Shringaar (Make-Up): A Day In the Life of A Woman

 

Spark Plug Films and Rotary Club of Baroda Present Shringaar: A Day In the Life of A Woman, A Two Minute Short on Street Harrassment. This has also been posted on the Facebook Page of Ourvadodara, the Vadodara-based portal where I submit reviews of Friday releases. Check it out.

Here is a transcript of the entire short, including a translation of the poem spoken in Hindi in the first minute of the short.

 

Shringaar (Make Up) : A Day in the Life of A Woman

I put on makeup

… they stalk.

Apply kohl to my eyes

… they humiliate.

Wear lipstick

… they leer.

Wear a dress of my choice

… only to be denuded by their eyes.

How can I call them men – when they sell-off their manhood on streets?

You don’t dress up for them. So why stay silent about them?

Staring at you

‘Accidently’ touching you

Pinching your bottom

Brushing past you

Whistling and honking at you

Making passes at you

Following you

Exposing themselves to you

Pissing in front of you

Masturbating in front of you

Can Lead To

Threatening You

Attacking You

Molesting You

Raping You

Speak up and Raise an Alarm.

Call the police, speak to your parents, teachers, friends, colleagues or boss.

Do anything but don’t stay silent.

Naari (Women) against street harassment.

 

 

 

 

 

My Question To Playwright Tracy Letts For August Osage County Live Q&A With Cast and Crew

weinsteinsponsoredlivex600.png.600x287_q1003-Time Oscar winner Meryl Streep, the Grande Dame of Acting,  is about to land again in theaters across US this December (and at award ceremonies next year wearing frumpy, wedgie-gifting dresses. Meryl’s hunch seems absolutely right – the people who select her wardrobe and hairstyle – including her longtime hairstylist  J Roy Helland – do their best to destroy her ‘naturally good looks’ )  with her latest film August Osage County, adapted from stage to screen by its Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Tracy Letts himself,  already turning heads at film festivals and screenings. The moment it debuted at Toronto, reviews by renowned publications hit the internet emphasizing two or three common observations/contentions: a) that it was going to be an All-Meryl-Some-Julia-Little-Others Show (ironic as the play only credits the Native American character of Johnna as ‘others’; I guess the film is even more discriminatory than the play!)  b) that the altered ‘less depressing’ ending was a weak, ‘sell out’ move by Harvey Weinstein and c) that Meryl was a lead character and not supporting (another sly move by Weinstein to snag Meryl another Oscar; this decision was quickly changed after award screenings and Meryl’s now in competing for Best Lead Actress).

Its almost two months since the Toronto film festival and as August Osage County is drawing closer to its theatrical release, the cast and crew are quickly turning up to promote the films at interactive Q&A sessions, press conferences and even online. There is a fifteen minute B-roll  footage of the crew filming some of the expository scenes outside the Weston family’s ‘House of Pain’. There are press junkets in the form of videos where each actor gives an insight into the characters they portrayed. The film’s director John Wells, known mainly for his work on television, shares about his experience filming the intense dining table scene and his experience with the entire cast. All these videos can be found here.

8ba94bdf-36bf-4104-aed7-ee60fde5a8d4_august-osage-county-dinnerStreep may be the most honored actress of all time, but fellow cast member Chris Cooper, who’s worked with Streep before in the Oscar winning ‘Adaptation’, suggests ‘you have no idea just how talented she is… She’s the Master!’. Streep’s best known for improvisations during rehearsals, which is quite a feat considering the level of precision she achieves in defining her character both internally and externally. Cooper as well as the others were astonished by the ‘level of variety she brought take after take’; she’s ‘once playing a drugged version (of her character Violet), then a comical version, then another’, and her changes ‘rippled across the dining table’ and each actor ‘played his/her character slightly differently in each take’. This impressive observation was made by Dermot Mulroney, who gets to hear ungracious welcoming remarks like “Who are you?” and “That’s peculiar Karen to bring a date to your dad’s funeral’ (Mulroney’s character Steve is actually Violet’s youngest daughter Aug2ustOsageCounty-Stills-045Karen’s fiance) from Violet. English actor Benedict Cumberbatch’s praise was even more ecstatic: “Meryl was extraordinary. The hardest thing with her is to actually act. You just want to sit and watch her. You want to be in the audience”. I’m unsure, however, whether Meryl would find this remark complementary, as the actress once said that in retrospect, she found her performance in French Lieutenant Woman to be less satisfactory as she always felt her co-star Jeremy Irons was busy observing Meryl’s performance rather than focusing on the character. Some critics have accused her of ‘outshining the film itself even more with age’, and even I noted in one of my reviews that in some films, I found myself getting a twofer: a) the film itself and b) Meryl’s own film within the film. In case of great films, this becomes quite an experience to savor, but in case of mediocre ones, it feels like the film and Meryl are two distinct entities put together in a chaotic mess.

hqdefaultMeryl turned up along with Wells, Letts, producer Jean Doumanian and the cast including Cooper, Mulroney,  Julianne Nicholson, Margo Martindale, Abigail Breslin, Juliette Lewis (Roberts remained absent) for a live Q&A in New York on November 25. Twitter and Facebook users were given an opportunity to post their questions, a few of which would be chosen for the interview. I excitedly framed about five/six questions pertaining to the film (a lot many users asked silly questions like: Meryl, where are you coming to Italy? as if it has anything to do with the film). One of them, quite a simple one (and yet, its usually the simple ones that are picked for interviews to relax the interviewees), got selected; actually, the first part of the question got selected. This question was asked to Tracy Letts, and although the interviewer doesn’t reveal the user name, I’m pretty sure based on the wording that it’s my question.

The selected question: “In the process of adapting this play to cinema, did you find yourself looking at a particular character or scene (I used the word ‘situation’) in a new light? ” (The second part of the question wasn’t asked)

Mr Tracy Lett‘s Response: Well, they’re robots! (a peal of laughter from the audience; the robots thing is an extended joke from the interview) (the interviewer: We can’t wait to see your next movie!)… Dermot’s very good, yeah… in Magnificent Seven Robots (a cackle from Meryl)… um ah I.. I.. did I see any of them in a new light? No I did not, but I tell you what, I had an opportunity as a result of the ability of cinema not only to show the place in which it is set but the scene in which Barbara pursues Violet across the field.. uh allowed me to encapsulate in a.. in a.. few very short images and lines something thematic that I was trying to get at it at the heart of the piece, something about the.. the uh… even though you can see fifty miles to the horizon, there’s nowhere to go…a kind of claustrophobia that is felt in the Plains as it turns in a lot of other places as well. So I don’t know about an individual character I saw in a new light (Meryl nods looking towards him) but I certainly enjoyed uh… seeing them explore their boundaries, a little bit.

tumblr_mwvz3uRrCF1t23se4o1_500Towards the end of the 45 minute interactive question, an interesting question was asked to the entire cast: ‘What was your favorite line of Violet?’, which yielded funny answers such as ‘Why don’t you f-ck a f-cking sow’s ass?’ (Julianne Nicholson; this line is spoken by Violet to her husband Beverley when he introduces her to Johnna), ‘You look like a magician’s assistant’ (Margo Martindale; Violet’s remarks about her daughter Ivy’s appearance in a suit at her father’s funeral) ‘Hide-a-burrr…What?’ (Juliette Lewis; Violet is unable to pronounce Karen’s fiance’s German surname) and ‘It burns like ‘a’ bull-sh*t! ‘ (Margo again; spoken by Violet to Barbara while talking about her mouth-cancer). It was certainly a refreshing forty-five minute session with this cast, topped by Meryl’s infectious giggles and perky personality. Guess this girl just can’t help stealing the spotlight!

The entire interview can be found here.

Ourvadodara: Vadodara Speaks: Gori Tere Pyaar Mein Audience Verdict

220px-Gori_Tere_Pyaar_MeinPosted an article about audience verdict on the film ‘Gori Tere Pyaar Mein‘, starring Imran Khan, Kareena Kapoor Khan and Shraddha Kapoor on ourvadodara.in. Check it out.

Insidious Chapter 2 Review

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My seventeenth job for the site ourvadodara.in. Click the following link to read my review of 2013 Hollywood Film ’Insidious Chapter 2’, A James Wan Film Starring Patrick Wilson, Rose Bryne, Ty Simpkins, Lin Shaye, Barbara Hershey : http://ourvadodara.in/insidious-chapter-2-review. Also, do visit the site for any updates about Vadodara life. I shall henceforth post the latest Bollywood & Hollywood Movies releasing in cinema halls in Vadodara on http://ourvadodara.in/

 

Analyze This Review

220px-Analyze_thisRating: BBB / 70%

Director: Harold Ramis

Cast: Robert Di Nero, Billy Crystal, Lisa Kudrow, Joe Vitarelli

‘Once with the Mob, always with the Mob.’

Ben Sobel (Billy Crystal) was only an average shrink, indifferently listening to his patients who were usually maudlin women with low self-esteem, and living in the shadow of his dad, a reputed psychiatrist with three books to his credit. He intends to start a new life with Laura (Lisa Kudrow), a small-time reporter, and wants Michael (Kyle Sabihy), his teenage son from his former wife to accept her as mommy. He also wants Michael to stop eavesdropping on his sessions (and blurting it out at the inopportune moment); at a party, when Ben tries to convince his dad he’s getting challenging cases at work, Michael adds, much to his dad’s dismay, that Ben has a patient who ‘s**ts trout’ – not something a shrink would want to brag about, would he? What this shrink needs to save his own shrinking self-esteem is a case that introduces a challenge big enough to shake him awake from his career snooze. Paul Vitti brings him this challenge.

It isn’t Vitti’s problem – a case of guilt consciousness after witnessing one’s father’s murder –  that’s challenging, but Vitti himself. The man’s a top mobster, and he’s played by De Niro, an actor who’s practically spent the latter years of his career playing characters which lampoon his serious roles in classics like Godfather 2, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and Goodfellas. He’s fortunately not on auto-pilot ‘has-been De Niro’ mode that’s gotten on our nerves lately; he acts out his part here with a sly and fresh willingness that foregoes not the energy and interest required to make the self-parodying funny and witty. His character wants to get in touch with his feelings, and fortunately for him (and unfortunately for Ben), his henchman Jelly (Joe Vitarelli) has got Ben’s business card readily available in his pocket; after Ben’s car rams into Jelly’s (which carries a bound-up victim in its trunk) in a previous scene, Ben, unaware of Jelly’s occupation or the kidnapped person in the trunk, hands him his business card after apologizing for the accident. The next day, he gets Vitti at his office, and his troubles begin.

Vitti’s like Colin Firth’s King George VI in King’s Speech, well aware of the consequences of his weakness but just too egocentric and obstinate to change himself. He warns Ben not to turn him into a ‘f*g’ (as if therapy is meant for homosexuals only), and thinks one session of problem identification is enough by itself to solve his problem. Ben is given an offer he dare not refuse, but his acceptance means he’s on call 24/7, even on the day of his wedding. Laura is both worried and annoyed, and her engagement with Ben becomes all the more eventful with a man plunging down to his death in the background. Vitti’s enemies take notice of this ‘new guy’, while the FBI wants Ben to help them in apprehending Vitti and his men. Michael just finds it all ‘so cool’. In a way it is, as Ben is showered with expensive gifts, money and complements from Vitti, but the bottom-line is that he’s with the mob, and its known that if a person deals with the Mafia, the only two ways of quitting are a) when the mafia itself distances from the person and lets him live peacefully or b) death. And Ben constantly fears for his life, with loaded guns cocked at him whenever he rebels or talks of quitting. He doesn’t have the freedom Geoffrey Rush’s character Lionel Logue had in The King’s Speech. He has to think thrice before telling this particular patient to shut up and listen.

The situations created by Harold Ramis for the film’s characters draw out the humor, and it’s really good to see that this guy really knew the films he intended to spoof (learn something, Mr. Jason Friedberg and Mr. Aaron Seltzer). His characters play their parts seriously but what they’re doing is essentially comedy, and placing them in improbable situations (ever thought you’d see a ruthless mobster listening to a shrink, or a shrink in mobsters’ company?) and giving them appropriately humorous dialogues is what turns Analyze This into a whip-smart, rib-tickling situational comedy. It reminds me of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, where there’s actually a romantic scene with a woman and her lover with a donkey’s head; the entire far-fetched nature of the situation, its extraordinary case of occurrence mixed with its tone of seriousness made the scene a treat to relish. It’s really sad that a lot many comedies nowadays rely largely on the vulgarity/raunchiness/obscenity of the jokes themselves instead of the situations, and the dialogues too have lost spark and inventiveness. In Analyze This, we have De Niro, all pathetic and curled up, crying like a baby while his enemies are firing from every direction. We also have Crystal pretending to be Vitti’s consigliere and slapping Viterelli in a laugh-out-loud scene in the climax. Moments like these remain in memory to treasure and cherish.

(Note: Lisa Kudrow plays a web therapist herself in the comedy web production and TV series Web Therapy. The third season features Billy Crystal in the role of Garrett Pink. My wish-list for guest stars includes Robert De Niro; would be especially fun to feature him as Camilla Bowner’s (played brilliantly by Meryl Streep) husband and maybe persuade Meryl to make another appearance too)

 

Goliyon Ki RaasLeela Ram-Leela Review

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My sixteenth job for the site ourvadodara.in. Click the following link to read my review of 2013 Bollywood Film ‘Goliyon Ki RaasLeela Ram-Leela’, A Sanjay Leela Bhansali Film Starring Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone, Supriya Pathak, Abhimanyu Singh, Gulshan Devaiahhttp://ourvadodara.in/goliyon-ki-raasleela-ram-leela-review . Also, do visit the site for any updates about Vadodara life. I shall henceforth post the latest Bollywood & Hollywood Movies releasing in cinema halls in Vadodara on http://ourvadodara.in/

Planes Review: A 2013 Animated Film By Walt Disney Studios

Planes_FilmPoster.jpegRating: (For Television Viewing) BB/ 60%

Summary: It’s A Plane, Indeed, But no Pixar. It’s A below Average Disney Theatre Release That Was Meant for Television, Where It Manages to Be Passable… I Saw It on TV.

Director: Klay Hall

 
Planes, Walt Disney Pictures’ spinoff to Disney Pixar’s Oscar-nominated 2006 venture ‘Cars’, takes place ‘above the world of cars’, according to the film’s tagline. As the film involves planes, it’s obviously set in the expanse of the skies. When Alfonso Cuarón to set his latest film ‘Gravity’ in space, certainly ‘far above the world of planes’, he envisioned something mighty to do justice to the backdrop. Planes, on the other hand, flies safely and steadily from its take-off to its landing without having a vision to do justice to the skies or its studios.

 
When Disney bought Pixar, the collaboration engendered some of the most illustrious, adventurous and memorable animated films in history. Each film had a common core audience: kids. But the family values infused in their stories along-with the top-notch animation gave Pixar a universal audience, and so may find even a fifty-year old war veteran possessing a DVD of Wall-E or Up! What differentiates Pixar from the studios such as Dreamworks (which is now picking up greatly in terms of the quality of its storytelling, especially with films such as Kung Fu Panda 2 and How to Train Your Dragon) is the ‘Pixar moments’.
You see this in every great Pixar film.

 
In Ratatouille, it comes when Anton Ego takes a bite of Remy’s Ratatouille and is taken back to nostalgic memories from his childhood. In Up, which has some of the most emotionally intense moments of any Pixar film, it comes when old man Carl finally gets to Paradise Falls, sits down on his favorite couch and opens Ellie’s Adventure Book. In Monsters University, which is one of the weaker Pixar efforts, it comes towards the end when Mike finds out about his teammate Sullivan’s skullduggery in winning the Scare Games. These are moments of profundity which successfully round up everything which the film wants to convey and elevate it to a status where we take not only the animation but also the film’s storytelling with seriousness. It is Pixar’s achievement.
Planes lands after its 90 minute travel with not even one Pixar moment to boast of.

 
The film is an underdog story with a universally accepted (therefore predictable) message that ‘One should never stop dreaming’. A great underdog story with far more originality, fun, wit and snazzy and panache was Gore Verbinski’s Oscar winning non-Pixar film Rango. That was about Rango, a pet chameleon, who becomes a county sheriff after accidently killing off a dreaded predator tormenting the county’s inhabitants. This is about Dusty, a crop-duster (planes commonly used for spraying insecticides over crops) with admirable flying skills who qualify for the ‘Wings Across the World’ racing championship, to everyone’s surprise, after the plane ahead of him in the qualifier is disqualified for using ‘illegal fuel enhancements’ (an obvious reference to the smartass steroid-users in sports).

 
Dusty is a rookie, albeit a passionate one. In the film’s opening scene, we see him flying at lightning speed alongside fighter jets, only to learn it’s one of his daydreams. He hates his current job and trains himself to become a racer by following the guidelines in ‘Air Racing for Dummies’ (another easy reference). He has only one pal Chug, the fuel truck, to support him; his forklift mechanic pal Dottie thinks he’s gone crazy. In Cars, Lightning McQueen’s companion Mater proved to be so memorable that he got an entire sequel – ‘Cars 2’ – for himself. Chug, on the other hand, is so unmemorable I had to hunt down Wikipedia to get his name. There is absolutely nothing distinctive about most of the ensemble in Planes. There’s Doc Hudson’s poor man Skipper, an unapproachable World War veteran with a secret, who trains Dusty for the championship. There is a forklift named what? (checking Wikipedia)… Dottie who warns him about his over-ambitious dreams.

 
Once Dusty reaches the event, he finds himself pitted against an assortment of world-class planes from different cultures (!): there’s 1) a plane representing Asia named Ishani, voiced by Indian actress Priyanka Chopra, who is one of the few characters I would want in the planned sequel 2) Ripslinger, a brash former champion whose green paint coating might remind us of Car’s antagonist Chick Hicks but whose attitude and characterization makes him seem like a wannabe villain 3) Bulldog, a pompous English veteran racer who’s vaguely similar to retiring veteran Strip Weathers from Cars 4) Rochelle, a petulant French-Canadian plane and 5) El Chupacabra, a horny Mexican (STEREOTYPE!!) plane who has hots for her. A multi-cultural environment means you get scenes highlighting some aspect about each culture. Here we get a pretty Americanized perception about everybody. Ishani being ‘The Indian’ is mysterious, with a ridiculous sitar sound playing during her scenes. She shows him the Taj Mahal, one of the Seven Wonders of the World situated in Agra, on their way to the Himalayas. The Taj Mahal we see here is again a mysterious structure standing in the middle of lush verdurous scenery instead of the tourist spot it actually is. The major question that ran in my mind was “Who was its maker?”. Neither cars nor planes nor trucks nor trains have hands, and forklifts are too tiny to build structures so huge. Monsters and Robots could but not these machines. It’s a question that’s been running in my mind ever since I saw the stadiums and buildings in Cars. Probably the mightiness and ‘mystery’ of Taj Mahal really got me wondering how many liberties these films could take.

 
Here, another liberty. The film, unlike most Pixar and Disney stories we are familiar with, is the first to have the narrative haphazardness characteristic of masala Bollywood films. In masala Bollywood, you’d get to hear things like: ‘The film has a mix of everything: drama, action, comedy, romance!!’ and the makers keep their promise by stuffing portions of everything into these critical turkeys but box-office glories. In Planes, you get a dose of tired gags from the supporting cast between every flight. At one point, the film unexpectedly brings in a romantic courtship scene between El Chupacabra and Rochelle. When Dusty and Ishani fly around Taj Mahal, you’ll recognize the tune of ‘Dam Dara Dam Dara Mast Mast’ playing in the background especially if you’re an Indian and/or a big fan of Indian films and music. No problems here, and I like the fact other cultures are being explored, but the song choice is poor and only inserted because ‘she’s the Indian girl, remember. So, nothing but Indian music’. And the lyrics are just too romantic to be placed so early into the film unless they are Romeo and Juliet, which they are NOT.

 

The film is best suited for television, the medium it was originally intended for before Disney and Pixar got greedy and released it in theatres worldwide as part of Disneytoons Studios. . In fact, John Lassetter, the executive producer who wrote the concept of Planes, was the director of Cars, and traces of the latter film are seen so often in this film I had to remind myself twice that the director of Planes wasn’t Lassetter but Klay Hall (Tinkerbell and the Lost Treasure). The animation is not at par with the best of Disney-Pixar and there isn’t much uniqueness in the story or the characters.

Fortunately, I saw it on VOD at home, where it just manages to be passable. Lucky Plane!