Gautaman Bhaskaran
an indian journalist
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INDIAN CINEMA

Cinema In General
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Pans & Tilts…Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Katrina Kaif, Jay Bachchan, Nicolas Cage…

This week in April (2007), I watched Adoor Gopalakrishnan shoot his 10th and 11th films one after the other at Ambalappuzha, 15 km from Aleppey or Alappuzha as it is now called. In the heart of Kerala’s scenic Kuttanad district, Aleppey has over the past few years caught the tourist eye with its backwaters and houseboats. There are still some parts there where time appears to have not moved beyond the 1940s, and it is this ambiance that Adoor hoped to capture in his movies. One of the pioneers of the New Indian Cinema of the 1970s, Adoor has directed just nine features in over three decades, a fact that speaks of his passion for perfection.

Adoor
As I watched him shoot over four days, I noticed the man’s resolve to go about his work with clockwork precision, each shot and scene beautifully choreographed to rhythmic motion. Unlike Satyajit Ray, Adoor may not have elaborate script reading sessions with his cast, but quite like the master from Bengal, Adoor has detailed rehearsals before each take, and I could see the rapport he builds with his actors in the course of such exercises. Till, there seems to be such wonderful harmony that one begins to wonder whether the lights light up, the camera rolls, and the performers perform all by the sheer magic of moment. Yes, indeed, Adoor creates magic on his set with his quiet perseverance and profound understanding of what exactly he wants.

Adoor’s two current films are based on six short stories written by Jnanpith award-winning writer Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai. Three tales form a movie. The first film is titled `Moonnu Pennungal' (Three Women), and the second `Kallante Makan' (Thief's Son). Each of the films has a common thread: while one deals with different shades of women, the other talks about how erstwhile society dispensed justice to the common man.

The only living Indian auteur-director, Adoor (who will turn 66 this July 3), has already made two attempts at adapting literary works: `Mathilukal' (Walls-1989) based on a novel by Vaikom Mohammed Basheer, and `Vidheyan' (The Servile-1993), from a Paul Zachariah story.

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Katrina Kaif has been vehemently denying that she landed the plum role in ace Indian director Subhash Ghai’s new directorial venture, “Main Yuvraj”, on the recommendation of her boyfriend, Salman Khan, who also stars in the movie. Fresh from the success of “Namastey London”, where Katrina plays an Indian Londoner, she says that she met Ghai long before she knew Salman. Somewhere, I notice that ego begins to play up in tinsel town relationships, and poor Salman, who has had a raw deal with at least one woman (he lost Aishwarya Rai first to Vivek Oberoi and later to Abhishek Bachchan), must now be wondering if Katrina too is slipping away from him. Let us see how the Salman story ends this time.

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Jaya Bachchan turns 59 next week, and although she has not had much to do with Bollywood for a while, she is still remembered and adored especially as the plain Jane of “Guddi”. As the girl next door, she wowed millions of fans once. Though her oeuvre is not as huge as hubby Amitabh Bachchan’s, Jaya has certainly left a deep impression in audience mind: her roles in films such as “Mili”, “Abhimaan”, “Koshish”, “Anamika”, “Piya Ka Ghar” and “Silsila” proved to be undoubted landmarks in Indian cinema. I still remember the scandal “Silsila” caused, when she was paired along with Amitabh and Rekha in a movie that closely followed the lives of all three. Jaya never spoke about Amitabh’s affair with Rekha, but that the two were in a relationship is more than just an open secret. Beginning her career with Ray’s “Mahanagar”, when she was barely 15, Jaya debuted in Bollywood with “Guddi” in 1971, and rose to become one of the most natural actors that India has ever seen. It is a pity that like so many other actresses who moved away from the arc lamps after marriage, Jaya too chose to remain in Amitabh’s shadow, at least for a long time. Another wonderful artiste who gave up her career for matrimony was Sarika. (Happily, she is now back with “Parzania”.) Will Aishwarya too follow these two women?

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Once fairy tales ended in happily-ever-after lands. Not any longer, it seems. We saw how a great romance of the decade – that of Princess Diana and Prince Charles – hit the rocks of misery and ended in deep tragedy and anguish. The latest story to run into a turbulent storm is that of Elizabeth Hurley and Arun Nayar, who got recently married in regal pomp and style, a la Bollywood, complete with songs and dances, in Rajasthan. Liz went “ballistic” after her father-in-law, Vinod Nayar, accused her of “blatant cynical commercialism” and disowned the couple. Textile tycoon Nayar Senior was quoted by the Sunday Mirror as cribbing: "We were publicly humiliated and treated like social outcasts…Arun ignored the Indian tradition that the groom's father must welcome the bride. The wedding couple focused their attention on European guests, slighting Indian attendees…My heart is heavy with pain... [The wedding] was like a stage show, not like a normal wedding. My cousins had to watch it on a screen outside." Liz is hurt, hurt beyond words, and has vowed never to have anything to do with Arun’s parents. I am waiting for HIS take on this.

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Tailpiece: Everybody comes to Bollywood. So says I. Now Nicolas Cage will shoot a film in India. To be produced by Virgin Comics, scripted by self-improvement guru Deepak Chopra, and directed by Shekhar Kapur, “The Holy Man” will see Cage as a revenge-thirsting soldier-turned-mystic (what else if it is India). The movie is an adaptation of a comic book series about an English soldier, James Jensen, who is in India hunting for the man who murdered his family. Cage will be one of the many who plan India as a locale for their celluloid dreams.

(Webposted April 11 2007)