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‘Notti Stellate’ screens rare films on India by Rossellini, Pasolini

Murtaza Ali Khan

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The Embassy of Italy in New Delhi recently organised “Notti Stellate—Italian Cinema Under The Sky”. The three-day event, which was hosted with strict Covid-19 guidelines in place, screened films such as the master Italian filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini’s 1968 short documentary film “Notes for a Film on India”, Marco Bellocchio’s 2019 critically acclaimed crime drama film “The Traitor”, Matteo Garrone’s 2015 fantasy film “Tale of Tales”, and a segment of the legendary Italian filmmaker Roberto Rossellini’s 10-part documentary mini-series on India titled “India Through Rossellini’s Eyes” made back in 1959. 

The opening night of Notti Stellate, during which the visitors were served with pizza and gelato, was made special by an introduction to the aforementioned documentaries, made by Pasolini and Rossellini, by the Italian Ambassador to India Vincenzo de Luca. This was the first time these documentaries were getting publicly screened in India. Now, as rare as these documentaries are, surprisingly, they are yet to be restored. But when they were screened in their original form as part of “Notti Stellate”, the black & white visuals strongly evoked a strong sense of the ‘50s and ‘60s—the decades in which the Rossellini and Pasolini documentaries were filmed, respectively. 

As evident from their titles, both documentaries share a strong association with India. When Rossellini visited India in the late 1950s to direct a documentary mini-series for the Italian and French televisions on Nehruvian India, he also ended up making a semi-fictional feature-length film with documentary elements titled “India: Matri Bhumi”. The film essentially consists of vignettes through which Rossellini’s impressions and feelings about India and its society emerge. Interestingly, the drafted script, originally written with Iranian diplomat Fereyoun Hoveyda, completely changed as soon as he started to work with the young Indian screenwriter Sonali Senroy Das Gupta. The hybrid film combines the Neorealist style that Rossellini helped develop in Italy with poetic voice-over narration. Rossellini shot the documentary mini-series “India Through Rossellini’s Eyes” parallel to “India: Matri Bhumi” with the same team. 

Now, in the episode titled “Heading South” of the documentary mini-series that was screened as part of “Notti Stellate”, Rossellini reads out the recipe for making “dal”. He then shows the rice fields and peasant villages of southern India. The produce is subsequently taken to the markets in the city centres. The episode also shows the artistic heritage of one such city, Madurai, with its temples bursting with figurines with an almost Baroque opulence of ornamentation. A master working at the height of his powers, Rossellini exercises exemplary control over his mise en scene. The camera angles and movements are so meticulously planned and executed that there’s not a single frame that goes wasted. Unlike most Western intellectuals who had previously tried to capture India, Rossellini shows great empathy in his presentation of India. He doesn’t see India as a land of jungles and snake charmers; he is interested in presenting a young country that has recently freed itself from the shackles of colonialism. An age-old civilisation that’s on its way to embracing modernity through the construction of dams, bridges and whatnot, but one that’s also committed to preserving its rich culture and values.

As for Pasolini, a culturally rich country like India represented the true “spirit of Bandung”. At the historic Bandung Conference of 1955, the participating nations of Asia and Africa had tried to envision alternative ways of working together in the bipolar world of the Cold War. The event marked the birth of the Non-Alignment Movement and left its mark on a generation of writers, artists, and filmmakers, including Pasolini. “Notes for a Film on India” offers a fascinating take on India by Pasolini who had come here to make a feature film. Unfortunately, the film never got made, but Pasolini nevertheless was able to shoot some interviews with Indian people from all walks of life to learn more about the country. 

The 33-minute-long documentary was created by Pasolini from the material he shot whiles doing recces for his proposed film to be made in India about a king who gives up his body to feed a starving tiger. Here, Pasolini narrates the challenges of India and its charms amidst all the problems the country faces. An increasingly cynical Pasolini examines the challenges India faces in modernising itself, posing the all-important question: Can India prevent losing its true identity in the process? During his encounter with a boy belonging to one of the backward castes, Pasolini asks him whether or not he believes he could one day be the prime minister of India. To his great surprise, the boy enthusiastically replies in the affirmative. 

The documentaries by Rossellini and Pasolini (screened at major festivals across the globe) demonstrate how leading Italian intellectuals over the years have taken a keen interest in India right from its early years as a young country trying to find a new independent identity in a world engulfed in the gaping maw of the Cold War while simultaneously trying to keep its culture and values intact. Separated by about a decade, both these humanistic documentaries had succeeded in reintroducing India to the world with rare honesty and empathy. 

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ADITYA TREATS FANS WITH AN IMPROMPTU MUSIC PERFORMANCE

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NEW DELHI: Aditya Roy Kapur made impressed his fans with his solo guitar performance.

Well, there’s not an ounce of doubt that Aditya happens to be one of the most loved stars. Now that the actor is shooting for his upcoming actioner ‘Thadam’ remake in Delhi, fans are thronging to catch a glimpse of him. Much to their excitement, the handsome and endearing actor decided to treat them with his magical voice.

Aditya’s impromptu show has elevated the excitement for his upcoming music album. For the unversed, just recently, the speculation around his music venture did rounds on social media. Meanwhile, the action hero is making noise for headlining the much anticipated ‘Thadam’ remake and essaying a double role for the first time. Aditya will also star in another out-and-out action drama ‘OM’.

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TAMANNAAHA MONG TOP 10 INFLUENTIAL SOCIAL MEDIA STARS IN SOUTH

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MUMBAI: The lines between regional cinema and mainstream films are blurring day by day. With the influx of more regional content pan-India, South Indian actors boast a massive fan following across the nation. Calculating their Instagram Influence using various metrics, Forbes India has released the Top 30 Most Influential South Actors on social media.

Touted as the rare combination of a superstar and a fine artist, Tamannaah has bagged the 10th spot on the list. With more than nine million followers on Instagram, the superstar is easily the most influential celebrity on the internet.

While talking about the same, Tamannaah said, “social media has become an integral part of all our lives, and it is a great platform to have an interaction with all my fans who have supported me in my journey. It is a special feeling to be listed as the Most Influential Social Media Star because it is a space that I share with my fans and followers.”

The top ten list also features Rashmika Mandanna, Vijay Deverakonda, Yash, Samantha, Allu Arjun, Dulquer Salmaan, Pooja Hegde, Prabhas, and Suriya.

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AYUSHMANN’SSOCIO-POLITICAL THRILLER ‘ANEK’S’ RELEASE DATE ANNOUNCED

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MUMBAI: 31 March 2022 has been locked as the release date for Ayushmann Khurrana’s film ‘Anek’.

Directed by Anubhav Sinha, ‘Anek’ is set against the geopolitical backdrop of Northeast India. It’s the second collaboration of Ayushmann with Sinha after ‘Article 15’. Giving a few details about his movie, Ayushmann said, “It’s only once in a while that an actor comes across a story that makes him jump out of his comfort zone. While I have always backed novel stories, Anek pushed me to perform with a renewed zest.”

He added, “It’s the kind of script that drives a person to give it your all. I am so proud that we’ve made a film like this and even more fortunate that I got the chance to headline it. It’s the kind of new-age cinema that I believe in and I am thankful to Anubhav Sir for choosing me to tell this special story.”

According to Sinha, it’s quite a challenge to make ‘Anek’. “It was a challenging film to write and a difficult one to make. We shot it in rough terrain but what makes it special is that the takeaway was so gratifying. It was a delight to work with Ayushmann again who with his depiction of Joshua breathed life into the story,” he said.

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NEW FILTER UNVEILED ON PRABHAS’ BIRTHDAY

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MUMBAI: Prabhas’ fandom knows no boundaries. The star is a global icon and enjoys a massive fan base. It’s that time of the year when the craze and love for him exceed any and every parameter, it’s Prabhas’ birthday. His fans do all sorts of surprising stuff to celebrate him and this year is no different. Ahead of his birthday, a new filter on Instagram has been unveiled. The filter has the words, ‘Global Prabhas Day’ written and plays a piece of soft and mellow music which is from the teaser of ‘Radhe Shyam’, as a portrait design comes on the screen and a little snowfall accompanies the same.

From Baahubali thalis to gigantic posters, to getting tattoos of Prabhas and more, his fans have always shown their love for the star. His Vikram Aditya from ‘Radhe Shyam’ got a new poster unveiled recently and a teaser of his character intro is all set to be released on his birthday. He will star in ‘AdiPurush’, ‘Salaar’, and Deepika Padukone starrer ‘K’.

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A CURTAIN RAISER TO ITALIAN EMBASSY CULTURAL CENTRE’S FELLINI RETROSPECTIVE

Murtaza Ali Khan

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Italian Embassy Cultural Centre is hosting a week-long Federico Fellini retrospective in collaboration with the India Habitat Centre. As part of the retrospective, eight of Fellini’s best-known films will be screened starting with his 1973 Academy Award-winning masterpiece ‘Amarcord’ on 23 October 2021. Along with introducing each of the eight films ahead of their respective screenings at the India Habitat Centre, I will also be introducing Fellini to the audiences while touching upon the importance of his films in India.

The legendary master Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini is not just recognised as one of the greatest and most influential filmmakers of all time but also as a great humanist whose lifelong work stands as a testament to his love for telling universally relevant stories about common people and life in Italy. Despite his origins in Italian Neorealism as a screenwriter for the luminary Italian director Roberto Rossellini, Fellini gradually emerged out of his shadows to carve a niche for herself with films like ‘The White Sheik’ (1952), ‘I Vitelloni’ (1953), ‘La Strada’ (1954), ‘Il Bidone’ (1955), and ‘Nights of Cabiria’ (1957). And then he took a huge leap with ‘La Dolce Vita’ (1960). Not many filmmakers in the world have succeeded in taking such a gigantic leap between films like the one Fellini took with ‘La Dolce Vita’.

But what did he do after it? He made ‘8½’ which is another major leap (it’s something that is unheard of except when maybe Ingmar Bergman made Persona). With ‘8½’, Fellini catapulted himself to an entirely different level of stardom altogether. The film in many ways also perpetuated the wide usage of the term ‘Felliniesque’ which would become synonymous with any kind of extravagant, fanciful, even baroque imagery in cinema—a sort of a superimposed dreamlike or hallucinatory imagery upon ordinary situations. Contemporary filmmakers like Tim Burton, Terry Gilliam, Emir Kusturica, and David Lynch have cited Fellini’s influence on their work. Fellini’s influence on Indian cinema is most evident in the works of Indian filmmakers like Mani Kaul (director of films like ‘Duvidha’, ‘Uski Roti’, ‘Nazar’, ‘The Cloud Door’, etc) and Kumar Shahani (the director of films like ‘Maya Darpan’, ‘Tarang’, and other movies)

‘Amarcord’, the first film to be screened as part of the retrospective, tells the story about Titta, an adolescent boy growing up among an eccentric cast of characters in a village near the ancient walls of Rimini in 1930s Fascist Italy (Rimini was where Fellini was born and the political turmoil during the rule of the Fascist regime in Italy also had a profound influence on Fellini’s life and work). The title basically translates to “I Remember” and aptly so. For, like many films of Fellini’s, ‘Amarcord’ is autobiographical in nature at so many levels. In fact, the character of Titta is based on Fellini’s childhood friend from Rimini who went on to become a lawyer. The two remained good friends all their lives. It is perhaps the last of Fellini’s undisputed masterworks. Even though Fellini would continue to make important films but ‘Amarcord’ in many ways is the last of his films to receive universal acclaim. It is also the last Fellini film to win the Oscar for the Best Foreign Language Film. The film is particularly noted for its criticism of Fascism as well as the Catholic Church but its comical tone cuts Fellini the slack to unleash a strong critique.

The romantic comedy ‘The White Sheik’, which will be screened on 24 October, follows Ivan and Wanda who visit Rome for their honeymoon. However, when Wanda suddenly disappears to find the White Sheik, the hero of a soap opera, Ivan struggles to hide it from his family who wants to meet his missing bride.

The third film to be screened as part of the retrospective on 27 October is ‘I Vitelloni’ which presents a character study of five young men at crucial turning points in their lives in a small town in Italy. One of the Italian maestro’s most imitated films, ‘I Vitelloni’ is said to have inspired directors like Martin Scorsese, George Lucas, Phillip Kaufman, Barry Levinson, Joel Schumacher, Juan Antonio Bardem, Marco Ferreri, and Lina Wertmüller, among others.

The next film on the lineup is ‘Il Bidone’ which follows a group of swindlers who dress up as clerics and con poor farmers out of their savings. It will be screened on the 28 October followed by ‘Nights of Cabiria’ on 29 October and ‘La Dolce Vita’ on 30 October. On the final day of Retrospective, not one but two films will be screened: ‘8½’ and ‘Fellini Satyricon’.

The Federico Fellini retrospective was originally scheduled to take place last year, marking the centenary celebrations of the master filmmaker, who was born in Rimini, Italy in 1920. But, the retrospective had to be delayed by a year owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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NEW STRATEGIES TO AMP UP YOUR INTERIORS IN THE NEW NORMAL

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The Coronavirus pandemic has created a new normal which has merged work with the living space. In these times, adding that extra ‘oomph’ can provide that change of environment you were looking for within your walls! Kshitij Mirania of Mirania Luxury Living shares those eye-catching strategies to amp up your interior game:

KINDLE WITH KITCHEN

Kitchen interiors are full of possibilities from hardwood to those modern cabinets. Replace or refinish those worn-out ones for a simply a new look and if modernising is the goal, bring in those glass doors and show off the shelving your nicest pieces!

CHANGE OF CURTAINS

Curtains has been named the underdog by many designers and for all the right reasons! It has the power to change the tone of the room, from stopping that extra heat to enter the room while lighting it up with colour to providing it the quick and colour it was missing. Finding the right curtains which match with the aesthetics of the room will surely be the easiest way to create a new environment without changing much.

ASTOUND WITH CARPETING

Room seems bigger with added warmth and texture? Well, the secret ingredient is that new carpet. Warm ones for the winter while lightweight is summer, carpet is an all-year accessory which will lift up your area. Since it is easy to store, think of it as an investment while purchasing as it will be something which can last you for many years to come.

STYLE-UP SURFACES

Flat, vertical and organic: the unbeatable arrangement for your coffee table. Add a stack of books with those gorgeous vases or sculptures and give it the finishing touches with flowers and plants and the work is done! All you have to do now is simply watch as those three ingredients come together to give your table that extra zing!

LIVEN UP THOSE WALLS

It is time to take out those old family photos and introduce them to the empty spaces on your walls! It will take you down the memory lane of those good-old-days while also providing a new look for the entire space with much ease. A two for one deal!

REPAINT-RENEW

Sometimes all you need is a small bottle white lacquer paint to change the colour palette of your living space. It will do miracles for those shabby, chipped out furniture you don’t know what to do with. Add that with PU paint for metals and watch your interiors come to life!

OLD COUCH, NEW LOOK

Why buy a new sofa when you can give the old one a makeover! The intention to change the colour can simply be satisfied with a slipcover and if the desire is to give it that extra colour then look no further from pillows and some knit throws. These small things will give you the effect you have wanted without cutting a hole in your pocket.

Kshitij Mirania is Partner and Head of Mirania Luxury Living (MLL).

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