Thursday 18th July 2024
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It’s all about film!

And so, another exhausting week of film comes to an end. First up was a private screening at the swank Soho Hotel of Leena Yadav’s excellent Teen Patti, starring Amitabh Bachchan, Sir Ben Kingsley, Madhavan and a host of debutants. The film was dealt a bum hand by Indian reviewers upon release, a tad unfairly I thought. As I told Leena after the screening, her films are just too smart for these weekly pen pushers who are in most part film illiterate. Boasting of international quality camerawork by Leena’s spouse, the multiple-award winning Aseem Bajaj, the film is a taut thriller set in the world of high stakes gambling and the hallowed groves of academe. Great performances all round and a stunning debut by Shraddha Kapoor, Bollywood villain/comedian Shakti Kapoor’s daughter. However, what really got my aged heart racing was the sizzling Neeyat song featuring Brazilian bombshell Maria Gomez whose modesty was ill concealed shall we say?
Erm, where were we again? Right. Sorry about that. The ongoing Tongues on Fire Asian Film Festival’s centrepiece gala was revered Sri Lankan director Prasanna Vithanage’s latest film Akasa Kusuma (Flowers In The Sky). Featuring British Asian actress, Nimmi Harasagama and one of South Asia’s finest actresses, Malini Fonseka who was the Silver peacock awardee at the 39th International Film Festival of India (IFFI), it is a compelling film that captures the lives of 3 different women. Fortuitously for the London Asian Film Festival, it’s London premiere fell around International women’s day and the 2 leading actresses, dressed in saris enthralled a full house at London’s Appolo cinema in Piccadilly. Raj Kajendra, the British Asian producer of the acclaimed Tamil film Mann (which was shot in Sri Lanka) led the Q&A and his expertise in the field of cinema shone as the audiences came to him afterwards and showed appreciation. Many questions were asked and while Malini was shy to answer in English, Nimmi translated for her. The question about her work with the late Chevalier Sivaji Ganesan was put to her, by one member and she said it was indeed an honour and that she had memorised the Tamil lines for the film Pilot Premnath, which was shot in Sri Lanka in the late seventies.
The closing night gala Life Goes On at the Apollo cinema had two sold out screenings back to back. In between, I had the exceedingly pleasant task of chairing a press conference with the film’s director Sangeeta Datta, whose assured debut this was, and cast members including the legendary Sharmila Tagore who seamlessly blended a very successful Bollywood career with acting for the great Satyajit Ray, her daughter Soha Ali Khan Pataudi, acting with her mother for the first time and London’s own Rez Kempton. La Tagore was gracious and well spoken as always, as was her daughter who has studied and worked in London in the past. Post the second screening was a Q&A with the audience, which again I had the pleasure of conducting. The British cast and crew took to the stage amidst warm applause. The film was given the fest’s most popular film award and deservedly so.
I end this week by the most extraordinary use of music in possibly one of the worst films I’ve seen in a long, long time. Like all loser film critics, in order to take a break from watching films, I relax by; you guessed it, watching films. The film in question is the execrable rom-com The Accidental Husband by Griffin Dunne, starring Uma Thurman, Colin Firth, Ajay Naidu, Sarita Chowdhury and that guy from Watchmen who looks and talks like Robert Downey Jr but isn’t – Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Morgan lives in a room above a restaurant in NYC called Samosa Palace. There is an upanayana (thread ceremony) sequence in the film that bizarrely features bhangra dancers with dhols. Interestingly, the film has not one but THREE A.R. Rahman songs on the soundtrack, in TAMIL, from Alai Payuthey and Thenali. That certainly put a smile on my face. About the film itself, it took no less than three writers to pen – take a bow Mimi Hare, Clare Naylor and Bonnie Sikowitz – what an aggrieved viewer commented upon seeing the film: “My cat could have penned a better script.”
Words: Naman Ramachandran ©
Naman is an itinerant writer with no itinerary, whose spell-check spells words like ‘itinerary’ for him. He is also the author of Lights, Camera, Masala: Making movies in Mumbai, has a PhD in film and he also covers ‘India’, for Variety, ‘South Asia’ for Sight & Sound and ‘UK & Ireland film’, for Cineuropa.