Tag Archives: Bollywood

Bollywood’s re-imagination of growing old: Tannistha Samanta


Although the Indian Hindi film industry has been known to be considerably less gerontophobic than the western popular culture (Hollywood, in particular), our aging Naanas and Naanis have been often represented as either able keepers of family “sanskars” or hyper-ritualized subjects (with added effect if in some diasporic setting)or as self-sacrificing elderly parents to prodigal children (or ruthless grandchildren). Continue reading Bollywood’s re-imagination of growing old: Tannistha Samanta

Old Films: Habib Tanvir

This is an excerpt from HABIB TANVIR’s Memoirs, translated by MAHMOOD FAROOQUI, to be released this evening 7 pm at the India Habitat Centre in Delhi.

Memoirs by Habib Tanvir, translated by Mahmood Farooqui, Penguin Viking, Delhi, 2013; Rs. 599, pp. 400

First of all there was the bioscope. A woman wearing ghaghra and choli would roam around from mohalla to mohalla calling out to the children and gathering them at a chowk or in large courtyard, would take out a long stool from her arm pit and place it on the ground, would remove an octangular and muddy looking tin box from her head and place it on top which had a small mouth covered by a black cloth which the child would remove and peer inside. The women usually came from Rajasthan. The box would contain ten or fifteen cards of photographs, she would show them one after the other and also introduce them in a particular musical speech, ‘see the Rauza of Taj Bibi, see the Lal Qila of Dilli…etc.’ At one time only one child could see the pictures, which would be projected through a lens and lit up through a bulb inside the box which would make the photographs appear larger and more dramatic. When one child was through another would take his place. A large and restive crowd of children would be gathered around waiting their turn. Even the elders would be eager to see Hindustan through these pictures. She would charge two to three chhedams from everyone who took a peep. When the show was over, she would hawk her way to another mohalla. Continue reading Old Films: Habib Tanvir

Playback of a golden voice

In this country of almost a billion and a quarter you might find some people who have not heard of Mohammed Rafi. In such a scenario, My Abba: A Memoir, a book on the great singer written by his daughter-in-law Yasmin Khalid Rafi in its stream of conscience kind of technique, connects one to his life like no other book. Yasmin is writing about someone she idolised and loved, like only a daughter can. When she talks of him, a jumble of memories comes rushing back and surrounds her—the songs she liked, the music directors who worked with Rafi Saheb, his simplicity, his generousness, his love for his family, his insecurities, his inability to be flamboyant, the metamorphosis that transformed him into a great performer the moment he set foot on the stage. Continue reading Playback of a golden voice

Kai Po Che and the reduction of 2002: Zahir Janmohamed


A still from Kai Po Che
A still from Kai Po Che

When I started conducting research in Gujarat two years ago, I kept being asked the same question among middle class youth in Ahmedabad: “Have you read Chetan Bhagat?” When I asked what other books they have read, I often heard, “Actually I only read Chetan Bhagat.”

So I started to read Bhagat because I wanted to relate to many of the young people I was interviewing. But it was not an easy task.

I understand the frustration with Bhagat’s writing. Unlike other young adult authors like JK Rowling or Suzanne Collins, Bhagat’s books rarely reward a second reading (and yes I have tried). Continue reading Kai Po Che and the reduction of 2002: Zahir Janmohamed

When women ask for it: Veena Venugopal


To me, the most memorable scene in Dev D is the one where Paro takes a mattress from home and ties it to her cycle. When she reaches the edge of the field, she abandons the cycle, lifts the mattress on her shoulder and marches to the clearing where she lays it down and waits for her lover. There are no words spoken and the camera holds her face close. Her expression is one of intense seriousness. You can see her desire is a field force of intensity that fuels every step. She is determined to see it through, to let that desire take over herself completely; not surrender to it but to let it explode out of her. You know that when she meets Dev, the sex would be passionate and powerful.  And yet, in the south Delhi multiplex where I was watching the film, most of the audience burst into rapacious laughter. The women smiled embarrassedly at each other. Which made me wonder, why is female desire a laughing matter? Continue reading When women ask for it: Veena Venugopal

Learning gender, learning caste: two reflections

We received two brief submissions separately sent by two women, reflecting on incidents in their childhood or youth that returned to haunt them more recently. Rethinking, reworking their own sense of self, they present before us questions both timely and urgent.

AYSHWARIA SEKHER looks back on her ignorance of caste, PRANETA JHA revisits a childhood game that taught her about sexual violence.


I was seventeen, and an undergraduate when I met this friend at hostel.  She was from a southern district of Tamilnadu almost near Kanyakumari. I was always amused by her southern dialect and teased her immensely, for it was very different from what I was used to speaking, being a northerner. She lived next door at hostel, so we got into conversations every time we bumped into each other. One evening she was sweeping her room and cleaning it.  I stopped by to see the way she swept so I could bully her.  As I observed I did realise that she was so much better than me at it and did it with ease. As we got talking, she revealed that she always did it at her home, and it was not a task for her.

Ignorantly I enquired why they did not have a help at home, which according to me was something that every household possessed. She looked at me, and brushed aside the question plainly, saying simply that they just didn’t have any help. I pestered with the question giving her no space. She stopped sweeping and rested her hand against the wall and said that people would not come to her house to work. I was amazed at why people would not go to a home for work.  So my cross questions persisted and she had no choice but to answer.

Continue reading Learning gender, learning caste: two reflections

Save indie cinema in India

Door Darshan India (Director General)
President of India (Shri Pranab Mukherjee)
Vice President of India (Shri Hamid Ansari)
Information and Broadcasting Minister (Manish Tiwari)

This petition is jointly filed by: Oscar Award and National Award winning sound engineer Resul Pookutty; National Award Winner and Oscar nominees Ashvin Kumar, Ashutosh Gowariker; National Award winning filmmakers Anant Mahadevan, Aparna Sen, Ashim Ahluwalia, Buddhadev Das Gupta, Girish Kasaravalli, Goutam Ghosh, Jahnu Barua, Janaki Viswanathan, Nila Madav Panda, Onir, Rituparno Ghosh, Sachin Kundalkar, Shivajee Chandrabhushan, Shyam Benegal, Sanjay Suri, Shonali Bose, Sooni Taraporevala, Sudhir Mishra, Suman Mukhopadhyay, Umesh Kulkarni, Vinay Shukla, Vishal Bharadwaj; Film makers Aamir Bashir, Amole Gupte, Anusha Rizvi, Bedabrata Pain, Homi Adajania, Kaushik Mukherjee (Q), Kiran Rao, Krishna D.K., Nandita Das, Rahul Bose, Samar Khan, Srijit Mukherji , Subhash Kapoor, Sudish Kamath, Vinta Nanda, Vipin Vijay, Zoya Akhtar; 5 time National Award winning actror, social activist and MP Shabana Azmi and actor/producer Juhi Chawla

As the country celebrates 100 years of cinema we want to bring to your notice how New Wave Indie Cinema of India is under threat. Among the various challenges that we face as Indie film makers, the biggest is that of exhibition. The multiplexes which were given tax benefits to promote small budget content film have in fact been instrumental in destroying small cinema by only playing the box office game. Continue reading Save indie cinema in India

Amitabh Bachchan in Gaza

T shirt from shop in Ramallah. The Arabic text reads, “My life is an Indian film”. Photo by Sunaina Maira.

Radhika Sainath writes:

Palestinians in Gaza love Indians. They love Indian dancing, they love Indian music, they love Indian clothes. Whenever I walk out of the house, someone inevitably asks “hiyya hindeyee?” Is she Indian? ”I knew it!” they say when the response is in the affirmative. “Bheb al Hind,” I love India….

So Amitabh, Abhishek, Aishwarya, Amir, Hrithik, Kareena, Salman, Shahrukh, if you’re reading this, how about a shout out to 1.5 million of your biggest fans in the Gaza Strip? Israel has forbidden pasta, tea, cement and freedom flotillas from entering Gaza, but it hasn’t stopped Bollywood. We watch you under the Israeli drones and the F-16s, after being shot at by the Israeli navy and army while fishing, picking olives or going to school. You bring a sliver of joy to people living under the world’s longest occupation in the world’s largest prison, and for that we thank you.

Read the rest of this post by Radhika Sainath at Notes from Behind the Blockade Life: politics and nonviolent resistance inside the Gaza Strip.

Through the screen, not so darkly: Raza Rumi

Guest post by RAZA RUMI

Pakistanis love Bollywood. There is no question about that. Amidst the love-hate perceptions, Indian cinema has for decades fed public imagination. Before the 1965 war that took place when Ayub Khan, Pakistan’s first military ruler, was in power,  Indian films were released in Pakistan regularly. They competed with the local cinema. The healthy contest enriched filmmaking and gave choice to Pakistani cinema-goers. The war and competing imaginary nationalism halted this process and for decades, Indian films stayed away from cinemas until another military ruler, Parvez Musharraf, allowed limited releases. Such is the power of Bollywood and its commercial viability that for the past few years, Bollywood flicks have revived cinema in Pakistan. Continue reading Through the screen, not so darkly: Raza Rumi

Who is Jugni?: Indu Vashist

Guest post by INDU VASHIST

The character of Jugni has been featuring in Punjabi popular and folk music for well over a century. The most recent references of this rebellious, fiery female character have appeared in diverse productions like Pakistan’s Coke Studio (above), Punjab’s sensicore rocker Rabbi Shergill, and of course Bollywood in films like Tanu Weds Manu and Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! Continue reading Who is Jugni?: Indu Vashist

Maya Bazaar

Its 6.30 am on a mid-May Sunday morning in Bombay, India’s favourite metropolis-on-the-sea. Like a sudden gift from a dying relative, an unseasonal chilled breeze is blowing in from the ragged beaches of the city. I put my sandals on and go downstairs from my flat to meet three friends; all of us having decided to do what Bombay dwellers do periodically – use a Sunday to make friends with the city again, to momentarily cease the war that rages, unbidden, every other day of the week. Continue reading Maya Bazaar

Is Desh Ka Kuch Nahin Ho Sakta

Of the many excitements on offer at election time are the pious ads by luminaries of the film fraternity exhorting the peoples of India to vote. This one is my favourite…

“Parties come and parties go”, smiles Isha Koppikar,

“But the rubbish on the roads,” says a glum Ritesh,

“Is still there,” notes Farhan astutely.



“Why?” ask Shahid, Priyanka, and Sonam in anguished tones. The answer my friend, as the bard and Kareena said is, “Kyonke Kuch Nahin Ho Sakta Is Desh Ka”. Bhaiiyon aur behenon! Ungli uthao aur button dabao! Ah! TV! But the disastrous acting and terrible scripting aside, there are few things more hilarious than watching Abhishek Bacchan, who distinguished himself by declaring himself a farmer and stealing land from farmers in Barabanki, waxing eleoquent on criminalization of politics. Truly, after watching this ad, I am forced to concur: Is Desh Ka Kuch Nahin Ho Sakta…

Israel(i Man) seduces India(n Woman)

Here’s how a state-owned Israeli defence firm tries to get business from India’s Defence Ministry:

The Danger Room blog said the text implied that the “Indian military is somehow like a helpless woman who needs to feel safe and sheltered.”

Rafael dismissed the criticism of its film and said that it made movies with a local theme for every international defense expo. A movie, one company source said, made for a defense expo in Brazil focused on soccer and weapons. Another movie, for a US audience, focused on football.

“We try to make the movies about the place where the defense expo is located,” the company source said, adding that in previous years Rafael had won prizes for its pavilions and marketing techniques. [The Jerusalem Post]

Can you repeat the Question? Slumdog gets an answer WRONG!

In our continuing converage of all things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small – I stumbled across this excellent little piece by Rajeev Shrivastava in the 13th February issue of Friday Review of The Hindu. (It was also posted on the Sarai Readerlist). While Kafila has been debating the merits/de-merits, context and meaning of Slumdog Millionaire (in much the way that only we can); Shrivastava’s piece brings back memories of one of our earliest debates on Kafila on Sahir Ludhianvi and film lyricists-which featured pieces by Sohail Hashmi (Thinking about Sahir Ludhianvi) and Mahmood Farooqui (Pal do pal ka shayar).

To quote Shrivastav:

Continue reading Can you repeat the Question? Slumdog gets an answer WRONG!

India’s fault lines, explored in a film about a Delhi thief – Trisha Gupta

Guest post by TRISHA GUPTA

Fifteen minutes into Dibakar Banerjee’s new film, a bunch of lower middle class Delhi boys are beating up a private school kid whose one refrain is a pleading “Jaan de bhai, extra class hai“. They don’t stop. But at one point, the gangly teenaged sardar pauses in his pummelling to make the padhaaku kid answer a crucial question, “Yeh greeting card mein likha kya hota hai?Continue reading India’s fault lines, explored in a film about a Delhi thief – Trisha Gupta