Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Rubina Ali from Slumdog to appear alongside Anthony Hopkins

 
Rubina Ali, the angelic little slum angel from Slumdog Millionaire, is to appear in a new film starring Anthony Hopkins and Welsh rugby player, The Bachelor star and former Mr Charlotte Church Gavin Henson.
Ali, now 13, was plucked from poverty in Mumbai to play the role of the young Latika in the Oscar-winning movie directed by Danny Boyle in 2008.  The film brought fortune for her which led to a bitter feud within her family.  A year later the slum she lived in was destroyed in a fire.
She will reportedly be paid more than £20,000 for her role in the film which will be shot in England and India.  
- UKAsian Staff

Rubina Ali from Slumdog to appear alongside Anthony Hopkins

‘The Infidel’ to get the Bollywood treatment

The Infidel, Omid Djalili’s satire on Muslims, Jews, Brits and a solitary Iranian is to be given the Bollywood treatment.
A Mumbai-based production company has reportedly acquired the rights to develop the cross-cultural comedy, written by award winning screenwriter David Baddiel who will also executive produce the remake alongside original producers Uzma Hasan and Arvind David.
The 2010 original was a box office hit in the UK and starred Iranian comic Omid Djalili as a Muslim family man who discovers that he’s adopted and Jewish.
The Good Wife star Archie Panjabi and Little Britain’s Matt Lucas also starred.
The remake will reportedly focus on the chasm between India’s two main religions; Hinduism and Islam.
- Vijitha Alles

‘The Infidel’ to get the Bollywood treatment

Paresh Rawal’s ‘Krishan vs Kanhaiya’ to return to London

 
Irrepressible Indian comic Paresh Rawal is set to return to London this April, bringing with him the award-winning play Krishan vs Kanhaiya.
The production was warmly welcomed by audiences up and down the country when it first made an appearance in these shores back in May 2011 and Rawal says he’s coming back to offer a second serving of the play about religion and spiritual habit.
Rawal plays the role of Krishan; an avowed atheist in a deeply religious family who finds himself plunged into a journey of discovery after an earthquake destroys his beloved antiques shop.
Krishan vs Kanhaiya will be staged at a number of locations in and around South Asian communities in London, including Harrow, Wembley and Ilford as well as taking in Central London.
- UKAsian Staff

Paresh Rawal’s ‘Krishan vs Kanhaiya’ to return to London

British Money: Helping Bihar’s poor

 
The use of British aid money in India, with its rapidly growing economy and ambitious space programme, has critics in both countries. But in the state of Bihar, a carefully targeted aid project is successfully reducing corruption, and improving the lives of some of the poorest people in the world.
When they set up recently as advisers in Bihar state offices, British aid officials faced a rather immediate problem.
One of their targets was increasing the number of toilets and safe washing facilities out in the countryside - but they had not expected to need to provide them for their own staff first.
The government system had been so hollowed out during the previous corrupt administration that the most basic of facilities had gone.
Now signs of change are everywhere.
A courtyard has become a graveyard of manual typewriters, lying rusting and broken among discarded wooden cupboards, desks and filing cabinets.
Every piece of furniture and old Remington typewriter has a number painted in white on it, denoting it as state property, some dating back from the 1930s.
In one ministry, there were so few people actually working that the British advisers hired street sweepers to do basic administrative jobs.
They needed to start from scratch as if coming to a land recovering from catastrophe - although Bihar had not faced a natural disaster or conflict, but corruption.
Its previous administration was infamous for theft - stealing votes, and misdirecting government subsidies.
Bihar's problems were similar to those faced by many frail, post-conflict countries - lacking even the systems to spend money allocated to it from central government.
It is this capacity that Britain hopes to improve so that Bihar can access money from Delhi that otherwise is going to waste.
On a busy corner in Patna, I watched as people queued up to apply for certificates of income, caste and land title.
British aid money was behind this project too, helping citizens to access state services without having to pay middlemen as they did in the past.
This British scheme is even funding an Indian call centre. There was brisk business when I went to listen, as people phoned in to ask for the name of the individual official concerned with their case.
Failure to act within a certain period of time has led to civil servants being fined. Others have gone to jail for trying to continue the corrupt ways of the past.
This is a long way from the traditional image of aid as a handout, or payment for health, education or housing.
And the case that Britain retains its large aid budget to build the capacity of the Indian state may be a hard one to make to someone in the British public sector who has lost their job in the cuts caused by austerity at home.
But no-one could doubt the scale of the need.
If Bihar were a country, its per capita income would be the third lowest in the world. Only two countries in Africa would be below it.
In a slum of some 50 or so houses, wedged between a main road and a railway, backing onto a green fetid swamp full of mosquito larvae, Parbhatti Devi told me that she had lived here all her life.
She had lost all her fingers and toes to leprosy - and what she had, she earned from begging.
Wires snaked through the makeshift roof of her hut, with improvised attachments to overhead cables, lethal in the monsoon rain. She had no safe drinking water nor access to a toilet.
Some Indian politicians and diplomats do not like Britain's large aid programme because this is not the image of a land with global middle class aspirations they want to project. They live as if in another country from the lepers by the railway tracks.
Bihar has shaken off its past and is now the least corrupt state in India and from a low base its economy is growing at more than 14%. Given that, should it not now take care of itself?
The answer from the most senior civil servant in the state was simple. He told me that development would have come, but far more slowly without the British technical expertise that has changed the way they do things.
He said that millions would be lifted out of poverty far sooner because of the British help.
We met in his office in the Secretariat building that was the seat of British colonial power here until 1947.
On his wall hung a painting of the huge conical brick structure that still stands at the west of the city, built by the British to store rice after a devastating famine in the 1770s.
In another century, Britain has a relationship of quite a different kind here.
-    David Loyn, BBC News

British Money: Helping Bihar’s poor

Sujoy Ghosh’s ‘Kahani’ is sublime

 
A man with a good, twisted sense of humour is one who has invariably experienced some manner of trauma or tragedy and has lived to tell the tale.  Personal misfortune leads people to reassess their influence on others, to prove themselves to be different and then sit back and smirk as the world sits up disoriented and breaks into uncontrollable giggles.
Sujoy Ghosh is undoubtedly a man with a wicked sense of humour and who can blame him?  A self-taught filmmaker who was inspired by Satyajit Rai’s films, Ghosh’s first film – Jhankar Beats – was surprisingly successful.
His next two – the farcical ‘Home Delivery’ and the insipid ‘Aladin’ – were unmitigated disasters.  Aladin in particular, was widely hyped and promised a unique take on a much loved story and featured a Bollywood legend, a beautiful newcomer and enough tech to put Steve Jobs’ home office to shame.
The film however was panned by critics and audiences stayed away in droves and Ghosh – figuratively at least – went into hiding.
Reeling from his spectacular fall from grace, Ghosh went away and drowned his sorrows by penning his latest release ‘Kahani’, a film that has been three years in the making which is the equivalent of a millennium in Bollywood terms.
Set in Ghosh’s birthplace of Kolkatta, the film stars Bollywood’s woman of the moment Vidya Balan; fresh from her National Film Award success and still basking in the glory of her acclaimed turn as Silk Smitha in ‘The Dirty Picture’.
It’s not difficult to see why Balan is described as the industry’s most versatile actress as she sheds the anxiety and hedonism of the tragic south Indian siren and morphs into the slightly disoriented yet determined Vidya Bagchi.  Vidya is six months pregnant and has come to Kolkatta from the UK in search of her husband without so much as a phone number for a lead.  She’s encumbered, alone and confronted by a chaotic city teeming with cynical men.
It’s a thrilling pursuit, one which culminates in a quite sublime twist that will leave you breathless.  In fact, Ghosh's PR skills are excellent.  The UKAsian interviewed Ghosh in the run up to Kahani’s release but much of what was said about the movie during the conversation is redundant given the film’s extraordinary narrative.
It’s difficult to imagine the difficulty of Ghosh’s journey from the disaster of Aladin to Kahani but my word it is a triumph.  His direction is terrific, fusing the near-bedlam of one of the world’s greatest cities with the anguish of this mother to be and taking us all for a ride.
The city is as much a character as Vidya Bagchi and cinematographer Setu captures it in all its’ vibrant, grimy glory.  “When I wrote the film, I knew the city would play an important role and the only two Indian cities I know well are Mumbai and Kolkata.  I chose the latter, because it is the most unassuming city to set a crime in.  I needed to shoot the film during Durga Puja.  That's one time when all of Kolkata thinks like one and everybody's on the same frequency - happy, buying clothes, planning holidays, praying to Ma. The movie is the story of one woman pitted against this mass, the only sad soul in the midst of happy people.  That made Vidya's character stand out” Ghosh says.
‘Stand out’ is perhaps an understatement.
Balan once again alights from the screen and grabs you by the scruff of the neck.  Perhaps the most overriding characteristic of her acting style – one which most other actresses in Bollywood sorely lack – is the manner in which she elicits the empathy of the viewer.
That fact is nowhere more evident than in Kahani.  Her anguish is almost tangible and her resolve inspiring. It would be best if she prepared her acceptance speech for her next National Film Award.
Kahani is everything that hogwash such as Players is not: intelligent, thrilling, subtle and deeply moving.
It is cinema at its best.
-    Vijitha Alles

Sujoy Ghosh’s ‘Kahani’ is sublime

“I make movies to make myself happy. Nothing is more important.” - Vidya

 
Three years ago, a career which had begun promisingly enough was on the wane and Vidya Balan was considering chucking it all in.  There then came acclaimed roles in films such as Ishqiya and No One Killed Jessica Lal and of course the critical and commercial success of the sensational ‘The Dirty Picture’.
Balan’s terrific portrayal of the beautiful and tragic south Indian siren Silk Smitha garnered numerous accolades including this year’s prestigious National Film Award for Best Actress.
It has also led to Balan being recognized as Bollywood’s most talented and versatile actress, head and shoulders above her contemporaries.
Her latest role, as Vidya Bagchi in Sujoy Ghosh’s ‘Kahani’ continues in the same vein.  Balan plays a woman who arrives in Kolkata from the UK in search of her husband who has disappeared off the face of the planet.   Heavily pregnant yet determined, Vidya has to contend with the city’s teeming chaos and a suspicious and disobliging public.
The film is an intense ride with a sublime twist that will shock and thrill audiences and is certain to earn many more plaudits for Balan.
The actress spoke to Poonam Joshi about play acting, strong-willed females and a fascinating career.
It’s a terribly intense film.  What was it like playing this character on an emotional level?  
Physically it was a little demanding because I had to carry around this weight around my midriff but it wasn’t an intense experience.  I would say it was an incredibly liberating experience to go through a little bit of the anxiety that a woman would feel in a situation like this.  On a more practical level, the shoot was intense.  We would shoot for 3 or 4 days continuously because we had to keep the budget in check.  But it wasn’t emotional at all because the amazing thing about this character is that she has not lost her spirit; she is not helpless or hopeless, she is very hopeful, she is very positive, she’s got her smile intact, and I found that incredibly inspiring.  And it was entirely plausible because I know so many women who would react exactly the same way – remain positive and determined – faced with a dilemma like this.
You stayed in character whilst promoting the film...carrying around a baby bump...did people find that strange...?
No they didn’t as a matter of fact.  Actually, people seem to accept it as the sort of thing that I would do.  Also, it’s amazing that in this day and age a lot of information is overlooked.  There are so many films released every week and filmmakers need to think a little outside the box sometimes to draw people’s attention.  The easiest way to do that is by appearing in character.  It worked a treat!
Did anyone actually mistake you for being pregnant for real?
During the shoot it happened constantly.  In the small lanes and alleyways people would look at me and smile sweetly and their attention would be drawn to my stomach and they always had this look of total surprise!  Sometimes I would even play along!
You’re making a habit of playing strong, female leads.  Is this something that you consciously choose to do?  Strong-willed female characters aren’t exactly popular in Bollywood cinema...
I think that the strong female lead is becoming increasingly popular.  That’s the reality of the age and cinema must – and I think it does – reflect that.  And women are inherently, extremely strong so when someone asks why I play such characters I tell them that women are strong anyway and I don’t know them any other way.
And from playing strong, independent women, you’re going straight into doing an item number for Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s Ferrari ki Sawari.  Contradictory...
It was fun!  It’s a combination of two forms of folk dance that I’ve tried in this which is Koli and Lavani.  It was great fun and I always wanted to do this because the moves are very aggressive and the face oozes sensuality.  It’s all enhanced by the fact that the woman is fully clothed – from head to toe.  It was also a chance to celebrate Mumbai, an ode of sorts to the city that I grew up in.  The greatest city on the planet!  Although I’m a little biased.
The evolution of your career has been really interesting to watch.
You’re arguably the best actress in Bollywood today; does that put pressure on you?  
I’m incredibly humbled.  I take expectation as a form of encouragement; having said that, I find happiness in my work, working to enjoy myself.  I always give it a hundred percent and try to be honest towards my work.  Beyond that it’s really up to powers that are beyond my control so I don’t bother too much with it.  I always hope that if I’m being honest and giving my best shot people will hopefully enjoy watching me and connect with what I play on screen.
Since 2009 your career’s been on this terrific upward curve.  The two years prior to that were much more difficult.  How did you cope with that and how did that shape you as an actor?
There were moments when I thought of giving it up, because I thought I was not fit for the film industry.  I was constantly questioning myself; maybe I didn’t have it in me, maybe I couldn’t cope with this space.
But I’m someone of immense faith and belief.  My faith is stronger than everything else in my life put together.  My faith in my own ability, my faith in the Universe, in a supreme power, in humanity and my passion to be these different people on the screen; that faith overpowers any moments of doubt.  I think I’m thankful to God for having tested me.  Clarity is incredibly important for anyone and if there’s one thing that that period gave me it was clarity.  It’s important if you are to accurately appraise your self-worth and that’s the most important thing.  Everyone needs to believe in themselves.
‘Kahani’ is now cinemas.
- Interviewed by Poonam Joshi

“I make movies to make myself happy. Nothing is more important.” - Vidya