Mary Riepma Ross Film Theater
University of Nebraska, Lincoln
Hixson-Lied College of Fine & Performing Arts

April 17, Thursday

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Cinema India! - The Changing Face Of Indian Cinema

Indian cinema is in a state of flux. The traditional musical entertainers are still going strong, but there is also a new confidence amongst young directors to flex their creative muscle and try out different and dynamic hybrid forms. Cinema India! Showcase 2004 features six films from India, some path-breaking and others, huge commercial successes. From an award-winning drama starring veteran actress Kiron Kher directed by Rituparno Ghosh, to a sparkling Tollywood adaptation of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility starring Aishwarya Rai, from a documentary charting the musical wizardry of Zakir Hussain, to a moody Bollywood reworking of Macbeth with Irfan Khan and Tabu, and from the influential blockbuster DDLJ--still going strong in a Mumbai theater in its 426th week, to a fast-paced MTV meets Bollywood meets Tarantino hybrid, the program offers an eclectic mix of new trends and contemporary classics in Indian cinema. Cinema India! Showcase 2004 will play in nine cities from April-August 2004 as part of a national tour.

Cinema India! Showcase 2004 will travel to nine cities from April-August 2004 as part of a national tour. The Showcase will play at (in chronological order): Asia Society (New York, NY) and the American Museum of the Moving Image (Astoria, NY); Center for Contemporary Arts (Sante Fe, NM); Wexner Center for the Arts (Columbus, OH); High Museum of Art (Atlanta, GA); Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Boston, MA); Freer and Sackler Galleries, Smithsonian Institution (Washington, DC); Facets Cinematheque (Chicago, IL); International House (Philadelphia, PA); Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center (Lincoln, NE). The program is curated by Radha Welt Vatsal. Presenting Sponsors are the New York Times and India Abroad.

All Films have English Sub-titles. All films are 35mm, except the documentary, The Speaking Hand, which is Beta.

Bariwali [The Lady of the House] (1999, 150 mins). New 35 mm Print. Directed by Rituparno Ghosh

A lonely middle-aged spinster, Banolata (Kiron Kher), is forced by circumstances to rent her family's sprawling home to a film crew. While this is a momentous event in Banolata's secluded life, for the director and film crew, she's just a useful contact with a house they need for their shoot. "[A] slowly paced, but ultimately extremely moving story� Kher gives an emotionally charged portrayal of the woman whose exploitation is as callous as it is casual." (David Stratton, Variety). Widely compared to Satyajit Ray's Charulata and The Music Room, this award-winning film (NETPAC Award for Best Asian Film at the Berlin Film Festival 2000, Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature at the San Francisco International Film Festival 2000) by one of India's leading arthouse filmmakers has rarely been screened in the US. In Bengali with English sub-titles. [The producer has told me that to the best of his recollection the only US city they screened it is San Francisco - so it should be a premiere everywhere else.] Print courtesy of Anupam Kher.

Calcutta-based Rituparno Ghosh is one of India's leading arthouse filmmakers. He graduated with a Masters Degree in economics from Jadavpur University and worked as a copywriter in an advertising agency. His films have screened widely at festivals in India and abroad. His work includes Unishe April (1995), Titli (2001), and Chokher Bali (2003).

Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge [The Braveheart Will Take the Bride] (1995, 189 mins)Directed by Aditya Chopra

DDLJ changed the face of Bollywood. It is the longest-running film in the history of Indian cinema (426 weeks and still playing in a Mumbai theater!), and is one of the earliest to deal with the lives of Indians living abroad. Set partly in London and Europe, and partly in India, the film combines flashy European locations with old-fashioned Indian family values. In London, wealthy Raj (Shah Rukh Khan) falls in love with Simran (Kajol), a shop-keeper's daughter. But Simran is engaged to man of her family's choice back in the home-country. Raj follows Simran to India in order to win her family's consent to make her his bride. Both "trendy and traditional," DDLJ "bent Hindi film convention out of shape� [it] became a trendsetter, spawning an avalanche of imitations�" (Anupama Chopra, Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, BFI Modern Classics). Music by Jatin-Lalit. In Hindi with English sub-titles. Print courtesy of Yash Raj Films.

Director Aditya Chopra was born into a filmmaking family. His father, Yash Chopra, has been a leading Bollywood director for over 40 years. Aditya Chopra worked on Yash Chopra films in various capacities before he wrote and directed his first feature, DDL, in his early twenties.

Kandukondain, Kandukondain [I Have Found It] (2000, 150 min)Directed by Rajiv Menon

Featuring Bollywood superstar Aishwarya Rai and India's "indie" idol Tabu, this delightful adaptation of Jane Austen's Sense & Sensibility is a funny and self-referential primer on the conventions of Indian commercial cinema. Set in contemporary South India, I Have Found It wittily retells the story of two attractive sisters and their three beaus: an aspiring filmmaker educated in New York, an injured soldier, and a stock-market whiz-kid. The spectacular song sequences move from Tamil Nadu to Egypt and Scotland, and the memorable soundtrack is composed by the legendary A.R. Rahman. "[A] self-aware, cheeky romp�" (Christopher Muther, Boston Globe). "[I Have Found It] is a send-up of Bollywood filmmaking, complete with a series of surreal and extravagant song-and-dance sequences� which are hummable as hell" (Nina Maclaughlin, Boston Phoenix). In Tamil with English sub-titles. Print courtesy of AP International.

Rajiv Menon is an established writer, director and cinematographer of both feature films and film commercials. He was the cinematographer for Mani Ratnam's ground-breaking Bombay, and Girish Karnad's Chelluvi. Menon's first feature was Minsara Kanavu (1997) Tamil; I Have Found It is his second feature.

Maqbool (2003, 132 min) Directed by Vishal Bharadwaj

A moody urban drama Bollyood-style, this adaptation of Macbeth is set in the underworld of contemporary Bombay. Irfan Khan plays Maqbool, the loyal second-in-command in a crime gang headed by Abbaji (Pankaj Kapoor). Enter Nimmi (Tabu), Abbaji's beautiful young mistress who can't take her eyes off Maqbool and soon the two begin to plot to take over the gang. Maqbool also features Naseeruddin Shah and Om Puri as corrupt fortune-telling policemen. "The film's stellar performances include the heavy-lidded matinee idol� Khan (who conjures up just the right mix of menace, introspection and sex appeal), the sultry Tabu, and the legendary Om Puri�" (Steve Gravestock, Toronto Film Festival 2003). In Hindi with English sub-titles. Print courtesy of Kaleidoscope Entertainment and Distant Horizons. [Distant Horizon has informed me that this will be a premiere in all cities in the tour.]

Vishal Bharadwaj began his career as a film composer, working on films such as Maachis and Satya. He made his directorial debut with The Web of the Witch (2002), which won second-prize at the Chicago International Children's Film Festival. Maqbool is his second feature.

The Speaking Hand: Zakir Hussain and the Art of the Indian Drum (2003, in 2 parts of 52 min each)Directed by Sumantra Ghosal

A must-see for fans of Zakir Hussain and Indian classical music, The Speaking Hand charts the life and work of India's leading tabla (drum) player. The first half of the film explores Hussain's early upbringing and training, and the second half covers his musical career in India and the West - where he has performed, among others, with Mickey Hart and Planet Drum. The film includes fascinating footage in which Hussain demonstrates various Indian and international drum techniques and sounds, as well as exclusive concert footage with world-renowned exponents of Indian classical music and dance, such as his father Ustad Alla Rakha (tabla), Ravi Shankar (sitar), Birju Maharaj (kathak -dance), Hariprasad Chaurasia (flute). "[The] film generously explores contours of tabla playing, its multiple stylings and personalities in Indian music�" (Robert Koehler, Variety). In English and Hindi (with English sub-titles). Print courtesy of Shift Focus. [Producer has informed me that it's a premiere everywhere except NY and LA.]

Sumantra Ghoshal is an award-winning TV commercial director and is one of the leading names in the field in India today. The Speaking Hand was originally edited to a 204 minute version entitled, Zakir! which was also Ghosh's first documentary film.

Waisa Bhi Hota Hai [Anything Can Happen] (2003, 138 min)Directed by Shashanka Ghosh

Released to rave reviews in India that praised the film as fresh, iconoclastic and a stand-out example of the "new breed of Bollywood cinema," Anything Can Happen is an innovative and contemporary blend of Indian and Western commercial genres. Puneet (Arshad Warsi), an advertising copywriter, saves a hitman's life and ends up causing the downfall of Bombay's two top gang lords. The film features a slew of idiosyncratic characters including a smouldering female don, a fearless lady-cop, and a group of bawdy Sikh rappers who highlight a distinctly Indian version of raucous masculinity. With noir, gangster, musical and comic elements, as well as a rich visualization of Bombay, director Shashanka Ghosh forges a uniquely Bollywood hybrid for an MTV and Tarantino generation. In Hindi with English sub-titles. Print courtesy of Impact Films. [Premier in all cities - and NY screening is most likely a US premiere.]

Shashanka Ghosh helped launched MTV in India as supervising producer in 1994, and Channel [V] (which went on to become a high-profile programming phenomenon across Asia) as creative director. Ghosh has been instrumental in the creation and promotion of youth television in India, creating award-winning TV characters such as "Udham Singh" and "Quick Gun Murugan.." Waisa Bhi Hota Hai is his first feature.

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