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Sara Ali tries hard to sail through in a dull film: IANS Rating **

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New Delhi, March 22 (IANS)There may not be anything like an entirely historically accurate film. With liberties taken and not merely tweaked to make incidents more palatable or believable in order to tell a certain story, there could be numerous valid reasons for a storyteller’s dire need to change parts of history.

Unless incidents are altered completely, that may still be explicable or pardonable because contemporary accounts may be coloured by a particular ideology, and isn’t it every director’s prerogative to present his or her point of view? What filmmakers cannot afford to get away with is a shoddy narrative that struggles to stay afloat — or poor acting that fails to strike a chord.

We have all grown up studying (and not just reading) history and India’s fight for independence is firmly unshakable as a lesson. Director Kannan Iyer’s biographical ‘Ae Watan Mere Watan’ uses the 1942 Quit India Movement as the backdrop to familiarise us with the lesser-heard story of Usha Mehta (Sara Ali Khan).

Mehta is a young girl who has her heart in the right place to send off signals to the British regime that there is a rebellion brewing even in the form of an underground radio station to take on the might of the Raj. With the help of her underground radio, she spreads the strong message of unity among all those who think like her. She wants to defy the British authorities during the Quit India Movement even as the colonial master become all the more violent on Indians who dare to challenge them.

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Inspired by the slogan ‘Do or Die’, a group of young people pledge to reinforce her radio rebellion. The running of the short-wave radio is secretly carried out, leaving its listeners intrigued and amused, even as the authorities remain clueless about its inception or its headquarters.

To run Congress Radio and make it the voice that daringly provokes common folk to rise against the tyrannical British rule, Mehta is ably supported by good friends Fahad (Sparsh Srivastav) and Kaushik (Abhay Verma). On the home front, though, all’s not well for Usha. Her father Hariprasad (Sachin Khedekar), a judge, strongly disapproves of her rebellion and favours the British rulers and their policies.

The ingeniously skilful communication with help of the radio bridges the gap to further the fight for Independence. It also manages to rouse the sentiments with its clear message, so much so that it impresses Congress leader Ram Manohar Lohia (Emraan Hashmi), who is on the run evading arrest.

It is only when the British police officer, John Lyre (Alex O’Nell), who seems hell bent on arresting the plotters, swings into action, that matters go out of hand. The young freedom fighters are poorly equipped to counter the brutal regime and its coercive institutions.

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Interestingly, some of the characters, while not peddling patriotism, mouth the importance of news and how it empowers a nation. Mehta accuses the British Raj of stifling freedom of expression and spreading falsehood. The official channels of communication are spreading false news, she says, and it is therefore important to get the truth out to the people.

Even Lohia, who idolises Nehru, would not think twice before criticising him if need be. The film may not push in-your-face nationalism, but it does make a point that continues to resonate: Stand up for what is right and don’t be afraid of doing so.

Sara Ali Khan is burdened with a role that lies heavily on her fragile shoulders. To be fair to her, she does try to fit into the shoes of the Gandhian Usha Mehta with all her limitations as an actor.

It is the execution and slow-moving, less-than-riveting drama that unfolds, that is more to be blamed. In comparison, Sparsh Srivastava and Abhay Verma, as Fahad and Kaushik, respectively, leave a mark, particularly Sparsh, who after his impressive debut in Kiran Rao’s ‘Laapata Ladies’, is someone to watch out for.

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Amalendu Chaudhary’s cinematography has the right blend of moving images imbued with light and shade that never fails to give us the perfect mix of that forgotten era — both gloomy and exultant.

Lyrics by Daraab Farooqui set to music by the trio of Mukund Suryawanshi, Akashdeep Sengupta and Shashi Suman have the flavour of martyrdom and patriotism rendered flawlessly by Sukhwinder Singh, Swaroop Khan and Javed Ali.

Though the makers have paid attention to the detailing of India under British rule, as a film based on the life of a freedom fighter is supposed to do, it does not move the viewer. ‘Ae Watan Mere Watan’, though, addresses the themes of love and revolution, freedom and unity, truth and pragmatism with an undercurrent of subversion that gives it an edge and elevates it above the chronicle it sets out be of the unsung heroes of India’s freedom struggle.

Film: Ae Watan Mere Watan (Streaming on Amazon Prime Video)

Duration: 133 minutes

Cast: Sara Ali Khan, Swarup Srivastava, Anand Verma, Sachin Khedekar and Emraan Hashmi Director: Kannan Iyer

Cinematography: Amalendu Chaudhary Music: Mukund Suryawanshi, Akashdeep Sengupta and Shashi Suman

IANS Rating: **

–IANS

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Oscar winner Resul Pookutty campaigns for FTII to drop case against Payal – and it's back to work for Kani

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New Delhi, May 28 (IANS) Oscar-winning sound engineer Resul Pookutty has launched a campaign for the Film & Television Institute of India (FTII) to withdraw its cases against the students, including Cannes 2024 Grand Prix winner Payal Kapadia, who had led the historic 131-day protest in 2015 against the appointment of Gajendra Singh Chauhan as the chairman of its governing body.

Taking to Instagram, Pookutty wrote: “FTII must now withdraw the cases against Payal and the other students. It owes them the prestige that has been bestowed upon it.” Kapadia is Accused No. 25 and, as Pookutty pointed out, has to go to court next month for another hearing of the case that has been going on since 2015.

In 2015, FTII was in a state of ferment because of the appointment of Chauhan, a BJP activist whose only claim to fame was that he had played Yudhishtir in the TV serial ‘Mahabharat’.

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Kapadia, who got into FTII on her second attempt in 2012, was one of the leaders of the 131-day protest against Chauhan, who, incidentally, was opposed by a phalanx of Bollywood celebrities, from Rajkummar Rao and Nawazuddin Siddiqui to Anupam Kher, and also by Soumitra Chatterjee and Jhanu Barua.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, whom Kapadia has thanked profusely for being her inspiration in response to his congratulatory message on Sunday, had visited the FTII campus and joined the student protesters in 2015.

As several people pointed out on X after Kapadia’s Grand Prix win, the FTII initiated disciplinary action against her when she led the boycott of classes. Later, FTII cut her scholarship and a foreign exchange grant.

In the same year, the Pune Police filed an FIR against 35 students, including Kapadia, after they held the then FTII director, Prashant Pathrabe, captive in his office. They were protesting against Pathrode’s decision to proceed with the assessment of incomplete student projects of the 2008 batch.

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Even as the call for the withdrawal of FTII’s cases grew louder, it was back to work for Kani Kusruti, who played one of the two Malayali nurses in Kapadia’s debut film, ‘All We Imagine As Light’.

From Cannes the actress went to Kochi, where she was given a cheerful welcome, to join the shoot for T.R. Shamsudheen’s upcoming Malayalam movie, ‘Eyes’.

In Kusruti’s honour, the producer had organised a chocolate cake with an edible image of the moment when Kapadia and her three main female protagonists — Kusruti, Divya Prabha and Charu Kadam — were on the stage celebrating the Grand Prix win this past Saturday night.

–IANS

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Ashoke Pandit lauds PM Modi’s vision for harnessing Indian cinema's soft power

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Mumbai, May 27 (IANS) Ashok Pandit, producer of ‘The Accidental Prime Minister’ (2020) and president of the Indian Film and Television Directors Association, has lauded Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his far-sightedness and vision in relation to harnessing the soft power of Indian cinema.

The Prime Minister had dwelt at length on this subject in his exclusive interview with IANS on Monday. He disclosed how he reached out to members of the Hindi film fraternity, knowing fully well that some of them thought differently from him and the BJP, because he wanted to amplify the soft power of Indian cinema across the world.

Reacting to PM Modi’s statement, Pandit told IANS that India is fortunate to have a visionary Prime Minister like Narendra Modi.

“He thinks digital, he turned India into a digital nation,” Pandit said. “He recently honoured influencers with awards and he is the only politician to do that. Then he met people who are into gaming. These are the things that are in vogue and form the ecosystem of entertainment.”

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He added: “At the end of the day, actors, directors, writers and social media influencers are all entertainers. PM Modi is the man of today. Look how he completely changed the way the censor board operates.”

Pandit said PM Modi had an active interest in cinema since the time he was the Chief Minister of Gujarat.

“Today, the world looks at India. Earlier, we used to look up to the West. Just a few days ago we got three major awards at the Cannes Film Festival. ‘RRR’ won an Oscar for Best Song,” Pandit said to amplify PM Modi’s point about the soft power of Indian cinema. And for getting it, unlike prime ministers in the past, Pandit described PM Modi as “truly a master communicator.”

–IANS

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Shaan, Sukhwinder, Anupam Kher launch ‘Chhota Bheem and the Curse of Damyaan’ tracks

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Mumbai, May 27 (IANS) The makers of the upcoming kids’ movie ‘Chhota Bheem and the curse of Damyaan’ released two tracks, sung by playback singers Sukhwinder Singh and Shaan.

While Sukhwinder Singh has crooned the ‘Jamboora’ track, Shaan has lent his voice to the ‘Zara Muskura’ song. Both the songs have been composed by Raghav Sachar.

‘Jamboora’ captures the magical element of the movie. It features Anupam Kher along with Chhota Bheem and his Sena.

‘Zara Muskura’ is a soulful track that sets in positive vibes. The makers of the movie launched the songs at a grand event in Mumbai on Monday. The event was attended by the entire star cast, joined by Sukhwinder Singh and Shaan themselves along with Anupam Kher who plays a pivotal role in the summer entertainer.

The audience witnessed a live performance of the songs by the talented singers Shaan and Sukhwinder Singh. Followed by a magic show that keeps everyone on the edge of their seat.

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Directed by Rajiv Chilaka and produced by Rajiv Chilaka and Megha Chilaka, ‘Chhota Bheem and The Curse of Damyaan’ is written by Niraj Vikram and co-produced by Srinivas Chilakalapudi along with Bharath Laxmipati. The film is all set to hit the theatres on May 31, 2024.

–IANS

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Sharvari wanted to do dance number ever since she dreamt of becoming Hindi film actress

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Mumbai, May 27 (IANS) Actress Sharvari, who will be seen in ‘Munjya’, said she always wanted to perform a big dance number ever since she aspired to become an actress in Hindi cinema.

Sharvari, whose latest track ‘Taras’ from the film dropped on Monday, said: “Ever since I wanted to be a leading lady in a Hindi film, the one thing I always wanted to do was a big dance number! I was always fascinated by them.”

“I have been mesmerised by the leading ladies of Hindi cinema, as well as the dancing icons across generations, who have belted out those big chartbusters that the entire nation has danced on.”

The actress added that cinema is showbiz, and song and dance numbers are important tools for people to decide if they want to watch a film.

“These party tracks have time and again also given recognition and validation to actors who have aced their performance in them!”

“I have only seen established actors or dancing idols getting big dance numbers because they have the pull and the popularity to hook people’s interest,” she added.

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Set to release on June 7, ‘Munjya’, which is directed by Aditya Sarpotdar, revolves around the character of ‘Munjya’, a rooted myth from Indian belief and cultural system.

The film also stars Abhay Verma and Sathyaraj.

Sharvari said she is just one film old and is happy that her producer, Dinesh Vijan, showed such confidence in her.

“It is a great pat on my shoulders that I can do it too and try to have a hit dance anthem to my credit! I loved shooting for Taras… every bit of it.”

Sharvari is praying for ‘Taras’ to become a massive blockbuster song and for everyone to dance on it at clubs, parties, and every occasion.

“For me, to have a big song so early in my career motivates me hugely. It shows that the industry has faith in backing me. That’s a really good feeling, honestly,” she said.

–IANS

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Varanasi-born designer behind Chhaya 'Manju Mai' Kadam's transformation at Cannes

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New Delhi, May 27 (IANS) For those who have seen Chhaya Kadam as the railway platform feminist of ‘Laapataa Ladies’, Manju Mai, her glam avatars at the 77th Cannes Film Festival came as a pleasant surprise.

Kadam shared the spotlight with Payal Kapadia and her fellow actors — Kani Kusruti and Divya Prabha — when the ‘All We Imagine As Light’ director received the Grand Prix, the second most important award at Cannes.

The actress, who’s known for her working-class roles (she plays the hospital cook Parvati in ‘All We Imagine As Light’), first caught the attention of fashion watchers when she attended the film’s world premiere in a handwoven black pearl ‘rangkat’ lehenga from the atelier of Warp ‘N’ Weft designer Sagrika Rai.

Varanasi-born Rai, who has been working in Mumbai since 1987, is best-known for her interpretations of the weaves of her home city. She paired Kadam’s lehenga with a white shirt, black-and-golden striped corset top, and black blazer.

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In an Instagram post, the design house noted that her outfit was “a capitvating choice for an extraordinary event showcasing the seamless fusion of talent and craftsmanship”.

The Marathi actress also sported a traditional Maharashtrian ‘nath’ at the screening, a tribute to both her late mother and her Kanchan Kombdi character in Kunal Kemmu’s ‘Madgaon Express’, which got widely noticed.

For the awards evening, Kadam came attired in a maroon brocade saree paired with a matching full-sleeved blouse. She opted for a minimal makeup look — maroon lips, kohl-rimmed eyes and a maroon bindi.

Her hair was tied in a bun with central partition and she rounded off the look with big golden jhumkas and matching bangles.

–IANS

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