Saturday, March 14, 2020

Café Irani Chaii International Film Festival ends on a successful note

Yashpal Sharma with Prof. Dr. Ashouri, Mr. Alikhani, Santosh Barne, Mohan Das, Bhupen Vyas & Dr. Mansoor Showghi Yezdi
The Café Irani Chaii International Film Festival 2020 which took place at the Culture House of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Mumbai on 12th & 13th March 2020 ended on a successful note last evening. Given the recent developments around coronavirus, which has had sweeping effects in all sectors including the entertainment industry, many festivals across the globe had chosen to either call off the festival or postpone it to a later date sometime in the same year. Those included reputed festivals like IFFLA, Tribeca Film Festival, Prague Film Festival, Sarasota Film Festival, Istanbul Film Festival, Belfast Film Festival, Beverly Hills Film Festival, Cleveland Film Festival, New York Children’s Film Festival, the KinoFilm Festival and many others. As festival organizers, even team CICIFF had the same two choices - postponement or cancellation. But team CICIFF chose to downscale the event and limit audiences in auditorium instead of cancelling the same.

“But cancel we did. It was our grand Awards event which we had to cancel and it’s a decision that we did not take lightly,” said Dr. Mansoor Showghi Yezdi, Chairman & Festival Director, CICIFF. “Considering this was our first year, we had planned for a grand Awards event at a leading star hotel. However, the well-being of our esteemed guests, festival partners, film enthusiasts and our team was paramount and hence we called the event off,” he added. The Awards event was conducted later in the evening followed by a networking get together at the same venue after the screenings for the day ended on day 2. “We know it was no substitute for the grand awards event with its unique and fantastic audience, but at least it’s some way to honour these amazing film makers for their wonderful films that made its way to our festival.”

Our esteemed guests, celebrities & eminent filmmakers...

The awards evening took off with Dr. Mansoor taking the stage to speak about the festival and why it was named as the Café Irani Chaii International Film Festival. He also went on to mention that the Chaii has two “i”s in the name of the festival that symbolizes the relationship between the two countries. “I’ve added the two “i”s - one for India and the other for Iran,” he says with a sparkle in his eye. He also enlightened the guests about his documentary by the same name that attempts to trace the history of the Irani cafés through the cities of Bombay, Pune and Hyderabad.

Though scaled down, the awards event still did see the presence of Bollywood actor Yashpal Sharma, Flora Saini, Rekha Rana and Rohan Mehra of ‘Bazaar’ fame. Honouring the esteemed presence of Yashpal Sharma at the festival, his Excellency Consul General of the I.R. of Iran Mr. Alikhani as well as the Hon’ble Prof. Dr. Ashouri Director Culture House of the I.R. of Iran, Mumbai awarded him with the CICIFF “Excellence in Cinema” award. A film actor and theatre artist, Yashpal Sharma is best known for his roles in Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi, Lagaan, Gangaajal, Ab Tak Chhappan, Apaharan, Singh Is Kinng, Aarakshan, Rowdy Rathore as well in the Haryanvi film ‘Pagdi the Honour’ which has been conferred with two National Awards.

Mohan Das with Rohan Mehra & Yashpal Sharma. Actress Flora Saini with her team...
The incredibly versatile Yashpal Sharma says he is ecstatic on receiving the CICIFF ‘Excellence in Cinema’ Award. "I'm humbled and honoured for this recognition. I’m really ecstatic as this is not an acting award; it’s an achievement award. It’s such a morale boost and shows that you are being appreciated for what you do.” Speaking about his love of Indian and Iranian cinema, he went on to praise Iranian films he’s completely in awe of. He mentioned that one of his best loved Iranian language films happens to be Majidi’s “Children’s of Heaven” as well as Abbas Kiarostami’s “Where is the Friend’s Home?”

Later Dr. Mansoor requested Yashpal Sharma along with members of jury Bhupen Vyas and Santosh Barne to honour his Excellency Consul General Mr. Alikhani as well as the Hon’ble Prof. Dr. Ashouri for their esteemed support to the festival. The winners of the festival were later announced collectively by Chairman Jury Mohan Das and Dr. Mansoor. While the Best Feature Film went to B M Giriraj’s Kannada film “Amaraavati”, the Best Short Film went to Ishaan Raisinghania’s “Purdah”. The Best Documentary award went to Junichi Kajioka for his documentary “Sugihara Survivors” from the UK. The other winners included Seema Biswas for ‘Idam’ (Best Actress Feature), Divya Dutta for ‘Zuni’ (Best Actress Short), Rohan Mehra for ‘Hum’ (Best Emerging Actor), Rekha Rana for ‘Tara - The journey of love & passion’ (Best Emerging Actor), Saurabh Sharma for ‘Unpredictable’ (Best DoP), Nilesh Naik for ‘Woh Pal’ (Best Children Film), Ram Kamal Mukherjee for ‘Rickshawala’ (Best Emerging Director) and Ajay Mahendru for ‘Dastak’ (Best Actor Jury) amongst others. Short film ‘Unpredictable’ that took home the Best Cinematographer award is produced by actress Flora Saini who will soon be seen in the upcoming film “Darbaan”.

Speaking to a cross section of the filmmakers and audiences, Ashu Dhaliwal, producer of the short social film ‘Manav Bomb’ says she is happy that at least the festival was conducted and her film screened too. “We do understand the organiser’s predicament at such a time of international calamity. While we didn’t as much get the festival experience, the awards celebrations and red carpets as one is used to, but we did get an opportunity to be recognized for our film, which was the silver lining,” said Ashu.

Neeraj Awchat with esteemed guests & celebrities...
“Yes, even I do agree. It’s so unprecedented for not being able to stand up there with my cast and present this film. But given the situation, this was the best thing to happen than not doing at all,” said Jyoti Bajaj, co-director and writer of Zuni that took home two awards - Best actress for Divya Dutta and a Best editor award as well.

Neeraj Awchat who took home the Best Story award for his short film ‘Block’ says, “It’s heartening that the festival is committed to ensuring the health and safety of the public while also supporting friends, filmmakers and storytellers who look to such film festivals as a platform to showcase their work to audiences. What else can one ask for?”

Despite its limitation, the Café Irani Chaii International Film Festival will surely be looked forward to from the viewpoint of a movie enthusiast who wants to see some of the best cinema at such a festival. And CICIFF did provide them an array of wonderful films. “Cinema is the most powerful medium and telling specific stories that connect you with realities you had no idea or connection is a weapon these makers have. Being at a film festival reminds me of this power of film, the power that the story can make you see things. ‘Purdah’ was one short film that had the capacity to keep you riveted with a masterfully executed screenplay and earnestly shows us the beauty of good cinema. Another film that I liked was ‘Carbon Monoxide’ that showcased the brutal reality of carbon monoxide deaths,” said Arbind Mishra who travelled all the way from Bengaluru just to watch good cinema.

Another film enthusiast Chandrashekhar Bhide who was religiously present on both days right since morning watching wonderful cinema says, "It is an inspiring experience that is vastly different from other film festivals. What sets it apart is the warm and wonderful welcome accorded to even the film loving audience. This is what one needs to learn from these festival organisers. The best part was the Irani brun maska pao and chaii during breaks. No wonder, I’m going to come every year now.” Its inspiring to know that Chandrashekhar is a B.Tech in Computer Science & Engineering from IIT Bombay as well holds an MBA degree from IIM Ahmedabad.

“I totally agree with this gentleman” said Jitendra Diwakar an aspiring film maker from Mumbai. “Their completely genuine intimacy permeated throughout the event and this sensibility I'm certain it comes from the top. I came just for the love of Iranian cinema and to see some of its best works here. I’m glad, I could make it.”

Jury Chairman as well as additional Chairman & Festival Director Mohan Das says, “It’s such a strange thing to conceive, get ready to deliver and not give birth. We preferred delivering what we envisaged, albeit on a smaller scale as this was a difficult situation for us all. We are grateful for our film fraternity’s understanding, loyalty, and continued support during this challenging time. Same time we thank all our sponsors and participating partners for their understanding at this difficult time.”

As the evening proceeded on, the festival organisers thanked everyone for making time to be present and chose to end the festival with a group photograph of all the film makers with the esteemed guests, jury and film makers. This was followed by a networking get together at the Culture House of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Mumbai with a promise by Dr. Mansoor Showghi Yezdi to come back with more wonderful films at the next edition of the show.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Sandesh Gour & Sheetal Tiwari to feature in "Roothe Chahe Rab" for Tips

Tips Music's next Bollywood Music Single "Roothe Chahe Rab" will soon be on air with Sandesh Gour and Sheetal Tiwari who were earlier seen in the Marathi film "Jhing Premachi" together as a lead Star Cast. Like all major music videos, this too is based on romance. However, due to some serious medical issues the girl faces, she leaves her lover by lying but ends up with an accident. While the song has been sung, composed and written by Sonu Singh (SP) who is debuting with this single, it is produced and directed by Jitendra Singh Tomar.

Sandesh Gour who was part of shows like Saraswatichandra, Pratigya, Tarak Mehta ka Oolta Chashmah and Pyaar Tune Kya Kiya, debuted in Bollywood with Meeradha as well as a couple of Marathi films. Speaking about this music video, he says it was a fun filled experience. "Though the video is pretty emotional, we had a great time shooting it.," he said. Sheetal Tiwari who was last seen in Balaji's web series Baarish with Sharman Joshi says, says Yaari was her recent music video. “When I heard this song for the first time I got goose bumps and I ended up saying yes instantly. Not only are the lyrics and music fabulous, but I loved the way the video has been shot,” she added.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Café Irani Chaii International Film Festival starts on a good note

With a growing number of cultural, film based and other events are being cancelled as infections with the new coronavirus spread, Café Irani Chaii International Film Festival 2020 which started today preferred to downscale its festivities. Trying to constantly monitor the situation of the Corona Virus epidemic and keeping a low scale plan to keep the festival going, the CICIFF 2020 started on a low key today. Shifting from a bigger auditorium to the Culture House of the Islamic Republic of Iran, this strategy has actually been working for good as the festival had limited yet quality audience.

The festival started off today on a good note screening as many as 25 films from across the globe. The festival which is in its first year received more than 135 entries from across the globe including Iran, UK, USA, Turkey, Australia, Spain, Canada, Chile, China, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Poland, South Africa, Sweden, Syria, Zimbabwe and many other countries. With the Irani chai - a true fusion of Indo-Persian culture, Dr. Mansoor Showghi Yezdi, Chairman and Festival Director and also the vice president of the Indo-Iranian Friendship Society preferred to serve his film maker guests and audiences the specially brewed Irani chai (tea) and brun masko pao (a bread bun spread with dollops of butter) and other snacks. “This is our roots. I am a true chaiwalla [teaboy,]” says Dr. Mansoor who nicknamed the festival with the Iranian culture and his own café in Mahim, Mumbai.

Though the corona virus has just been declared a pandemic by the WHO today, Team CICIFF remained reasonably optimistic in the hope that the effects of the epidemic will not reach Mumbai and that they would not have to worry, but they were not oblivious either. Dr. Mansoor says, “Preparations to downsize the event and limit audiences in auditorium to even cancelling the grand Awards event over corona virus fears was not a decision we have taken lightly. This is an unprecedented situation, and given the vast amount of preparation that we had put into designing the festival, which was to be conducted on a big scale it was indeed a difficult but not a hasty decision. To us, the health and safety of our film makers, audiences, visitors and our team is our top priority, and working on the advice of our core team, we feel we have taken the best course of action.”

Although coronavirus has just been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, “instead of postponing the festival, we thought it would be best to downscale it and let it happen,” says additional Chairman and Festival Director, Mohan Das. “We thank all our participating film makers, sponsors and partners for their understanding at this difficult time. As our grand Awards event has been called off, the awards function followed by networking dinner will currently go ahead at the same venue where films are being screened in a low scale.”

The festival ended with the screening of the Iranian feature film “Daughters of Winter” with a promise to screen some more amazing films tomorrow the 2nd day of the festival. Presented by the Royal Hometel Suites (A Sarovar Group Venture) in association with the Culture House of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Café Irani Chaii International Film Festival 2020 is happening in Mumbai at the Culture House of the Islamic Republic of Iran on 12th & 13th March 2020. The Awards event will be happening after the screening on 13th March 2020 in the evening followed by a networking get together.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Ayodhya Film Festival announces new dates: 16th to 18th December, 2019

After months of planning for an impressive festival line-up, the team at Awam ka Cinema that organises the Ayodhya Film Festival announced this morning that the event, scheduled to happen from 15-17 November 2019, has been postponed. This call has been taken in view of the impending law and order situation that might arise due to the Ayodhya verdict which may come sometime the same period. The annual event that will be on its 13th edition will now run from 16th to 18th December, 2019, organisers have confirmed.

With the new date for the festival announced, the organisers have extended accepting last moment entries till 5th December which might induce film makers to send in their films. Festival Director Shah Alam says, “Except for the date change, everything remains the same as planned. We have sorted out logistics and built support from locals, who are already overwhelmed with the film festival taking place in their backyard.”

"As Awam ka Cinema gears up to host yet another successful edition of Ayodhya Film Festival, we are focused on creating a vibrant ambience for film makers and audience to further enhance Ayodhya’s position as a leading film making and tourism destination (and not just a holy town) that offers unforgettable experiences," said Festival Chairperson and Jury Mohan Das. “This year’s selection spans a range of genres; from social issues to psychodrama and thriller, to provocative period piece and taut social commentary to award winning films across the globe,” he added.

The 13th Ayodhya Film Festival in partnership with other global film festivals will take place from 16th to 18th December, 2019. The full festival programme, screening schedules and nominations will be announced on 10th December, 2019.

Pyaar Toh Tha is the love song you need to raise you up when you're feeling down

Some love stories last a lifetime, others fade away like a receding hairline. But one hopes and one believes that things will go back to the way they used to be. That emotion is at the heart of the latest Bala track, Pyaar Toh Tha.

Encompassing a sea of emotions, Pyaar Toh Tha sees Ayushmann and Yami in a stark departure from the mood we've seen them in so far. The comedy gives way to an intense romance, some cute moments and healthy dollops of drama. Jubin and Asees bring the fire to the raging intensity one sees on screen and one cannot help but feel overwhelmed with all the emotions at play. Directed by Amar Kaushik and produced by Dinesh Vijan of Maddock Films, the story of the film is all about a man in deep distress over his baldness.

Composed by Sachin Jigar with lyrics penned by Priya Saraiya, it features the voices of Jubin Nautiyal and Asees Kaur and is picturized on lead pair Ayushmann Khurrana and Yami Gautam. The song is now available on Sony Music India’s YouTube channel and across all streaming platforms. Watch the video here to get drowned in this deeply beautiful love song here.

Amrita Narayanan: Erotica and pornography are put in the same basket in India

Amrita Narayanan and Madhuri Banerjee attended the day 2 of Sahitya AajTak and spoke about what is writing erotica in India like. They also spoke about the basic differences between erotica and porn as well about their books during the session, 'Writing Erotica in India,' being held in New Delhi. Madhuri Banerjee, who is also known as the Carrie Bradshaw of India has written the acclaimed book, Losing my Virginity and other dumb ideas. She also screen wrote Hate Story 2.

Amrita Narayanan who is a clinical psychologist has written Parrots of desire and A Pleasant Kind of Heavy. She has also researched the history of erotica in India.

Other eroticas that deserve kamasutra fame
While speaking about other literature material that deserves to be as famous as Kamasutra, Narayanan mentioned Tamil Sangam. She said, "These books convey the feelings of the people involved. Kamasutra doesn't involve any emotions. It is all about the steps. But these other books talk about the feelings and the emotions of the people involved."

Why erotica?
Madhuri Banerjee explained why she writes erotica. "I talk about relationships, my first book was about a woman who was a virgin and decided that the only way to be accepted by the society was to lose her virginity. She said that people don't talk about sexuality in India. My book came out in 2010, and all I wanted to do with the book was to create a dialogue about sexuality, but no one spoke about it. It is never about sexuality or writing erotica, for me, it has always been about relationship."

Amrita, said, "The modern Indian readers need companionship on their erotic journey. Desires are something that we are very alone in. Conservatism is something that makes us feel things are against us, but books make you feel like there is something for you. Books can open you up to your own feeling. That is why I started writing."

Misconceptions about erotica and porn
Amrita said, "The main thing is that erotica and pornography are put in the same category, erotica is subjective, you care about people, about their feelings. Pornography is only about the person watching it. It keeps you in your shell, erotica is a long lens which gives a greater perspective." She further explained that in erotica, the word eros is a combination of lust and affection. "If you are driven more towards lust, what you come out with is, Pornography but if you are driven more towards the affection, you get erotica."

Has erotica liberated indians?
Madhuri said, "I think over time the internet has opened so much stuff for us, OTT is an uncensored platform, you have all the information out there. But, if you are choosing to be conservative, you will always be. If you have labels and boxes for yourself you will always be like that. There is information that is out there that will help you evolve and grow but, that is only if you are willing to do that."

Amrita added saying, "Books don't liberate people, people liberate themselves. But books can surely help." She spoke about an incident as well, "There are certain periods in Indian history, where Indians tried to promote the nation as the land of yoga, but not as the land of Kamasutra. People have actually come up to me and told me that I have spoilt the Indian culture after reading my book, A Pleasant Kind of Heavy. There was an Island of resistance to that."

How does news affect your writing?
Amrita said, she stopped watching the news while she was writing, A Pleasant Kind of Heavy, which was during the Nirbhaya rape case. This step was taken so that the news does not contaminate her mind and hints of it show in the book. "Growing up in the 80s in India, rape and harassment was the only thing that I grew up reading. A magazine even published an article on ways to save yourself while travelling. The news made me feel like my body was under attack and at that moment no human can be sexual. Shedding out the news was a way of protecting myself. That is when I could start to imagine and start to fantasize."

For Madhuri things are different. She said, "It is up to you how much you take in or not take in from the news. During the Mumbai attacks, I was in deep grief so I could not write for a long time. It can also be inspiring at times. But I don't shut myself out in any way while I am writing."

Why has erotica lagged since independence?
Amrita said, "India wanted to promote itself as a hardworking country after Independence. And hard work and sexuality don't go together. We abandoned this part of the cultural heritage after Independence. When the English came to India first, they thought of us as primitive native beings and we maintained that. We needed to maintain the middle-class work ethic of the people of India because we needed that image to promote the country."

Madhuri ended by saying that erotica writing should be a part of our education system. "We are teaching biology but we are not teaching sexuality. They should teach how to be ok with your body. We should be talking about this in our schools. Everything in India is about abstinence. Kids are going to find about it on the internet, parents and teachers should be talking to kids in school. Children should be able to write erotica and express their feeling about sexuality."

Sony Music’s Hip Hop focused label, Awaaz comes out with another catchy track - ‘Paisa Paisa’

Yesterday saw the release of ‘Paisa Paisa’ by Sony Music’s Hip Hop focused label, AWAAZ. ‘Paisa Paisa’ features Mumbai artists - Shaikhspeare, Farhan Khan, and Rasla. The single is a conscious hip hop song with trap vibes written all over; where Shaikhspeare, Rasla, & Farhan Khan uses their art to show the ugly side of politics and greed. When asked about the single, Shaikhspeare went on to say, “We wanted to reflect how money was controlling things around us and make the message reach to the masses in an entertaining way”

Shaikhspeare is the co-founder of Mumbai's veteran Hip-Hop Collective, Bombay Lokal, which features multiple aspects of Hip Hop in 1 crew - including break dancers and graffiti artists. The crew operates out of Nalasopara, Mumbai and has been instrumental in spreading knowledge about Hip-Hop in Mumbai. As one of the veterans of the Hip Hop movement in India, Shaikhspeare took Farhan Khan under his wing for this single, and they both worked closely together with Rasla, the track’s producer.

Rasla played an integral role in the creation of the single, ‘Paisa Paisa’. As a producer, he has worked with multiple artists, and also features as a DJ with his own productions. The Gujarati producer took his time to craft his sound to stand out within the Hip Hop community. “The Hip Hop spirit is lit everywhere in India,” said Rasla, “It’s wonderful how Hip Hop has grown so much, and there’s much more to come.”

Farhan Khan, who kicks off the song in the first verse, grew up in Mira Road and has been on the grind in the Mumbai Hip Hop scene for the past three years. When asked about his thoughts on the current state of Hip Hop in India, Farhan Khan said, “It's great that the Indian Hip Hop scene is growing steadily; and the mass audience is slowly catching up to the Hip Hop energy.” He added, “And once they all catch up, it will be the true golden era of Indian Hip Hop.”  With multiple singles planned throughout the year, Farhan Khan has ultimate respect for the grind required to make it in the industry.

Awaaz has been instrumental in impacting the Desi Hip Hop scene in India throughout 2019, releasing ten back to back singles in the summer. The joint venture between Desi Hip Hop Inc and Sony Music India is on a mission to find, nurture, and celebrate Hip Hop artists from all over India and the South Asian diaspora abroad. With a weekly playlist by Awaaz on multiple platforms including Spotify, Saavn, Wynk, Hungama, and Amazon Music, listeners can discover the new wave of Desi Hip Hop music burgeoning out of India. This week, the Awaaz playlist features ‘Paisa Paisa’ along with multiple other hits from within the Indian Hip Hop community.

Hear it here..