Friday, March 27, 2009

Return to Grace?: Sharbani Mukherjee

Sharbani Mukherjee returns to the Malayalam film industry with Soofi Paranja Katha directed by Priyanandan, after a hiatus of eight years, writes KK Moidu

Despite being born into the family of well-known film-personalities Sharbani Mukherjee failed to make an impact in Bollywood unlike her cousins Rani Mukherjee and Kajol.
Sharbani is trying her luck in South Indian films once again. She made her debut a couple of years ago in Malayalam film Raakkilippaattu, directed by veteran Priyadarsan.
Raakkilippaattu had also featured two other leading ladies Jyothika and Tabu in important roles. The film was dubbed into other South Indian languages including Tamil as Snegithiye. The film bombed at the box-office but some how managed to get some attention because of the women-centric subject and all female cast.

The suspense-thriller revolved around a women’s college and its hostel life. The film had colourful song like Devathai Vamsam Neeye and Kallori Malare and dance sequences also. But all these factors couldn’t save the film from a box-office flop.
Like many others, Sharbani was hoping to return to Bollywood through south Indian films but the failure of her debut venture stopped her for journey to Bollywood.
Sharbani Mukherjee, of Bengali-Marathi descent, made her film debut long back in a blockbuster movie Border. J P Dutta’s Border was released in 1992. The film was based on Indo-Pak war of 1971. She shared screen space with Sunil Shetty as his wife.
Her debut venture was a critically and commercially hit. But the success of the film didn’t make any impact on her career and she remains a lesser-known face in the industry, even after a decade.

The actress with her trademark light brown eyes that runs in the Mukherjee family failed miserably at the box-office and could not left any impact on the sliver screen.
She has also been unfortunate in a sense that she was never paired opposite big stars and not had the luck to work with the big banners and reputed directors. Though she has acted in a dozen films in ten years of her career. But none of them helped her to sail her ship.
In the new film, Sharbani is playing the central character Karthi aka Beevi in the female-oriented Malayalam film Soofi Paranja Katha directed by Priyanandan, who won national acclaim for Pulijanmam. Soofi Paranja Katha is based on a famous novel by the same title authored by KP Ramanunni nearly two decades ago. He himself writes the screenplay and has made the necessary changes to suit the demand of today’s audience.
Sharbani’s character Karthi aka Beevi in the film is entirely different from her eatlier films and it is a real luck for her as an actress to get such role. Karthi, who has shown unaccustomed intelligence and precocity from her childhood itself, grows up in Melepullaaratharavadu.
She even puts the ancestral goddess under the shade of the house. The deep respect shown by other family members like her mother, uncle makes her isolated in the house.
But the story turns when a young Muslim from Ponnani, Maamutty enters in the house for buying coconuts and arecanut, brought a change in her life.

Karthi, who for the first time sees a human being looking at her without any fear, elopes with him without knowing where he is taking her. She embraces Islam and Maamutty marries her and lives happily. But Karthi is haunted by her childhood culture and customs. Maamutty builds a temple for her in the surroundings of their house but he got killed by villagers in the violence following this act.
Karthi becomes Beevi in the latter part of the film. Sharbani’s role as Karthi aka Beevi is a singular and unique character played by her, but also a milestone in Malayalam and Indian cinema.
Although talented actress are not short in Malayalam cinema the director must have thought that a well-known face can’t portray the role of Karthi powerfully.
Sharbani had done enough preparations for the role by reading the English version of the novel. According to a report, she said, "She was very attracted to her character."
Newcomer Prakash Bhare and Beyond The Ball fame Thambi Anthony plays important roles as Maamutty and Sanku Menon respectively. Prakash Bhare, a successful IT businessman in California is new to the film world but has proved his mettle as an actor in theatre. Thambi Antony, who plays the challenging role of Sanku Menon is a poet who wants to be valued more for his poems than his showbiz performance.

Mohan Sitara tunes music for the lyrics of Rafeeq Ahmed. KG Jayan is the cinematographer and make-ups are done by Pattanam Shah and Pattanam Rasheed. Gokuldas does the art direction, while costume design is by Kumar Edappal.
Soofi Paranja Katha is a teamwork of sensitive and culturally talented people. The bold attempt of the team is expected to become another classic of the new times. The film is made without any commercial elements like mind-blowing fighting sequences or glamorous dances, which are the staple of new Malayalam cinema. That the film challenges this scenario by telling a female oriented story is another specialty.
Soofi Paranja Katha is the third film directed by Priyanandan after Neythukaaran and Pulijanmam. Neythukaaran won the best actor National Award for Murali and Pulijanmam won the National Award for best feature film. Will the third film of Priyanandan fetch a best actress National Award for Sharbani Mukherjee?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

On the road to fame: Akash Kingston

Lies on the Prize, directed by Dubai-based Akash Kingston, won the first prize at the 15th Slamdance Film Festival 2009. He shares his winning experience with KK Moidu

Akash Kingston was chosen by the Real Ideas Studio Student Filmmaking programme in 2009 for Slamdance Film Festival held in January in Park City, Utah, USA. Eight documentaries made by thirty-two students from different backgrounds from all over the world were screened at the festival.
Akash’s team got the story idea for the winning documentary from colleagues.
He was the head of one of the eight teams selected through an interview and skills assessment by the board members of the Real Ideas Studio. Twenty-year-old Akash, son of Kingston Gilbert and Usha Kingston, is a graduate in film production from SAE Institute, Dubai.
Born in Calicut, Kerala, India, Akash has been living in Dubai for the last 13 years.
Akash was the only one to be selected from the Middle East and the Asian region for this prestigious event. The participants had been given a short period of 10 days to write the script, shoot and edit a five-minute short film. Akash’s film was selected by the jury as the best film from the entries submitted by more than 30 students from around the world.
Excited Akash shares his achievements and thoughts with the Time Out readers.


Tell us how did your prize winning documentary Lies on the Prize come about?
Lies on the Prize came out purely with a team effort. We had pitched about eight ideas and Lies on the Prize was the most risky one to do because it involved candid camera takes and it was a mockumentary purely based on people’s reaction.

What did you learn from Real Ideas Studio?
I have learnt a lot of technical aspects from the masters who gave us classes on Adobe software, script writing, editing and motion graphics. Real Ideas gave us a lot in terms of technical knowledge as well as network resources.

What was the criterion for participating in the festival? You have to be above 18 and should have a strong portfolio as well as communication skills.

Did anybody help you while preparing for your participation?
My parents were extremely supportive all the way through this, and it really helped me focus on the task at hand.

How did the festival strike you? What are your expectations about your career? I have always known about the Sundance and the Slamdance festival, but this competition as such held by Real Ideas was brought to my attention by my lecturer Markus Rosentreter at SAE Institute. I applied online and went through a series of interviews and portfolio assessments.
I wish to make films that may bring hope, changes and inspiration to my audiences. My films should also entertains.

Did you watch other documentaries at the Slamdance festival? What do you think about your documentary winning the first prize?
I watched a couple of short films and they were all individual pieces of art expressed by different individuals with different perspectives, and it was a pleasure to see how art has progressed over the years. I watched other short films too from the competition and felt all of them were really good.
Our movie won the prize because it was unique, creative and totally different from the rest and that must have caught the jury’s attention.

Why did you choose a career of filmmaking?
I always love art expressed in different media and different forms. From a very young age I have been exposed to films and art. My father was a theatre person and we used to do plays together and I think all of that played a role in making me fall in love with films over the years. Moreover, it is my passion.

Do you have plan to enter the film industry? If so, what kind of films will you be making?
I would love to make films that would inspire changes in the world. I love all genres of films so I would definitely try my hands on all.
I love music being a major part of a film and hence most of my styles would relate to that. I love photography and long shots excite me. There are many things I would like to incorporate into films and every film should reveal something new.

When will you be making a feature film and in which language?
I am not sure when will I make my first feature film, but it will be pretty soon. The language will most probably be English.

How does your experience as a student help your career in the film industry?
Well, my experience as a student at SAE was really a great help, it provided me with hands on experience and more practical usage of my theory and it really helped me learn faster and in a better way. Markus, my teacher was also a source of inspiration for me.

Who are your favourite director(s) and actor(s)?
My favourite directors are Ridley Scott, Darren Aronofsky, Steven Spielberg, Rob Zombie, Mani Ratnam, Ed Zwick and Farhan Akhtar. For actors I don’t have any personal favorites but I am a fan of all great performers.

Can you tell us something about your previous works?
I have worked on a couple of short films and documentaries, but my most recent one was an 11-minute short film Entropy. It was about a retired soldier and whose his alter ego developed through the trauma he faced when he was at war.

How do you like cinema to be?
I love cinema for the way it’s now and it is all perfect. But it would be greater if it was more artistic and less commercial.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Venturing into new arenas: Geethu Mohandas

Award-winning actress Geethu Mohandas makes her debut as a director with a short film, Kelkunnundo, writes KK Moidu

Critically acclaimed actress Geethu Mohandas, who proved her mettle as a actress by playing meaningful roles in films like Oridam, Akale, Rappakal, Thakarchenda, Naalu Pennungal etc. sits in the director’s chair for a 30 minute short film. Her maiden directorial venture with a group of newcomers will be a take on urbanisation and development. The film shooting will start in Aluva this month. According to reports, Geethu’s fiancĂ©e and popular cameraman Rajeev Ravi is the cinematographer. The film will utilise the latest technologies and live sound recording. The makers are planning to do the post production at Mumbai. After the short film Kelkkunnundo, her next will be in Hindi canned in North India.
Geethu has played heroine and second heroine roles in more than 20 films. Her well-known role as a committed film maker in acclaimed director TK Rajeev Kumar’s laudable venture Sesham released in 2002 is an added advantage for her new project.

Child artiste turned heroine, Gayathri, popularly known as Geethu completed her primary education in famous Chinmaya Vidyalaya and later moved to Canada with her family. A good painter, she won many prizes in her school days and studied acting at Toronto University.
Geethu Mohandas started her film career as a child artiste two decades before in Onnu Mudhal Poojyam Vare directed by Reghunath Paleri. The wide eyed little girl not only won the hearts of audience in her debut film but also fetched the Kerala State Award for Best Child Artiste. Mohanlal played the lead role in the film, which has also won the State Awards for best cinematography (Shaji N Karun), best debut director (Reghunath Paleri) and TR Sekhar (best editing).
Baby Geethu played a fatherless child’s role in the film and later find out a father in an anonymous telephone caller. Her marvellous performance in the film earned her a couple of roles as a child artiste in films like Veendum, Rareeram etc.
Baby Geethu also made her Tamil debut as a child artiste in En Bommakutty Ammavukku directed by Fazil. The film was a remake of Malayalam superhit Ente Maamattikuttiyammaku and she played the role of Baby Shalini in the original. En Bommakutty Ammavukku repeated the success of the original and it was a top grosser at the Tamil box office.

Ace director Fazil relaunched her as a matured artiste after one-and-a-half decade  in Mohanlal starrer Life is Beautiful during her vacation in Kerala. Although the film didn’t perform well at the box office like other Fazil films, her role as an innocent helpless girl Sangeetha as one of the heroine in Thenkasippattanam was a turning point in her career. Director duo Rafi-Mecartin’s comedy entertainer Thenkasippattanam was one of the biggest hits of the year.
The beautiful actress with an impressive smile and expressive eyes have all the features of a commercial heroine but the talented and ambitious Geethu never appeared as just another beautiful female lead. She always avoided glamour roles in commercial entertainers and preferred meaty roles without an image fear which other young female artistes dare to accept.
Her challenging and out-of-ordinary roles in offbeat ventures like Thakarachenda, Valkannadi, Kannaki etc. are only few examples. Her performance as a slum woman Latha, a mother of two, who survived by working as a house maid in Thakarachenda was natural. The sentimental performance as a leading lady of Kalabhavan Mani in Valkannadi as Devu and her role in Kannaki as Kumudam, who admires the hero Manickan were noticed by the superior performance of the actress. She also shined in an impressive writer’s role as Malavika Varma in Mammootty starrer Rappakal.

 Sreenivasan and Geethu Mohandas in Thakarachenda
In her long spanning career of nearly two decades, Geethu Mohandas had the luck to act in the films of veteran directors like Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Shyamaprasad, TK Rajeev Kumar, Jayaraj, Kamal etc. and also paired opposite heroes like Mammootty, Suresh Gopi, Mukesh, Prithviraj, Jayaram, Biju Menon, Kalabhavan Mani etc.
Geethu shared the Kerala State Film Award for best actress for her performance in Shyamaprasad’s Akale and Pradeep Nair’s Oridam along with Kavya Madhavan for the film Perumazhakkalam. Geethu played a mentally retarded but an affectionate girl Rose, with depth and range, in the award winning film Akale.

Like other Malayalam heroines Geethu also tried her luck in Tamil industry as a heroine in Nala Damayanthi opposite Madhavan. She also played a second heroine as the heroine Vimala Raman’s sister Ramya in Poi directed by K. Balachander.
Although Geethu has acted in more than half-a-dozen films in 2002, she was rarely seen on screens in the last couple of years. Most film-makers are not interested in making female oriented films, so heroines are limited to a few glamorous appearances and a couple of song sequences in commercial potboilers.
Leading heroines are doing four or five films in a year, but Geethu has only one film Akashagopuram to her credit. Although she acted only in a few films in recent years, they were crafted by famous directors like Adoor Gopalakrishnan, KP Kumaran etc.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

New image: Sanjana Galrani

Sanjana, tagged as a voluptuous actress after her performance in Ganda Hendathi, plays a deglamorised role in Ee Sanje, writes KK Moidu

Sanjana plays a traditional tailor-made role of a homely middle-class girl in the forthcoming Kannada film Ee Sanje. She hopes the film, directed by youngster Sree of Orata I Love You fame, will not only change her image but also make her a favourite with the audience. She appears without revealing costumes in a girl next-door image in the film. Ee Sanje is different from her earlier Kannada films and she expects her role as a homely heroine opposite Aarya will be the beginning of a new career.
Aarya, second hero of No. 73, Shanthi Nivasa, dons the hero's role in the film with three shades. One of them is mass oriented, one is a silent victim of injustice and third shade is suspense.
Balaji Singh produces Ee Sanje and the highlight of the film is suspense and music. Jai Shivu is making his debut as music director.
Although Sanjana made her film debut in Sree Shailendra productions Kannada film Autograph Please, her second film Ganda Hendathi released earlier.
Ganda Hendathi directed by Ravi Srivatsa released with an 'A' certificate was a remake of Hindi film Murder. The family audience turned down the film because of its overdose of adult content. Mallika Sherawat enacted Sanjana’s role in the original.
However, her debut in a small role in the Telugu film Bujjigadu changed the fortune of the model-turned-actress. She played a minor role as the heroine's sister in Bujjigadu directed by Puri Jagannath. The box office success of the film made her noticeable in the Telugu film industry and she was flooded with offers.
Her recently released Telugu film Sathyameva Jayathe was also a hit at the box office. She played a homely role in the film with pure innocence as the wife of Dr Rajasekhar. Sathyameva Jayathe is a remake of Hindi film Khakee. Sanjana's character is an addition to the Telugu version and does not feature in the Hindi original.
Dr Rajasekhar, who excelled in cop roles in films like Ankusham, Magadu and Aagraham once again dons a vigilant cop's role in the commercial entertainer. The film delves deep into the present scenario of terrorism and selfless thinking of an honest police officer, who fights against lawlessness.
Sathyameva Jayathe is directed by Jeevitha, the wife of Dr Rajasekhar and he himself penned the story and screenplay.
Sanjana is the love interest of young hero Raja in the forthcoming Telugu film Samardhudu. Raja dons the role of a notorious criminal and Krishnamraju is a politician in the action thriller. The film is directed by debutante Arjun and he himself writes the story and screenplay. Samardhudu will be produced by Suresh Reddy and M Venkatrami Reddy. Rajasekhar Valluri is the music director.

Sanjana and Raja in Samarthudu
After romancing a criminal in Samardhudu, the pretty Sanjana becomes the love interest of a cop in the bilingual film Police Police. Srikanth and Prithviraj don police officer's roles in the film, while Kamilini Mukherjee is the other heroine. Manmohan is the director, producers are Bhasker and Chandu and Chakri scores the music.
Sanjana Galrani aka Archana Galrani was born and brought up in India's garden city Bangalore and completed her schooling at St Marys. She was born on Oct 10 and she is the elder daughter of Manohar Galrani and Reshma M Galrani. Her father is a businessman and mother is a housewife. She started her career as a model and appeared in the ads of Sudarshan Silks and Sarees, Sri Krishna Diamond and Jewellers, Alukkas Diamond and Jewellers — Cochin, Garuda Mall, President Shoppers Shop, Majestic etc.
Sanjana succeeded in winning the hearts of the Telugu audience by playing deglamorised roles. Will her homely girl image in the Kannada film Ee Sanje change her image and make her a favourite of the Kannada film industry?