Sunday, January 23, 2011

The ten commandments of telecasting film industry award shows

The awards season is here.

Let’s get one thing straight. Very few of the top stars remain at the awards venue throughout the evening. They come, perform, see some trophies being given away - including their own, that's an important condition for their attendance - and then they disappear. While at the venue they smile at the stage, clap every now and then to ensure they're politically correct, and they also make expressions that indicate that they did understand Sajid Khan’s jokes. They also try not to contort their face too much during every gay act on stage. All in all, they try to make it appear as if this is the best awards function they've attended.

So what you watch on TV is a carefully stitched together montage of expressions and reactions, recorded through the course of one evening. After having seen these shows ad nauseum, I have arrived a few thumb rules than an editor must follow when processing the recorded footage for telecast. Some of them are as follows:

1. Thou shall always cut to Amitabh Bachchan’s expression’s when Rekha comes on stage, or even if there's a whiff of her mentioned. Works vice versa too. Lifetime achievement award for either of them? Did they stand up and applaud? No? Yes? Either ways, send the clip to the news channels. Breaking news. Amitabh (still) stands erect for Rekha.

2. Thou shall follow the same rule when Ranbir is dancing (pan camera to Deepika), Aishwarya (Salman Khan, Vivek Oberoi pe zoom in. Super zoom in into Amitabh Bachchan), Kareena Kapoor (Shahid Kapoor pe focus) and Priyanka Chopra (Shahid Kapoor again!) Each clip will be used in the marketing activity prior to the telecast, by using them in on-air promos, and looping them on Saas, Bahu aur Saazish.

3. Thou shall ensure you get some shots of rival actresses clapping when competition is performing. If Sonam is dancing, capture Deepika and Piggy Chops’ expressions. If Piggy Chops is giving an acceptance speech, cut to Kareena Kapoor's expressions. Zoom in close. Is that a smirk? Is that a shrug? Is that smoke bellowing out of her ears? Exercise the video editing suite! Zoom in.

4. Thou shall cut to either Rani, Kajol or Shah Rukh Khan clapping, whenever Karan Johar is on stage. We Are Family, after all. And whenever there's a question asked, "Karan why are you still single?", cut to SRK's embarassed expression.

5. Thou shall immediately capture the disappointment on the loser nominees' faces, when the trophy goes to someone else. Preferably show images of someone who is clapping. Arre bhai, sportsmanship bhi toi baat banti hai ki nahi?

6. Thou shall insert video clip of either of the Khans, or the Chopras, clapping furiously with a glee on their face, whenever a winner is announced for an award which doesn’t hold much merit in the eyes of stars, e.g. best background score, or best sound design.

7. Thou shall not search for Aamir Khan in the audience. He doesn’t attend awards, even if he’s slated to win the best actor or even best editor. Right Anusha?

8. Thou shall zoom into Ashutosh Gowariker’s facial expressions every time Sajjid Khan speaks. Thou shall photoshop smoke or fumes next to Gowariker's ears, click a picture and circulate it over e-mail.

9. Thou shall show the show-stopper performance of the evening, in the Coming Up Next section every time the programme goes in for a commercial break.

10. Thou shall keep soundtracks of Star Wars, Jurassic Park ready for use, every time an award is announced and the recipient walks up on stage to collect it.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

The Bigg Boss tapes you didn't see on TV

Now that Bigg Boss is over, I thought it would be appropriate to provide transcripts from edited footage. Here's one between Hashmit Patel and Tabela Anderson, where the Bollywood actor, infamous for the Riya Insane MMS scandal, offered Tabela a role in a ‘yoga film’ that he wanted to independently produce.
Unedited transcripts below:

(Hashmit Patel and Tabela Anderson are doing power yoga on the lawn inside the Bigg Boss house. Both are moaning in pleasure, as the rest of the house inmates finish their morning chores.)

Tabela: Oooh...This feels so good.

Hashmit: Doesn’t it? That’s power yoga for you. I’m surprised you’ve never tried it before.

Tabela: Aaaaaaah...(inaudible) I think I’ve tried. Tommy once heard about yoga from some saint he met in India and there was this film called Guru, right? Even Julia is now into this Hindu thingy (inaudible) are you a Yoga instructor or something?

Hashmit: Almost. I also act, when some actress agrees to do a film with me. But I can best describe myself as an independent film maker.

Tabela: Oh really? What kind of films do you make? (moans, as she rubs her calf muscle)

Hashmit: You’re in luck, lady. They’re all about yoga. Lying down, stretching your body, twisting your hands, spreading your legs...(inaudible) I shoot them in India, where its hot, one is not required to wear too many clothes. Most importantly, I don’t release them on DVDs, you know. Yoga is best circulated free of cost, through MMS!

(Hashmit squishes some grass on the Bigg Boss lawn, clearly remembering a previous incident)

Tabela: Oohh...nice. But do people have mobile phones in this country?

Hashmit: Of course! What do you take us Indians for, CJ Parker?

(Both laugh out loud, looking upwards towards the sky)

Hashmit: You know, I think you’re doing this power yoga really well. Why don’t you shoot a yoga film with me! Indians love you and you wouldn’t have to do any embarrassing dhak dhak steps.

Tabela: You think I’ll be able to? After all, I’m just an amateur at this.

Hashmit: No, no...not at all. You’ll be awesome. And c’mon, you’re not an amateur, you have lots of experience! We can get evicted from the Big Boss house together...

Tabela: Well, I don’t know about contract with Viagra-com18 is just for...

Hashmit: Contract? What contract? Yoga is all about contact, baby, not contract...

Tabela: (inaudible) I don’t know, do you have some prior experience at shooting yoga films?

Hashmit: Actually I won’t be shooting. I’ll also do yoga with you. My cameraman is very good, he’s the baap of all yoga film-makers!

(Dolly Bindra’s shrill voice in the background: “Baap kisko bola bey, baap kisko bola?!!”)

Review: No One Killed Jessica

It is difficult to give No One Killed Jessica less than a 'good' rating. Yet, if you look at a broader picture, it is a challenging film to sit though, considering that you know what the ending is. Sabrina Lall did get justice. And the late Jessica Lall's soul, now rests in peace.

Yet, Raj Kumar Gupta's courtroom-cum-journalistic-investigation drama makes for gripping viewing, thanks to good dialogues, performances from the supporting cast and impeccably good writing. In a way, it appears to be one of those screenplays where there has been little influence from powers-to-be and the director's vision has been intact. That's a wonderful thing.

I saw the movie in a packed Eros cinema on a Sunday evening and the film had enough moments that got the audience clapping, laughing (at the dark humour) and turn silent in recollection of passions that the case rustled up on news channels some years ago.

Amit Trivedi's music and background score beautifully capture those emotions. It rescues the film in a major way - from the very dull Vidya Balan (the real Sabrina Lall looks so much more energetic and headstrong) and lends great personality to the city of Delhi and one of its bitchwanti reporters, played by Rani Mukherji. Rani is good, fumes expletives very often and her character is identical to that of Barkha Dutt.

The last 20 minutes of the film, involving the candlelight protests are possibly its weakest. But you can't blame the film-makers for this, since they've been honest with the subject. It's just that, as an audience we've seen those visuals a little too often. An ignited candle has possibly become like an accessory now - stand with one for hours and you've made a statement of having stood up for justice, or simply been patriotic. It's become an easy recourse for a citizen who doesn't have time to press hard for long term solutions.

The original hero of the Jessica Lall case is only thanked towards the end of the film. That's the team from Tehelka, who worked relentlessly in exposing the brutalities of a system while working on this case.

In summary, I think that after the last few months, which damaged the reputation of many journalists - thanks to Open - here's a thumbs up to a film that shows that journalism for justice and the larger public interest - despite employing unethical means - is something worth cheering for.

No One Killed Jessica
Rating: * * *

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Review: Paranormal Activity 2

Paranormal Activity 2 is not a great horror film, but it still packs in good thrills that commands mandatory viewing only in cinemas. Those of you who are planning to download it (or already have) to watch it on your laptops with the lights switched off, here’s a word of advice - don’t. You’re really ruining a film that seems already wasted in its second instalment.

The first film, Paranormal Activity was spooky for its unique treatment, inventive use of handheld and stationary cameras and a very clever online marketing campaign. Anticipation levels therefore reached a crescendo and audiences made a beeline to the plexes wanting to be spooked. That’s the holy grail of a horror film - we watch it because we want to get spooked. And the film managed to do it, successfully.

However the formula becomes clear and overused in this prequel, Paranormal Activity -2. The film is more or less a series of thrills, each coming at regular intervals and the director does us a favor by heightening the hum of the background score, whenever it happens. The story unfolds in the house of Katie’s sister, Kristi who lives her husband Daniel, daughter Ali and their newly born baby, Hunter. After their house gets mysteriously ransacked, the family decides to install security cameras in all their rooms. Strange things begin to happen as an invisible entity begins to create chaos.

About 15 minutes into the film, you begin guessing where’s the next thrill going to come from. What’s the next thing that'll fall off the hook? Will this be a thud in the bathroom, or will it be the kitchen? Or will it be the banging of the door? Who will the dog stare and cower in fear?

However, despite making the source of the thrills predictable, director Tod Williams succeeds in making you jump out of your seats every now and then, and provides a thrilling finish to the film and links it neatly to the first one. That’s a commendable achievement. The director has the format to thank for that, and the director of the first film, Oren Peli.

So yes, go watch this one at the theatres. My only worry is that Paranormal Activity’s formula may have become overused now - thanks to its lack of a coherent and gripping storyline. Although I wish there are no more sequels after this, I hear that Paramount Pictures has already signed Oren Peli to create a third film, which will be a prequel to Part 2.

Rating: ***