Short films offer a great platform for young and upcoming filmmakers to showcase their talents. But, making a short film is always a tricky proposition. For, the financial prospects are quite uncertain. However, the one thing that drives such productions is passion as the constant threats and fears often serve as fuel that end up stirring the deepest artistic urges of the filmmaker. One thing, however, is more or less certain. What these films lack in scope they more than make up for it in terms of vision. Of late, the short films are becoming more and more mainstream with big names from the Hindi film industry joining the bandwagon. Also, the pandemic has given a further fillip to this emerging trend of making short films with established stars. Natkhat, co-written and directed by Shaan Vyas, is a fine example of what storytellers can achieve using the shot film format.
Natkhat stars Vidya Balan in the role of a mother who takes it upon herself to teach her young son an important lesson about gender equality that he will never forget. The short, co-produced by Vidya Balan and Ronnie Screwvala, has already traveled to many international film festivals. Ever since its premiere at the ‘We Are One: A Global Film Festival’ last year, Natkhat has found a spot on many most-anticipated short films lists. The short film is now being streamed by Voot Select as part of Voot Select Film Festival—a direct to OTT Film Festival that will showcase more than 15 critically acclaimed movies across genres over an eight day period.
The Shaan Vyas directorial succeeds in singularly pointing why despite so many reforms and new laws patriarchy has still managed to endure in our society. Let’s try and examine the story of Natkhat to understand this better. The short follows Sonu (portrayed by Sanika Patel) who one day along with his friends at school decides to teach a girl a lesson she would never forget. At dinner time when the grown-ups discuss a female politician who is causing them some trouble, Sonu offers them a suggestion with the ghastly admission of the sinister act he committed at school. The bunch of boys had taught the girl who had dared to hit one of them a lesson by dragging her to the woods and threatening her to cut off her pigtail. When he offers the same advice to the grown-ups at the dinner table in order to teach the female politician a lesson, the father (essayed by Raj Arjun) gets up in a fit of rage to scold his young son but he is stopped by the grandfather (played by Atul Tiwari). The old patriarch consoles his enraged son by reminding him about the boy’s gender privilege: “Boys will be boys. What do you expect? Will you crucify him for this?”
Now, the servile mother (essayed by Vidya Balan) in a ghunghat is listening to the conversation from a distance. She is not even allowed to sit and eat with the men of the family even as she serves them hot food and rotis. She can only eat inside her room after they are finished. But even from within the ghunghat we can sense her dread and uneasiness on hearing her son’s ghastly admission of an act he committed at school. She is deeply disturbed by the toxic machismo her young son with an impressionable mind is in the process of inheriting from those around him. So she takes matters into her own hands and decides to teach her son the principles of equality using the age-old art of bedtime stories.
Natkhat is a powerful reminder that the root cause of all oppression that women are subjected to in our society is a direct result of patriarchy. What children see while growing up has a lasting impression on their impressionable minds. Their conditioning already begins long before they even realize it. By the time they grow up into adults the damage is already done. If, however, the parents can make conscious efforts to educate their children about the importance of gender equality then the dark influences of patriarchy can be greatly mitigated.
There is so much that remains unsaid in Natkhat and so the onus is on the actors to convey the same non-verbally and they are up to the mark. In particular, Vidya Balan, Raj Arjun and young Sanika Patel need to be commended for their brilliant performances in the short film. It’s really heartening to see a leading Bollywood actress like Balan taking such keen interest in a project like Natkhat and not just as an actor but also as a producer. While there still there is still a long way to go before the short films start enjoying the same reverence and recognition that’s generally associated with feature films, Natkhat proves that short film format is more than capable of delivering a strong message in a most effective manner possible.
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‘THE STARLING’ IS A DEEPLY PHILOSOPHICAL FILM ABOUT OVERCOMING GRIEF
Toronto International Film Festival 2021 offered a very interesting lineup of films. On one hand we had crowd pullers like Denis Villeneuve’s ‘Dune’ and Edgar Wright’s ‘Last Night in Soho,’ on the other we had gritty dramas like Antoine Fuqua’s ‘The Guilty’ and Michael McGowan’s ‘All My Puny Seasons’. The festival also screened riveting documentaries like Mohammed Abugeth and Daniel Carsenty’s ‘The Devil’s Drivers’ and Gian Cassini’s ‘Comala’. But, perhaps, the most unique film to screen at the 2021 TIFF was Theodore Melfi’s dramedy ‘The Starling,’ based on a screenplay by Matt Harris. The film stars Melissa McCarthy, Kevin Kline, Chris O’Dowd, and Timothy Olyphant.
After Lilly (McCarthy) and Jack (Chris O’Dowd) lose their infant daughter, grief gets the better of Jack and he enrolls in a psychiatric clinic. But Lilly decides to deal with her guilt while going about her day to day affairs. She keeps her job at the grocery store, continues to look after the family’s expansive rural property, and dutifully visits her husband at the clinic every week. Even as she is trying to come to terms with the reality of her existence a combative bird takes nest beside her quiet home and repeatedly taunts and attacks the grief-stricken Lilly.
During one of the sessions at the psychiatric clinic where Jack is staying, a counselor suggests that Lilly should see a local therapist, Larry (Kevin Kline), after she suspects that Lilly isn’t tending to her own grieving process. But the counselor fails to mention that Larry gave up psychology long ago to become a veterinarian. Things come full circle when Lilly meets Larry as the latter’s veterinarian skills prove quite handy to the former in dealing with the territorial bird wreaking havoc in her garden.
The idea for the unique story stemmed from Matt’s personal experience of working in a mental health hospital to earn a living while attending graduate school for his Master’s. It evolved into a story of an inexplicable tragedy that befalls a couple as they are forced to reconcile their grief and seek a way forward if they are to share a future together. Matt wrote the script with the prize money he won from the prestigious Academy Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting. It made the rounds until director Ted Melfi fell in love with it. After years of near-misses, the film finally got made with its post-production getting completed during the pandemic.
Now, The Starling doesn’t offer a regular story. The ideas and themes that it deals with make it a very complex film. And perhaps that’s why it’s been in the waiting for so long. And if it wouldn’t have been for Ted Melfi it would have remained a screenplay for at least some more years to come. Melfi is known for films such as ‘Winding Roads,’ ‘St. Vincent,’ and ‘Hidden Figures,’ which was nominated for three academy awards including Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay. The Brooklyn-born filmmaker has a rare gift to deal with subjects that puts strong women characters in the mix of things. While ‘Winding Roads’ is about three women navigating their respective love lives, ‘Hidden Figures’ tells the story of a team of female African-American mathematicians who served a vital role in NASA during the early years of the U.S. space program.
In ‘The Starling,’ Melfi has his job cut out to make the rather peculiar character of Lilly look believable. And he does succeed in the task. Of course, the casting choice of his ‘St. Vincent’ star Melissa McCarthy in the role of Lilly proves to be an inspired one. McCarthy is one of the few actors around who are capable of making the audiences laugh and cry at the drop of a hat. I remember recently watching her in the Hulu show ‘Nine Perfect Strangers’ wherein during one of the funny scenes she chokes on a grape. McCarthy is so good in the scene that I just couldn’t hold back my laughter in spite of the precarious nature of her situation. From that point onwards in the show whenever she appears on the screen she is able to punctuate the tension. But few minutes into ‘The Starling,’ I totally forgot about the character in ‘Nine Perfect Strangers’ and all I really cared about was Lilly. That’s how good an actor McCarthy really is.
‘The Starling’ is a deeply philosophical film that is not easy to watch if you are looking for your regular escapist entertainment. It’s a movie that demands patience. But, patience does have its rewards. McCarthy’s layered performance alone makes it worth a watch. The chemistry between McCarthy and Kline is what holds the movie together. Melfi proves that what’s good on paper can also be successfully translated on the screen as long as a director is willing to back it up and he/she has access to good actors.
AJAY’S ‘DEFINING MOMENT’ FROM HIS MALDIVES TRIP
MUMBAI: Actor Ajay Devgn, on Friday, treated his fans with an adorable picture of him sharing smiles with his little son Yug. In the image, the father-son duo can be seen enjoying the sea waves on the boat in the Maldives. The two can also be seen wearing life jackets as the ‘Singham’ actor holds his son close. Ajay has beautifully described the click.
Sharing the photograph on Instagram, he wrote, “Yug wearing his safety jacket, that’s me, when we hit the waters at Maldives…A few of the many defining moments that we had during our short September break.”
Ajay recently went to the ocean paradise for the shoot of “Into The Wild With Bear Grylls” show.
STARS DEMAND ACTION ON CLIMATE CHANGE
WASHINGTON: From Leonardo DiCaprio, Lady Gaga to Camila Cabello, over 60 musicians, actors and artists have urged entertainment industry executives to ask US Congress to pass climate change legislation.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, several artists teamed up with the NRDC Action Fund to pen a letter to Warner Music Group CEO Lincoln Benet, Apple CEO Tim Cook, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and others to lend their support to US President Joe Biden’s infrastructure bills. “Congress has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to invest in a clean, just, and equitable future for all by passing the robust climate action that President Biden called for in his Build Back Better agenda. As the top leaders of the entertainment industry you are needed to lead our community’s call for action and embrace this vision for a better world,” the letter read.
Biden’s Build Back Better agenda is contained in two bills, one a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure proposal and the other a $3.5 trillion package that includes creating industrial policy to tackle climate change, reported The Hollywood Reporter.
“The entertainment community has a long, proud tradition of driving societal change. Our industry is already leading the charge toward more sustainable practices within our own businesses and productions. Now is the time to use your influence to shape our future,” the statement added.
KRITI SHARES GLIMPSE OF HER CHARACTER ‘MYRA’
MUMBAI: Bollywood star Kriti Sanon piqued the interest of her fans by sharing a glimpse of her character Myra from her upcoming action-comedy film ‘Bachchan Pandey’. Kriti on her Instagram Story, posted a picture while dubbing for the film. In the photo, Kriti gave a glimpse of her character Myra from a scene of the film, with her hair casually tied up, as she smiled beautifully. Along with this, Kriti wrote, “Bachchan Pandey!! this one’s special… Our third together #SajidSir @wardakhannadiadwala @nadiadwalagrandson @farhadsamji.”
The upcoming film, which stars Akshay Kumar in the lead, is being helmed by Farhad Samji and bankrolled by Sajid Nadiadwala. Apart from Akshay and Kriti, the film also features actors Jacqueline Fernandez and Arshad Warsi in pivotal roles. Akshay’s character in the film is a gangster who aspires to be an actor, while Kriti essays the role of a journalist, who harbours dreams of becoming a film director. The film is slated for theatrical release on January 26, 2022.
‘TUM AAOGEY’ WILL BE MY MOST SPECIAL CREATION: AMAAL
Music composer Amaal Malik spoke to The Daily Guardian about his new song ‘Tum Aaogey’ from Bell Bottom and much more.
Q. ‘Tum Aaogey’ has crossed millions of views, how overwhelmed are you with this?
A. It is truly an emotional moment for me as well as my audience. Although it is the 90th song of my career, it feels like my first release. Bell bottom is a very special film and composing for it was truly an honour. There is a certain honesty and purity in this melody that will remain with the listeners and I’m glad that just within a day of its release people are celebrating it.
Q. What was the process of the song, making of it, and your reaction after the final song was made?
A. Tum Aaogey is going to be one of my most special songs and it’s one of the best works I have done for film music so far. I don’t think a song like this has been a part of a film for a long long time. It’s a beautiful tribute to the armed forces. Armaan has done an amazing job with the vocals, it’s great to be part of a film that manages to stand tall and be released in theaters.
KATRINA’S LIME-YELLOW JUMPER IS WHAT YOU NEED TO UPDATE YOUR WARDROBE WITH
It’s almost ‘sweater weather’ and Bollywood diva Katrina Kaif who is known for acing her sartorial looks, has just shown us what we might have been missing out on to add to our wardrobe!
Katrina, who is currently shooting in Austria with superstar Salman Khan for the next schedule of their upcoming movie Tiger 3, took to Instagram and shared two snaps of herself enjoying the European ‘sweater weather’. While the pictures are proof that the ‘Bharat’ actor is spending a happy Tuesday in Europe, not to miss is the autumn fashion that she has totally nailed.
In the pictures, the actor could be seen snuggled up in a lime yellow coloured jumper. The diva looked magnificent even without makeup on her face.
The lime colour is the new black currently in the books of fashion. The colour of happiness and optimism is trending and looks super modish and classy at the same time. With or without accessories, this colour will help you look stylish all the time.
Meanwhile, speaking of Katrina’s work front, the actor has recently flown to Austria with the Tiger 3 team to shoot for the international leg of their upcoming movie.
Salman and Katrina will perform some spectacular action sequences in places like Upper Austria, Salzkammergut, Dachstein Salzkammergut and finally in Vienna.The team was earlier shooting in Turkey, where Salman and Katrina also met the Turkish tourism minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy. They were spotted at lunch together after finishing shoot day for the film.
Tiger 3 is the third film in the successful Ek Tha Tiger franchise, which will also feature actor Emraan Hashmi as an antagonist.
The upcoming film will mark Emraan’s maiden collaboration with YRF, which is producing the flick. Tiger 3 will have Salman reprise his role of R&AW (Research & Analysis Wing) agent Avinash Singh Rathore aka Tiger, while Katrina will be seen playing the female lead.
The first film of the popular franchise called Ek Tha Tiger came out in 2012 and was directed by Kabir Khan. The film received an overwhelming response and was a massive success at the box office.
The second movie, Tiger Zinda Hai, had released in 2017 and was directed by Ali Abbas Zafar. Salman and Katrina have featured in both movies.
Apart from Tiger 3, Katrina is awaiting the release of Rohit Shetty’s upcoming film Sooryavanshi starring Akshay Kumar in the lead role. She will also be seen playing the lead in the horror-comedy Phone Bhoot with Ishaan Khatter and Siddhant Chaturvedi.
She recently announced her next big project Jee Le Zara with Priyanka Chopra and Alia Bhatt.
With ANI inputs
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