Monday, February 16, 2009

Nadaan: Naach Aye Dil

This is the incomparable Helen. In addition to dancing in over 500 movies, she was also the subject of a Merchant-Ivory documentary Helen, Queen of the Nautch Girls. This one is for the pink chaddi girls.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The "Amar-Akbar-Anthony* of Indian Music

Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, a Hindu, a Muslim and a Christian, are behind some of the best soundtracks in Hindi cinema*. They did this, and this, and also this song from the Hindi version of High School Musical. They also did this, this, and they wrote this anthem for India.

And more.

Amar Akbar Anthony.

* Hindi cinema is what is known as Bollywood. People who work in it prefer the term Hindi cinema, but when I call in that when talking with Gora (white) people in the west, they're puzzled until I explain, 'Bollywood." Ah.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Luck By Chance: Baware

This looks much better on the big screen, but this will give you a taste of Hrithik Roshan's big song in Luck By Chance, a gentle satire on the Hindi film industry (more popularly known as Bollywood). Lots of cameos in this.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Luck By Chance

Luck by Chance, Zoya Akhtar's directorial debut, has opened in the US (at the same time as in India) and the reviews from mainstream American critics are great. The movie stars Akhtar's brother (also a director) Farhan Akhtar, Konkona Sensharma, Rishi Kapoor, Sanjay Kapoor and has a host of Hindi film stars appearing in smaller parts, including Dimple Kapadia, Juhi Chawla and Hrithik Roshan.

Zoya and Farhan Akhtar are the children of Javed Akhtar, a renowned poet and lyricist, and Honey Irani, a renowned screenwriter, and the stepchildren of Hindi film great Shabana Azmi.

Baby Halder: A Life Less Ordinary

I stumbled upon this book two years ago at the Jaipur festival. It's the autobiography of Baby Halder, a poor women who became a literary sensation.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Taare Zameen Par: Trailer 2

I underestimated Aamir Khan. I knew he was a talented actor (India's Johnny Depp verging on India's Brando, to put it in E!nglish terms). But when I heard he was directing a movie, I thought, "Another actor who thinks he can direct. Ha." But his movie, Taare Zameen Par, made a fool of me. It's fresh, innovative and intelligent.

Kailash Kher: Dilruba

Kailash Kher. Evocative song, video sucks. Best enjoyed with your eyes closed.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Some of India's Real Slumdwellers

Slumdog Millionaire gets the DGA award. For a movie about the tenacity of hope, it's poetic justice. So what if Boyle and Beaufoy are British. Art knows no borders, right? Anyway, Boyle's family is Irish I think, so he gets a pass on the whole empire thing.

SM seems to be accomplishing what all great art should, inducing us to look at ourselves and those around us in a fresh way. Hope is palpable in rising India. Vikas Swarup, who wrote Q and A, the book the movie is based on, discerned and expressed that with humanity, and it was vividly brought to life by Boyle and his cast and crew.

Swarup got it exactly right: The Indian slums teem with geniuses.

Inspired by Millionaire, Rediff, an Indian news service, profiled some slum kids:

The Car Washer Who Wants to Play for India.

The guy makes 1000 rupees a month (about 25 US dollars) and puts half of it towards cricket training.

Does it sound ludicrous?

Ten Paise per shoe.

It is now the kind of India where these dreams can come true in multitudes. Millionaire captures that India perfectly. My ex-boyfriend, a handsome Rajput man who funds and runs schools for poor kids, can speak volumes on this subject.

The girls below, Kajol and Pooja (L-R), live with their mother in a lean-to outside Newmarket in Kolkata. They go to a free school, and after school they change from their crisp uniforms into beggar clothes. Their father is dead. Kajol, the older sister speaks Bengali and Hindi, and understands English but is too shy to speak it. Pooja speaks English superbly, in addition to Bengali and Hindi. She's very animated, clever, and cute, could easily be an actress, but plans to grow up to be the prime minister of India so she can help the poor. (This earnestness and sincerity runs like a river through India.) I hired them to show me around Newmarket and got a tour that blew all the guidebooks away.

Kajol and Pooja

And finally, this is Father Paul, the coolest priest in India. He, Brother Charles, a dozen teachers and a half dozen German volunteers, run the Gandhi Ashram school in Kalimpong.

Father Paul

The school uses violins to help kids embrace education, It was started by a Canadian, Thomas Edward "Ed" McGuire, who passed away in 2005. He was a very funny guy, a philosopher, and a student of other religions. He never preached his own. Watch this and weep when Kushmita plays. She is now at a prestigious German conservatory on scholarship.

If you want to give to the Gandhi Ashram school, there is a donation link here.

A very good NGO that works with poor kids in Mumbai is Atma Mumbai

In Jaipur, The Alternative Development Centre.

(Click on photos for larger versions.)

Deewar: Amitabh Bachchan

Something for you fight fans... Amitabh Bachchan mops the floor with a bunch of goonda(s) in this 1975 blockbuster. Thanks to Bollywood Food Club, link on the left under Choice Bits.