Gautaman Bhaskaran
an indian journalist
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© Copyright 2004



Cinema In General


Pans & Tilts…Creative freedom, Raima Sen, Sivan’s Before the Rains, Salma Heyek, Bips-John…

Artistic licence and creative freedom have always run into a storm in India. Cinema has been particularly targeted, probably because it is a far more vocal and visually alive medium that can sway the masses. Sometimes dangerously so. Yet, the democratic traditions we so often brag about will be meaningless if tolerance for multiple views and beliefs diminishes. I fear this is precisely what is happening.

We have seen with anger and concern how Hindu fundamentalists chased Deepa Mehta and her team out of Varanasi, and how her earlier film, “Fire”, was rubbished, and the cinemas screening it were vandalised. “Water” showed widows in poor light, and “Fire” encouraged lesbianism, the protestors argued while they burnt the effigies of the woman helmer.

Later, Amitabh Bachchan’s “Sarkar”, upset Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray, and the movie could be shown only after he gave his nod. Was it amended or edited? Your guess is as good as mine. While “Sarkar” was a takeoff on Thackeray’s life, Mani Ratnam’s “Guru” was inspired by industrialist Dhirubhai Ambani’s rags-to-riches story. But his son Mukesh grumbled. This despite the fact that Ratnam’s film was as good as a PR exercise for the senior Ambani.

Now, Rajnikanth’s “Sivaji – The Boss” – one of the most expensive movies made in India at Rs 80 crores – has fallen foul of the Congress Party. Congressman M. Satya Moorthy has complained that the film defames Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh. So what, I would retort. Newspapers, magazines and television channels criticise them as well. Are we going to outlaw each one of them?

Unfortunately, the list of films in the eye of the storm continues to grow, but I am happy that scriptwriters, producers and directors are not cowed down by threats, and they march on with admirable courage. Viva la cinema.


Raima Sen says, please do not compare me with my grandmother, legendary Bengali actress Suchitra Sen. Her plea is understandable. But in an industry where comparisons have became the pastime of idle minds, actors like Raima will have to learn to live with them. But Raima need not worry. She is a great performer: she was superb in “Chokher Bali” and “Parineeta”. Her “The Bong Connection” (directed by Anjan Dutt) has just opened, and I am told that she has added yet another feather to her cap. Congrats.


Santosh Sivan’s “Before the Rains” will premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. Shot in Kerala’s scenic Munar, the movie takes us back to the British colonial era, where a firang planter bonds with his worker, played by Rahul Bose. Nandita Das also stars in “Before the Rains”.

And now the BBC has asked Sivan to make a film on Afghanistan. Called “Wedding Party”, it will not be shot in Afghanistan, though, because insurance companies are unwilling to provide financial safeguards there. So, the location could be Morocco or Ladakh! This is such a pity. But why is Sivan jittery when Kabir Khan shot his “Kabul Express” entirely in war-ravaged Afghanistan?


Mexican beauty and Hollywood star, Salma Hayek, may star opposite Bollywood Hero, Akshay Kumar. Carvings Dreams Entertainment has signed a $ 100-million co-production deal with Los Angeles’ Hollywood Studios International. The productions will be bilingual, English and Hindi. The Western craze for Bollywood appears unstoppable.


Tailpiece: Last week, Bipasha Basu vehemently denied that she had split with boyfriend John Abraham. And to prove this, she said she was flying to Pondicherry to be with him, where he was shooting Nagesh Kukunoor’s “Aashaayen”. But this week, Bips says that relationship is over! If television channels are to be believed, the new girl in John’s life is Vidya Balan. Bollywood ties seem as frivolous as musical chairs, where a vacant seat is taken even before the heart can beat five.

(Webposted July 18 2007)