this would send my fellow Americans to their computers to find out what those songs were and maybe get interested in the huge industry most likely known to them as Bollywood.
I must confess I did find myself at times pondering “Ok, I watch this show because of a deep interest in India, but what about people out there who have no connection to the country at all, what do they make of Outsourced and what are they liking that brings them back each week?”
As we now do the Saturday-morning-quarterbacking and speculate on what led to the demise of Outsourced, I have to wonder if it was due to fact that the writers had so many characters from the ensemble to develop and flesh out in such a short timeframe each episode. If this were a one-hour drama like ER, for example, you’d have had double the time to reveal each person’s back story and what makes them tick (heck, that took years on Lost!).
For Outsourced, the writers had 20+ minutes to do that AND make people laugh AND all the while include some brief explanation of some aspect of Indian or American culture, all of which couldn’t have been easy (in fact, this is the image that comes to mind when I think of them trying to do all that). I believe that is also why Outsourced took a little while to find its feet and reveal the heart at the center of it all. It’s a pity NBC couldn’t see fit to give them at least one more season before choosing to pull the plug.
To be fair, though, I do give NBC credit for having done what no other network has dared since the ill-fated ABC attempt with All American Girl (starring Margaret Cho) back in 1994. And I liked how they included extras on the Outsourced website, describing elements of Indian culture for the uninitiated. For example, they have this about wedding traditions, as well as quizzes about India and Indian baby names.
One complaint about the NBC Outsourced site: the merch! How can a show set in a country that has such a long and rich tradition of beautiful, diverse, color-laden design yield such bland t-shirts and the like? Hello, Tantra anyone? What a sqandered opportunity!
I will miss the characters and the actors from the Thursday night line-up on NBC: Gupta/Parvesh Cheena, Rajiv/Rizwan Manji, Madhuri/Anisha Nagarajan, Manmeet/Sacha Dhawan, Asha/Rebecca Hazlewood and yes, I suppose also their babe-in-the-desi-woods boss and foil, Todd/Ben Rappaport. In addition to seeing them on the show, it has been fun following them on Twitter. Congrats to all of them for their work this past season and I look forward to seeing them in other projects.
This Monday just gone by, Firstpost, a new web portal was launched in India by Network 18 (who you will know from CNN-IBN, CNBC, MTV India and much more).
As part of the Ideas section, the editors have asked a group of bloggers to join them and chime in a couple of times each month with a blogpost about various areas, and I’ve been invited to be part of that group and blog about Bollywood.
What you find below is the content of my first post which appeared on May 9th:
I joined Twitter about 18 months ago because I was going to be attending a film festival in New York and I thought it would be a handy way to post timely, brief blow-by-blow descriptions of what was going on around me, which actors were present, what they had to say during the Q&As, etc.
The other reason was because I noticed that ever-increasing members of the Indian film fraternity were also dipping their toes in this very immediate form of social media, and I was curious to see what they had to say.
While some prominent film personalities (Amitabh and Abhishek Bachchan, Rahul Khanna, Shahrukh Khan, for example) seemed to quickly grasp the potential of Twitter to bring their fans closer to them by sharing some parts of themselves and their lives publicly, there were also quite a few people who started Twitter accounts at the urging – I would guess – of their publicists. And these folks soon proceeded to use their Twitter streams as free channels where they could broadcast to the world nonstop ads for their latest pet project. And it is the latter group who miss the whole point: Twitter is supposed to be a conversation, a give-and-take between you and a whole bunch of people, not a uni-directional monologue.
For a while now, I’ve been itching to share some unsolicited advice in the form of suggested Dos and Don’ts for the famous filmi folk out there who are already on Twitter, or who are thinking of joining.
First, the positive reinforcement.
• Do the travelogue stuff, but keep it interesting. We realise you are busy and affluent and you travel a lot. But please, don’t just keep announcing which airport business lounge you’re currently cooling your heels in or what city you’ve just touched down in, add something about your relationship to that city that we most likely don’t know.
I saw Abhishek Bachchan tell a TV reporter a few weeks back that many years ago while on a school trip to Florence, Italy, he decided that he wanted to go into the family business. I don’t think he tweeted that when he was in that lovely Tuscan city recently for a shoe fitting at Ferragamo, but he should have.
• Do tweet photos, especially if they’re fun, casual shots of you and your friends or co-stars, say, at Sunday brunch or on some exotic location for a film shoot, especially if you’re in an imperfect state of dress or undress, with your hair still in curlers or your make-up not yet finished. It’s a little glimpse into your life that your followers will enjoy.
• Do be bold and take a stand. I absolutely love following Ram Gopal Varma because he comes out with some real “corkers” as my late mother would call them (that’s an Irish expression for “choice words or phrases”), and because he often gets into back-and-forths with other film people that I can best describe as “interesting”, when not downright juicy. This is exactly why people follow celebs on Twitter, they’re hoping for some glimpse of the “real” person behind the carefully curated glossy persona.
• Do share, whether it’s links to interesting articles or blog posts that you’ve just seen, or re-tweets of people you follow who’ve just said something that made you stop and think, or laugh, or that touched you. It’s always gratifying to see that a well-known actor or director has something else on his or her mind than just his or herself, and I’m always happy to learn something new while killing time standing in line at the supermarket, for example.
• Do avoid too many abbreviations or teen speak. Perhaps I’m a bit biased because I read and write a lot, but I know I’m not the only one who thinks it gets terribly grating to read tweets by people who do things like try to save space and use the letter “d” as a replacement for “the.” The effect when I read those tweets is that I no longer hear your voice in my head. Instead, I hear someone else, a stranger, speaking in a strange patois of sorts.
Here’s a revolutionary idea: If you have so much to say and 140 characters don’t suffice, write two tweets in a row so you can complete the thought! I haven’t gotten to the point of un-following Genelia D’Souza just yet, but I do find myself getting very close for this exact reason.
• Do reply to at least some people, some of the time. We know that if you’re Salman Khan or Priyanka Chopra and you have followers by the lakh, you can’t reply to each and every person, but if you can send a few strategic replies to a few fans or commenters, and those don’t just say “Thanks for all the love and support” but also include some interesting little tidbit. They’ll be appreciated not just by the person to whom you’re responding, but also by the other people reading you, because maybe they’ll have just learned something new.
And now for some gentle raps on the knuckles:
• Don’t re-tweet every compliment or mention of you by others. We already know you’re famous; you don’t have to also prove to us how popular you are. For your followers, it’s gets really boring, really fast. Mallika Sherawat, I think you’re gutsy and sexy and fun, and I loved you on Koffee with Karan, but I had to stop following you for that very reason.
• Don’t go all silent on us. If you sign on to this thing, you need to get in the habit of posting something at least once a day, so we know you’re alive. If you’re only going to post once every week, or worse, every couple of months, you might as well kick it old school and write a letter.
• Don’t suddenly get active because you have a film coming out. If you haven’t been tweeting in the weeks and months while you were shooting whatever soon-to-be-released flick you’re now so obviously promoting, don’t bother. We’re following you because we like you and have an interest in you, and ergo, want to know more about what you’re up to and what you’re thinking.
If your Twitter stream becomes just one more propaganda channel for your latest release, we’ll get turned off really fast. This is why I un-followed Hrithik Roshan. I love his work and his dancing, but he seemed to only tweet on the eve of Kites and Guzaarish opening.
• Don’t tweet the most mundane stuff in your life, unless there’s something really interesting about it this one time. “Ok, tweeple, off to bed now, good night!” doesn’t interest me in the least, even if it were to come from the enigmatic Nana Patekar. But if you tweet that line while you’re on location in the Amazon, camped out in a tent village with your cast and crew, and you follow it by “I hope I don’t find any more tarantulas in my slippers when I wake up”, that’s o.k. then.
Here are a few of my favourites on Twitter (and their Twitter handles) who I would recommend giving a dekko: Ram Gopal Varma (@RGVzoomin), Amitabh Bachchan (@SrBachchan), Abhishek Bachchan (@juniorbachchan), Rana Daggubati (@RanaDaggubati), Rahul Khanna (@R_Khanna), Anurag Kahsyap (@ankash1009), Rohan Sippy (@rohansippy)
And finally, should you so wish, you can find me on Twitter too: @filmiholic.
So the annual Indo-American Arts Council New York Indian Film Festival has started with a bang and some bling and the participation of filmi royalty.
Last night, Rishi Kapoor and his lovely wife Neetu Singh Kapoor walked the red carpet at the Paris theater for the opening film of this year’s festival Do Dooni Char. (This is Disney’s first live-action Hindi film.) Just get a load of Mrs. Kapoor’s beautiful emeralds… yowza!
After the screening, they were joined for a Q & A by the film’s director, Habib Faisal, the man who also wrote my fave, Jhoom Barabar Jhoom.
Today, the action has all moved to the Tribeca Cinemas. More later…