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Bangkok International Film Festival
July 22, 2007

Grand Indian Package
Of  Bollywood extravaganzas, Shakesperean tales, and the retro of  a
charismatic actress

The largest movie-producing country in the world,India, is impressively
represented at the forthcoming  Bangkok International Film Festival (19-29
July), which this year has a new focus on Asian Cinema.

Top of the list, is the Bollywood  extravaganza Rang De Basanti,. starring
super-star Aamir Khan, the film won all the top awards of  the country, the
British BAFTA Awards, and was also the Indian nomination for the Oscars,in

The story centres around a British girl who comes to India to make a film on
some well-known Indian revolutionaries who fought for the country's
independence. She casts a bunch of fun-loving college-youngsters in the
film, whose fun evaporates,when they slowly relate to the story and question
their own roles in contemporary society

The film stars a bunch of new, talented youngsters, with the female leads
being played by British newcomer Alice  Patten ( the daughter of  the last
Gov General of Hongkong,Gen Patten) , and Sohaila Khan (daughter of famous
Bollywood actress Sharmila Tagore ).

The movie has plenty of drama, colour, action to satisfy the most diehard
Bollywood fan.

Studded with an equal amount of drama, action, colour, but evoked in a
uniquely underplayed tone, is OMKARA, the much-talked-about movie that's
based on the unforgettable Shakesperean tragedy 'Othello.'

The movie has a galaxy of stars donning un-conventional roles and
performing  with  unexpected brilliance. These include the best names in
contemporary Hindi Cinema- Ajay Devgun, Saif  Khan, Suresh Oberoi,
Naserruddin Shah, beautiful actress Kareena Kapoor ,and the spunky actress
Konkona Sen.

The film has lush locales, and the characters are rurals who play out their
emotions with stark simplicity and intensity.It's amazing to see how  a a
Shakesperean tale can be translated so effectively in a totally different
setting and culture.

The Director of the film, Vishal Bharadwaj, is not new to the festival, as his earlier film 'Maqbool',based on the Shakesperean tale of 'Macbeth',  won  the Golden
Kinaree prize in 2004.

'Vanaja' is very different in subject, style, tone, as it is the first film
of young Director Rajnesh  Domalpalli.

Infact, the script was written for his project at Columbia Varsity where he
was studying cinema, and soon developed into a film. He worked with a small
budget in a village in South India,with a new cast, including the a perky
12-yearold who plays the lead. She went through a long training process to
play the role of a young maid who has a passion for dance, attracts the
attention of her mistress' son, has a baby, and then, holds her own, against
social and political pressures.The movie is a real-life portrait of life in
rural India, shorn of  Bollywoodian glamour and glitter, and  is an
interesting example of the new-age indie cinema of the country.

'July Boys  in the Short Film Competition section, centres around the  very
topical theme of the setting up of an Indo-American IT  start-up company, in
Bangalore, the much-lauded Silicon city of the country.

The highlight of the Indian film-package, is the Retro on dazzling Bollywood
actress Hema Malini, once dubbed the 'Dream Girl 'of Indian cinema.

5 films of the artiste will be screened at the festival, and the actress
will make an appearance before the screening of her best-known movie
'Sholay',accompanied by her second daughter Ahana, who's doing her
film-studies in India.

Sholay (1975) is a cult-film that's now shown at many film-schools, where
romance, drama, high-voltage action combine in the most arresting of
Bollywood traditions.

It's not easy to accept the fact that two of the chief protagonists are no
longer alive- Sanjeev Kumar as the intense police officer ( who once propped
marriage to Hema Malini ), and Amjad Khan , as the notorious  dacoit .

For the first time, the villain of a Hindi film steals the show, as dacoit
Gabbar Khan's arresting performance, with his raspy voce, evil laughter and
'Arre O samba' line, resounded through the country, and the film manuals.

Hema Malini plays the quick-tongued Basanti,  who captures the heart of  one
of the two heroes of the film,Dharmender (he later became her real-life
husband).Also acting in the film are superstar Amitabh Bachan and his wife
Jaya Bhaduri.

The film with its famous songs, dances (  the best-known one has Hema
Malini,with bleeding feet, dancing for the villain, on  a path of
glass-pieces) and rivetting action-sequences, provides 3 hours of
unmitigated entertainment.

In Lal Pathar ( 1971) Hema Malini plays the role of a beautiful woman who
captures the heart of a rich and lonely aristocrat (the late ,charismatic
actor Raaj Kumar ) and becomes  mistress of his palatial home.When he brings
a new young woman home, Hema Malini, does not lose her dignity and power,
but asserts it,albeit with cruelty. The role has negative connotations, but
the actress hold her own by an arresting performance.

Khushboo (1975) is a low-key drama, by well-known writer -director Gulzar,
where popular Bollywood actor  Jeetender (named 'Jumping Jack' for his wild
song-and dance numbers) dons  a rarely seen, serious role. The story centres
around two childhood sweethearts who are separated and meet many years
later, in unexpected sequences. Incidentally, Jeetender was yet another
actor who proposed marriage to Hema Malini.

Dillagi (1978) is a light, fun-filled enjoyable drama, created by the master
of comedy Basu Bhattacharya, about a lively romance that develops between
two school-teachers-the cold, unfriendly Chemistry teacher nicknamed 'Carbon
dioxide' ,and the fun-loving Sanskrit master who revels in teaching the
love-classics.The chemistry between the lead- pair who later married in the
most talked-about wedding of the time, is evident in every frame of the

Baghban (2003) is the come-back film, for the actress after a long break,
where she teams up with the legendary Amitabh Bachan,in a moving story of
parental neglect that won the top awards of the country. The film stars
hunky Salman Khan,as well as a bunch of new stars, and has plenty of
emotion  to win hearts and wring  tear-ducts.Hema Malini proves in the film,
that her charisma on screen is still magnificiently undimmed.

Although it's disappointing that the actress' most memorable film  'Seeta
Aur Geeta' (where she plays a matchless double-role) is missing in the
Retro, there are enough films in the Indian package, to satisfy diehard
Indian movie lovers

By Lekha J Shankar

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