Monthly Archives: August 2014

Swiss films come to Bangalore

With the ‘Swiss Film Week’, taking place until September 1, the Swiss Consulate in Bangalore looks forward to celebrate a century of German teaching in India. Around six films — 4 fiction films and two documentaries — will be showcased at the festival at Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan. Rolf Frei, the consul general throws more light on the idea behind the screening as he says, “In Switzerland, we have four official languages; the most widely spoken one is German. The films we have chosen are films made by renowned Swiss filmmakers. By showcasing these films, which are in German, we aim to acquaint the people with our cinema culture.”

The festival will kickstart with a screening of ‘More than Honey,’ a documentary by Markus Imhoof, which was the country’s nomination for the ‘Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film’ in 2013. ‘More than Honey’ examines the causes for the dwindling population of bees across the world. In the course of 91 minutes, it captures insights from a Swiss beekeeper living on an alp, a brain researcher in Berlin, a pollen trader in China and more, documenting their lives.

Frei is confident that the festival will receive a good response and is eager to reach out to more people around the country after the screening in Bangalore. “We want to take the festival to five other cities. We are yet to finalise the details.”

The films

Film: Die Standesbeamtin (Will you marry us?) by Micha Lewinsky

Duration: 90 min

Screening: August 30, 8 pm

A civil registrar, Rahel Hubli has long given up on finding the ‘love of her life.’ But her outlook is set to change when her childhood friend, Ben, suddenly shows up. Love soon blooms between them. The movie, released in 2009, packs in humor, music and romance as Rahel tries to circumvent a marriage proposal from Ben as she is already married.

 

Film: Der Kreis (The Circle) by Stefan Haupt

Duration: 101 min

Screening: August 31, 6 pm

Released in February this year, the story is set in Zurich of 1958 at the underground organisation, Der Kreis which pioneered gay emancipation across Europe. The protagonist Ernst Ostertag, a young teacher falls in love with Robi Rapp, a German cabaret artist. Torn between his bourgeois existence and his love for Robi, Ernst joins Der Kreis and witnesses the rise and fall of the organisation.

 

Film: Der Verdingbub (The Foster Boy) by Markus Imboden

Duration: 108 min

Screening: August 31, 8 pm

A 2011 film, it is the story of Max, a 12-year old orphan who goes to work with a farmer, Bosiger. But here, Max, instead of finding a loving home, gets treated like a workhorse and is constantly humiliated and abused by the farmer’s son, Jacob. When his teacher stands up against the brutality, it only makes matters worse for Max at home. The only saving grace for him is his friendship with Berteli, who was also taken on to work at the farm. The story continues as he dreams of living in a fantasy world with Berteli in Argentina, where everything is hunky dory and where even hayforks are made of silver.

Film: Vaters Garten – Die Liebe meiner Eltern (Father´s green – The love of my parents) by Peter Liechti

Duration: 93 min

Screening: September 1, 6 pm

The film examines the strained relationship between the director and his parents. For decades, they avoided meeting each other as much as possible. The film follows a re-encounter years later between them. In the process, Peter understands more about their individual personalities,  their marriage and the love they have for each other which helped them sustain the bond for 62 years.

 

Film: Die Schwarzen Brüder (The Black Brothers) by Xavier Koller

Duration: 98 min

Screening: September 1, 8 pm

Die Schwarzen Brüder (The Black Brothers) is a poignant story of a young boy, Georgio, who is forced to work as a chimney-sweep in Milan. Saddened by his misfortune and the abject condition he is living in, he forms a community – ‘Black Brothers’. Together, they defend themselves against the attacks of street urchins called Die Wolfe. The film traces Georgio’s struggle in Milan and his escape back to Switzerland.


First published in The New Indian Express on August 28, 2014

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Categories: Articles- New Indian Express, Culture, Events, Music & Dance, Theatre and Art | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Two artistes, three villages, one Bus Project

Should art only be confined to closed spaces, the high-end galleries and convention centres, catering to only the elite and the art enthusiasts? Two artists, Martin John and Saji Kadampattil have attempted to answer this question and in doing so, have tried to reimagine the idea of a performance space. They embarked on a journey a year ago in Thrissur on what they called ‘The Bus Project’.

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‘The Bus Project’, was a travelling stage that moved from place to place and interacted with local audience in villages like Manakody, Pazhuvil and Mattom. For the production, the duo used a bus as a performing arena and developed shows around it. The objective, Saji reiterates, was to move away from the conventional theatre spaces and cultivate the idea of an interactive theatrical display. Saji recalls, “We got a bus and altered it. We created two performance spaces –the bus opened on the side to become a platform where actors staged their plays and we converted the top as well. It was like a carnival on wheels.”

They used the bus as the central theme for the production, Odichodichu – Oru Bus Natakam, delving into the history and evolution of the mode of transportation which has become a life support for thousands of people in Thrissur and everywhere else. Saji says, “We had staged which revolved around the premise of ‘a disappearing bus’. The bus veers off in the wrong direction and falls into a deep ditch. The play is a parallel between two worlds — one that takes place inside the bus and the other, of the people who are trying to pull the bus out of the ditch.” Then there were workshops on sculpture making and painting and music performances.

By offering grants, the India Foundation for the Arts (IFA) has supported the artists in their endeavour to make theatre accessible to the public. Arundhati Ghosh observes, “This was a very interesting initiative of building an audience for theatre. Unlike others who drum up an audience by distributing flyers and making announcements, their idea was simple — to take theatre to the masses and make theatre accessible to everyone.”

Will the bus travel to other cities in the country? “We haven’t been able to do that due to roadblocks pertaining to certification and bus permits. We are helping them get in touch with civil authorities regarding this,” says Arundhati.

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First published in The New Indian Express on August 21

 

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In conversation with graphic artist, Seth Tobocman

A few days ago, I got a chance to talk to Seth Tobocman, the brain behind the comic magazine – World War 3 Illustrated. Of course I was nervous. I was going to talk to one of the most renowned graphic artists from America, the one who has championed many radical causes, whose comics delve into subjects that are real — be it political unrest, global warming or monetary crises. The interview was in relation to a visual demonstration he was going to conduct at the Rangoli Metro Arts Centre. The performance, he told me over the phone, was going to be based on the cultural concert (Cartoon Concert) method developed by cartoonist and illustrator, Vaughn Bode. Which meant that he would use comic strips and fuse them with PowerPoint slides and perform the text. And the themes would include “various issues of importance at the moment like the Palestinian conflict, global warming, social justice and homelessness in the USA, among others.” 

During the conversation that went on for over an hour, he held forth on his stay in Bangalore, his comics, his comic creation process and the medium in general. 

On life in Bangalore

Seth travelled to Bangalore over a month ago as part of the T.A.J Residency programme, a collaborative project between visual artists and gallerists. This gave him a chance to showcase his sketches on his upcoming comic book entitled A biography of Leonard Weinglass, an illustration of the life and works of a US criminal defense lawyer, and also interact with other artists from the country like Orijit Sen and Appupen. He also took part in a demonstration against rape that took place at Town Hall, a few weeks ago.

“The people in Bangalore are very fascinating. They did not hesitate to come up to me and talk about my work. For instance, two days back, I was drawing the street life around a temple at around 1 am.

Three boys came up to me and struck a conversation,” he says.  Of particular interest to him is the traffic in the city. “Maybe I will plan a comic piece around my life in Bangalore, ” he says.

On his creative process

“I sometimes complete a piece overnight, that is if the deadlines are stringent. If not, it takes atleast a day or two for me to complete a page. I first think of a plot, then come upon a structure. An important aspect is the rhythm which is akin to that of poetry. A comic artist should also pay attention to the visual construction, representation, of how much you can extract from the plot.”

On art that stirs reactions

The political comic book ‘World War 3’ marked the start of his career as an artist. The book came to fruition in 1979 after he and his friend, Peter Kruper decided to self publish a book that became a beacon for anti war propaganda. “I grew up reading comics and was fascinated by them. But then, there came a point when I realised that all comics were similar, they didn’t have any new plotlines. This compelled us (Seth and Peter) to create our own comic book.” Over the years, the magazine evolved, becoming a series and encompassing more than just it’s initial premise which was ‘concern over nuclear war’.

Seth is of the belief that comics are a great way to communicate with absolutely anyone and hence tries his best to ensure his comic books highlight relevant subjects and highlight his social observations. “Comics are very simplistic in nature and easy to understand,” he notes. And hence, like World War 3, Seth has gone on to publish many other radical works like ‘Understanding the Crash’ — a meditation on the sub-mortgage crisis that crashed Wall Street, ‘You don’t have to f**k people over to survive’ which is an attack on the morality, politics and social conditions of the Reagan era. Then there’s ‘Disaster and Resistance’, describing the disastrous events of the 21st century: 9-11, wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine and many others. And all of his comics have one common goal, epitomising these very words that described the 43 edition of World War 3– “No idea should be unspeakable. No emotion can be forever repressed. No one is above criticism. But critique, speech, and expression, are only meaningful in relation to the goals of liberating humanity and preserving nature.”

On the future of comic books

Where does he see the comic industry heading towards in the next decade? He is sanguine as he answers, “It is a very interesting period for this medium. Back in America, I find a lot of artists from Kyro and Lebanon making interesting stuff. There is a whole new wave of comic expression which is only good for the industry.”


First appeared in The New Indian Express

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‘I make music because I love it. Not for fame’ — singer Manjeet Ral

Here’s my interview with singer Manjeet Ral of the Singh is King fame and a member of the erstwhile band ‘RDB’ — an acronym for Rhythm, Dhol, Bass — , about his latest music ensemble ‘Manj Musik’ and upcoming collaborations. 

Manjeet has just completed a project for Dr Cabbie, a comedy caper co-produced by Salman Khan. Set in Canada, it is the story of a young Indian doctor who embarks on a coming-of-age journey. And keeping with the Indian-ness of the movie is the title track ‘Daal Makhani’ created by Manjeet. “They loved the work I had done on Shera di Kaum from Speedy Singhs (2011). Hence they asked me to produce the title song for this movie and one other song. The title track fuses all the fun elements. It will officially go live on YouTube on August 19 and subsequently on TV.” 

Apart from this, he has collaborations with Vishal-Shekhar and Sunidhi Chauhan lined up as well, he tells us.

Manj Musik was born a little over a year ago, following the demise of his brother, Kuly. For Manjeet, RDB was a symbol of Kuly’s musical prowess, his dedication and their combined effort. So he didn’t want to show disrespect to his brother by continuing the band on his own. “RDB was intrinsically what Kuly and I created. I didn’t want to take credit for RDB’s music,” he says. 

Ask him to describe his music style and he quips, “It is a good mix of western and eastern beats. My sound is influenced by everything from hip-hop and house to rock and classical genres. I feel my music is very experimental. Very futuristic.”

Having spent his childhood in the United Kingdom and then relocating to Toronto, Manjeet enjoys a significant clout in the international music circles. He has worked with quite a few international names, most notably the likes of Ludacris, Snoop Lion, LMFAO, T-Pain and Public Enemy. “It was an amazing experience. They are very professional in their work and they taught me a lot about music,” says the star, who is also the ambassador in India for 50 Cent’s brand of headphones ‘SMS Audio’.

But in no way, he feels, he has reached the pinnacle of success yet. He avers, “I am still climbing the ladder and I have a lot to achieve before I can say my music is the best. I make music because I love this, not for fame. I do it for the people who come to listen to my music and I feel accomplished when they appreciate my efforts.”

Manj Musik comprises of Manjeet Ral, his wife Nindy Kaur and Raftaar (who doubles up as the lyricist). To know more, visit facebook.com/ManjMusik

Published in The New Indian Express on August 18, 2014

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An art show that celebrates the freedom of expression among young, up-and-coming artistes

For over a year now, Rangoli Metro Art Center has tried to bring to the fore many art forms that dot the cultural landscape of the country, giving a glimpse into the life and works of myriad artists. In yet another new initiative, the gallery will present 30 young creators, who have no big exhibition to their credit but whose works resonate with aesthetic brilliance. Surekha, the curator of the show  asserts, “These are artistes who have just graduated from college. They have created some great works, but they are not market-oriented. There are not many opportunities in Bangalore for them as most galleries seek big-name artistes. This show is a stepping stone for them.”

The exhibition, which kicked off on August 15, showcases the contributions these artists have made to the rich tapestry of art. Surekha tells us that the artists work with different genres, so the show has paintings, sculptures, light, video and sound installations, prints, performance, photography, drawings, etc.”It is the freedom of expression that we celebrated this independence day, the freedom that the new generation of artists can enjoy,” she opines.

Coin box Post Art History

An artist, Deepak, who has studied art history and who is part of the exhibition, seconds the thought. “The exhibition tries to bridge the all-too prevalent divide in the art space in the city. To put it in perspective, there are over 70 galleries in Bangalore but only a handful, say 1 or 2 per cent of them allow amateur artistes to portray their works. Moreover, Karnataka produces at least 1000 artistes every year.” He has been working in the art space for over two years, having graduated in 2012. At the show, he is showcasing his sound art work which deals with the concept of ‘emotions and surroundings.’ “I have been fascinated by how a person reacts to the surroundings, how he responds with a flurry of emotions. My piece throws light on that aspect,” he says.

Another artist, Vineesh V Amin attempts to link consciousness with the subconsciousness and explore the philosophy of the process through installations and light work. He explains, “I believe existence is perceptual and dependant on possibilities which are an extension of thoughts. My work focuses on transition, delving into the intermediate spaces between spaces which are either abstract or virtual. I have used kinetic and mechanical installations to portray this transition and lasers, which just like belief, are intangible.”

Line and Beyond, according to him, is a place where all artists can congregate and exchange ideas. He adds, “There are two groups of artistes — the ones who dabble in commercial work and the others, non-commercial. As artistes working in the non-commercial space, we work with a lot of different theories and concepts. An exhibition like this, brings such artistes together to share different perspectives.”

Deepak adds that Line and Beyond also aims to break away from the conventional gallery construct and reach out to the public. “When you exhibit at a gallery, you only interact with the art enthusiasts and the elite. Here, we hope to mingle with the public and learn about their reaction to art, understanding our own work in the process.”

Published in The New Indian Express on August 12, 2014.

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Of music that transcends various genres; here’s DJ Funkagenda, the DJ who takes life one day at a time

Funkagenda aka Adam Walder

Funkagenda aka Adam Walder

UK-based music producer and DJ Funkagenda’s music doesn’t belong to one genre. There’s a bit of house, techno, progressive, dubstep, drum and bass– it is ‘dance music,’ something that every music lover can enjoy. After a performance in Mumbai, he was in Bangalore on August 17 as part of the Vh1 Supersonic Club Night tour. “My set was something different — something with bigger builds and drops,” he says about his gig and goes on to talk more about his music in general.

Over the span of his music career, which began when he was 20 years old, he has collaborated with many renowned artistes like Fatboy Slim, Black Eyed Peas (for the album ‘The E.N.D.’), Basement Jaxx, Moby, and Dirty Vegas. And then there are the festivals and clubs he has played at across the globe. He recalls an interesting experience when he was in India a few years ago. He says, “Once after a show, I had gone to bed and was sleeping soundly when I was woken up by a knocking sound. I answered the door, and it was two guys who had been at my show. They had snuck into the hotel, found my room and wanted me sign posters and take pictures.”

Funkagenda aka Adam Walder had always been musically inclined. His favourite memory from his childhood days was when he would watch his grandfather work on a few backing tracks. His musician grandfather, along with his dad, was his biggest musical influence. He reminisces, “Once during the music sessions, when my granddad went out of the room, I started playing the notes. When he heard me play, he exclaimed, ‘Wow, was that you? You should start playing.’ That Christmas he got me a keyboard and the next thing I knew I was completely immersed in it and learnt to play other musical instruments too.”

As a young boy, he played as a keyboard player in various rock and jazz bands and a bass player in a folk band. But it wasn’t until he started making dance music that he really knew what he wanted to do with his life. “I love the energy of the dance floor and the way the music moves people,” he opines.

His original mix, ‘One day at a time’ is his personal favourite as it was written at a time when his life went through an upheaval. He recounts, “I used to have an alcohol problem when I was younger. When I moved out to the states, I was homesick. Moreover with all the changes that were happening in the music industry then, I began to doubt myself and where I was. It was a really difficult time and I started seeing a counselor about it. And then there was this moment when I just said to myself, ‘I’m not going to drink again’. And literally the day after that, I wrote ‘One Day At A Time’. It was a turning point in my life.”

Funkagenda has already completed two shows in London and Lithuania. After the India tour, he will be jetting to Los Angeles for quick shows in Orlando and Houston, before driving up to the ‘Burning Man’, a week long event held in the Black Rock Desert in northern Nevada. He adds, “I am also currently working on an album, so that’s the main thing on my plate right now. I also have a lot of exciting tours coming up.”

Published in The New Indian Express on August 16, 2014.

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The Hindi film — Rang De Basanti that sparked urban patriotism is now a book

“Zindagi jeeney ke do hi tareekey hote hain… Ek jo ho raha hai, honey do, bardaasht karte jaao. Ya phir zimmedari uthao ussey badalne ki”

 

 

(There are only two primary choices in life… One is to accept things the way they are. The second is to accept responsibility to change them.) 

— DJ, Rang De Basanti, 2006

When Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s cult classic Rang De Basanti released in the year 2006, it redefined the meaning of freedom and carved its place in history as a cinematic and social turning point. And It dared to raise an important question, ‘What is patriotism?’ Carrying flags and singing the national anthem on Independence Day and Republic Day? The film attempted to lay bare how the youth felt about the nation.

A protest scene from the movie

A protest scene from the movie

By drawing parallels between two periods — the freedom fighters that fought the British Raj and young Indians who are fighting the vile corruption in the present day — the movie shook the country’s collective conscience, sparking campaigns asking for justice for victims of unaccountable criminality like 34-year-old Jessica Lal, Nitish Katara and Priyadarshini Mattoo. To some extent, it also spurred the anti-corruption campaign initiated by Anna Hazare which saw participation from scores of young Indians. 

Now, the makers of this cult movie have turned the film into a book, ‘The shooting script of Rang De Basanti- A Generation Awakens’ published by Om Books International. “With a movie like RDB that entered the collective subconscious, the book was shouting to be written,” reveals director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra in a telephonic conversation. And for a film still holds relevance against the backdrop of the current socio-economic status-quo, the book aims to keep the film’s going for years to come.

The book which is published by Om Books International

The book which is published by Om Books International

How the movie came to being

As we flip through the 241-page book, we are taken back to the early days, when the makers came upon the idea of a film that painted a picture of the state of affairs in India. Back in the late 90s, when Rakeysh directed commercials he met Kamlesh Pandey. He worked with Kamlesh on a docu-feature ‘Mamuliram: The Little Big Man’ which took them to the villages of Gujarat. Upon realising their common love for the armed revolution, they were determined to make a film titled ‘The Young Guns of India’. But the project did not take off. Years later, in 2001 they once again set out with an aim to make a film, this time it was to tell the story of young freedom fighters like Bhagat Singh, Chandrashekhar Azad, Ramprasad Bismil, Ashfaqullah Khan, Rajguru and Sukhdev, who no one from the younger generation identified with.

The celebrated director, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra

The celebrated director, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra

 

Rakeysh reminisces the early days. He says, “I would never write a script that didn’t express my thoughts. Be it Aks which was a supernatural thriller, Delhi 6, a portrait of old Delhi or Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, a biopic on Milkha Singh (rooted in the horror of Partition), all my movies have aspects from my life. My grandmother used to tell me mythical stories of Ramayana and Mahabharata every night. But at the end of it, she used to break the news that Ram and Ravan don’t exist. ‘It is all within you,’ she used to tell us, ‘The good and the bad reside within us.’ Growing up, I heard stories from my relatives about how they grew up in a refugee camp, how they used to visit Purana Qila, the oldest structure in Delhi. All these things were very vivid in my memory. I have always believed, if you want to be a writer, it is your passion, your job and your responsibility to tell stories that move you.And in this process of storytelling, you positively affect the life of another person.”

So RDB was a result of many memories. For instance, when he was in Airforce School, he remembered seeing a life-size MiG 21 fighter plane in the foyer. Years later, he watched a documentary called Coffins in Tricolor by NDTV which exposed a corruption scam involving MiG 21s. Both these incidents became an important aspect of the movie. Then there’s another from his college days at Delhi University. In 1980, the atmosphere there was politically charged as the Emergency had come to an end in 1977. So he and his friends used to talk about how they could change the country. RDB became a story of these friends.

Mehra is currently working on three projects, one of which is Mirziya inspired by Mirza Sahiban for which he will begin shooting in October. Where does he see Indian Cinema going in the next decade? Will we have more films like Rang De Basanti, films that inspire and change lives? Will we have more films that narrate real-life stories, of people like Milkha Singh and Mary Kom. He answers, “I hope so. There is so much that India has to offer. We need movies that showcase India to the world. Cinema always evolves. In the 50s or 60s, the movies spoke of the state of the country, reflecting the poverty, the unemployment, followed by an era of escapism. Once again, cinema is seeing a new form of expression. Our socio-economic milieu has taken a turn. Cinema cannot function in isolation. It has to reflect the society.” In the same breath, he tells us that there is a lot the Indian cinema can do in this regard. “India has a very rich history. We need more period films, movies that speak of our mythology. Then we need films that focus on the ever-important topic of gender bias and films that go beyond the mindless item numbers, the urban ethos — how it affects a young boy or girl, pressure of studies — how children get bogged down by the pressure of achieving a certain percentage, of how education is now targeted towards merely getting a job.”

Yes, the country definitely needs meaningful cinema, movies that catalyse compelling discussions and characters that inspire the nation.

Originally published in The New Indian Express on August 14, 2014.

 

Categories: Articles- New Indian Express, Culture, Interviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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