High drama, hot talas

High drama, hot talas
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First Published: Sat, Mar 10 2007. 12 10 AM IST
Updated: Sat, Mar 10 2007. 12 10 AM IST
A foreign daughter-in-law struggling to deal with the alien culture of her husband’s home. Three women in a haveli, lots of strong drama and a ghost further livening up the proceedings. If these sound like plots for a Bollywood drama from the Rajshri stable, think again. These are storylines of two acclaimed Spanish films lined up for the 9th Mumbai Academy of Moving Images (MAMI) film festival, which started in Mumbai earlier this week.
Buoyed by sponsorship from Reliance Adlabs, this year, the festival has managed to wangle large foreign packages from Spain, South Africa and Italy, the highlight being a batch of 11 newly-released Spanish films.
At the top of this Spanish bouquet are critically-acclaimed offerings such as Joaquin Oristrell’s Nadie Es Perfecto (Nobody is Perfect), Fernando Colomo’s El Proximo Oriente (The Near East), Carlos Iglesias’ Un Franco Catorce Pesetas (Crossing Borders), Alberto Rodriguez’s Siete Virgenes (Seven Virgins) and, of course, Volver (To Return).
According to MAMI chairman and film director Shyam Benegal, Spanish films are bound to appeal to Indian movie-goers’ sensibilities. “The great thing about films from Spain is that they are similar to ours in tone and content,” says Benegal.
Spanish films revolve around themes common in Indian films—relationships, family, and neighbourhood. Volver, the much-talked about Penelope Cruz-starrer, directed by Pedro Almodovar, for instance, has very familiar elements such as an old mansion, spirits, strong women characters and a troubled family. Ex Proximo Oriente talks of the friction when two alien cultures—Spanish and Bangladeshi—meet.
“The colours and textures are very vibrant in Spanish films, unlike the grey, rainy and sombre tones of, say, French films. Even in serious films like Nadie Es Perfecto and La Vida Secreta De Las Palabras (The Secret Life of Words) by Isabel Coixet, the tendency is to celebrate life,” says Sanjoy Roy, head, Teamworks, which has collaborated with the festival directorate and the Spanish film industry to bring the package to India.
The other reason why Spanish films should strike a chord here is that like Indian films, they have been struggling for a long while to find their feet and identity. While they have a large distribution network across Spanish-speaking countries, they work on small budgets and resources. Better-known directors, such as Almodovar or Beatriz De La Gandara, have had to struggle less over the years. “But, within Europe, Spanish films are one of the least recognized because they are not driven by large money. Also, they are a different category of films altogether with their story-driven projects. In some ways, you can compare them with the art film movement in India,” says Roy.
Many of these films were showcased earlier this week at the Window to Recent Spanish Cinema festival in Delhi. A huge delegation from the Spanish film industry is attending the festival, among them producer Agustin Almodovar (Volver).
New films out of Hungary, such as Friss Ievega’s Fresh Air, Ãgnes Kocsis’ The Prince’s Respite and Tibor Szemza’s Just Sex and Nothing Else, are also among recent European releases MAMI has managed to bring onto the Indian screen.
Other than the foreign offerings, MAMI is showing films about the Indian diaspora, as well as regional films made with a western perspective. These will feature in a special section curated by Uma Da Cunha. Among these are The Gold Bracelet by Kavi Raz on a Sikh family battling the aftermath of 9/11 and The Bong Connection, a film on the identity crisis of the expatriate community.
“The films are all topical and global. Some films are totally regional in content, such as Vanaja, but they are made by students of Western cinema, who have studied the medium abroad,” says Da Cunha.
The fund flow, however, has not spurred MAMI into greater efficiency. The calendar of events fell into place barely four days before the event.
For details about shows and venues, check www.iff-mumbai.org
Alternate Natyam
You don’t catch Mallika Sarabhai wailing over young people not caring enough for the great dance traditions of India. Instead, she hauls classicism to its feet and does a flaming production number with it. She uses contemporary stories, weaves in social issues and borrows what she can from modern dance to collar audiences.Sarabhai is coming to Mumbai with her Ahmedabad-based troupe, Darpana, for the Vikram Sarabhai International Dance Festival and has lined up three of her most vibrant dance productions for the show. “I’m not dumbing down Bharatanatyam, I am making sure my dance makes sense to those watching it. It all depends on how you package the show. I might do a 50-minute varnam (descriptive passage) at a conservative sabha in Chennai, but if I scale it down to a 20-minute pucca dance for a different kind of audience and make sure they don’t stare blankly at me, what is wrong with it?” she asks.
Sarabhai will perform her popular choreography ‘Hot Talas Cool Rasas’, which starts classically and then turns into a very modern dance. She will be dancing to four poems written by actress Deepti Naval. Another of her favourite dances is ‘Thattukizhi’—the sound of the stick beats used to teach learners Bharatanatyam. As she points out, this is one wonderful duet between the feet and the stick that never reaches the stage. A special, rhythm-heavy Thillana dance set to music by violinist L. Subramaniam and a choreographed version of the Indian Ocean song Kaun are other elements of ‘Hot Talas’.
A visiting dancer and videographer from Australia, Dianne Reid, will collaborate with Sarabhai on a dance titled ‘Unfixed’. Sarabhai says it is her take on the ephemeral nature of the world around us.
‘Unsuni’, Sarabhai’s latest dance-activism venture, will also take to the stage at the festival. She has scripted the show and it invites participants to join her in volunteer work across the country. It is more a theatrical piece, which Sarabhai says, is a great hit among the young. “I want the urban young to watch this and join us in our effort to take a look at the lives of the poor around them,” she says.
Till two years ago, the festival was held in Ahmedabad. Then it travelled to Delhi and this year Mumbai is the venue for the show. In April, the show will travel to Pune. Sarabhai says her dream is to take it to six cities every year.
“The idea is to get the dance to communicate. We make our students do a padam (love song) at graduation in a language they understand. This year, we had an Italian student dance to Volver. And, believe me, it sounded great,” says Sarabhai.
Vikram Sarabhai International Arts Festival, 15-17 March, 7.30pm, Yashwant Chavan Auditorium, Mumbai. The show travels to Pune in April
You don’t catch Mallika Sarabhai wailing over young people not caring enough for the great dance traditions of India. Instead, she hauls classicism to its feet and does a flaming production number with it. She uses contemporary stories, weaves in social issues and borrows what she can from modern dance to collar audiences. Sarabhai is coming to Mumbai with her Ahmedabad-based troupe, Darpana, for the Vikram Sarabhai International Dance Festival and has lined up three of her most vivid dance productions for the show. “I’m not dumbing down Bharatanatyam, I am making sure the dance makes sense to those watching it. It depends on how you package the show. I might do a 50-minute varnam at a conservative sabha in Chennai, but if I scale it down to a 20-minute pucca dance for a different audience and make sure they don’t stare blankly at me, what is wrong with it?” she asks.
Sarabhai will perform her popular choreography “Hot Talas Cool Rasas”, which starts classically and then turns into a very modern dance. She will be dancing to four poems written by actress Deepti Naval. Another of her favourite dances is “Thattukizhi”—the sound of the stick beats used to teach learners Bharatanatyam. As she points out, this is one wonderful duet between the feet and the stick that never reaches the stage. A special, rhythm-heavy Thillana dance (can we give meaning of Thillana?) set to music by violinist L. Subramaniam and a choreographed version of the Indian Ocean song Kaun are other elements of “Hot Talas”.
A visiting dancer and videographer from Australia, Dianne Reid, will collaborate with Sarabhai on a dance titled “Unfixed”. Sarabhai says it is her take on the ephemeral nature of the world around us.
“Unsuni”, Sarabhai’s latest dance-activism venture, will also take to the stage at the festival. She has scripted the show and it invites participants to join her in volunteer work across the country. It is more a theatrical piece and Sarabhai says is a great hit among the young. “I want the urban young to watch this and join us in our effort to take a look at the lives of the poor around them,” she says.
Till two years ago, the festival was held in Ahmedabad. Then it travelled to Delhi and this year Mumbai is the venue for the show. In April, the show will travel to Pune. Sarabhai says her dream is to take it to six cities every year.
“The idea is to get the dance to communicate. We make our students do a padam at graduation every year in a language they understand. This year, we had an Italian student dance to ‘Vola Re’. And, believe me, it sounded great,” says Sarabhai.
Vikram Sarabhai International Arts Festival, 15-17 March, 7.30pm, Yashwant Chavan Auditorium, Mumbai. The show travels to Pune in April (details not announced yet).
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First Published: Sat, Mar 10 2007. 12 10 AM IST
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