Salman Khan to be Ambassador of Change for IIFA 2010

The dust around International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) 2010 seems to be settling down. Amid protest march and boycott threats, there were some doubts as to whether the awards will be held in Colombo. But all that seems to be over now with the recent announcement of actor Salman Khan as the brand ambassador of the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) Charity Initiative. As a symbol of solidarity with the Sri Lankan people, IIFA has spearheaded the Charity Initiative, in conjunction with the Sri Lanka Cricket Board, Habitat for Humanity and UNICEF. The Charity Initiative is to include housing, literacy and rehabilitation measures for the people in the Northern and Eastern regions of Sri Lanka.

Unfazed by the recent controversy regarding the Tamilian protests against the choice of venue for IIFA 2010, CNNIBN quoted Khan as saying “I will perform at IIFA... I'm there with IIFA and Being Human". In a recent press conference, the actor supporting IIFA’s initiative to positively impact those afflicted in the war, added, “I am happy to be an ‘Ambassador of Change’ and believe that it is crucial to make a difference and contribute to this worthy cause. IIFA has successfully built bridges between countries over the last decade, and I hope this initiative will do the same for Sri Lanka.”

IIFA 2010 will be held from 3rd to 5th June in Colombo. Apart from the awards, an IIFA weekend of charities and events are being planned. This includes a charity match between Sri Lankan cricketers and Bollywood celebrities called “Cricket for Change”, the proceeds for which will go into building 100 houses for the refugees in Jaffna, and adoption and rehabilitation measures of child soldiers.

Mrinal Sen's "Khandhar' to shine at Cannes

Indian presence at the Cannes International Film Festival is increasing in a good way this year. Besides Vikramaditya Motwane’s Udaan which is up for the “Un Certain Regard” category, the festival authorities have decided to screen Mrinal Sen’s “Khandhar” (The Ruins) in their “Cannes Classic” section.

Released in 1983, “Khandhar” features stalwart actors like Naseeruddin Shah, Shabana Azmi and Pankaj Kapur in lead roles. The movie was favourably received by critics and public alike on its release and even got the special jury prize at the Montreal Film Fest in 1984.

This is not the first time that Cannes has expressed interest in Sen’s films. A Cannes jury prize winner in 1983 for “Kharij”, Sen’s Calcutta trilogy films - 'Interview', 'Calcutta 71' and 'Padatik'- were to be showcased at the 2009 Cannes International Film Festival. But the screening fell through due to poor quality of the negatives.

Following media reports about the decrepit condition of Sen's films, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had asked the Information and broadcasting ministry to restore the classics and 17 of the films are now being restored at the Pune archives. Sounding pleased about the restoration work done by Reliance Mediaworks, the Dadasaheb Phalke winning filmmaker says “"They had undertaken a pristine restoration process removing dust, dirt and scratches frame by frame making it fit for screening at the section". Heath permitting, the 86 year old filmmaker intends to make it for the “Khandhar” screening in Cannes.

The Flight of the Independent Indian Film Makers

Cannes 2010 may well be the year for independent filmmakers in India. For the first time in seven years, an Indian film – Udaan - has been selected as an official entry at Cannes International Film Festival. Directed by Vikramaditya Motwane, Udaan is the story of a young boy’s (Rohan) return to his home in Jamshedpur, after being abandoned for eight years in a boarding school. Against his wishes, Rohan is forced to study engineering and work at his father’s steel factory whereas he dreams of being a writer. How young Rohan tries to forge a way out of his circumstances and follow his passion is what the film is all about. Udaan will be screened under the “Un Certain Regard” category in the Cannes International Film Festival. This is the first time in sixteen years that an Indian film is being featured in this category.

A man of many trades, Vikramaditya Motwane has served time as a Song Director (Anurag Kashyap’s Paanch, Deepa Mehta’s Water), an Assistant Director (Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam), an Associate Director and Sound Designer (Bhansali’s ‘Devdas), and Screenplay Writer (Goal and DevD). Motwane finished the script for Udaan in 2003 but had to wait for six long years before it became a finished cinematic product. Motwane says, “In late 2003, I gave my out-of-work director friend Anurag Kashyap the first draft of my new screenplay to read. He read it in an hour, gave it back to me, went back to what he was doing and told me that one day he will produce this film that nobody else will.” Prophetic words indeed for the film is jointly produced by Anurag Kashyap, his friend Sanjay Singh and Ronnie Screwvala.

Udaan is to be screened on 19th and 20th May at the Cannes International Film Festival.

The life and legend of Chandu: How radical would Bhatt's cinematic story be?

Mahesh Bhatt is in news once again. Professing his need to go back to making meaningful cinema, he has picked up on the sensational case of student leader and political activist from Jawahar Lal Nehru University (JNU), Chandrashekhar Prasad. Back in the 90’s the name Chandrashekhar Prasad fired the imagination of the country’s youth. His brutal death at the hand of political rival Shahabuddin of Janata Dal led to a string of protests that we have become so familiar with post Rang De Basanti.

The film is to be produced by a Dubai based alumnus of Aligarh Muslim University, Irfan Izhar. Mahesh Bhatt is the creative consultant behind this project and Imran Zahid, an ex-Delhi University student is to reprise the role of Chandrashekhar Prasad or Chandu. The news has initiated mixed reaction from the JNU students and their concerns were voiced in a leading national daily.

Making a movie on a real life character is always fraught with danger, especially on one whose life and death is still fresh in the collective memories of his friends and contemporaries. Add to this the vested interest of political parties and campus politics, and it becomes a veritable minefield. CPI (ML) will not want their party image to be tarnished. Shahabuddin might be the killer of Chandu, but the lack of collective responsibility on the part of CPI (ML) harks back to the idea of politics being just that: Politics.

Chandraprakash’s mother has been quite vocal against CPI (ML) “The party made full use of me during the two-three years after my son’s murder. The CPI (ML) has been thriving on the politics of dead bodies.” Kaushalaya Devi (Chandu’s mother) had to complain to the party general secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya to install the statue of Chandu for which she was forced to “donate” Rs. 40,000. She says “The statue was installed by the people who didn’t even pay for a funeral shroud when his body was brought for the cremation.”

JNU student politics has been in a slum after the Lyngdoh Commission. The current scenario is a far cry from the campus politics meets real life politics reminiscent of Chandraprakash’s days as student leader. This movie is a chance to reinforce the essence of radical student’s movements which is unique to JNU.

The director’s portrayal of Chandraprakash is crucial. Without the human element, this will become a propaganda movie and to hold the attention of a diverse movie going crowd, Mahesh Bhatt has to bring something extra to this movie as a creative consultant. From a small town in Bihar, this is the story of an exceptional young man. For people like us, grinding in a 9-6 existence, Chandu’s life seems even more radical. Very few people will opt out of NDA and to become a fulltime activist.

Controversy and Mahesh Bhatt have always gone hand in hand. Taking into account the recent Maoist attacks, excessive glorification of the Leftist-Marxist movement might lead to political roadblocks. But the Hindi film industry is no stranger to political umbrage (read fracas about the release of My Name is Khan, promotional posters for Kurbaan showing Kareena’s bareback, reference to Mumbai as Bombay in Wake up Sid... the publicity stunts are endless!).

But Mahesh Bhatt is a shrewd filmmaker and knows very well that he can’t please everybody. If he can successfully navigate the political concerns and make a movie out of this amazing slice of life, then it will certainly be worth a dekko.
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