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. 

Advertisements

Today’s Special (2009)

todaysspecialposter

See Aasif Mandvi before he got famous (I did- he visited an youth center where I volunteered)!  While he was pretty awkward with the teens (he’s a single guy with no kids), the theatrically-trained actor has become a name in comedy, thanks to The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.  Recently, he relased his funny memoir- No Land’s Man

 

harishpatel_todaysspecialMandvi recently commented that the romance was tacked on to market the story, but it’s essentially a story about dealing with your past (in this case, one’s heritage and father)  in order to move forward in life.  NYC-based sous chef Samir (Mandvi) is passed over for a much-anticipated promotion by his egotistical boss/chef, Steve (Dean Winters of Oz and SVU fame).  He goes back to check out how things are going in the family restaurant (Tandoori Palace) in the old ‘hood.  This film was mainly shot inside an Indian restaurant in my old ‘hood (Jackson Heights, Queens) in the Summer of 2008.  (I noticed that there was a covering around it for a few days, with a few young PAs hanging about.)   His father Hakim (Harish Patel, an Indian TV star) is shocked to see Samir out of the blue.  Suddenly, a health issue forces Hakim to rest at home, and Samir takes over the restaurant.

spices

Samir, who knows nothing re: Indian food, luckily meets Akbar (Naseeruddin Shah, a veteran of international cinema)- a horrid taxi driver but  masterful chef.   Shah steals the film with his charm, humor, and laid-back style.  Rarely has an elderly desi man been so cool!  This is one father-figure that understands Samir easily, unlike his own dad. 

todaysspecialmom

Ironically, actress/cookbook author Madhur Jaffrey (mother of Mandv’is close pal, Sakina) does no cooking here!  (Sakina Jaffrey played the VP on House of Cards recently.)  She plays Samir’s matchmaking mom, Farida, who sets him up on dates w/ Indian-American women via an online database (like Shaadi.com).  LOL… or is this getting TOO real for some of you?  There are some touching scenes in this film,  aside from the relatable comedy (esp. for desi Muslims out there).  Check this film (on Netflix now) out ASAP! 

GREAT Films about the Immigrant Experience

Avalon (1990)

This is a gorgeous film directed by Barry Levinson (Diner, Homicide, Liberty Heights, etc.)  It’s a talent-laden (Armin Mueller-Stahl, Aiden Quinn, and a very young Elijah Wood play the male leads) drama set in ’50s Baltimore.  The film explores 3 generations of a tightly-knit, middle-class, Jewish-American family.  My dad really liked this story; it’s suitable for all ages!   

Mississippi Masala (1999)

I tell all my desi friends (and anyone who likes good films) about this one!  I first saw it as an undergrad.  This small-budget/educational/realistic film was directed by Mira Nair; she also plays a small role as a catty auntie.  The screenwriter, Nair’s close friend/collaborator Sooni Taraporevela, said the basis for the love story between Meena (Sarita Choudhury) and Demetrius (Denzel Washington) was partly inspired by a fellow Indian gal pal at Harvard who fell in love with a black (Jamaican) man.  The dialogue is spot-on and the sweet romance between Meena and Demetrius is as hot as the setting (small towns of Mississippi).  There is another kind of love in this story- Jay (veteran Indian actor Roshan Seth), Meena’s father/lawyer-turned-motel manager, desperately trying to get back property/citizenship in his native Uganda (scenes were filmed in Nair’s own Kampala house).

Sidenote: I saw Sarita at a staged play reading in NYC (back in 2006).  Film does NOT do her justice; she’s stunning in real life! 

My Family/Mi Familia (1995)

Unfair deportation, police aggression, gangs/crime, Catholicism, and the ties that bind families are explored in one of my all-time favorite films.  I saw this first during my 12th grade American History class; later I saw it w/ my family (they all liked it a lot, too).  It was directed superbly by a Californian of Mexican heritage, Gregory Nava (Selena, Frida).  The music is an integral part of the story, as is the moral compass/strength of matriarch Maria Sanchez, who is played by Jennifer Lopez (younger) and Jenny Gago (older).  The male leads are played by Jacob Vargas (Jose), Esai Morales (Chucho), and  Jimmy Smits (Jimmy).  Edward James Olmos plays the aspiring writer, also the narrator.  Scott Bakula plays the husband of Toni (Constance Marie).  The setting is primarily East L.A. (a long-established Latino neighborhood). 

Nuovomundo/Golden Door (1996)

Don’t let the language (primarily Italian) deter you from this unique/educational film; it contains some magical realism.  It was produced by the famed Martin Scorcese, himself a proud Italian-American.  The (nearly unspoken) love story in the film is between kind-hearted Italian peasant Salvatore (Vincenzo Amato) and mysterious/redheaded Englishwoman Lucy (Charlotte Gainsbourg).  Salvatore decides to sail to the U.S. so his family, which includes two teen sons and mother, can survive.  Crops won’t grow on his land, and his brother is already settled in NYC.  However, after their ship lands on Ellis Island, there are more tests/tribulations ahead! 

Liberty Heights (1999)

Another of Levinson’s fine films- this time focusing on brothers who live in a Jewish-American enclave of ’50s Baltimore.  The narrator, 17 y.o. Van (Ben Foster), and his college-going brother, Ben (Adrien Brody) are good kids trying to figure themselves out. You will relate to this film, especially if you are a 1st generation American, as the Kurtzman brothers navigate around heritage, parents, and wider racial issues of the ’50s.  Van befriends Sylvia (Rebekah Johnson), the only black girl in his class.  Ben makes new friends at a party and eventually falls for Dubbie (Carolyn Murphy), a gorgeous/troubled WASP.  Yussel (David Krumholtz), Ben’s best pal/smart-aleck, provides a lot of the comedy.  The parents in the film are portrayed by Joe Mantegna and Bebe Neuwirth.       

The Namesake (2006)

This is the first film exploring two generations of an Indian-American family (Bengali in heritage); it is based on Jhumpa Lahiri’s novel and directed by Mira Nair.  I saw it in 3 different theaters w/ different groups of family/friends (who all loved it).  Gogol/Nikhil (Kal Penn) and his little sister, Sonia, grow up on Long Island, the children of successful/overprotective immigrant parents, professor Ashok (Irrfan Khan) and homemaker Ashima Ganguli (Tabu).  Though the novel’s main focus was Gogol, Nair takes a deeper focus into the slow-burn love story between Ashok and Ashima (I enjoyed their scenes most).  Irrfan Khan is amazing; too bad he decided not to come to Hollywood!     

LOTR: The Two Towers – Extended Edition (2002)

Saruman (Christopher Lee) and Grima (Brad Dourif) atop Isengard looking over the army
Saruman (Christopher Lee) and Grima (Brad Dourif) atop Isengard looking over the army

The two towers refer to Saruman’s (Isengard) and Sauron’s (Barad-Dur) strongholds.  The fellowship has gone its separate ways, so there is much more to see in this film.  Saruman’s army is getting bigger each day.  We see how Uruk-hai are being bred (gross); Treebeard (voiced by John Rhys-Davies, who also plays Gimli) thinks they are orcs crossed w/ men. 

Saruman's eye atop Barad-Dur
Saruman’s eye atop Barad-Dur

Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) travel with Gollum (Andy Serkis), a creature that they can’t fully trust.  Gollum says that he can’t be far from the ring, and calls Frodo “master.”  He had the ring for 500 years, so is in its power (as Galadriel explained in FOTR). 

Sam (Sean Astin), Frodo (Elijah Wood), and Gollum (Andy Serkis)
Sam (Sean Astin), Frodo (Elijah Wood), and Gollum (Andy Serkis)

One of the best things about the EE- Sean Bean!  We get to learn more about Boromir, his younger brother Faramir (David Wenham), and their father Denethor (John Noble).  Faramir offered to go to the council of Elrond at Rivendell, but his father refused him. 

Faramir (David Wenham) and Boromir (Sean Bean) drink a toast
Faramir (David Wenham) and Boromir (Sean Bean) drink a toast

Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas meet Eomer (Karl Urban) and the horsemen loyal to him.  He’s in despair, after losing his cousin (Theodred) in battle and being banished from Edoras by Grima.  Théoden (Bernard Hill) is under Saruman’s spell, so he can’t function as king.  I love the Rohan musical theme! 

Eomer (Karl Urban) has been banished from Rohan
Eomer (Karl Urban) has been banished from Rohan

The White Wizard that everyone seems to fear turns out to be a good guy- Gandalf! 

Gandalf the White (Ian McKellan)
Gandalf the White (Ian McKellan)

Merry and Pip first see him (in Fangorn Forest).  We see the ingenuity of these two hobbits.  After escaping from Saruman’s forces, Pip leaves a trail which Aragorn follows.  Merry realizes that the Ents (tree herders) can help in the battle for Middle Earth. 

Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas riding toward Edoras
Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas riding toward Edoras

The CGI effects on Théoden were very cool!  He comes back to his old self in a few moments.  But his only son is dead, and he laments this in a nice scene with Gandalf.  The young are not supposed to die while “the old linger on.”

Grima and Theoden (Bernard Hill)
Grima and Theoden (Bernard Hill)

My favorite character in this film is Eowyn (Mirando Otto).  She is caring, can handle a sword (will see just how well later), and develops a friendship w/ Aragorn.  Does she love him?  Or does she want to fight beside him as an equal?  Maybe both!  In the EE, we learn that Eowyn can’t cook very well.  Aragorn grows to admire Eowyn. 

Eowyn (Miranda Otto) asks Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) about the jewel (Evenstar)
Eowyn (Miranda Otto) asks Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) about the jewel (Evenstar)

Gimli is quite funny in this film, though he continues to fight very well (as in FOTR).  He and Legolas are more friendly here, but have an ongoing rivalry.  We learn that dwarf women also have beards.  

Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) provides some much-needed humor
Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) provides some much-needed humor

Frodo and Sam learn that Boromir is dead from Faramir, captain of Gondor.  Faramir is another of my faves in the LOTR films- he’s the reluctant warrior who’s a deep thinker.  He sets the hobbits free after realizing the destructive power of the one ring, and the importance of the quest. 

Faramir is almost tempted by the ring
Faramir is almost tempted by the ring

Elrond (Hugo Weaving) convinces Arwen (Liv Tyler) to leave Rivendell and travel to The Undying Lands.  In a somewhat eerie sequence, he speaks of her future life should she marry Aragorn (a mortal man).  I think this is a bit longer in the EE. 

Flash forward scene with Arwen (Liv Tyler)
Flash forward scene with Arwen (Liv Tyler)

The toughest stuff to shoot was the battle at Helm’s Deep, the cast and crew explain on disc 4 of the EE.  The elves, lead by Haldir (Craig Parker), come to fight beside the men/boys of Rohan.  Then a new day comes, and Gandalf, Eomer, and his men ride in to defeat the Uruk-hai army. 

LOTR: The Fellowship of the Ring – Extended Edition (2001)

Elrond (Hugo Weaving) on the battlefield
Elrond (Hugo Weaving) on the battlefield

I loved all the prologue stuff in the EE, esp. the battle/conflict involving Elrond and Isildur.  It explained some things to those who didn’t read the LOTR books (like myself).  Rings were given to the elves (including a intricate floral one Galadriel wears), dwarves, and men.  Saruman’s fate is tied to the One Ring (also called Isildur’s Bane), so as long as it’s out there, evil threatens Middle Earth.  Isildur is Aragorn’s ancestor; his sword is called Narsil.  Later on, in Rivendell, we see the shards of Narsil. 

Bilbo (Ian Holm) examines the ring
Bilbo (Ian Holm) examines the ring

There is more Bilbo-reated stuff in the EE, including a scene (in Lothlorien) where we see the destructive power the ring would have on him.  Bilbo gives Frodo a shirt of mithril (given to him by Thorin, we later learn from Gandalf), then freaks out upon seeing the ring on a chain worn around Frodo’s neck.  Frodo quickly covers it with his shirt. 

Gandalf (Ian McKellan) & Frodo (Elijah Wood)
Gandalf (Ian McKellan) & Frodo (Elijah Wood)

After Bilbo’s b-day party (including his disappearing trick), he leaves for Rivendell.  Frodo finds Gandalf sitting before the fire; we know that the wizard feels the power of the ring.  He dare not even come too close to it.  (On the other hand, Saruman joins forces w/ Sauron.) 

Galdriel feels the evil of the ring.
Galdriel feels the evil of the ring.

Later, we see the terrible power it could have upon Galadriel (Cate Blanchett). This was a cool, unexpected bit of acting/CGI!  Blanchett and Weaving were very believable as ancient, powerful, wise elves.  Arwen (Liv Tyler) did well, but I wished she had more to do in this film.  Like Wood, she has that very young/innocent/gentle quality about her.  They both have flawless skin (I saw Wood once on the subway in NYC).  I loved the exciting horse riding/escape scene (done mainly by a stuntwoman).

Getting ready to fight the cave troll inside Balin's Tomb
Getting ready to fight the cave troll inside Balin’s Tomb

The first time I saw the action sequences inside Balin’s Tomb, I was quite impressed.  Everything flowed well from the first instance of the arrow whizzing by Boromir’s (Sean Bean) face.

The balrog inside Moria
The balrog inside Moria

After a few views of the EE, I was also very impressed with the balrog (a very advanced bit of CGI work). 

Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) realizes that Frodo must go alone to Mordor
Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) realizes that Frodo must go alone to Mordor

Boromir is tempted by the ring (like men before); we’ll learn later the pressures he faced.  Perhaps Aragorn won’t be tempted, but Frodo can’t take that chance.  He heads off to Moria with Sam (who won’t be left behind).  My fave part of the EE set are the interviews with the cast (see disc 4: From Vision to Reality)- a must for any fan of LOTR