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)

May 31, 2010

For Congress, ‘Rajneeti’ is full of Sonia

By Utpal Borpujari

From films like Gulzar’s Aandhi and Amrit Nahata’s Kissa Kursi Ka to books like Catherine Frank’s Indira: The Life of Indira Nehru Gandhi, an otherwise liberal-faced Congress’ ire has always fallen on anything that is construed to be critical of the Nehru-Gandhi family.

If for the Sangh Parivar any alleged attack on Hinduvta is reason enough for moral policing, with examples like those of M F Hussain’s paintings of nude goddesses and Deepa Mehta’s films Fire and Water highlighting it, for the Congress, it is the party’s first family that becomes the most sensitive factor.

The latest to barely escape an overzealous Congress’ ire is Rajneeti, Prakash Jha’s reworking of the Mahabharata in the context of present-day politics, for allegedly modelling Katrina Kaif’s character on party chief Sonia Gandhi.

Only a couple of years ago, the party ensured, through a legal notice sent by AICC spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi, that Jagmohan Mundhra drop his planned biopic on Sonia Gandhi, based on an unauthorized biography of hers by a journalist.

In fact, the party has quite a history when it comes to blocking material that it considers has portrayed the Nehru-Gandhi family in critical light.

The most brazen among them was the burning down of the print of Kissa Kursi Ka, directed by Amrit Nahata and starring Shabana Azmi, Raj Kiran, Manohar Singh and Surekha Sikri, allegedly by goons sent by Sanjay Gandhi during Emergency.

Another film that suffered at Congress’ hand was Gulzar’s Aandhi. In July, 1975, soon after imposition of Emergency by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, it was banned as the party thought the lead character played by Suchitra Sen resembled Gandhi.

The film was cleared after quite a few months only after its makers agreed to delete some scenes and make some changes in the narrative.

Jha has vehemently denied that Kaif’s character has any similarity with Gandhi – “except that both are women” – but Congress got three pro-party members of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) – Tom Vadakkan, Pankaj Sharma and Sanjeev Bhargava – to specially vet the film, flying them to Mumbai to view it.

AICC secretary Vadakkan, party mouthpiece Sandesh’s editorial department’s Sharma and cultural activist Bhargava reportedly took a dim view of certain scenes and dialogues in the film and suggested an ‘A’ (for adult viewing) certification.

But Jha finally got an ‘U/A’ (unrestricted viewing, including by children if accompanied by adults) certification from the Board’s appellate tribunal after deleting a few scenes, including portions of a lovemaking scene between Arjun Rampal and Kaif, beeping out some words and replacing the word “bidhwa” (widow) with reference to Kaif’s character with “bitiya” (daughter).

Two other important deletions have to do with a reported reference to tampering of the electronic voting machine and a mention that women have to sleep their way through to rise in politics.

All this apparently has settled the problems with the film, also starring Ranbir Kapoor, Ajay Devgn, Nana Patekar, Naseeruddin Shah and Manoj Bajpai, which will see a worldwide release on June 4.

But the overt alertness by Congress about the film has once again highlighted the party’s extra-sensitivity towards matters relating to the Nehru-Gandhi family.

It goes without saying that the only dissenting member in the appellate tribunal decision, one Anil Thomas whose minority view was to grant the film an “A” certification for its violence and “gory sex scenes”, is reportedly close to Congress.

(An abridged version was published in Deccan Herald, www.deccanherald.com, www.deccanheraldepaper.com, 30-05-2010)


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