Highway, a review.


Alia and Randeep in Highway

Alia and Randeep in Highway

If I had listened to initial reviews I would have made a U-turn on Highway and x-ed out the best Indian film I have seen for a long time!  Anyone I talked to had apparently a problem with the anticipated May-December love between Alia Bhatt and Randeep Hooda. I am not so keen on those stark seasonal discrepancies either, but once you watch the movie you will understand that this isn’t your gardenvariety romance.

Soon-to-be-wed Veera (brilliantly acted by Alia Bhatt, who’s instantly moved to the top of my favorite new female actors list), born into wealth and status, is nursing deep wounds from a past she is trying to suppress. She pledges with her fiancee to elope and settle for a simple life style, where she imagines herself being a wife who lives very modestly amidst nature, cooking with devotion a simple meal for her husband.

Beware what you wish for! How so often in life, our dreams sometimes get fulfilled with an unexpected twist. Being, she gets the chance to live that way for a short period of time and under circumstances neither desired or imagined. She is being kidnapped right off the spot, being at the wrong time in the wrong place. A gas station in the suburbs of Delhi is just getting robbed, she becomes the hostage. This wasn’t planned, neither by her or by her kidnapper Mahabir (Randeep Hooda), who finds himself in the situation of needing to escape fast.. Randeep gives a powerful performance as the illiterate and simple bandit, victimized himself by an abusive father. Little we learn about his circumstances, but enough to understand his plight in a life of hardship and violence.

So, everybody who has seen the movie is trying to rationalize the strange bond of these two main characters, who are thrown at each other randomly, and call it Stockholm syndrome. Veera, the captive and the criminal Mahabir, who didn’t realize that he had abducted a high profile family girl and now runs for his life, with her in tow. Luckily for us, the journey takes us through the magnificent landscapes and villages of Rajasthan, Punjab, Kashmir. We travel with them on one of the colorful, poetically run-down  trucks you can ONLY find in India. I myself don’t want the journey to end, immersed in those awe inspiring landscapes, rugged snow-covered mountains.

After a first failed attempt to escape her kidnappers, Veera resigns herself. She realizes that her captors are at the end just some poor wretched souls. except for one, who leaves very fast after waiting for an opportune moment to rape Veera but gets caught by Mahadir in the nick of time.

She experiences a sense of safety in Mahadir’s presence. charming your captor is a common survival technique. Maybe that’s what she is trying to do in the beginning. She teases, and laughs, and bounces around, uninhibited. Mahadir is unable to read this complex human being. It’s beyond him that she ceases to be afraid. He is a one dimensional thinker. Everything is either black or white in his world, until Veera starts disassembling him, piece by piece. Layer by layer. As she starts revealing to him what man has done to her, and not just man, but family. Not just incest but cover-up, abandonment, Mahadir starts realizing that pain and suffering isn’t class-bound. It’s a difficult concept for him to understand maybe. For him life is a struggle between the rich and the poor. He resents wealth on existential grounds. Initially she is just a problem he needs to solve fast. As she is opening up to him he gradually becomes her protector.

She comes to realize that the dangers and demons lived in her midst, and those perceived outside her world, were actually kinder and protective of her than her own family ever was.

As for the so called romance in this movie, her kidnapper Mahadir could have been hundred years old and have a wooden leg! Mahadir was the first person Veera ever confided to (besides her mother, who in her learned helplessness was unable to perform her motherly duty in protecting her child, for whatever reasons). And that should be a movie in itself!  Mahadir never crosses the line of decency and it redeems him, not that it erases his own past, but he discovers his humanity through Veera.

This movie is all about healing, how to survive and move past violence and insults and biases. It touches you deep in your soul. The ending is the only appropriate ending one can think of. So the movie leaves you with a soft smile and tears in your eyes.

I cannot say enough about the heartfelt performances  of both Alia Bhatt, as well as Randeep Hooda. I always liked him a lot, but I never realized what kind of an acting caliber he possesses, after seeing him in more commercial films that made him only look cool and sexy in a rugged way.

Imitiaz Ali, what can I say, he has done it again! Rockstar, Jab We Met, Socha Na Tha, Ahista Ahista..These are some of my alltime favorite Indian movies. He is a genius! :-)

Last not least, a word about the supporting cast. Often in Indian films, supporting cast members are not given much attention and hate to say it, but often they tend to be really bad. There was a nice balance in this movie. No one ruined it. :-) Kudos to Durgesh Kumar, Pradeep Nagar, and Saharsh Kumar Shukla.

Music. Not too much, not too little. A.R. Rahman. How can you go wrong? I loved the soundtrack and will definitely buy it.

This movie is a rare gem. It is deep as it is beautiful. The images and emotions it evokes are haunting. It resonates just on every level. The characters linger with you for a long long time.

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Shekhar Kapur’s “Paani”


Shekhar Kapur

Paani means Water, which many of us take for granted, our most precious resource worth more than gold and diamonds together, takes center-stage in the utopian tale of “Paani”, Shekhar Kapur’s new cinematic (ad)venture. We heard about it way back in 2010. Rumors had it that Hrithik Roshan was playing the lead role. But we hear now it has been assigned to Sushant Singh Rajput, tant bien.

Wars have been and are being fought over water since centuries. Ever since we started dividing fertile lands. Cities are built around bodies of water. Colonizing any part of the world had to do with retaining and maximizing water resources. Our bodies are made of mainly water. Without water there wouldn’t be any human history, period.

Why are we so wasteful and careless with this greatest of all resources? Polluting industries, household chemicals,  farming practices are all culprits; the toxic chemicals, we pollute our earth with,  sooner or later will backfire, either through natural progression and their cumulative effects or acts of terrorism and war that are going to target water supplies directly or indirectly. It looks like we are doomed.Deep inside us lives that fear, even though we carry on in blissful denial.

Of all our bills, our water bill is the most modest monthly deduction. I consider myself very lucky having unlimited access. Do you?  You probably will, too, after watching Shekhar Kapur’s upcoming movie, which takes place in the future in a world doomed by water shortages. A war is triggered – in good archaic style, by two young lovers.

I hope with this movie, ShekharKapur is going to rattle our consciousness as he did 1994 with Bandit Queen, a movie etched into the memory of anyone who has seen it. Paani is going to be a movie opening on a grand scheme for sure, set to be released in IMAX theaters across the country, promising us to feel its heartbeat like we haven’t experienced it before in Indian film.

Please, Mr. Shekhar, don’t relegate the water issue into a background score, though. I am already glad, in a way,  to hear Hrithik Roshan is not going to be the main lead, cuz this would turn Paani into just another Hrithik-movie and its message would probably get ‘lost in romance’, or action or both. By signing a younger, less famous actor the focus will hopefully be the story itself, its focus on What IF….

 

 

Read up on Shekhar Kapur’s extraordinary filmography:

Shekhar Kapur bio and filmography

 

New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) inducts Mira Nair into its Hall of Fame


image found at asiasociety.org

A well deserved honor for the accomplished Orissa-born filmmaker.  Mira Nair was my introduction into Indian films in 1991, watching Mississippi Masala with a young Denzel Washington and Sarita Choudhury. I still love this movie. And I love Mira Nair, whose voice is bold, unapologetic and poetic at the same time. The Namesake is perhaps my favorite. I must have watched it 100 times over.  Mira Nair work covers two continents, the merging of cultures, ancient and new.  She weaves together the different tapestries, but her heart beats to the tabla and sings to the sitar.

Congrats, Mira Nair!!

 

 

 

 

NEW YORK FOUNDATION FOR THE ARTS INDUCTS
MICHAEL FINDLAY, ELLIOT GOLDENTHAL, MIRA NAIR AND FRED WILSON
INTO THE NYFA HALL OF FAME

NYFA Hall of Fame Benefit
The New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) is proud to announce that author and co-director of the Acquavella Gallery Michael Findlay, composer Elliot Goldenthal, filmmaker Mira Nair and visual artist Fred Wilson will be inducted into the NYFA Hall of Fame on Tuesday, April 23rd at Espace (635 West 42nd Street). The evening begins at 6:30 with a cocktail reception featuring interactive art by past and current NYFA grantees, followed by dinner and remarks from all the honorees. Tickets start at $500 and tables at $5,000; tickets for the Young Patrons After party, which begins at 9:30, are $250. Tickets and tables at all levels can be purchased at www.nyfa.org.

The NYFA Hall of Fame was created to both honor the work of artists to whom NYFA provided critical support early in their careers and recognize philanthropists and patrons of the arts who have had an impact of the City’s cultural community. Past honorees include: Elizabeth Diller and Ricardo Scofidio; Todd Haynes; Christian Marclay; Kathleen O’Grady; Suzan-Lori Parks; Wendy Perron; Ben Rodriguez-Cubenas, and Andres Serrano. Bios of 2013 inductees:

Michael Findlay (Patron of the Arts) is the Co-Director of Acquavella Galleries, which specializes in Impressionist and Modern European works of art and post-war American painting and sculpture. In 1973 Findlay helped organize an art auction at Sotheby Parke-Bernet to benefit survivors of the Nicaraguan earthquake and since then has been involved in many such fund-raising activities. As Vice President of the Art Dealers Association of America, Findlay assisted in the recent appeal that raised over a million dollars to benefit non-profit and commercial galleries devastated by Hurricane Sandy. His book The Value of Art was published by Prestel Publishing in 2012. Mr. Findlay will be introduced by visual artist Billy Sullivan.

Elliot Goldenthal (NYFA Fellow in Music Composition, 1989) creates works for orchestra, theater, opera, ballet and film. Most recently he scored Julie Taymor’s film version of The Tempest. In 2003, he was honored with the Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award for the score to Taymor’s film Frida. In 2006, Goldenthal’s original two-act opera Grendel, directed by Taymor, premiered at the Los Angeles Opera and was a finalist for the 2006 Pulitzer Prize in music. He was commissioned by the American Ballet Theatre to compose a three-act ballet of Othello, which debuted at the Metropolitan Opera in May 1997. Additionally, Goldenthal has been nominated for three Oscars, two Golden Globe Awards, three Grammy Awards and two Tony Awards. Mr. Goldenthal will be introduced by soprano Jessye Norman.

Mira Nair (NYFA Fellow in Film, 1988) is the writer, director, and producer. At the University of Delhi she started out in the theater department acting, but turned to photography and eventually to documentary filmmaking at Harvard.

Read more >>
Mira Nair’s filmography
2013 Words with Gods (segment “God Room”) (post-production)

2009 Amelia

2009 New York, I Love You (segment “Mira Nair)

2008 8 (segment “How can it be?”)

2008/I Migration (short)

2002 September 11 (segment “India”)

2002 Hysterical Blindness (TV movie)

2001 The Laughing Club of India (TV documentary short)

1998 My Own Country (TV movie)

1987 Children of a Desired Sex (TV documentary)

1985 India Cabaret (TV documentary)

1983 So Far from India (documentary)

1979 Jama Masjid Street Journal (documentary)