Page 3 (2005) starring Konkona Sen Sharma

Delving below the glitz and glamour of celebrity lifestyle to touch upon such dark subjects… Page 3 doesn’t shy away from tackling controversial issues. -Excerpt from BBCi Films

[1] Clever writing, skillfully incorporated songs, able performances and a genuine feeling of sincerity are what make this film worthy in spite of its lack of finesse and poor production values. 

[2] The movie defines so many characters who are completely with completely different priorities and different ideologies and yet they are all a part of the system which is all the more apathetic. …one of the most mature films of the recent times.

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

This is currently streaming on Netflix; it’s worth a look (esp. if you’re looking for intelligent, thought-provoking Hindi cinema). If you’re bored w/ (or NOT a fan of) Bollywood, check this out. The dialogue is written with great attention to detail; characters from different social classes are represented (and get their own voices). Kareena Kapoor Khan was offered the lead role, which she turned down (thank goodness)!  

I don’t know what has happened to journalism. -Madhavi comments in the newsroom

Who told you that you are a journalist? This is what you write in the page 3 column, isn’t it? Who went in whose party, with whom who went… And with whom who came back… What one wore, ate and drank what… And what one didn’t wear. Miss Madhavi Sharma, this is called entertainment, not journalism. -Vinayak retorts

Madhavi Sharma (Konkona Sen Sharma- one of my fave actresses) is a 22 y.o. journalist living in Mumbai who covers page 3 (gossip, celebs, parties) for Nation Today (an English language newspaper). After just 6 mos, she’s disillusioned w/ her beat; she wants to do something more meaningful. Madhavi admires the work of crime reporter, Vinayak Mane (Atul Kulkarni), who rides around town on his motorcycle, meeting w/ snitches, and embedding himself w/ cops. This movie is not only about Madhavi, BUT also about her editor- Mr. Suri (veteran character actor Boman Irani), disillusioned socialite- Anjali Thapar (Soni Razdan from Monsoon Wedding), and her two roommates- tough-taking air hostess- Pearl (Sandhya Mridul) and naive aspiring actress- Gayatri (Tara Sharma), as well as others. 

Nothing can be achieved w/o being a former Miss India/Miss World or being connected to a somebody, Pearl explains to Gayatri. Madhavi thinks that a Bollywood hero she knows, Rohit Kumar (Bikram Saluja), can help Gayatri get an audition w/ a famous producer. A male model, Tarun (Jai Kalra), notices Madhavi while she’s sitting in the audience of a fashion show. They keep running into each other, so decide to start meeting up more. Rohit discusses show biz w/ Gayatri; they become romantically involved. Pearl meets an older NRI businessman who could be her ticket out of singlehood and working for a living. 

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Big in Bollywood (2011) starring Omi Vaidya

How would it be like if the unassuming, humble, “boy-next-door” made it big in a Bollywood film? This is the premise of this doc (now streaming on Netflix) by former college friends of 27 y.o. Indian-American actor Omi Vaidya. Though he spoke very little Hindi, Omi was chosen by a famed producer (Vidhu Vinod Chopa), then a respected director (Rajkumar Hirani) to play a pivotal role in 3 Idiots (2009). The SoCal-raised actor, who attended UC Santa Cruz and NYU, is referred to as “the fourth idiot” during public appearances by co-star/superstar Aamir Khan. 

A few months after their wedding, Omi’s PhD student wife (Minal), his mom, and friends  join the actor for the 3 Idiots premiere. Minal has to return to school after only 2 weeks in Mumbai. The film was a box office success- the biggest grossing film in India up until that time. Omi notices people looking and wanting to talk to him (for the first time in his career). He gets honors due to his well-loved role, yet also notices the dark side of fame. 

Omi’s mother (Bharati- who once aspired to be an actress herself) and three friends (Bill, Kenny, and Kevin) attend the Star Film Awards ceremony. They’re full of enthusiasm and high hopes for Omi, though he is NOT quite certain about his dance number, or if he’ll win an award (being nominated for two). 

AFI showed this film last week, then there was a Q&A session w/ Omi. He and Minal are currently living in Rockville, MD with their toddler son and new baby. Minal is a post doc at NIH; she studied Biochemistry. Though his young family comes first, Omi is still acting in TV and movies. His next film (releasing in 2018) is starring Irrfan Khan. Omi was part of the ensemble cast of Netflix’s Brown Nation (a comedy series starring desi actors). 

 

The Problem with Apu (2017) starring Hari Kondabolu

Last WED night, Hari Kondabolu was in DC (Baird Auditorium at The Smithsonian Natural History Museum) to discuss his first documentary film w/ NPR reporter Elizabeth Blair and a diverse audience (which included MANY South Asian immigrants and 1st gen adults in their 20s-40s). This was a free event; I signed up 2 weeks ahead of time (and got a kick out of seeing /chatting w/ MANY familiar faces attending). This film is NOT only funny, it’s smart and thought-provoking (delving into issue of South Asian representation in the media). You can watch this film on truTV  tonight (SUN, 11/19). 

So, what’s the big deal re: Apu here? Well, he’s a stereotype of an immigrant Indian man who runs a convenience store, and voiced by a white actor (Hank Azaria, who refused to appear in the film). The Simpsons is a nearly 30 y.o show on the FOX network which is watched/loved by millions. As Maryland-raised actor/musician Utkarsh Ambudkar (Pitch Perfect; The Mindy Project) summed it up: “The problem is- we didn’t have any other type of representation.” Hari interviewed MANY people incl: his parents, Aziz Ansari (Master of None), Kal Penn (Designated Survivor), Hasan Minhaj (Homecoming King), Aasif Mandvi (best known from The Daily Show), Maulik Pancholy (Star Trek: Discovery),  Aparna Nancherla (stand-up comic/actor/writer from Virginia), Sakina Jaffrey (House of Cards), Noureen DeWulf (Anger Management), Dr. Vivek Murthy (former Surgeon General under Pres. Obama), W. Kamau Bell (Hari’s friend/collaborator on various projects), Dana Gould (a producer of The Simpsons) and Hollywood trail-brazer Whoopi Goldberg (who speaks on America’s minstrel era, featuring “blackface”).

The audience was laughing all through the film. They were pleasantly surprised to see Whoopi and Dr. Murthy (a trailblazer in his own right). I esp. enjoyed the Q&A afterwards; Hari mentioned his idea for a future doc- focusing on Bengali filmmaker Satyjit Ray. 

Watch the trailer for The Problem with Apu below: