Utpal Borpujari

January 23, 2015

Gulzar Retro in IFFI gets a high with Libaas premiere 26 years it was made

By Utpal Borpujari
Panaji: Of all the films that are having their premieres at the ongoing 45th International Film Festival of India (IFFI), one has been a 26-year-old, but it hogged the maximum attention when it got screened.

Yes, you heard it right: a film getting premiered after 26 years of having been made. But it was not surprising that it attracted great attention, because the film in question is Gulzar’s “Libaas”, made in 1988 but never released in India.

So, when it was screened at IFFI as part of a special retrospective on Gulzar, not only the regular festival delegate, but Gulzar himself was excited and emotional. Starring Naseeruddin Shah, Shabana Azmi and Raj Babbar, the film was never released its producers considered it too bold for its time and apparently developed cold feet.

“I was worried that the film would look dated. But I guess the intricacies of the human relation are eternal and universal,” Gulzar told the audience immediately after the screening that was attended by, among others, director Vishal Bhardwaj and his singer wife Rekha Bhardwaj.

“The film remained unreleased because of some issues with the producers. Many approached them for rights to release the film on DVD and even on television, but they continue to refuse,” Gulzar said, adding in his inimitable style that “after watching the film after such a long period, even I feel I am a good writer”. Though the film was unreleased, its songs, composed by R D Burman, including “Silli hawa chhoo gai”, “Phir kisi shakh ne” and “Khamosh sa afsana” have remained ever popular.

“Human relations are so incredibly complex, there are several layers which you can keep uncovering. It will never go out of fashion. What excites me is the study of human nature. It is something I draw from real life. It never fails me,” said Gulzar explaining the philosophy behind the film.

Just before the screening began, however, Gulzar was as excited and nervous as a youngster appearing for an exam would be. “I feel like a school kid appearing for an exam. The dubbing quality could be bad. Maybe we might not get to hear some of the dialogue,” he had said. After the screening of the print was reasonably of good quality, he heaved a sigh of relief. “What a relief!” he said.

The film’s story revolves around a theatre couple, played by Azmi and Shah, and how their relationship undergoes an upheaval when Babbar’s character, a friend of Shah’s character, enters the scene.

The Gulzar retrospective comprises, apart from “Libaas”, seven other films by the Dadasaheb Phalke Award-winning filmmaker-poet-lyricist. They are “Aandhi”, “Angoor”, “Ijaazat”, “Koshish”, “Lekin”, “Maachis” and “Mere Apne”, thus encompassing his journey as a filmmaker.

“I just couldn’t stop crying after watching the film. For the past 23 years I’ve been wanting to watch the film and here at IFFI 2014, my dream came true. I’m so glad that I didn’t miss the film’s screening. Libaas has touched my soul, I feel so satisfied now,” said Rekha Bhardwaj after the screening.

(Published in Eastern Chronicle, http://www.easternchronicle.net; 08-12-2014)

IFFI salutes biopic on real life hero

By Utpal Borpujari

Panaji: India has many unsung heroes, among them some heroes who have earned international recognition for their selfless service to the society but yet remains known only to a limited circle simply because they eschew media publicity.

One such name definitely is Prakash Baba Amte, the elder son of the late Baba Amte. They together remain the only father-son duo to win the Raman Magsaysay Award for their social work, but unlike the father, the son’s is not a name recognized nationally.

But that is about to change, with “Dr Prakash Baba Amte: The Real Hero”, a Marathi film on him, wooing delegates at the Indian Panorama section at the just-concluded 45th International Film Festival of India (IFFI). Incidentally, the Hindi version of the film, called “Hemalkasa” after the village that Amte made his home after earning his medical degree, would soon be released nationally.

Starring Nana Patekar in the title role, Sonali Kulkarni as his wife Mandakini, and Mohan Agashe as Baba Amte, the film deftly captures the extraordinary life and times of Prakash Amte, who, inspired by his father and helped by Mandakini and a group of dedicated friends, took healthcare to Hemalkasa, one of Maharashtra’s most-backward, tribal-dominated regions affected by Naxalite activities.

The film starts a bit tamely, with an encounter between the Naxalites and the security forces seeking to establish the socio-political situation of the area, but immediately comes on track thereafter, chronicling the work and life of the doctor who chose to bring healthcare facilities to the most backward tribals of the area.

Directed by Samruddhi Porey, the film mostly takes a realistic approach to tell the real life story, with Patekar giving a go by to his usual histrionics to depict the soft-spoken but firm-minded Amte. He is most able supported by a superb Kulkarni who brings out the tender relationship Mandakini has had with Amte in several scenes in the film.

It could have very easily been a documentary-style, but Porey is able to bring in several dramatic incidents from Amte’s life to make the film interesting and dramatic. Carefully picking up several interesting stories from the years of struggle that Prakash Amte has undertaken to carry on with his work in a remote region, the director not only brings out his life but also the lifestyle of the tribal people who did not even have the most basic healthcare facilities till the good doctor came to live amidst them.

“The film is a tribute to a cause and it is very much heartening to know that the people have appreciated it in such a big way. The very fact that it is running house full even after seven weeks of its release in Maharashtra shows how much it has moved people,” says Patekar, who, apparently moved by the subject, has announced a biopic on Baba Amte that he would direct.

“I wanted the world to see the philanthropic work of Dr Prakash Amte and Mandakini Amte The film runs like a make-believe film story but the beauty is that it is a portrayal of reality. It is not only a story of struggle and sacrifice but also the unconditional love between a husband and a wife,” says Porey.

(Published in Eastern Chronicle, http://www.easternchronicle.net; 02-12-2014)

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