Monday, 19 March 2012

Naseeruddin Shah’s ‘Michael’: Beautiful Tedium

 
The London Asian Film Festival – which opened 16th March at BFI Southbank – might be struggling to find its Raison d’etre, 14 years after its inception but the same cannot be said about its’ opening night film, ‘Michael’.
A film dealing with one man’s struggle to cope with tragedy could not have been more topical in a week when the news was dominated by the likes of PC David Rathband, US Army Sergeant Robert Bales, not to mention Bashar Al Assad and the ways in which they’ve dealt with personal misfortune, tragedy and a slackening grip on power.
‘Michael’ stars Nasseeruddin Shah as Michael Rodriguez, a single father and police officer in Kolkata who is called to do the bidding of a corrupt politician by opening fire at a peaceful rally against Communist rule in the city.
A 12-year-old boy is killed in the shooting and Michael is made the scapegoat.
His wilful concealment of the fact that his eyesight is failing is further cause for Michael to be dismissed from the force dishonoured and – worst of all – without a pension.
It’s a body blow for Michael and the film follows his travails to not only cope with the tragedy but his struggles with money and difficult relationship with his young son Roy.
The film is the directorial debut of Ribhu Dasgupta who also wrote the script.  Dasgupta says the story was variously inspired by Roland Joffe’s ‘City of Joy’, the Cat Stevens song  Father & Son as well as the director’s own relationship with his father. 
And all of those inspirations are strikingly palpable.
The relationship between Michael and his son Roy is – as with most father son relationships – at times aberrant but deeply emotional.  And, Kolkata – as it recently did in Kahani – plays one of the film’s most important characters; indolent and chaotic all at once, pushing some to despair and lifting others out of the doldrums.
The heart of ‘Michael’ though is the title character’s battle with the dreadful disintegration of his life and it is doubtful whether any actor on the face of the planet could have captured Michael’s anguish as well as Nasseeruddin Shah.  Michael’s swagger is directly proportional to the vulnerability he feels outside his police uniform and Shah captures that fragile bluster pitch perfectly.   The exquisite Mahi Gill, as a friend who helps babysit Roy, and the perennially funny Sridhar Vatsar help provide a slightly more cheerful counterpoint to the sullen Rodriguez.
But no matter how good an actor you are, your skills can only extend to what the writer dictates and after the first hour or so, the film begins to seem slightly plodding and sparks that age old debate about a film as a piece of entertainment or an exercise in creating something artistic whose level of engagement might be highly subjective. 
After an hour of empathising with Michael’s predicament however you’re left wanting for something to happen.
‘Michael’ was championed by Anurag Kashyap – and of course Nasseeruddin Shah – and is outstanding as an exploration of one man’s journey through despair.  And visually, it is stunning; in fact the whole movie segues from one beautifully textured image to another.
But you can only stare at a nice picture for so long before it becomes tedious.
-    Vijitha Alles

Naseeruddin Shah’s ‘Michael’: Beautiful Tedium

Indian former Mr Universe crosses a century on a life without tensions

 
A former Mr. Universe who has just turned 100 said Sunday that happiness and a life without tensions are the key to his longevity.
Manohar Aich, who is 4 foot 11 inches (150 centimeters) tall, overcame many hurdles, including grinding poverty and a stint in prison, to achieve body building glory.
His children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren gathered Sunday in the eastern city of Kolkata to celebrate his birthday the day before.
Hindu priests chanted prayers while a feast was laid out to honor Aich, winner of the 1952 Mr. Universe body building title.
Rippling his muscles and flashing a toothless grin, Aich says his ability to take his troubles lightly and remain happy during difficult times are the secrets to his long life.
That, and a simple diet of milk, fruits and vegetables along with rice, lentils and fish have kept him healthy.
He does not smoke and has never touched alcohol, he said.
"I never allow any sort of tension to grip me. I had to struggle to earn money since my young days, but whatever the situation, I remained happy," Aich said, sitting in a room decorated with posters and pictures of his many bodybuilding triumphs.
Aich, who was born in the small town of Comilla in Bengal, was a puny youngster. But he was attracted to exercising and building his muscles when as a schoolboy he saw a group of wrestlers in action.
In 1942, he joined the Royal Air Force under India's British colonial rulers and it was there that he began his relentless pursuit of body building.
Encouraged by a British officer named Reub Martin, who introduced him to weight training, Aich earned praise for his physique from his peers in the air force.
Some years later, however, he was thrown into prison when he protested against colonial oppression.
"It was in the jail that I began weight training seriously. This helped me prepare myself for the world championship," said Aich.
"In jail I used to practice on my own, without any equipment, sometimes for 12 hours in a day," he recalled.
The jail authorities were impressed with his perseverance and he was given a special diet to help build his stamina.
India's independence in 1947 led to Aich's release from jail. Dogged by poverty, Aich and his wife struggled to put their four children through school. There was little cash to indulge his passion for body building, but Aich took up odd jobs to earn a little on the side.
His 1950 win of a "Mr. Hercules" contest spurred him to set his sights on the Mr. Universe tournament in London.
In 1951, Aich came second in the contest, and stayed on in London to prepare for another shot at the title. He returned to India after winning the title in 1952.
What followed were a host of awards, including top positions in the Asian Body building Championships. Over the years, he also earned the more popular title of "Pocket Hercules" due to his 4 foot, 11 inch-frame.
Six decades later, Aich helps his sons run a gym and fitness center and spends his days guiding juvenile hopefuls to reach the heights of body building.
A minor stroke last year robbed him of the ability to lift weights, but he keeps a watchful eye on young body builders training in his gym.
Although his two sons did not take up body building, Aich says his mentoring has earned him rewards. It has produced India's eight-time national champion, Satya Paul. Another protege, Premchand Dogra, snagged the Mr. Universe title in 1988.
Among his regrets, says Aich, is that he never had a chance to meet his more famous counterpart, a fellow Mr. Universe winner, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
But Aich says he's seen many of Schwarzenegger's action films.
"I like the incredible stunts he does in the movies," Aich said.
-    The Associated Pres

Indian former Mr Universe crosses a century on a life without tensions

Ram Gopal Varma’s 26/11 film begins shooting in Mumbai


 
Filming has begun in Mumbai on director Ram Gopal Varma’s latest film, the first Bollywood movie to deal with the 2008 terror attacks on the city which left 166 people dead.
The controversial director – known for his films about the Mumbai Underworld – took to his Twitter account Friday, declaring it “the most important film of my career”.
Varma said the $8m film will be targeted primarily at the international market and would detail “every aspect of the carnage”.
The November 2008 attacks saw 10 heavily-armed gunmen storm targets in Mumbai including luxury hotels, a Jewish centre and a train station.
India blames the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militant outfit for training, equipping and financing the Mumbai gunmen with support from “elements” in the Pakistan military.
A low-budget film based on the assault was released in 2010 but was panned by the critics and quickly disappeared.
Varma described the attacks as “one of the most important events that ever happened” and one that rivalled the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States for “sheer complexity”.
Jamshedpur-born Sanjeev Jaiswal, a theatre actor from Delhi will play the key role of Mohammad Kasab, the sole surviving gunman.  The baby-faced gunman became the public face of the attacks after he was caught on CCTV, Kaleshnikov nonchalantly raised, during a shooting spree at a train station.
49-year-old Varma, the director of nearly 40 movies, courted controversy soon after the attacks when he was pictured touring the burned out Taj Mahal Palace hotel in what was allegedly a trip to scout for locations for a possible film.
Reports say the as-yet-untitled film will be a multilingual affair with the characters speaking in a mixture of Hindu, Urdu, English and Marathi.
-    Poonam Joshi

Ram Gopal Varma’s 26/11 film begins shooting in Mumbai

US-Indian student found guilty of webcam hate crime

 
A US student who used a webcam to secretly film his room-mate in a gay encounter has been found guilty of hate crime and invasion of privacy.
Former Rutgers University undergraduate Dharun Ravi, 20, shook his head as the verdict was returned at a court in the state of New Jersey.
His room-mate, Tyler Clementi, jumped to his death from a bridge in 2010.
The case attracted national attention, including comment from President Obama, and prompted anti-bullying measures.
Ravi was found guilty of 15 counts as a whole, including invasion of privacy and bias intimidation, which is a hate crime.
He was found not guilty of several subparts of the bias intimidation charges.
While Ravi was not charged in connection with Clementi's death, which occurred shortly after the spying, the suicide was mentioned by witnesses during the trial.
He will be sentenced on 21 May and could face up to 10 years in jail and possible deportation to India - although he has lived in the US legally since he was a young boy.
The trial heard that Ravi set up a webcam in his dormitory room in September 2010 and filmed Clementi kissing another man.
Ravi then tweeted about it and tried to catch Clementi in the act again two days later.
Prosecutors said about half a dozen students saw the video.
Days later, Clementi realised he had been filmed and leaped to his death, posting a status update on Facebook saying: "Jumping off the gw bridge, sorry."
The trial heard that Ravi had planned to "expose" Clementi's activity and that he acted purposefully and maliciously.
Prosecutors said there was abundant proof that Ravi had a problem with Clementi being gay.
But the defence argued that Ravi, a first-year student at the time, was not homophobic and was simply behaving like an immature "kid".
One of the many witnesses called during the trial included the man seen kissing Clementi, identify by his initials MB.
Ravi did not testify, but jurors watched video of police questioning him after Clementi's death.
Clementi's death was one of a string of suicides by gay youths, and the case received national attention.
Prosecutors were barred by the court from arguing that the spying had led directly to Clementi's death, while defence lawyers were prevented from saying Clementi had killed himself for other reasons.
Clementi requested his room be changed before his death, according to testimony, and he loaded Ravi's Twitter page 38 times during the last two days of his life.
One of Ravi's tweets said: "Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into molly's room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay."
In the wake of his death, New Jersey legislators passed an anti-bullying law, and Rutgers changed its housing policies in attempt to make gay students feel more comfortable.
-    BBC News
-    Photo Credit: ABC News

US-Indian student found guilty of webcam hate crime

M.I.A. in Twitter bust up with CNN’s Anderson Cooper

 
Outspoken hip-hop star M.I.A. and CNN newsman Anderson Cooper have settled their differences following a war of words via Twitter.com on Wednesday over Sri Lanka's secret war with the Tamil Tigers.
The ‘Paper Planes’ hitmaker, whose father Arul Pragasam is a leading Tamil activist, has always been vocal about the plight of her people in Sri Lanka, accusing the nation's government officials of engaging in systematic genocide.
A new British documentary chronicling the ongoing secret war and the execution of Tamil leaders and their families, which aired on Wednesday in the UK, left her calling for action and taking aim at Cooper who she claimed had misrepresented her on his news show 360.
In a series of tweets, she wrote, "Anderson Cooper called me a terrorist for speaking out, and expressed support for the SLgov (Sri Lankan government) when this (killing) was happening... thought AC (Anderson Cooper) was a fair news reporter till (sic) SL killings took place and he kept his silent! (sic) Disappointed!"
She added, "Someone should make Anderson Cooper watch it/film it and show the world what happens when respected journos (journalists) get it wrong.
"You called me a lady Tamil Tiger when I talked about Tamil civilians dying, and u (sic) printed a retraction... in 2009 u linked to a articl (article) that was written about me with false info. There was a rebuttal on ur (your) 360 site... 2 months later 1ce (once) every Tamil had been silenced including me, the SLGOV carried out the killing of 40,000 civilians."
Her rant prompted Cooper to respond via his personal Twitter account. He wrote, "You are mistaken. I never called you a terrorist. I don't even know who you are other than the lady who sang at Superbowl... You've gone from saying 'I wrote', 'I called you,' to saying my CNN show blog had a link to an article. Big difference... we link to many articles with different viewpoints, and we gave you an opportunity to respond."
He added, "I can understand your frustration if someone wrote untrue things about you, and I'm glad you were able to respond... and the brutal war in SL has not gotten enough coverage in the US, and I know that (sic) very upsetting."
The Twitter war of words ended with M.I.A. urging Cooper to watch the new Channel 4 documentary, Killing Fields: "Anderson Cooper I'm glad u understand but please watch Killing Fields because this is what I was trying to say."
-    WENN.com

M.I.A. in Twitter bust up with CNN’s Anderson Cooper