Gautaman Bhaskaran
an indian journalist
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© Copyright 2004

 

INDIAN CINEMA

Cinema In General

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Pans & Tilts…Mobile cinema, Rajni still rules, Rushdie-Padma split, Jiah Khan…

Cinema has come a long way since that cold December day in 1895 when the Lumiere Brothers showed the first film in Paris’ Grand Café. Movies travelled to India just seven months later in July 1896, with the first screening being at Bombay’s Watson Hotel. Cinema took many forms after that. Silence gave way to sound, black and white to colour. The screen grew larger. We had 70 mm. And then, cinema tried squeezing itself into smaller spaces. Why, television, of course.

Now, motion pictures want to get even more compact, and are ready for exhibition on the tiny mobile telephone screen! Bollywood director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, whose “Rang De Basanti”, created a phenomenon, says that he has already begun looking at his mobile telephone differently. Holding a high-end model, he says several companies have asked him to release his films on the mobile.

Mehra is not sure whether a full-length feature will work on a hand-held mobile instrument. But three to five-minute movies will, and splendidly. Like literature – where you have novels and short stories – cinema will reformat itself into long and short features.

In a country like India which has seen one of the fastest growths of mobile telephones, it is estimated that there will be at least a million high-end phones in the next two years that will facilitate easy viewing of a film.

But the biggest challenge will be to grab a viewer’s attention and hold it for about five minutes. The story obviously cannot be flabby, and much like television soaps that grip with their music score the eye and the mind of a busy housewife – who might just about drop everything down to catch an important moment on the small screen – mobile movies will have to depend on sound to attract notice.

I am not very sure that mobile films can ever satisfy a real cinema buff. After all, what sort of a story can you tell in those 300 seconds. Maybe a promo for a full-length feature or for its music. Some feel that comedy will be an excellent theme. Some say, soft porn will work better. Ah, that will be the day with moralists and puritans up in arms trying to capture the cells!

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The Rajni madness, as a journalist friend of mine said, has spread beyond the Tamil Nadu shores. A movie critic who works for a Bollywood weekly magazine in Dubai asked me the other evening whether I could rustle up an interview with Mr God. Rajnikanth, of course. And the film in question is “Sivaji – The Boss”. Made at Rs 80 crores, it is said to have grossed many times that figure. The movie in Tamil is all style and no substance, and one has to watch three hours of sheer Rajni antics. He changes form and colour, and gets into bizarre costumes as well mood swings. In the process, this bus conductor-turned-performer mesmerises his fans by slipping into different avatars, Batman, Spiderman, Superman and, above all, Rajni Sir.

But, honestly, I must give credit to Rajnikanth, who remains unmoved and unfazed by all the hype he has created. Unlike most Bollywood stars, this man from Karnataka, who has made Chennai his home, sees absolutely no need to live up to his screen image. While he takes elaborate pains to look dashing and debonair in his cinema, he is quite comfortable in his dhoti and shirt topped by a bald pate when he appears elsewhere. Whether it is on television giving interviews or on the streets of Chennai, Rajnikanth looks himself, all his 60-odd years. I must say this calls for tremendous guts, and, yes, disarming humility. Are the aging Bollywood heroes listening?

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Padma Lakshmi is now Lady Rushdie, sans her Lord. In every sense of the term. Salman Rushdie will divorce Padma, and this will be his fourth split. The separation, according to Rushdie, will be on Padma’s insistence. Married in 2004 to novelist Rushdie, Padma is just 37, while he is 60, born in 1947, a Midnight’s Child. While Rushdie’s intense prose – apart from the Islamic threats against him that followed the publication of his “The Satanic Verses” and, more recently, his knighthood – made him a serious literary celebrity, wife Padma’s fame came from the catwalks she tiptoed on and the revealing dresses she sported in films like “Boom” with Amitabh Bachchan. She also had a small role in the Aishwarya Rai starrer, “The Mistress of Spices”. Author of cookbooks, Padma was in many ways different from Rushdie. Admittedly, both had a common thread running: Rushdie and Padma caused sensation, he by inviting the wrath of the Muslim clergy that drove him underground for a very long time (a cause for an earlier divorce) and she by her seductive charm that often meant skimpy outfits. Well, the couple stayed together for three years, and I had sometimes wondered how.

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I am told groupism is back in Bollywood. There are two major factions, one which owes its allegiance to Big B and the other that swears by King Khan. So, all those who had planned to cash in on the popularity of these two reigning stars by casting them together in a movie have decided to call pack up.

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Tailpiece: One off-the-cuff remark has pushed Jiah Khan out of Salman Khan’s next film. When Jiah was asked how it would be to have been recommended by Khan for the movie, she reportedly replied that “it would be cool, but his girlfriend (Katrina Kaif) would be pissed off”. Both Kat and Salu got upset, and decided that Jiah would not be part of Boney Kapoor’s Tamil remake, “Pokiri”, starring Khan.

(Webposted July 4 2007)