His story is the stuff of Hollywood movies.
Ahmad Razvi (whose modest desi restaurant in Brooklyn gets “pelted by gunshots” after September 11), starts working in a Pakistani eatery where he meets director Ramin Bahrani, and gets cast as the lead in an indie film (Man Push Cart).
Critics begin praising the project and soon enough Razvi, who is not a professional actor, receives an Independent Spirit Award nomination–one of three for the film.
Man Push Cart is art imitating life (or was it the other way around?). The BBC calls it “moving and touching…possessed of intelligence and integrity.” Look for it on DVD later this year.
The Independent Spirit Awards are held in Santa Monica, California annually–on the night before the Oscars (February 24, 2007). See the full list of this year’s nominees here.
Nirali features Razvi
Owen Wilson and Adrien Brody left India yesterday, having completed work on their new movie Darjeeling Express.
The film is a story about three brothers who journey through India. Directed by Wes Anderson (Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums), it also stars Natalie Portman and Jason Schwartzman.
Darjeeling Express is slated to be released in 2008.
Bollywood megastar Amitabh Bachchan was honored last week when the French government presented him with the Legion D’Honneur.
The award was given to Bachchan at the French Embassy in New Delhi by Ambassador Dominique Girard (who called the actor a “towering personality” and the “number-one actor of Indian cinema”).
“It fills me with great pride,” Bachchan said during his acceptance speech. “India has arrived on the global cinema stage, the carping critics have been silenced, and the cynicism about the Hindi film industry has given way to world-wide appreciation.”
Bachchan is the fourth Indian national to be recognized (fellow recipients are Satyajit Ray, environmentalist R.K. Pachauri and musician Ravi Shankar).
The Legion d’Honneur was instituted in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte and is considered France’s highest civilian honor.
Quick – what’s the world’s most popular movie theater food? If you guessed popcorn, you’re wrong. According to this video clip from ABC World News Tonight, it’s more than likely a desi snack like samosa or papdi chat. While this segment highlights the culinary offerings at a Bollywood movie night in a suburban New Jersey theater, we at Nirali wonder if the trend might not cross over and become standard fare at theaters serving areas with large South Asian populations. What do you think?
An Indian theater, that is.
Larter, 30, has finished filming the romantic comedy Marigold. The movie, about an American actress who becomes interested in Bollywood, also stars Salman Khan.
“Marigold was my way of bridging the gap between Indian and American cinema” says director Willard Carroll who was first exposed to Bollywood during a trip to Chennai four years ago.
“I returned to the US and made people, in groups of 20, watch films like Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Dil Chahta Hai and Hum Saath Saath Hain at my home,” says Carroll. “I was obsessed with the idea of introducing Bollywood to a wider audience.”
Marigold has been screened several times (receiving lukewarm reviews). Anyone seen it yet?
The controversial film (which sparked riots and violent protests in India) follows the lives of a group of Hindu widows.
“I can’t believe that a film which was shunned by a section of the Indian politicians, and all but ripped apart six years ago, has come so far,” the director told reporters earlier today.
India’s official entry to the Oscars, Rang de Basanti, did not make the short-list of nine films, vying for a win in the “Best Foreign Film” category. Water will be going up against Spain’s Volver and the Algerian movie Days Of Glory, among others.
“The competition this year is really tough. I’ve never seen a wider and more prestigious variety of films from across the world being nominated for the foreign-language category. They’re all super-brilliant films and I’m deeply honored to be in such august company. Now maybe, we will win the Oscar.”
Although Water is Canada’s official entry, the movie features an Indian cast (including John Abraham, Lisa Ray and Seema Biswas) and was filmed in South Asia.
“Unlike the movies where the white man comes to the ‘dark continent’ and teaches how to light a candle, make electricity or whatever, this is a film about a man who is ashamed, guilty, who has no self esteem at all, who is a convict, heroin addict and he discovers what honor is,” says Nair.
Shantaram will be filmed almost exclusively in India beginning this November. It is scheduled to be released in 2008.
Until then, Nair will keep busy, putting together a series of 12-minute films designed to raise awareness about the spread of HIV/AIDS. The public services pieces, starring Irfan Khan, Sameera Reddy and Raima Sen, among others, will hit Indian theaters next fall.
Fans of the New York Times‘s Carpetbagger David Carr might be interested to know that young desi American film-maker Jigar Mehta is a force behind Carr’s highly popular video-blog series for the paper’s online arts section.
The Cal Berkeley grad’s interests are quite broad. Earlier this year, he introduced us to Michael Ennes, a chef who transformed a Manhattan soup kitchen, and last December he took viewers behind the scenes at Madison Square Garden’s first-ever bull-riding event.
Mehta began his film-making career as a young journalism student. In 2004, after being chosen to be a summer fellow for the Human Rights Center (a group that “sends UC Berkeley students to work with domestic and international non-governmental organizations”), he found himself in West Africa’s Mauritania, “documenting oral histories” about slavery.
For more on Jigar Mehta, visit his website.
The Spinning Wheel Film Festival comes back to the Northern California Bay Area on February 3. Celebrating the stories of Sikhs worldwide, the festival brings diverse interpretations of their culture, identity and history to the screen. Started in Toronto three years ago and named after the Punjabi “charkha” spinning wheel, the festival’s lineup so far includes a short film on the Sikh martial arts form called Gatka, The Gold Bracelet—the award-winning directorial debut from veteran actor Kavi Raz, Who Do you Think You Are – Gurinder Chadha, a look at the successful director’s family history, from London to Kenya to India to Pakistan and Amu, the story of a 21 year-old Indian American woman who returns to India for the first time as an adult and stumbles onto the secrets of her past, set against the backdrop of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.
The Spinning Wheel Film Festival
Aaand it’s official.
Über-couple Aishwarya Rai and Abhishek Bachchan have just gotten engaged.
Their engagement—a quiet ceremony held at the Bachchan residence today—comes after many months of speculation that the two were indeed an item. Abishek proposed in New York, after the film premiered in Times Square Friday night. Rai accepted immediately.
No wedding date has been set as yet.
*The New York Times covers the premiere, held at the AMC Empire 25 theater on West 42nd Street.
*Guru debuts in Toronto, creates furor.
*The couple’s visit to the Sankat Mochan Temple last November heavily fuels rumors of a pending engagement.