April 30, 2009

Will Bollywood's projectors roll again?

Bollywood Hungama (via Screen) certainly hopes so:

A crucial meeting between producers/distributors and multiplexes was held on 29th April and the issues were discussed in the most cordial atmosphere. The meeting was extremely positive, with the two factions agreeing that there has to be a quick solution to the various problems. In fact, the multiplexes are also keen that the deadlock ends as soon as possible.

Hardly any details in the full dispatch, but let's hope this is for real and not a late April Fool's joke.

April 28, 2009

Farewell, Feroz Khan

Very quickly: It's a sad goodbye to Feroz Khan, who had died in his Bangalore, India ranch early Monday morning.

He will be forever remembered for the 1980 feature Qurbani ("sacrifice"), which he not only starred in, but also produced and directed. (BollywoodWorld reports that he had wanted to remake it — a dream that has died with the man.)

Here is a report (via Screen) of Amitabh Bachchan's reactions to Mr. Khan's passing.

Feroz Khan was referred to as "the Clint Eastwood of the East." He certainly made everybody's day in Bollywood. Thank you, sir.

April 26, 2009

House Lights: Less frequent, but still here

Fans of this blog, please note: My postings will be a little less frequent for a while because I recently started a new job (not a glamorous one, mind you, but it's work nevertheless). Between that and my supermarket shift, I'll have less time to post, and it'll have to be when I can find time.

So I hope this past weekend's little burst can tie you over for part of the week. Don't worry, I'll still be on the hunt for news of Bollywood worth sharing (the dispute between producers and multiplex owners in India is still very much on my mind) as well as any political videos and (as you'll note below) any animal nuttiness that's too good to resist.

I expect a little bit more turbulence in 2009, and will be grateful to come out of the other side by year's end.

Thank you, everyone, for bearing with me.

Intermission: Meanwhile, down at the arcade…

No, this isn't why the Projectionist calls his space Whack–a–Flick, but it was too good to resist.

Courtesy of I Can Has Cheezburger:

©2009 Pet Holdings, Inc.

"I want him in the games until he dies playing. Acknowledge."

Heck, why not one more, this one originating from Japan:

©2009 Pet Holdings, Inc.

Yes, but did the cat actually ask you to do that?

April 25, 2009

Meanwhile, back at India's multiplexes…

…Dipti Nagpal D'Souza at Screen reports that business is hurting:

Fame Adlabs, Andheri, one of the more popular destinations for suburban moviegoers, wears a deserted look these days. The cleaner has parked himself in a corner next to the security table for a convenient chat. The supervisor doesn’t seem to mind — with the first two shows cancelled and only a handful turning up for those after noon, the cleaner can well go on an extended lunch break.

The word is that Bollywood companies will take their new films to single–screen cinemas for now, with the standoff between them and the multiplexes threatening to segue from April into May.

Plus, it's India Premier League cricket season:

But do read the rest of the story on Screen.

Music Time: The Gregory Bros. Auto–Tune the News (twice)

These two videos require no further words, other than I want more:

And for something completely different, check out the music on Andrew Rose Gregory's homepage.

April 17, 2009

A word from the {ahem} loyal opposition

Sorry, folks — it has now been two weeks since Bollywood movie makers squared off against multiplex movie houses in India.

And if Shravan Shroff — the head of the Fame multiplex chain — can be taken at his word (as per Mid–Day), they will not give an inch on their side of the dispute:

©2009 Mid–Day Infomedia, Ltd.

For the record, the story remains the same. Bollywood producers want an equal 50/50 share in box office profits regardless of how (well) a movie fares in theatres. Multiplex owners want any box office cuts to be "performance–based" — their own version of what we would call "merit pay" in disputes between workers' unions vs. management (say, in education).

You might as well stock up on DVDs of your favorites from past years. This dispute could go on a while longer.

And that would be an understatement.

April 14, 2009

Uh, you don't really have to go that far, Mr. Khan

Sorry, folks, but the ongoing dispute between Bollywood movie producers and multiplex theatre chains in India is still going on, and so it still has my spare attention (in between news items about what brought on the recent wave of Somalian pirates and last week's dramatic headlines, among other things).

Today, your Projectionist checked Screen India's website and found this, as per Hungama:

In demonstration of solidarity for the producers who are united in their battle with the multiplexes, Aamir Khan has now gone a step ahead. He has even offered to clean toilets in single screen theaters and make them hygienic enough for audiences to come in.

This drastic step comes in the light of current situation in the industry where producers may well abandon multiplexes and release their films only in single screen properties if the stand off with multiplexes persists.

Last week, he and fellow celluloid thespian Shah Rukh Khan joined forces and urged for "clarity on the 50:50 revenue sharing issue" (as reported elsewhere by Screen).

Thankfully, the toilet comment isn't part of his latest blog entry (accessible via his own website), but his position on the matter is quite consistent with everything else that's been reported.

Of course, the single–screen cinemas in India could take a cue from Mr. Khan's reported remarks, and hire a proper crew to make sure their toilets — or better yet, every spot of their business — is properly sanitized and spotless, so that Mr. Khan and his fellow thespians can get on with what they do best.

Now, can we please end this standoff, so I can blog about what I've seen on DVD recently?

April 13, 2009

Last rites for 8 x 10 Tasveer

Screen has written the obituary on 8 x 10 Tasveer, pretty much summing up why Bollywood movies need to be better planned and produced — and what happens when they're not.

For those in a rush, Chocolate director Vivek Agnihotri pretty much sums up the frustration:

I saw the film in an empty theatre. One of the main reasons why I think the film didn't even take an opening is due to Akshay [Kumar]'s brand promise which is pure entertainment. I think makers couldn't exploit it… As a result, they not just wasted an opportunity but also annoyed viewers who love Akshay. Also, no one understood the genre of the film…

Cinema is all about making illogical sound logical. 8 x 10 Tasveer went on a path where it made logic sound illogical and as a result fell flat. What a waste of talent, an awesome opportunity and money which this industry needs so badly.

In short: Never underestimate the wishes and needs of your audience. Be fair to them, and always know why.

Whether Mr. Kumar learns this in working with the clear–headed Deepa Mehta, as he is reportedly going to do (and as noted a few days ago in this blog), is something we'll need to monitor closely. The last thing I am sure he would want to do is betray and alienate his fans, much less damage Mme. Mehta's own reputation.

Especially when Bollywood is in her current state. We still have a stand–off between the producers and the multiplexes.

April 11, 2009

Filming the impossible?

Now that the Warners/Paramount Watchmen movie is pretty much, well, history (good luck making back all those missing millions on home video, folks), who'd be brave (or foolish, perhaps) to take a novel deemed impossible to adapt for the silver screen — and nevertheless make a proper movie of it?

How about Deepa Mehta (Fire, Earth, Water, and the recently–released Videsh), taking on nothing less than Salman Rushdie's novel Midnight's Children, according to an interview for Screen?

It is not easy adapting a book like Midnight's Children. A film takes two years of a director's life. If I choose to make a film, I really have to care about the subject passionately because I am talking about committing a good two years of my life.

That's not the only movie she's got plans to do, however; she's also working on a movie with Akshay Kumar based on the "1914 'Komagatamaru incident'" (so says Screen). After the box office failure of 8 x 10 Tasveer, has Mr. Kumar actually found a non–comedy movie worth doing?

As with her planned Midnight's Children adaptation, I guess we'll soon see.

Good luck, Mme. Mehta. I hope your instincts prove you right.

Nice going, Fox...

Hollywood's home video business couldn't be more smeg-ed up than it is right now. Some studios have insisted on releasing "full–frame" (read: pan–scan) editions of their feature films on disc alongside their proper (anamorphic) widescreen counterparts — even as electronics manufacturers and retailers push widescreen (16 x 9 or 1.85:1 ratio) HD televisions.

That's enough to put your head in spin mode.

Well, leave it to 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment (News Corporation) to muddle the waters even further: The Onion's A.V. Club and Video Business are reporting on Fox's new marketing strategy: shipping to rental chains a separate line of DVDs without bonus features (running commentaries, making–of videos, and the like). As if another videogram marketing policy to release bare–bones discs and two–disc "special editions" wasn't enough.

Still with us?

Well… A.V. Club also reports (as does Cinematical) that rental–only bare–bones pressings of Danny Boyle's Oscar®/BAFTA/Golden Globe–winning Slumdog Millionaire accidentally ended up in packaging meant for the full–featured retail version that dropped last month.

Oy. VEY.

If you live in North America and have one of the wrong pressings, give Fox a call (1–888–223–4FOX); they will advise you about what to do next.

Just don't tease them about Bill O'Reilly or Glenn Beck.

And don't ask them if this is all a ploy to get you to go Blu–Ray.

(Oh, yes: I still want to see this one. I also want Fox to get it right. For now, I'll stick with Universal–Interscope's CD of the A.R. Rahman score.)

April 9, 2009

Words fail me, except one

Your Projectionist is grateful that he doesn't live in Texas, where at least one lawmaker — Republican Representative Betty Brown, from Terrell — isn't aware that the make–up of U.S. citizenry has changed over the years from what she probably hoped it would always be.

At the heart of this story was a debate held on Tuesday, April 7th, inside the Texas Legislature, about whether or not to implement voter identification rules that would require you to produce one photo ID (or two non–photo ones) when you go to the polls.

At one point in the debate, Ramey Ko, who is with the Organization of Chinese Americans, tried to explain how the proposed legislation would impact Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, and others within Texas' Asian American community, where it's not unusual to have two different names (one official name, and another one you use everyday).

Then spake Mme. Brown:

Rather than everyone here having to learn Chinese — I understand it's a rather difficult language — do you think that it would behoove you and your citizens to adopt a name that we could deal with more readily here?…

Can't you see that this is something that would make it a lot easier for you and the people who are poll workers if you could adopt a name just for identification purposes that's easier for Americans to deal with?

As one TV sportscaster once said trademark–style, let's go to the videotape:

Special thanks to AlterNet.

Words fail me, save one, not in Chinese (Mandarin or Cantonese) but in Japanese: AHO. (The Kansai dialect word for "idiot.")

Later, when Democrats demanded an apology for the outburst, her response (according to the Houston Chronicle) was reportedly:

They want this to just be about race.

I repeat: AHO.

Meanwhile, back on Main Street USA...

…people have woken up to the sad reality that credit cards are toxic. Especially when the companies that issue such cards then slip in higher interest rates or penalties for late payments that were unavoidable for one reason or another. A rise in personal bankruptcies is inevitable for a lot of people here in the States, especially for those who lost their full–time jobs — and thus lost their main means in keeping up with those monthly payments.

It's the downside of what ex–singer/songwriter (and quintessential Long Islander) Lou Stevens once described in 1980 as "Plastic Money from America."

Thankfully, some people in Congress have understood what is happening on Main Street and have been drafting legislation that would rein in one of the most renegade industries in the world.

The American News Project provides the sort of reporting that you're not seeing on the evening news:

©2009 American News Project.

The fight for sanity is far from over. Stay tuned.

April 3, 2009

Singing the Bollywood blues (while trying to beat the other varieties)

Regular readers might recall that your Projectionist loves watching Bollywood films and listening to good music from India — and not just because they cost less than the Western variety. (That said: Legit Indian CDs from T–Series for USD 5 or 6 vs., say, a Jonas Brothers album for USD 15 on average. So much for the math.) Recently, he's begun to catch up with a number of recent titles on DVD, and you might see reactions soon.

Meanwhile, this news flash from Screen is very bad news, especially if you opt to hit a multiplex for your marsala fix:

After failing to resolve the issue of profit sharing with multiplex owners, the film producers are all set to go on an indefinite strike from Saturday [April 4th], stalling any new film releases in these theatres…

The disagreement between the two parties is over the revenue sharing model of 'ticket sales.'

Producers and distributors have demanded a 50 per cent cut while multiplex owners want to stick to the old arrangement of sharing between 40–48 per cent, depending on the movie's performance at the box office.

The BBC adds that the strike could hurt India's showbiz scene hard, especially with the India Premier League Cricket (yes, cricket) season on the horizon — and this year, it's in South Africa (for security reasons, we read on the BBC's Sport pages).

Of course, it hurts enough to learn that some of the more recent Bollywood releases, even the Hollywood (Warner Bros.)–funded Chandni Chowk to China, had a very bad time time at the box office, no doubt in part because of the global economic meltdown. Not even Akshay Kumar (Singh is Kinng) has been able to get enough fans into seats.

His latest vehicle, the Percept Pictures/T–Series–funded 8 x 10 Tasveer, opened today worldwide on very unstable ground — not just because of today's news, but because of a report on mounting rumors that, among other things, Percept was intentionally holding back on the film's release.

And bad reviews — the first of them being this one from Screen and Hungama — won't help matters. (I'll update this if any more critiques surface.)

One theatre out on Long Island, owned by National Amusements, got one of the prints just before the strike deadline.

I was able to see the trailer online and wasn't impressed by what little I was able to see. I guess I prefer Mr. Kumar in comic mode, at least for now.

In the meantime, I was impressed to see on Screen's homepage that three of the films I brought home to Projectionist Central — the taunt topical thriller A Wednesday!, the seductively decadent Fashion, and the very moving Mumbai Mere Jaan, all produced by powerhouse UTV — made the top 10 selling Bollywood video chart (at numbers 1, 2, and 7 respectively). I was happy to finally see Mumbai Mere Jaan and was moved by it, even as I feel movie buffs here in the West should have been given the chance to see it. A Wednesday! would have also done well (in part because director/author Neeraj Pandey gets down to business and gets it done in a 1 hour and 36 minutes running time).

I really wish Bollywood companies would get their films well publicized — not just to the Hindi communities, but to the Western media as well. Newsday gave Chandni Chowk to China a very positive review, and I recall last year that Aditya Chopra's Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi got very unexpected praise in the pages of, would you believe, The New York Times.

With praise for the really good stuff, why not go for it?

My life outside of the screening room continues to have its ups and downs, but I do want to follow up on this post with my thoughts on the Bollywood DVDs I've seen so far. Maybe one film at a time. Keep watching this screen.

[UPDATE 2009.04.04: Mr. Kumar's troubles aren't limited to 8 x 10 Tasveer, as this BBC News item, uh, reveals…]

[UPDATE 2009.04.08: On Monday, April 6th, Rediff predicted poor box office earnings for 8 x 10 Tasveer — something that BollywoodWorld confirmed today. So Mr. Kumar, having had his Jim Carrey turn at a non–comic role, might want to stick to what he does best. Of course, being with writers and directors who actually know what they're doing would help.]