Category Archives: About Movies

Why non-disabled actors play disabled characters

This is quite an interesting article exploring an idea very few might have come across: why do non-disabled actors play disabled characters? Take for instance Daniel Day-Lewis; he probably won an Oscar for his role in My Left Foot.

Daniel Day-Lewis in My Left Foot

Why indeed. But whereas it would now be unthinkable for a white actor to black up to play Othello, it seems that most of us don’t even blink when able-bodied actors play disabled roles. In fact, there is perhaps no quicker way to glory at awards ceremonies, particularly in Hollywood movies. Jon Voight and Daniel Day-Lewis both won Oscars for cinematic portrayals of disabled characters.

Before reading this article I didn’t know that white actors cannot play black roles, for instance no white actor these days is cast in the role of Othello. The author rightly asks if black characters are always to be portrayed by black actors, then why not disabled characters be played by disabled actors?

Of course there are two reasons: prejudice and economics. Most of the actors who have played famous “disability” roles are crowd pullers whether it’s theater or movies. The prejudice might not be intentional. Very few people know that there might be disabled actors. Even if they know, the logistics of employing a disabled actor can be dissuading. This, is not an excuse.

The portrayal of disabled is still quite clichéd. In Bollywood, the recent two examples are Guzarish and Barfi. In both these movies the disabled are shown to be living in the fringes and experiencing out of the ordinary situations. They seem to be making up for having their disabilities. Disability is a vehicle for moviemakers, it is an exotic subject, it is the “unique” thing they love to brag about. Playing disabled characters is their gateway to acclaim and awards. Unless they start making movies with “normal” disabled characters they can never claim to have enough understanding. Only then they can think about hiring actual disabled actors.

The slick trailer of the new version of The Evil Dead

My sister shared on my Facebook timeline the trailer of the new version of The Evil Dead knowing that the original movie is one of my favorite horror movies. I watched it on a VHS video and I had to repeatedly tell myself that nothing is going to come out of the cassette.

The new video, as you can see above, isn’t as distressing as the old movie, maybe due to the quality and lighting (or maybe they haven’t been able to put the most impressive parts in the trailer). This is something contemporary movie makers miss out on. It isn’t gory graphics and bloodcurdling screams that scare you, it is the lighting effect – that depressing incandescent shadowy world that makes everything claustrophobic and gloomy – you can’t see 50% of the things due to insufficient light and this makes it more frustrating. In fact the slickness of the moviemaking technique can be counterproductive.

Even the actors in the old The Evil Dead looked more real and more doomed. But then again, I will come back to the environmental effect. That’s most important. Scary faces, people crawling like insects on walls and roofs and sudden sounds and movements are all fine and they are an integral part of any horror flick but the most important part is the environment. To that effect, The Grudge – especially the original Japanese version – was quite scary.

It’s been a long time since I watched a horror movie. My wife and I these days prefer to watch movies with happy endings and a horror movie rarely has a happy ending. It has become a cliché – throughout the movie the protagonist is trying to escape from evil and then eventually when you think that he or she has escaped, he or she becomes the victim of the evil. It feels a complete waste of time. Who watches a movie to see everybody dead in the end?

Another thing that puts me off is excessive blood and gore. The blood flows out of the bodies as if the floodgates have been thrown open. Limbs fly here and there. People get chewed in their full glory. I mean, this is not horror, it is demented grossness.

Atonement is a strange movie

Atonement posterYesterday my wife and I watched “Atonement” which is quite a strange movie if you want to take the title verbatim. It has a late 1930s background. It’s about a teenage girl who is constantly writing plays and stories and is shown to be lost in her own world that sometimes segues into the realms of unreality. Amidst these bouts of fantasy she ends up accusing the male protagonist of the of rape of a minor. Despite being the son of a poor cook, he had studied hard and had loaned some money from his mother’s employer so that he could study medicine and become a doctor. He had a bright future ahead of him.

From then onwards the lives of the male and the female protagonists go spiraling downwards. He is jailed, and then sent to France as a British soldier where he is wounded. The female protagonist, totally believing in her lover that he was innocent, leaves her family. She becomes a nurse. After 4-5 years they show that the teenage girl has grown up and she has also become a nurse.

She feels guilty all the time. She wants to meet her sister and apologize. She also wants to apologize to the male protagonist but somehow it never happens. The girl who was actually raped knew who was the real culprit, but somehow, even she never speaks up, and eventually, when she grows up, marries her rapist.

This (who had accused the male protagonist ) girl never even goes to her family to tell the truth. Up till here things look natural. You keep on feeling that something will happen that will justify the name” Atonement”. When things couldn’t get more miserable for her sister and the male protagonist, all of a sudden, the girl is in her late 70s and she is a famous novelist. She has written more than 25 books and the last book she writes about her family’s story and how she accused that person and then what happened. In the film they show that once she goes to her sister’s house, the male protagonist has returned from France and her sister and he are living together. Although they are angry with the girl and they don’t want to have anything to do with her, she profusely apologizes.

In the end, she is being interviewed by a TV journalist about her book and during the book she declares that this is going to be her last book because her mind is degenerating. Then she tells, in a very condescending manner, that although in the book she shows that her sister and the male protagonist end up living together, in reality, the male protagonist died in France itself of septicitis, and her sister died in the flooding of the London tunnel after a major bombing. In her book, “as an act of kindness” she allows them to meet. The movie ends. And suddenly you feel WTF?

What Sanjay Dutt did was a lot more than purchasing illegal weapons

The latest to join the bandwagon of “pardon Sanjay Dutt” is Mamta Bannerjee, the whimsical chief minister of West Bengal. Before her, almost entire Bollywood, the so-called “prominent” political leaders and even a mentally befuddled member of Judiciary have been advocating his pardon, and in fact the whole thing has become an obsession with the who-is-who of the country.

This has totally baffled the common citizens, especially, thanks to the Internet, those who have access to detailed information and not the expurgated form that appears in mainstream media. They know that even if Sanjay Dutt wasn’t a terrorist, he definitely hobnobbed with the top terrorists and underworld members of the subcontinent, and that too, knowingly.

Up till now my knowledge of what actually happened in 1993 and to what extent Sanjay Dutt was involved was quite limited. For instance I only knew of the purchase of a couple of guns. I had no idea that he had purchased multiple AK-56s, magazines as well as grenades. To make matters worse, these weapons were a part of the consignment that had been smuggled into the country from the neighboring Pakistan to cause large-scale destruction and disturbance in the country. Many may say that (as Diggy has insinuated that he was just a kid at that time) he had no knowledge of why the weapons had been smuggled into the country but one has to be a total buffoon in order to be ignorant of such a fact, especially during those days. Even secretly he never tried to inform the police that weapons were being imported and some terrorist activity was going on. His detractors also claim that he knew of the impending blasts. Doesn’t that make him an accomplice?

The law agencies at every stage have tried to mitigate his involvement. Bizarrely, he is only being punished under the arms act whereas many of his accomplices were booked under TADA. According to this old Tehelka article, Sanjay Dutt was in direct contact with Anees Ibrahim who is the brother of the notorious underworld don Dawood Ibrahim. This portion is quite revealing:

The crucial information that Sanjay had been calling Anees came from the filmstar himself. Says MN Singh, who headed the investigation, “He himself said that he had made the calls. This information came from him and only then did we get the supporting mtnl printouts.” The printouts showed that seven calls had been made to Anees’s number at White House in Dubai. The police also took a sworn affidavit from the Indian Embassy in Dubai saying that the Dubai number to which the calls were made by Sanjay was indeed that of Dawood’s brother. The police also procured the Dubai telephone directory which mentioned the same number against Anees’s name. Only a few of the over 150 accused in the serial blasts case had been in touch with either Dawood or Anees while the blasts conspiracy was being hatched. Sanjay was one of them. All these records were handed over to the CBI. However, when the time came to pin Sanjay down in court, the CBI chose to omit the record related to the telephone calls in its final submission against Sanjay before the TADA court. The prosecution’s submission, a copy of which is with Tehelka, reveals that the CBI has not brought the telephone conversation-related evidence on record. Sources in the CBI said that since the court had not accepted the telephone records as evidence against Sanjay, they decided to delete them from their written submission. Maneshinde also revealed that the calls “have not come on record”.

In what appears to be a dilution, the CBI also failed to press the charge of destruction of evidence against Sanjay in their written submission. Initially, when the Mumbai Police filed the chargesheet, a copy of which is with Tehelka, they had slapped Sanjay with that charge. Nullwala, who destroyed the weapons on Sanjay’s instruction, has been convicted under the Arms Act. Commenting on the disparity, he told Tehelka, “This will always happen… this is nothing new… See this thing… politicians… they do every possible thing… nothing happens to them… Why? It comes in the paper… it comes on the idiot box every single day… but what happens… it’s always people like us, we have to suffer… you know, we are the example for the world…”

According to this article the CBI totally muddled that case by failing to establish that the arms that reached Sanjay Dutt’s house were the same arms that had been smuggled into the country to cause widespread unrest and this is what totally mitigated his involvement.

According to another article in The Indian Express,

The masterminds of the 1993 bomb blasts in Bombay had a twin agenda. One was to attack the city through a series of explosions, and the other was to arm members of their community well enough to hold their own in communal clashes the blasts were expected to trigger.

For this, assault rifles, pistols and hand grenades were brought from Pakistan and several young men were also taken to Pakistan and given arms training, police officers linked to the investigation recalled after this week’s Supreme Court verdict in the 20-year-old case.

The arms landed at two places in Raigad district and one in Gujarat. The Gujarat consignment was hidden in the cavity of a vehicle and brought to Mumbai by road, driven by Abu Salem, who went on to become a prominent gangster.

Salem and his accomplices needed a quiet place to open the welded cavity and remove the arsenal. The office of Magnum Productions, owned by Hanif Kadawala and Sameer Hingora, on Linking Road in Bandra, was chosen. Dawood Ibrahim’s brother Anees called Hingora and Kadawala and told them to allow Salem to use their compound.

The partners, however, were involved in a dispute with their landlord and did not want to risk catching his attention and suggested using actor Sanjay Dutt’s house instead.

Dutt was contacted and he agreed. Hingora went with Salem after the latter feared he would not be allowed inside by the guards, and the vehicle was taken to Dutt’s garage.

“The Mumbai Police had provided some guards for Sunil and Sanjay Dutt in light of the 1992-93 riots, and the garage was in direct line of sight from where they were stationed. Dutt asked them to move over to another gate, after which the cavity in the vehicle was opened and the arsenal extracted,” said one officer.

Isn’t it strange that when dreaded terrorists were looking for a place to open the welded cavities of the van in which weapons had been concealed they decided to contact Sanjay Dutt, just like that? Actually, just like that. Would gangsters and terrorists randomly call someone, and that too the son of an influential politician, to help them retrieve weapons from a vehicle simply because they don’t have any other place? Even if he hadn’t kept the arms illegally with him, isn’t it quite extraordinary that the top terrorists of the subcontinent were so comfortable with him that they could trust him with such knowledge? Doesn’t this establish the fact that he already enjoyed close links with such elements to such an extent that they easily took him into confidence while carrying out such a serious operation?

Just illegal arms act? Error of judgment? Youthful indiscretion? Who are we kidding?

It was also brought to my notice that even in 2002 (and the recording was played on live TV) he was calling up gangsters to sort out another actor Govinda. And this was something that was caught. Who knows what all operations he has been running with his underworld contacts? Alarmingly, people support him across political and ideological lines despite his long-standing association with the underworld. The late Balasaheb Thakerey said about him, “All the boy needs is three tight slaps.”

This only means two things: these people are totally dumb or unconcerned about the safety of the country, or at one stage or another, they have benefited from this association of his.



Zindagi bhar nahi bulegi – great song, great acting

After doing my riyaaz (singing practice) while having breakfast I was listening to this song – zindagi bhar nahi bhulegi wo barsat ki raat (I’m never going to forget that rainy night) as my effort to understand Raag Yaman (or Kalyan) better. While playing the song on YouTube repeatedly, I gradually began to notice how well Bharat Bhushan has acted in this song. I noticed because if you see the same sequence in some contemporary movie or music album the contrast is striking. The moment the song starts the singer goes into this maniacal trance and in the ensuing fit he or she almost swallows the mike and vomits all over. All hell breaks loose as if some inter-planetary war is going on and soon you’re not sure whether you are watching a singing performance or being witness to an angry speech by one of the wrestlers of the World Wrestling Entertainment. Of course some say it’s like unleashing the inner you, but seriously, are you singing, or are you being tortured by the Taliban?

If the embedded video doesn’t play you can watch it here

Then compare this song. Bharat Bhushan sings in front of a mike in a radio station recording studio. All the expressions are so subtle. He looks a bit conscious, a bit reminiscent, slightly romantic and he also seems to be putting in an effort to sing properly. Notice how when he says dil mein tufaan uthate huae jazbaat ki raat he comes forward and grabs the mike with both hands as a natural reaction to reaching higher notes (I too have this tendency to grab something – sounds crude, though – when I’m singing higher notes). This is how you sing.

Of course I’m not saying this is the only way of singing. I’m just talking about enacting this particular sequence. The director has so dexterously captured the contours of the character.