Utpal Borpujari

January 15, 2010

Now, tour Yash Chopra’s Switzerland

By Utpal Borpujari

If you are an Indian, the first-time you saw Switzerland was most likely in a film by Yash Chopra, who made the beautiful locales of the European nation the staple for his song ‘n’ dance routines.

Now, you can actually visit those very sites where Chopra shot some of the immortal songs and scenes of his numerous super hit films, right from Chandni to Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge and many more, in a guided tour right through Switzerland.

The unique “YRF Enchanted Journey”, the first of its kind anywhere in the world that focuses on a particular filmmaker’s fascination with locations in a country, is the result of a tie up among Yash Raj Films (YRF), Kuoni Travel Group venture SOTC, and Swiss-company Brandinvest AG.

Tourists visiting Switzerland as part of this package will visit the original locations of films like Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Mohabbatein, Veer-Zaara, Chandni, Darr and Bachna Ae Haseeno.

“We at YRF are convinced that this very special offering in Switzerland will provide a previously unattainable opportunity to a lot of Indians and fans of our films. It is a unique entertainment product that we are bringing to the market that promises to be a showcase offering for tourists visiting Switzerland,” said Chopra on the tie up between his company and the two other entities.

“Film Studios across the globe have slowly shifted their focus to creating derivative entertainment experiences around their actual movies, such as theme parks, and we feel that this very innovative approach is a natural extension of the YRF brand of entertainment and provides a very personal experience for our audiences, something that has never been done before by an Indian entertainment brand,” he said.

For Chopra, Switzerland has been almost an extension of his persona in his films. As he said, “I have lived some of the most intense and emotional moments of my life in Switzerland and I have used its spectacular locales extensively in a number of my flagship films that have been seen and loved by millions worldwide.”

The partnership was signed by Chopra, Kuoni India CEO Zubin Karkaria, and Brandinvest co-owner and CEO Marco Casanova in Mumbai.

According to Karkaria, the idea came from the fact that Bollywood has an immense space in the psyche of most Indians. “We are convinced that this will be a very successful project, where we would be able to offer our customers an authentic Bollywood experience on our tours to Europe,” he said.

Switzerland Tourism, the co-host of the special package, also seems to be pretty excited about the development. As Jörg Krebs, Director Markets of Switzerland Tourism said, “The ‘YRF Enchanted Journey’ tour spans the famous regions of Saanenland, Berne, Lucerne, Mount Titlis and Ticino and fits perfectly with our corporate strategy. Our guests can explore wonderful, dramatic landscapes and a truly diverse Switzerland experience.”

(Published in Deccan Herald, www.deccanherald.com, www.deccanheraldepaper.com, 15-01-2010)


November 13, 2008

The Prisoner wins Jury Grand Prize at Asia Pacific Screen Awards

By Utpal Borpujari

Farah Khan’s blockbuster Om Shanti Om and Aamir Khan’s Taare Zameen Par fell by the wayside, but a small Indian film by a first-time director has kept the Indian flag flying high at the 2008 Asia Pacific Screen Awards.


Pryas Gupta’s The Prisoner, for which actor-director Rajat Kapoor was nominated in the Best Actor category, has shared the Jury Grand Prize with Cai Shangjun’s Chinese film The Red Awn. The awards were announced on Wednesday at Gold Coast in Australia

The Prisoner, for which Kapoor had won the best actor award at the 10th Osian’s-Cinefan festival of Asian & Arab Cinema, is a story that picks up from the ancient text of the Rig Veda to tell a modern-day story of a once-famous writer caught in dilemmas of life.

This year, the APSA has also honoured eminent director Yash Chopra with the FIAPF Award for Outstanding Achievement in Film.

 There were several Indian films that had been nominated for the awards. While Om Shanti Om was nominated for the best film, Taare Zameen Par and Kranti Kanade’s Mahek were nominated for the best children’s film award. Kiiran Deohans was nominated for best cinematography for his work in Jodhaa Akbar.


The best feature film award went to Kazakh director Sergei Dvortsevoy’s highly-acclaimed Tulpan, which overcame competition from films like Honk Kong auteur Johnnie To’s Sparrow and Turkish Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Cannes best director award-winning Three Monkeys. Ceylan, though, won the best director award for his film.


The jury for the 2008 APSA Awards was headed by Australian director Bruce Beresford, and comprised Indian director-actor Aparna Sen , US producer Richard Rothschild, Chinese director Zheng Dongtian, and Hanna Lee, producer of the 2007 APSA Best Feature Film, Miryang (Secret Sunshine), from Korea.


(Published in Sakaal Times, www.sakaaltimes.com / http://epaper.sakaaltimes.com, 13-11-2008)


Complete List of winners:


Asia Pacific Screen Awards, 2008:


Jury Grand Prize:


The Prisoner’ India
Directed by Pryas Gupta

Just released from prison, Siddharth Roy, a once-famous writer, completes a new manuscript. He re-engages with the outside world, hoping that the new book will restore his reputation and also reconcile him with his estranged wife, Maya. Fate has other plans for Roy, when his briefcase gets exchanged at a cyber café with a similar briefcase containing a large sum of money. Roy loses the only copy of his new manuscript while Mohan, the cyber café manager, comes under pressure from his bosses to recover the lost money. In the midst of his growing despair about the lost manuscript, Roy is reconciled with his 3-yr old son through a scheming housemaid. Unable to find happiness in the money he has found, Roy begins to desire the custody of his son. A fateful accident brings Roy and Mohan together and they agree to set things right by exchanging briefcases. Emboldened by the thought of regaining his manuscript, Roy decides to abduct his son and flee from the city, hoping to find freedom from the imprisonment he feels from life itself. Based on the ancient text of the Rig Veda, the film explores the theme of human desire and suffering, building towards a shocking conclusion on the nature of ‘ultimate freedom’.

Hong Se Kang Bai Yin’ (The Red Awn) People’s Republic of China

Directed by Cai Shangjun
Whenever the wheat becomes golden, thousands of floaters will leave their homes and migrate from one place to another to make a living by working in the wheat fields. A 50-year-old father leaves his wife and son in their hometown and, in order to make money, goes to the city for five years. The 17–year-old son grows up in the countryside alone. At summer’s end, the father returns and decides to drive the red combine during the harvest with his son. On their way, an irresponsible father and a resentful son try to rebuild their bond, to face their destiny.




FIAPF Award (Outstanding Achievement in Film):


Yash Chopra

With a career spanning five decades and more than 40 films to his credit, Yash Chopra¹s films have defined the language of Hindi movies as we know them today.
His achievements as both director and producer are staggering. He has never fought shy of adventuring into bold and controversial themes ­ which are not just simple ³message films². Instead he has pulled off the more difficult task of weaving in socially relevant messages within the parameters of commercial cinema. The social comment has been couched in smiles and tears and have managed to successfully bridge the gap between the older and the younger generations.
Yash Chopra, today, is more than director and producer alone. He is the leader of the industry and the voice that governments listen to on matters pertaining to the rapidly booming Hindi film industry. International trade journal Hollywood Reporter in 2004 listed Yashraj Films and the Number 1 Film Distribution House in India

, and 27th in the world.
Even after seven decades, his vitality and creativity remain undiminished, and a new Yash Chopra or YRF film continues to remain the most anticipated event in the film calendar of India

. His directorial efforts keep pace with and outshine the work of directors less than half his age ­ for Indians of every age ­ Hindi cinema means Yash Chopra and Yash Chopra means Hindi cinema.
Yash Chopra is the only filmmaker to have won the National Award six times. He has won the Filmfare Award eight times – the only living director to have won this award eight times – and various other Awards innumerable times.
With his vast years of experience in the entertainment business, Yash Chopra is indisputably the leader of the Indian Film industry. The corporatization of Indian entertainment, which is currently at its peak, had its genesis in the pioneering efforts of Yash Chopra. He is currently on the Advisory Board of the Information & Broadcasting Ministry of the Government of India.





UNESCO Award (outstanding contribution to the promotion and preservation of cultural diversity through film):


‘Tinar’ Islamic Republic of Iran

Produced by Mahdi Moniri
A child in the southern forests of Babol has to protect his flock without any help.  Desperately lonely, he endures harsh winters and physical hardships, while dreaming of a different future.





APSA for Best Feature Film:


Tulpan’ Kazakhstan/Russia/Switzerland-Poland-Germany

Produced by Karl Baumgartner, Valerie Fischer, Gulnara Sarsenova, Sergey Melkumov, Sergey Selyanov, Bulat Galimgereyev,  Elena Yatsura,  Henryk Romanowski, Thanassis Karathanos and Raimond Goebel 
Asa’s dream is to become a sheepherder and have a flock of his own.  We are introduced to Asa, handsomely turned out in his naval uniform and trying to impress the parents of the woman he wants to marry, Tulpan. Tulpan thinks his ears are too big and rejects him but Asa refuses to be discouraged. He desperately wants to achieve his goal of independence; away from the over-crowded yurt in southern Kazakhstan that he shares with his sister and her cynical husband who doesn’t believe Asa has what it takes.



APSA for Best Children’s Feature Film:


‘The Black Balloon’ Australia

Produced by Tristram Miall. Co-Produced by Sally Ayre-Smith, Elissa Down, Jimmy the Exploder and Mark Turnbull. 
When Thomas and his family move to a new home and he has to start at a new school, all he wants is to fit in. When his pregnant mother has to take things easy, his father Simon puts him in charge of his autistic older brother Charlie. Thomas, with the help of his new girlfriend Jackie, faces his biggest challenge yet. Charlie’s unusual antics take Thomas on an emotional journey that causes his pent-up frustrations about his brother to pour out – in a story that is funny, confronting and ultimately heart-warming.



APSA for Best Animated Feature Film:


‘Vals Im Bashir’ (Waltz with Bashir) Israel/France/Germany

Produced by  Ari Folman, Serge Lalou, Yael Nahlieli, Gerhard Meixner and Roman Paul
One night at a bar, an old friend tells director, Ari about a recurring nightmare in which he is chased by 26 vicious dogs. Every night, the same number of beasts. The two men conclude that there is a connection to their Israeli Army mission in the first Lebanon war of the early 80’s. Ari is surprised that he can’t remember anything about that period of his life. Intrigued by this riddle, he decides to meet and interview old friends and comrades around the world. He needs to discover the truth about that time and about himself. As Ari delves deeper and deeper into the mystery, his memory begins to creep up in surreal images.




APSA for Best Documentary Feature Film:


‘Ggeutnaji Anhmeun Jeon Jaeng’ (63 Years On) Republic of Korea

Produced by Kim Dong-won and Lee SeungGu
63 Years On focuses on Korean women forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military during World War II.  During the war, an estimated 200,000 women from Korea, China, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, the Dutch East Indies and Indonesia were abducted from their homes against their will or were recruited with offers of work in military factories and subsequently forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military.  The majority of these women came from Korea, and this film chronicles the survivors’ persistent efforts to be recognised as WWII victims by Japan and international forums. 63 Years On tells the stories of five women – a Korean, a Chinese, two Filipinas and one Dutch -who reveal their experiences as survivors, including one elderly Korean woman, Kim Hak-sun, who by speaking of her ordeal on television, created an international groundswell to lobby the Japanese government for an official apology.




APSA for Best Screenplay:


Eran Riklis and Suha Arraf for ‘Etz Limon’ (Lemon Tree)

Eran Riklis, one of Israel’s leading filmmakers, was born in Jerusalem, raised in the USA, Canada and Brazil, and graduated from The National Film School, England in 1982.  Married to Dina (a filmmaker), father of Tammy (a committed journalist) and Jonathan (a jazz pianist), Eran lives in Tel Aviv and works with the world. His film credits include: The Syrian Bride, 2004, winner of 18 international awards, and Zohar, Israel’s biggest box office success in the 90s. He has also directed and produced many TV films, series and documentaries. Lemon Tree is Riklis’ second collaboration with co-nominee, Suha Arraf. A Palestinian-Israeli, Suha is a graduate of the Tel Aviv Screenwriting Academy and has degrees from the Jerusalem and Haifa Universities. Besides The Syrian Bride and Lemon Tree collaborations with Riklis, Suha has written and directed several documentaries and worked as a journalist and researcher for many years.




APSA for Achievement in Cinematography:


Lee Mogae for ‘Joheunnon Nabbeunnom Isanghannom’ (The Good, the Bad, the Weird

Republic of Korea
Lee Mogae first worked with director Kim Jee-woon on his 2003 feature Janghura Hongryeon (A Tale of Two Sisters). He has shot films for several high-profile Korean filmmakers including Ryu Jangha on 2004 feature Ggotpineum bomi omyeon (When Spring Comes), Hur Jin-ho on the 2005 feature Oechul (April Snow) and Kim Dae-seung on 2006 feature Gaeulro (Traces of Love).



APSA for Best Performance by an Actress:


Hiam Abbass for ‘Etz Limon’ (Lemon Tree)

Following their successful collaboration in The Syrian Bride, Eran Riklis chose Hiam for the leading role of Salma Zidane in Lemon Tree. Born in Nazareth, Hiam started out in various theatre roles in Israel until she moved to London in 1988 and then to Paris where her film career began.  Her credits include: The Syrian Bride, Satin Rouge, La Porte du Soleil, Munich, Disengagement, Free Zone, Paradise Now, The Nativity Story, Dialogue avec mon Jardinier, Un Roman Policier, La fabrique des Sentiments, and The Visitor. Hiam lives in Paris with her husband and two daughters.




APSA for Best Performance by an Actor:


Reza Naji for ‘Avaze Gonjeshk-Ha’ (The Song Of The Sparrows)

Islamic Republic of Iran
Born in Iran in 1942, Reza Naji is an award-winning Iranian actor and an iconic figure of Iranian cinema. Reza started his career as a teenager in theatre with his first film role in Children of Heaven in 1997. Directed by Majid Majidi, the role required an Azeri accent and Reza was chosen by Majidi from 2500 actors who tested for the role. Since then, Reza has played numerous roles in Iranian films, including Sargije (2007) and The Willow Tree (2005). The Song of the Sparrows is his latest collaboration with director Majid Majidi and has garnered Reza with the 2008 Silver Berlin Bear for Best Actor from the Berlin International Film Festival.




APSA for Achievement in Directing:


Nuri Bilge Ceylan for ‘Uc Maymun’ (Three Monkeys)

Nuri Bilge Ceylan was born in Istanbul, Turkey in 1959. After graduating as an engineer from Bosphorus University, Istanbul, he studied filmmaking for two years at Mimar Sinan University, Istanbul. His credits include: Les Climats (2006) Uzak (2003) and Mayis Sikintisi (Clouds of May) (1999).







Members of the APSA International Jury 2008 are Jury President Bruce Beresford, renowned Indian director and actress Aparna Sen, US producer Richard Rothschild (whose production credits include Tender Mercies and The Truman Show), Chinese director and Professor of the Beijing Film Academy Zheng Dongtian, and Hanna Lee, producer of the 2007 APSA Best Feature Film, Miryang (Secret Sunshine), from the Republic of Korea.



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