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‘I am Sirat’ Explores Transgender Struggles

Deepa said when she was in Delhi in November Sirat came to meet her. “She said why don’t you make a film on what I am going through. It took me just a few days and I said: Let’s make the film.” …reports Asian Lite News

Deepa Mehta’s documentary ‘I am Sirat’, which unravels the inner life of a Delhi-based transgender woman, has created a big buzz after its premiere at the ongoing Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) here.

Shot on smartphones, ‘I am Sirat’ explores the troubling and complex duality of her life.

Sirat has to suppress her inner urge to live like a woman so that her mother, and a married sister and extended relatives are not scandalized. 

As she was not willing to abandon her widowed mother as she was her only support, Sirat continues to live with her as her boy and rents a room to live out her real self as a trans woman.   

When her lip-synched Punjabi songs and dance reels posted on Instagram get her a big following, she was forced to remove them by her relatives. 

For this conflicted trans woman, the high point of her life arrives when she was granted her TG certificate by a government department, celebrating it by visiting India Gate with a friend and posing for pictures. 

In a post-screening discussion, Deepa Mehta said she and Sirat produced the documentary collaboratively.

Deepa said when she was in Delhi in November Sirat came to meet her. “She said why don’t you make a film on what I am going through. It took me just a few days and I said: Let’s make the film.”

The Toronto-based filmmaker added, “I told Sirat: It is your film. You’re the narrator. It has to be seen through your lens. You film yourself, you make the beginning, the middle and the end and I will film you filming yourself.”

“I have known Sirat for four years now as we previously worked together on a film called Laila. Sirat is somebody who is fearless and yet is having a difficult time … having a dual existence. She is caught between her duty to her mother and (desire for) self-determination.This is what she is doing to this day. I have learnt so much from her.”

For her part, Sirat – who now calls Deepa Mehta her mother – hoped that the documentary will help people and her mother accept her as a proud transgender woman.

ALSO READ-Xiaomi India to upskill transgender community

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DQ’s ‘King of Kotha’ trailer lights up Times Square

The trailer of the movie was unveiled by Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan, and also by South legends Suriya, Mohanlal and Nagarjuna…reports Asian Lite News

Actor Dulquer Salmaan, who is all set for the release of his action thriller film ‘King of Kotha’, shared his excitement as the trailer of the movie was played at New York’s Times Square, saying it’s a biggest tribute to Malayalam cinema.

‘King of Kotha’, Dulquer’s all-time high budget film, is produced by Wayfarer Films and Zee Studios and tells the story of two eras. It is the directorial debut of Abhilash Joshiy.

Earlier, the trailer of the movie was unveiled by Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan, and also by South legends Suriya, Mohanlal and Nagarjuna.

Dulquer took to Instagram and shared a Reel video, wherein we can see the glimpse of the trailer being featured at Times Square. People on the streets of New York can be seen cheering for the actor.

Along with the video, he wrote: “Cannot contain my excitement. ‘King of Kotha’ has become the first Malayalam film to have its trailer played at New York City’s Times Square. Having visited the busy and vibrant Time’s Square several times, never even dreamed of appearing on the screens there. Big moment for me personally and the biggest tribute we can give to Malayalam Cinema. #bigbigmoment #takingourcinematotheworld #KingOfKotha #august24th (sic).”

The flick also stars Shabeer Kallarakkal, Prasanna, Gokul Suresh, Aishwarya Lekshmi, Nyla Usha, Chemban Vinod Jose, Shammi Thilakan, Saran and Anikha Surendran. It is slated to release on August 24.

The 40-year-old actor was also recently seen as narcotics officer Arjun Varma in ‘Guns & Gulaabs’, which is a captivating narrative of ‘firsts’, set in the early ’90s in the unpredictable and precarious town called Gulaabganj.

The series by Raj & DK is an ode to Bollywood in the nineties, bringing back the charm of the decade. Set against the backdrop of comedic power struggles and revenge plots, the series blends genres as it follows a lovestruck mechanic, a reluctant heir to a ruling gang and an honest officer-turned-agent-of-chaos.

The series boasts a dynamic cast, including Rajkummar Rao, Dulquer, Adarsh Gourav, T.J. Bhanu, Gulshan Devaiah and the late actor Satish Kaushik. It is streaming on Netflix.

ALSO READ-‘My father is my biggest inspiration’

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Marathi film ‘Sthal’ explores arranged marriages and tradition

Hailing from a middle-class family that wanted him to pursue an engineering degree considering his academic scores, he admits never being much interested in the course despite doing well in it…writes Sukant Deepak

When several years ago, filmmaker Jayant Digambar Somalkar went with his cousin to ‘see’ a girl for him, he kept wondering what must be going in in her head. He knew this was something he must explore on 35 mm.

‘Sthal’ (‘A Match’), his debut Marathi feature as a writer-director is now set to have its world premiere at the 48th Toronto International Film Festival as the only Indian film in the Discovery section. 

“Of course, it feels great, I am honoured. It is a very personal film on many levels considering it has been shot in my village and with my own people,” he tells.

The movie explores the tradition of arranged marriages in rural India, where the relentless pursuit of a girl’s marriage overshadows the very sustenance of life and is narrated from the perspective of a young girl, Savita, highlighting patriarchy and colourism.

In fact, none of the people you see on screen are professional actors. Stressing that he wanted a very realistic approach, the director remembers it was not that he was closed to the idea of professional actors, just that the opposite happened very organically. 

“I come from a region where Marathi is spoken with a different accent and it was important to have people who could do justice. Many of my own family members are involved,” says Somalkar, who also co-directed the series ‘Guilty Minds’.

Even as more small films are focussing on urban settings and an increasing number of independent film directors seem to prefer exploring urban anguish, he says for him the phrase going back to roots does not really apply. 

“I never left my village… even in the films before this one, the settings and sensibilities have been rural. I have a lot of stories to tell from my area, and would rather explore them authentically rather than parachute myself in an alien culture which is not familiar,” says Somalkar, who also made the award-winning short ‘Iyatta: Class’ (2016)

Hailing from a middle-class family that wanted him to pursue an engineering degree considering his academic scores, he admits never being much interested in the course despite doing well in it. 

“I was mostly involved in college festivals and other things. And I did not have a plan B when I moved to Mumbai. There was much struggle, but I am glad I stuck around,” smiles the director and writer, who has also written scripts for television.

Somalkar, who worked on ‘Guilty Minds’ for four years, says it proved to be a great learning experience and introduction to a new format. While he is working on the second part of the series, besides another Marathi film, he feels that OTT has opened up options for many independent filmmakers. 

“Of course, every director still prefers a theatrical release,” he concludes.

ALSO READ-‘My father is my biggest inspiration’

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Made in Heaven Season 2: Compelling drama with stellar cast and impeccable production

The seven-part series has a lot more understanding of relationships, a few of which take on the sexual orientation of characters in search of a partner. There’s also a transgender, Meher (Trinetra Haldar), who asserts her identity with a sense of pride that has a straight guy (Neil Bhoopalam) fall for her…reviewed by Arnab Banerjee

Web series on streaming platforms have warranted a far more emotional investment both for actors in the cast and from the viewers who would try and get involved in the characters. Their sequels, however, are rarely as engrossing as the original first season of episodic developments.

And for the same reason, I, for one, am a tad sceptical about watching successive seasons with as much enthusiasm as I am for the preceding ones. Unless it is ‘Made In Heaven’.

Season 2 of this series is a compelling watch and though there isn’t anything spectacularly novel about its storyline, the production values, immaculate writing and superb acting by the entire cast makes it riveting.

Made in Heaven Season 2 represents what present-day India is all about. Conservative on the one hand and modern in many ways with progressive mindsets of traditional people who face conflicting ideas to deal with at every step.

The show has often been accused of catering to the affluent and the prosperous. At the same time, its protagonists are seen dealing with everyday emotions, exertions and toils as also dilemmas that any and every commoner is forced to confront. The contradictory narratives overlap at times, and that is the real fun of watching this unputdownable series.

‘Made in Heaven 2’ continues six months after the finale of Season 1. What seems like yet another struggle by the entire team of wedding planners to execute their carefully thought-out plans and please their clients, the unusual demands of a slew of some very interesting, powerful, loaded, dripping with opulence men and women make the sloggers face nail-biting urgency as they try to adjust dates, venues and budgets.

For both Tara Khanna (Shobhita Dhulipura) and Karan Mehra (Arjun Mathur), planning a mega-budget wedding isn’t as profitable as it has always been in the past.

Tara’s life is even more complicated. She wants to file for divorce and Jim Sarbh is more than willing to oblige her when his current girlfriend (Kalki Koechlin) is in the family way.

But all is not lost. There’s rescuer Ramesh Jauhari (Vijay Raaz), whose timely intervention makes him own one-third of their business, but it also salvages them from going bankrupt. Jauhari offers his old house for them to set up the new office after their earlier office gets vandalised and destroyed.

His wife Bulbul Jauhari (Mona Singh) joins the organisation as auditor to bail them out. A stickler for maintenance of books, she can also be overbearing with her constant insistence on cutting corners.

All the episodes have a couple planning a wedding for themselves as Tara and Karan dance in attendance to please their clients and accommodate their every demand.

As expected, each household waiting for the wedding bells to ring has a number of issues at hand. If there’s a female film actor betrothed to a chauvinistic rich man who beats her, there’s also a 25-year-old who abandons his plans of going to study in Berkelee and proposes to a woman 10 years older to him. There’s another rich Muslim wife (Dia Mirza) whose husband (Pravin Dabas) has no qualms about polygamy and is tying the knot again.

The seven-part series has a lot more understanding of relationships, a few of which take on the sexual orientation of characters in search of a partner. There’s also a transgender, Meher (Trinetra Haldar), who asserts her identity with a sense of pride that has a straight guy (Neil Bhoopalam) fall for her.

That she heads a team at the company is not something that has been rubbed in. Like other employees who help Tara and Karan in the office perennially plagued with problems, notably Jaspreet ‘Jazz’ Kaur (Shivani Raghuvanshi) and Karan Basrai (Shashank Arora), Meher, too, contributes to solving major crises from time to time.

Nearly all the episodes take up several complex yet everyday issues that afflict people and relationships.  At times, critiquing to the extent of sermonising, some scenes do stretch beyond being believable and bearable. But it’s the quality of actors that rises above so much that a few flaws go almost unnoticed.

Each member of the star cast, from Dhulipura, Mathur, Koechlin, Radhika Apte to Shivani Raghuvasnhi, Shashank Arora, Ishwak Singh, Vijay Raaz and Jim Saarbh are all perfectly cast in their roles. But it’s Trinetra Haldar and Mona Singh who become scene stealers.

What follows are weddings being designed for various couples as we get introduced to Adhira Arya (Mrunal Thakur); Kriti Malhotra (Neelam Kothari); Ashok Malhotra (Sanjay Kapoor); Gulshan Raina (Samir Soni); Gargi Raina (Naina Sareen ); Leila Shirazi (Elnaaz Norouzi); Amber (Parul Gulati); Pallavi Menke (Radhika Apte); Aditi (Shibani Dandekar); Radhika Sharma (Sheena Khalid); Wasim (Parvin Dabas).

The show is lavishly mounted on a scale that does justice to the lifestyles of the filthy rich families in the national capital. Cinematographer Nikos Andritsakis does a great job of enhancing the splendid plush interiors of each set. Alongside the glitter, the camera also moves to give us a glimpse into the late nights of satellite towns of Gurugram.

The entire music department comprising Ritwik De, Ishaan Gandhi, Gautam Kaul, Adam Klemens, Tarana Marwah, Pranav Pahwa, Pranay Parti, Balkrishan Sharma, Sayan Sinha and Samarth Srinivasan deserve a special mention for blending the understated music flawlessly with the mood of the mostly sombre series.

Web Series: Made in Heaven 2

Duration: Seven episodes of 60 minutes each

Directors: Nitya Mehra, Zoya Akhtar. Reema Kagti, Prashant Nair, Alankrita Shrivastava and Neeraj Ghaywan

Cast: Arjun Mathur, Sobhita Dhulipala, Kalki Koechlin. Jim Sarbh, Shashank Arora and Shivani Raghuvanshi

Cinematography: Nikos Andritsakis (Rating: ***1/2)

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Film Review Films Kerala

Nila: A Captivating Tale of Resilience and Discovery

As “Nila” unfolds its narrative, it invites audiences to explore the complexities of human resilience, imagination, and self-discovery…reviewed by Asian Lite News

Directed by Indu Lakshmi, “Nila” is a poignant and thought-provoking Malayalam film that navigates the realms of mystery, drama, and empowerment. Set within the confines of a single setting, the film revolves around the life of Dr. Malathy, portrayed with remarkable finesse by the talented Shanthi Krishna. With a runtime of just 90 minutes, “Nila” takes its audience on a mesmerising journey that leaves a lasting impact.

The narrative unfolds around Dr. Malathy, a retired gynaecologist played by Shanthi Krishna, whose life takes an unexpected turn when she suffers a spinal injury. Despite her physical setbacks, Malathy refuses to succumb to despair and exhibits an unwavering spirit that resonates deeply with viewers. Shanthi Krishna’s performance is a tour de force, infusing the character with charm, confidence, and resilience. Her portrayal breathes life into Malathy, making her a relatable and inspiring protagonist.

“Nila” stands as a testament to the potential of women filmmakers and solidifies Indu Lakshmi’s place as a director to watch out for.

The film’s central mystery revolves around Malathy’s interactions with an unseen friend, Nila, who resides in the adjacent apartment. The conversations between the two women introduce an element of ambiguity, blurring the lines between reality and imagination. As the plot unravels, “Nila” prompts viewers to question the authenticity of these interactions, adding an intriguing layer of suspense to the narrative.

Indu Lakshmi’s directorial vision shines through in “Nila,” as she masterfully crafts a character study that is both engaging and empowering. The film expertly avoids clichés and preachiness, opting instead for subtle storytelling and character exploration. The decision to utilize narrative tools, such as point-of-view shots and interactions, adds depth to the storytelling, resulting in a truly immersive experience.

The supporting cast further enriches the film’s tapestry. Vineeth delivers a noteworthy performance as Malathy’s caring son, Mahi, while Mamukkoya’s portrayal of Rahman adds authenticity and warmth to the narrative. Mini IG impresses as the home nurse, infusing the character with the right blend of coldness and detachment.

The movie’s technical aspects also contribute to its allure. Jithin Babu Mannur’s art direction and Rakesh Dharan’s cinematography collaborate seamlessly to create a tangible atmosphere that envelopes Malathy’s world. The film’s style evokes the essence of acclaimed Malayalam cinema from the ’90s, drawing parallels with the works of legendary figures like MT Vasudevan Nair.

While “Nila” traverses political themes and addresses issues faced by women, it does so with subtlety and finesse. The film’s dialogues and interactions between characters serve as conduits for these messages, avoiding overt preachiness. Indu Lakshmi’s approach keeps the narrative grounded, making the characters’ experiences relatable and genuine.

As “Nila” unfolds its narrative, it invites audiences to explore the complexities of human resilience, imagination, and self-discovery. The film’s captivating blend of mystery, drama, and empowerment makes it a noteworthy addition to the cinematic landscape. With its strong performances, engaging storytelling, and empowering themes, “Nila” stands as a testament to the potential of women filmmakers and solidifies Indu Lakshmi’s place as a director to watch out for.

ALSO READ: Article 21: A Heartfelt exploration of education and social Injustice
ALSO READ: Vijay Varma, the driving force of gripping crime drama Kalkoot
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Article 21: A Heartfelt exploration of education and social Injustice

Article 21 belongs to the genre of socially committed films, prioritising production quality over meticulous craftsmanship….reports Asian Lite News

Article 21, directed by Lenin Balakrishnan, delves into the poignant theme of upholding the fundamental rights of the marginalized and underprivileged in society. At its core, the film emphasizes the transformative power of education in the lives of those struggling on the streets.

The narrative follows Thamarai, a Tamil immigrant grappling with homelessness, and her two sons, Muthu and Dalapathi. Scrap collection sustains their livelihood, but a chance encounter with a school bag ignites a spark of desire in the younger son to learn. The film chronicles the family’s endeavors, aided by compassionate well-wishers, to secure an education for the children.

Initially, the film provides a detailed glimpse into the family’s daily struggles, hinting at a deeper exploration of their journey. However, the climax pivots towards serving as an awareness campaign, simplifying the story’s complexity and substituting genuine storytelling with an unrealistic optimism. The predictability of certain plot developments also hampers the film’s impact.

Lena delivers a commendable performance as Thamarai, exuding authenticity through her body language and dialogue delivery. The youthful enthusiasm of Leswin and Nandan Rajesh, who portray the children, resonates well with their characters. Yet, occasional artificiality in dialogue delivery detracts from the immersion. Aju Varghese and Joju George contribute effectively, with George’s cameo standing out.

Director Balakrishnan captures the family’s life with intimacy initially, but as the story progresses, the pacing becomes rushed. Notably, the scene depicting the family’s joy at encountering a bathroom showcases the level of detail that could have elevated the entire film. Unfortunately, an overreliance on punch dialogue-driven solutions diminishes the authenticity and depth. Visually and aurally, the movie maintains a superior production quality.

“Article 21” falls into the category of socially committed films that prioritize production quality over thoughtful craftsmanship. It ostensibly champions a noble cause but falters in its execution and narrative finesse.

The heart of the film lies in Article 21-A of the Indian Constitution, mandating free and compulsory education for children aged six to fourteen. Balakrishnan’s debut work seeks to shed light on the lack of effective implementation, without singling out any particular entity for criticism. The film’s journey faced challenges due to the pandemic-induced lockdown during post-production.

Balakrishnan’s intent is clear – to inspire change and raise awareness about Article 21-A’s unfulfilled promise. The film’s genesis stems from a poignant photograph that sparked a reflection on societal disparities. Although the film tackles a pressing issue, it refrains from overt political commentary, instead aiming to foster societal change.

Lena’s remarkable transformation into Thamarai garnered well-deserved praise, while the film benefits from Gopi Sundar’s music and Renganath Ravee’s sound design. The meticulous attention to Lena’s makeup and her immersion into the character’s nuances contribute to the film’s authenticity.

Despite its imperfections, “Article 21” serves as a poignant reminder of the unrealized potential within society’s education system. While not flawless, the film raises pertinent questions and encourages viewers to ponder the meaning of true social change. As director Balakrishnan gears up for his next project, his dedication to meaningful storytelling remains evident, promising potential for future cinematic endeavours.

ALSO READ: Vijay Varma, the driving force of gripping crime drama Kalkoot

ALSO READ: ‘The Trial’: An engaging mix of courtroom drama

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Vijay Varma, the driving force of gripping crime drama Kalkoot

Vijay Varma is emerging as one of the finest actors we have. His earnest understated performance stands out as he begins to gain confidence and exercise control, never losing his self-respect or his sincere approach to work. He is ably supported by Seema Biswas as his on-screen mother…reviewed by Arnab Banerjee

An eight-part crime drama, written by Arunabh Kumar and jointly by director Sumit Saxena, KaalKoot is a hard-hitting series without the regular embellishments that adorn web series on OTT platforms. It’s unsparing but not entirely uncompromising.

Sub-Inspector Ravi Shankar Tripathi (Vijay Varma) is the kind of young cop who you’ll not easily come across not just in small towns such as Sirsa in Uttar Pradesh (not to be confused with the Haryana town), but even in bigger cities and metropolises.

Such ordinary people with a streak of honesty and commitment may be few and far between. Essentially, such modest and obscure men often are mistaken for being average and having low self-esteem.

He lives with his widowed mother (Seema Biswas) for whom he is the be-all-and-end-all. Her married daughter being away, she has pinned all her hopes on him.

Things are not what they seem though. On the very first week of his joining the force, he is in no mood to continue and even contemplates resigning. Thankfully, his senior at work, SHO Jagdish Sahay (Gopal Datt) has a ready case for him to sink his teeth into — an acid attack victim is undergoing treatment in a hospital after suffering serious burns and is dealing with the trauma.  

For a cop of his temperament, the job comes with a baggage most of which looks like a challenge. The demands of his job impact his personal life to such an extent that his motivation is likely to be shaken. Managing between work and family commitments, Ravi spares no effort to solve the acid attack victim’s case.

When he gets to know about the identity of the victim of the brutal attack, Parul (Shweta Tripathi Sharma), whom his mother wanted him to marry, he gets doubly charged with a concrete objective to investigate the case and bring all those responsible to book.

His enthusiasm and drive lead him to a vortex of dark incidents that reek of issues plaguing the city. The literate but uneducated sector has not one but many ills that are responsible for the stunted growth of middle- class men and women. The inquiry further reveals the patriarchal norms that result in misogyny.

Ravi’s soft side has a detrimental effect on his image as his colleagues don’t think much of him as a doer. He looks more like a victim rather than someone who can take charge. As Ravi gets entangled in the case, his personal life goes through a sea change as he discovers facets that hitherto seemed insurmountable.

The only solace he has is thanks to the good-natured constable Sattu Yadav (Yashpal Sharma), who does look like a loyalistm but when the right time comes, may not be as cooperative, and can be quite ambivalent in his approach.

As Parul shows signs of recovery in the hospital, the focus is also on her younger sister who becomes an integral part of the investigation. Parul, who is accused of enjoying alcohol, doesn’t seem the ‘homely’ kind, and the needle of suspicion points towards her as cops dub her immoral and not someone following societal norms.

A woman (Suzanna Mukherjee) is introduced as the would-be bride his mother likes. But even when things are almost finalised Ravi gets cold feet and dangles between his own sense of commitment and what looks like love for him.

That said, there are places where the role of the media or the way the common man thinks tells us all about the ways of the world, and how everyone is judgmental.

I know it’s improper to compare two series even if they both fall under the category of crime. But since we have just seen a brilliant series, ‘Kohraa’, one can’t help arguing that to establish a point, the writing has to be taut with subplots and other occurrences not dragged to reach a point of no return.

There are twists and turns that would keep your interest alive, but it looks slightly tiring to sit through eight episodes where not much seems to unravel. It also is crammed with umpteen issues that are interlinked to contextualise every crime. Ravi is also keen on finding the right match for himself for which both he and his mother do everything to ensure a suitable bride for him.

Chauvinistic men are hell bent upon having their way. The city’s narrow lanes are as much representative of the restrictive values and accepted wisdom as much they seem unseemly and unhygienic. Ravi’s pursuit for justice runs into several obstacles, yet he is determined to deal with all of them.  

Vijay Varma is emerging as one of the finest actors we have. His earnest understated performance stands out as he begins to gain confidence and exercise control, never losing his self-respect or his sincere approach to work. He is ably supported by Seema Biswas as his on-screen mother.

The story has been told purely from a male perspective, possibly because it is based in a small town in the badlands of UP, where there are not too many options to choose from. Parul’s morals are questioned not once but a few times, often suggesting that she may have been what others suspect she is.

The script has a certain pace with which it plods through, and as more revelations take place, one realises that the dark and tardy mood is leading to a lot more findings. The music can at times can be jarring, especially when to accentuate a scene’s importance, it turns out to be loud, destroying the flow of the scene.

A takeaway message: A dreadful and appalling crime that is common in only this part of the continent can be perpetrated with impunity because of the absence of a detrimental law supporting the victims. Only very recently, such crimes have led to the perpetrators getting punished, though the penalty is still mild compared to the gruesomeness of the horrifyingly sickening crime it really is.

Web Series: Kalkoot (JioCinema) Episodes: Eight of 38 minutes each
Written by: Arunabh Kumar and Sumit Saxena Direction: Sumit Saxena
Cast: Vijay Varma, Shweta Tripathi, Seema Biswas, Yashpal Sharma, Gopal Dutt and Suzanna Mukherjee
Music: Krishanu Moitra Camera: Maneesh Bhatt ( Rating: **1/2)

ALSO READ-Mahabharata: A spectacular retelling of the ancient Sanskrit epic, by Canada’s Why Not Theatre at Barbican London

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Oppenheimer: The man behind the atomic age

An important scene based on an insignificant meeting between Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy) and Albert Einstein (Tom Conti) is almost missed until it appears that it is central to the narrative…reviewed by Arnab Banerjee

The life of American theoretical physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, the most respected leader of the Manhattan Project, which developed the atomic bomb during World War II, has been the subject of a number of biographies, but history hasn’t been kind to him. His story still needs to be chronicled.

The epic biographical thriller ‘Oppenheimer’, written and directed by Christopher Nolan, gives us a fatalistic view of nuclear weapons, and the trauma that they entail. Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning 2005 biography ‘American Prometheus’ by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin, the film is about the life of J. Robert Oppenheimer, who pioneered the study of the first nuclear weapons as part of the Manhattan Project, thereby ushering in the Atomic Age.

During World War II, Lt. Gen. Leslie Groves Jr. appoints Oppenheimer, along with a team of scientists, to work on the top-secret Manhattan Project. The mission gets completed on July 16, 1945, as they witness the world’s first nuclear explosion, and it forever changes the course of history.

The film begins with a reference from Greek mythology to Prometheus, who stole fire from the gods and gave it to men. For his action, the gods condemned him to being chained to a rock and tortured lifelong.

Thereafter, it shifts focus back and forth giving viewers a peek into the multifarious elements, namely, politics, the effects and limitless possibilities of science, the annihilation that war could bring, and Oppenheimer’s unbridled passion. The narrative investigates the character of power, and how, if not balanced out, it could lead to shadowy Catch-22s without so much as an explanation for any conclusion in sight.

Interestingly, the three-hour-long film is not about the bomb as much as it is about the U.S. government’s decision and the subsequent bombings in Nagasaki and Hiroshima, and gives us a glimpse into all the paperwork that justified the morality that was ever questioned.

In the film, the physicist (Cillian Murphy) after starting his initial research as a young boy takes to quantum physics, and goes on to lead the Manhattan Project for which he was denounced and even scorned by the government. But being who he was, he neither compromised on his values and principles, nor did he stop dreaming.

Considering the biography ‘American Prometheus’ took 25 years to be completed and is a 600-page tome, encapsulating all of it in three hours is rather unfair. But then, Nolan strives to tell us how condemnable the development of nuclear weapons and their existence can be. It is also a story deeply germane to what the invention eventually does to change the history of the world. Oppenheimer spent his remaining years opposing the militarisation of the very weapons he invented, and destroyed himself in the bargain.

Filmed in a combination of IMAX 65mm and 65mm large-format film, including sections in IMAX black-and-white film photography, the film has utilised extensive practical effects and minimal computer-generated imagery.

Not made in a linear narrative, the protagonist’s life is shown in three main acts that are interwoven together. There are scenes from his college life, and later, two separate hearings, and of course, the process of creating the atomic bomb itself.

An important scene based on an insignificant meeting between Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy) and Albert Einstein (Tom Conti) is almost missed until it appears that it is central to the narrative.

In a track shown there are different aspects of his life filmed. In one, there is a lot of criticism that Oppenheimer faces. Viewed from the perspective of Lewis Strauss (Robert Downey Jr.), a senior member of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, the encounter sparks intrigue, leading him to obsess over its content.

An agitated Strauss holds a serious grievance against Oppenheimer for seemingly badmouthing him to Einstein in a conversation he views from afar at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, and publicly dismisses his bete noir’s concerns regarding the export of isotopes.

By exploiting these allegations at a hearing intended to remove Oppenheimer from any position of political influence, he makes sure Oppenheimer’s security clearance is revoked. Alongside, Oppenheimer’s perceived communist ties and affair with fellow physicist Jean Tatlock (played by Florence Pugh) lead to his public fall from grace.

Strauss’ personal grievances against Oppenheimer get exposed, but it also leads to the physicist’s downfall. This section named ‘Fusion’ is in black and white, and is followed by another ‘Fission’.

Switching back and forth between black and white and colour, Nolan tries to depict the difference between the objective (black and white) and subjective (colour) points of view. As the two distinct storylines both  Fusion and Fission offer different perspectives. But if one is not clued into these strategic divisions, it could leave one confused.

Nolan also doesn’t adhere to dates and details of traditional biopic storytelling; instead, he dives headlong into the advent and fallout of the nuclear arms race.

The entire mood is sombre and often leads to bleak moments that spell morose historical facts. But what is noteworthy is that it is an absolute delight to watch, more also as an adaptation that is not — as it seems –fictionalised even one bit, so faithful to the original biography it appears to be. Not having read the book could be both advantageous and act as a detriment to one’s complete understanding of the film.  

Music by Ludwig Goransson remains understated; Cinematography by Hoyte van Hoytema is one of the film’s biggest assets.  

The ensemble cast is exemplary. Cillian Murphy stars as the titular character, with Emily Blunt as Oppenheimer’s wife, Katherine ‘Kitty’ Oppenheimer, Matt Damon as General Leslie Groves, Oppenheimer’s military handler, and Robert Downey Jr. as Lewis Strauss, to name a few, are all a delight to watch. The supporting cast also includes Florence Pugh, Josh Hartnett, Casey Affleck, Rami Malek, and Kenneth Branagh.

Duration: 180 minutes
Director & Screenplay: Christopher Nolan Cast: Cillian Murphy, Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, Robert Downey Jr, Florence Pugh, Josh Hartnett, Casey Affleck, Rami Malek and Kenneth Branagh (Rating: ****)

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‘AI-generated scripts lack emotion’

Earlier, the director had said that he warned audiences with ‘Terminator’ 40 years ago of the possible ramifications of what advancing AI technology can lead to…reports Asian Lite News

Director James Cameron, who is known for films such as ‘Terminator’, ‘The Abyss’, ‘Aliens’ ‘Terminator 2’, ‘Titanic’ and ‘Avatar’ all of which revolutionised VFX forever, has also become an outspoken critic of AI overuse, believing that AI engineered scripts will lack human emotion and be as bland as it can be, and as such he has no interest in using AI created scripts.

“It’s never an issue of who wrote it, it’s a question of, is it a good story? I just don’t personally believe that a disembodied mind that’s just regurgitating what other embodied minds have said – about the life they’ve had, about love, about lying, about fear, about mortality – and just put it all together into a word salad and then regurgitate it,” Aceshowbiz reported.

He then added “I don’t believe that (AI) has something that’s going to move an audience. But let’s wait 20 years, and if an AI wins an Oscar for Best Screenplay, I think we’ve got to take them seriously.”

Despite of using heavy CGI in his movies, particularly with ‘Avatar 2: The Way of Water’, the Cameron has said that he has absolutely no interest in any robotics handling the writing of his scripts, but the true impact of AI on Hollywood and even filmmaking can only be attested by the passage of time.

Earlier, the director had said that he warned audiences with ‘Terminator’ 40 years ago of the possible ramifications of what advancing AI technology can lead to. While it was just a fairy tale at the time, today it is becoming closer to reality as even Christopher Nolan has cited the same worries of what would happen if AI systems overtook human defense systems, much like they have surveillance systems and energy control.

The director had stated that ‘Terminator’ was in fact a warning of what could happen but no one listened at the time. As time passes, that haunting scenario is beginning to have a certain amount of truth

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Bawaal: Unmasking the facade of a troubled marriage

Refusing to consummate his marriage, he leaves her broken and has no qualms about making her a domesticated doormat as he goes out drinking with buddies every day…reviewed by Asian Lite News

Films based on marital discord or on relationship issues have been made a dime a dozen, all trying to look at the cracks in the intimate bond between a man and a woman from a new — often not-so-new — (or, claiming to) and different perspective.

In ‘Bawaal’, Director Nitesh Tiwari (‘Dangal’, ‘Chhichhore’) attempts to explore yet another side to marriage in which the man is more concerned about his public image rather than his personal, and refuses to see reason.

For him, all that matters most is the impression people have of him as an infallible perfectionist. So far so good.

A loser all the way, he seldom falters or else his well-cultivated facade of faultlessness could misfire. But that the chinks in his armour could have a detrimental effect and ruin him is not something he is prepared for.

Ajju or Ajay Dixit (Varun Dhawan) lives in Lucknow with his parents (Manoj Pahwa and Anjuman Saxena) and despite being a school teacher makes every possible effort to project an image of himself that’s diametrically opposite of who really is.

As the thick-skinned only child of his parents, Ajju lives off his father, who is both soft towards him and also reprimands him frequently. And so, he goes flexing his muscles at a gym giving gyan to eager- beaver admirers who take in every word that he pretentiously utters. In his class too, he gets away with highfalutin gimmickry of words while all along taking least interest in his job as a History teacher. And he couldn’t have asked for a more sycophantic friend (Parth Sidhpura), who not only thinks the world of him, but is forever enthusiastic to massage his ego and make everything easy for him.

Meanwhile, when Ajju falls for the pretty Nisha Dixit (Jhanvi Kapoor), he must marry her, not because he falls for her, but marrying her can raise his social status.

Just when his life seems perfect, his world comes crashing apart when on the wedding night itself he finds out about Nisha being epileptic as she lay on bed trying to control her seizure. Embarrassed that such fate could have befallen him, he is unable to face his friends, goes through the roof and decides to stay away from Nisha.

Refusing to consummate his marriage, he leaves her broken and has no qualms about making her a domesticated doormat as he goes out drinking with buddies every day.

There is more coming his way. His self-worth gets bruised in class when he fails to answer a question asked by a student, and, in turn, the boy makes fun of him. Ajju in a fit of rage slaps the child not realising that he is the son of the local MP (Mukesh Tiwary). Feeling slighted by his son’s insult, the unwavering parliamentarian decides to ask the principal to suspend Ajju for a month.

Snubbed, but not to be outdone, Ajju hatches another plan to extract money from his doting father to go on a honeymoon with Nisha just to let people think he’s going on holiday and will miss school.

He chooses Europe as his destination from where he promises to complete the history lessons on World War II that he says he had left unfinished before getting barred from school. Not just this, he goes live on his mobile visiting all the war memorials and tutoring his students from Europe!

Herein lies the twist in the tale. In both writing and direction, the film manages to raise the blandness and narrative predictability of a time-worn subject such as a troubled conjugal relationship to the level of art. And the script continues to underscore and wring different shades of Ajju’s mood out of him.

Jahnvi Kapoor may have been raw initially, but with each of her films, she seems to have decided to grow as an actor. And she does, besides lending dignity to Nisha. Varun Dhawan, on the other hand, doesn’t have quite the range to pull off a slightly complex character, but the two do have an easy onscreen chemistry, which is among the many positives of the film! It’s the chemistry that adds a refreshing dimension to the narrative.

Cinematographer Mitish Mirchandani captures the beauty of the historically exquisite bylanes of Lucknow. Mithoon and Tanishq Bagchi deliver some hummable music, albeit in the background.

When the many elements of the plot are pieced together, ‘Bawaal’ emerges as a competently made film that gives a potentially predictable plot a refreshingly new twist and manages to hold the attention of the audience till the very end. 

Film: Bawaal (Amazon Prime Video) Duration: 144 minutes
Director: Nitesh Tiwari  Cast: Varun Dhawan Janhvi Kapoor Manoj Pahwa, Mukesh Tiwary Cinematography: Mitesh Mirchandani
Music: Mithoon, Tanishk Bagchi, Akashdeep Sengupta
Score: Daniel B. George (Rating: ****)

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