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Tollywood trail on big screen
Stills from Patalghar and Mr & Mrs Iyer: Best of Bengal

Tollywood trail on big screen

Amaar Bhuvan, Saanjhbatir Rupkathara, Subho Muharat, Mr & Mrs Iyer, Patalghar, Manda Meyer Upakhyan, Abar Aranye, Chokher Bali… Mrinal Sen, Anjan Das, Rituparno Ghosh, Aparna Sen, Buddhadev Dasgupta, Abhijit Chaudhuri, Goutam Ghose… Nandita Das, Indrani Dutta, Raakhee and Sharmila Tagore, Konkona Sen Sharma and Rahul Bose, Soumitra Chattopadhyay, Rituparna Sengupta, Tabu, Aishwarya Rai…

The lights are bright, the cameras are busy, there’s plenty of action in Tollywood, and quality is not a casualty. The Tollygunge studios, despite all the obvious odds, has been churning out top-drawer stuff for the past few months. Enough for our film industry to suddenly be the talk of the town, and enough to prod the Symbiosis Institute of Mass Communication, Pune, to choose the city for a recent talk-and-workshop meet on alternative cinema.

The seminar on marketing strategies for alternative cinema brought together film-makers Goutam Ghose and Buddhadev Dasgupta, EIMPA chief Arijit Dutta and film critic Samik Bandopadhyay. While highlighting the purple patch that alternative cinema in Tollywood is enjoying at the moment, the need to reach a wider audience, more consistently and sell celluloid dreams far and wide.

Here’s a breeze-through of the best of Bengal on the big screen, at present and in the near future.

Now showing —

Mr and Mrs Iyer: Aparna Sen’s highly-acclaimed treatise, in English, on love in the times of violence. Communal strife provides the dramatic backdrop for a love tale with a twist. Konkona Sen Sharma, Rahul Bose and the baby continue to lure Calcuttans to the hall, 10 weeks after release. A sure success, home and away.

Patalghar: Now in its second week, the sci-fi film based on Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay’s work, pushes back the frontiers of Bengali film-making. Spending well over a crore, this magic-reality tale, with mind-blowing music, marks the debut of Black Magic Motion Pictures. A must-see for the young and the young at heart.

Fast forward —

Neel Nirjane: Subroto Sen’s next venture, hitting the halls this month, stars a winsome threesome — Moon Moon Sen, Raima Sen and June Maliah. Billed to be a young-crowd film, it focuses on inter-personal relationships at a holiday resort.

Hemanter Pakhi: Bringing Mamata Shankar and Tanushree Shankar together, this NFDC film by Urmi Chakraborty has created quite a ripple at international festivals.

Abar Aranye: This sequel to the Ray classic, Aranyer Din Ratri, by Goutam Ghose is eagerly awaited, as much for the film’s legacy as the presence of Tabu and the veterans, Soumitra, Subhendu, Samit and Sharmila.

Manda Meyer Upakhyane: Buddhadev Dasgupta’s film starring Rituparna has done the festival rounds, with quite some success.

Chokher Bali: Doesn’t get bigger than Rituparno’s celluloid tribute to Rabindranath. Slated for a Puja release, it stars Ash, no less, along with Raima Sen, Prasenjit and Tota.

Great expectations….

Savvy on santoor

Right from the moment he settled down on his santoor strings and waded effortlessly into an evening raga, Rahul Sharma had charmed the Swabhumi audience. Through the enchanting next couple of hours on Monday evening, he held his own in his music and presence against his illustrious French collaborator on stage, Richard Clayderman.

The tall and handsome son of santoor maestro Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma is proud of his lineage no doubt, but has already emerged from his father’s shadow to carve a niche for himself. Already proclaimed as one of the finest young talents on the Indian classical horizon, Rahul has drawn international acclaim as well through his fusion disc with Clayderman, The Confluence.

“Playing with Richard was the experience of a lifetime, and I am glad he liked the tapes I sent him to Paris, which culminated in the collaboration. The liberty he gave me on the album was amazing, helping the partnership flower,” said Rahul, who has scored the soundtrack for Yash Chopra’s Mujhse Dosti Karoge'

Explaining the exhilarating chemistry between the two instruments, he said: “The santoor blends seamlessly with the piano, as both are soft, sensitive instruments and can evoke romantic feelings.” Not one to rest on his oars, Rahul has recently performed alongside John McLaughlin as a guest with fusion supergroup Shakti and is keen to make more music with the legendary British jazz guitarist. “A project with McLaughlin is an exciting prospect and we are planning something together,” he said.

“I am primarily a classical artiste and that can never be diluted. At the same time, I am not averse to pursuing a parallel quest on meaningful collaboration with musicians from other genres,” smiled Rahul.

Oscar fever

If March is here, can Oscars be far behind' Will Adrien Brody snatch the ‘best actor in a leading role’ scalp for his performance in The Pianist, or will it be the veteran Michael Caine for The Quiet American' Who wins the toss-up between Salma Hayek (Frida) and Nicole Kidman (The Hours) for the leading lady role'

Cine buffs must wait till March 23 for all the answers, when the glittering Academy Awards presentation ceremony unfolds at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland. But in the interim, they can chew on a healthy diet of Oscar-winning movies. Like last year, HBO, showcasing “Hollywood’s finest”, has lined up a feast of cinematic excellence, spanning over six decades, in the lead-up to Oscar night on every weekend.

Each one a multi-Oscar winning masterpiece, the eight blockbusters to be beamed after the 9.30 movie on Saturday nights and following the 9 pm movie on Sundays, total a combined Oscar tally of 39. The countdown begins with Batman (March 1), the Michael Keaton-Jack Nicholson-Kim Basinger starrer. Ben-Hur (March 2), the epic starring Charlton Heston. The fare next weekend (March 8 & 9) comprises David Lean’s Lawrence Of Arabia and The Nutty Professor starring Eddie Murphy. Yet another David Lean classic, The Bridge On The River Kwai, comes up next (March 15), followed by The Exorcist (March 16). Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan kicks off the Oscars weekend (March 22), followed by Ridley Scott’s Gladiator, featuring Russel Crowe.

Women’s Day

Don’t say ‘that takes balls’. Instead, praise acts of boldness or bravery with the words ‘that takes ovaries’. On International Women’s Day on March 8, Thoughtshop Foundation and Spandan have organised the third, and largest session yet, of That Takes Ovaries, an open-mike movement of, for and by women, where they have the chance to share stories of their acts of courage.

The entry at the Loreto House Teachers Centre event is free, because “fun-raising and not fundraising” is the purpose. For two hours, from 5 pm, anyone and everyone is welcome, to speak spontaneously or read a written story, audacious or outrageous, but the time limit is seven minutes. Men, too, are “most welcome” to regale the audience with anecdotes of mothers, sisters, wives or daughters, or to just sit back and listen.

Rahul Sharma puts in a word at the Swabhumi concert

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