Lars Von Trier : Nazi ? Artist ? Free Thinker ? Should have he been banned at Cannes ?

I am inundated by the press asking for my views on the expulsion of director Lars Von Trier from the Cannes film festival for his remarks on Hitler and being Nazi. Probably because of being on the Jury of the festival last year. This is such a sensitive issue that any remark reported out of context could spark off controversy. So here is my point of view :

a. It must have been a painful decision for the festival. I know the people that run it well, and nothing is held in higher esteem than the creative freedom of the film maker. However the remark was made outside a film on a public forum provided by the festival, and created a media furore. As such the festival had to either own or disown such controversial remarks made by Lars. Obviously they could not own them, and were duty bound to protect the goodwill of the festival that has been generated over generations.

b. Lars is one the most significant director’s of our generation. His talent and vision has caused us all to question some of our more fundamental beliefs and has got him two trophies at Cannes it self. Whatever people say about him, his sheer force of talent will bring audiences back. I believe Lars was irresponsible in the way he took on the journalists. Even if he was provoked. Every human being is entitled to free thought and speech. I am sure somewhere Lars was trying to make a point about trying to understand what thoughts lay under the whole philosophy of Nazi’sm. But he stated it badly, and to a world where the fear of such events repeating themselves are very real. If you are a public person, on a public platform provided to you by a culture, you must be respectful and cognizant of that culture. You cannot, as Lars did, treat your own influence lightly.

c. However a world that does not explore or confront it’s history is condemned to repeat the horrors of the past. Lars should not be vilified by the media for admiring (say) Albert Speer’s sense of order in his architectural design. If Lars is fascinated by underlying Nazi philosophies and wishes to explore them, he should not be condemned merely for that.

d. My own view on the whole chapter is that Hitler unleashed a horrific side of human behaviour. It not just about being a Nazi or Jewish. Its about one human being and another. It stands as a stark reminder of our own dark sides, yours and mine, and how little it takes to be provoked to lose all sense of being human.

e. Which leads me to my final and perhaps most controversial answer to the questions to the press. The world is, and has been since the Second World War full of Hitlers and pogroms and death camps and inhuman genocide. The world stood aside and watched. Is standing aside and watching. More than that, is often supporting directly or indirectly such genocide. One man’s war is another man’s genocide when civilians are being slaughtered.

The world is right to condemn Lars Von Triers, provided it stands up and condemns all genocide that is happening in whatever name.

Shekhar

Musical Theatre in India :Guest Column by Sohaila Kapur

It’s expensive and a logistical nightmare. But do Indian directors love musicals? Yes, says the chorus

In India today, the term ‘musical’ has two connotations. The pure musical comes from the Indian tradition of folk theatre, where there is no difference between songs and dialogues. The other is the western concept, where there is a distinction between spoken dialogue and song. Each has its own adherents, although the former, which borrows heavily from our folk traditions, is almost entirely embraced by Hindi or regional theatre . All practitioners of the musical, whether in English, Hindi or any other language, face major problems today.

First of all, there are not enough actors to participate in musicals, which need special training and stamina. The multi-talented and skilled ones prefer to join either television or the movies, which have more or less killed musical theatre, feel directors Feroz Khan (Eva Mumbaima Chal Jaiye), Sunil Shanbagh (Cotton 56, Polyester 84, Mastana Rampuri Urf Chhappan Chhuri, Sex, Morality & Censorship), Swanand Kirkire (Ao Saathi Sapna Dekhen) and Mahesh Dattani (The Alchemist). The ones who are left, are unable to perform all the three arts of dancing, singing and acting, sometimes simultaneously, on stage.

The other hitch is the lack of good sound technology, an important requisite for musicals. Most Indian auditoria are ill equipped, feel the Mumbai directors, who invariably use live music in their shows. However, Dr. Anuradha Kapur, director the National School of Drama and the theatre group Vivadi (Umrao Jaan, Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam, Centaurs), disagrees. She feels that most Indian auditoria have a sophisticated sound system and her Umrao, which was complicated in terms of including both live and recorded music, had no problems at all in any of the spaces it was performed in.

Shanbagh also cites the huge costs to mount musicals as the other deterrent. Most Mumbai-based musicians are employed profitably as sessions musicians in the film industry and quote prices which theatre cannot afford. Shanbagh and Utkarsh Mazumdar (Jagine Joun To Narsainyo- Ek Musical Gatha, Master Phoolmani) concur. Mazumdar has also faced a lack of discipline from professional musicians, whom he calls ‘lazy’ and ‘averse to rehearsals’. Shanbagh says the problem can be solved by hiring folk musicians, but urban theatre practitioners lack the networking required for this. He himself tackled it by contacting two folk musicians and a Lavani dancer for regular work with his group.

Rahul Da Cunha (Jesus Christ Superstar) says it costs almost Rs 50 to 60 lakh to put together a musical.

Read the rest of this entry »

A film on Cromwell ?

This came in from Marshall :

Hi,

On the 30th January 1659, Charles Stuart, King of England, Scotland and Ireland stepped onto the scaffold to face his execution after seven years of civil war in his three kingdoms, conflict that resulted in the death of a greater proportion of our population than in the world wars of the 20th Century.

The execution of the King and the preceding war was without doubt one of the most momentous things ever to happen in our country. Why then is it a subject so poorly covered by the film and television industry. The Tudors, and in particular Elizabeth, are the subject of so many films and television series that it seems that every well known actress has put her own slant on Elizabeth’s life.

Your two Elizabeth films are truly amazing, but what of Cromwell, our chief of men, one of our greatest historic figures, who with the support of some amazing, influential contemporaries changed our country for the better – forever. They changed the unthinkable – that we could be ruled by someone outside the elite aristocracy – it was the real beginnings of our Parliamentary system and eventually helped inspire the American colonies to fight for their freedom.

The film ‘Cromwell’, staring Richard Harris, was amazing for its time but surely the time is right to tell the story of the Civil War, Cromwell and the execution of Charles I using modern filming techniques and digital technology, to bring to life someone that should be a hero to all democratically minded people.

You are the person to make this happen; to bring Cromwell to life, to tell one of the greatest stories in our history and to help put him at the forefront of our Nation’s history.

Your films are inspirational – our Nation needs inspiration, direction and a sense of who we are. We are not subjects, we are citizens of a great country – I want our voices to be heard I want us to be truely free. The memory of Cromwell, John Lilbourne and Thomas Raisborough needs to live on, to inspire and help us to realise there is another way – we don’t need to be ruled, we need to be free, we need to have a stake in our Nation, not simply be seen as servants of our ruling aristocratic elite.

Help us to become free through film.

Thanks for listening

Paani. Water needs an integrated approach as we have passed the danger mark

We have long passed the danger point on Water, and are in a crisis situation. Which is why I decided to make my next film on Water, called Paani (water in Hindi) . Its time has come now as water is high on the consciousness on the people. When I first thought about it 10 years ago, it was a difficult film to get financed. People did not believe that we were heading to a potential wars on water.

Paani reflects a future society where water is used as a weapon of political and social control.

Of course I am dealing with a Mega City, as even according to the UN the world is moving towards cities of 30 to 40 million people with inadequate infrastructure. The most dangerous of that is water. We are not far away from social conflict over water, say, in Mumbai or Mexico City. or even Los Angeles a little later. One event could trigger it. 10% economic growth in India and China is not possible if large populations are thirsty. In an integrated Global economy, economic growth is possible only without social unrest. Depletion of water resources will destroy all of that.

Europe is already under pressure from immigration from north Africa. Imagine a million thirsty people migrating in search of water. Which army in the world will be able to stop that ?

Rising urbanisation is often at the cost of break down of rural and therefor the agricultural economy. Almost 65% of India’s agriculture depends on fast depleting ground water resources. Ground water resources meant for agriculture are being transferred to urban areas. As farmers see value of their land rising, they sell it to real estate developers, but gradually lose a traditional rural community. Their children finally turning to crime, as is evident in the surrounding new suburbs (Gurgaon) of Delhi after the money runs out. Of course politicians prefer to take water to a place with higher voter concentration. So the cycle is never ending. In Mumbai, for example, most water connections are illegal, and handed out by local political bosses to their vote banks.

Water is now going not where it is most needed, but where it gets the greatest price or votes. Privatization of water will provoke this problem further.

The ‘girl child education’ effort in India breaks down because she is the bringer of water. Her day usurped by just having to fetch water from many miles away. Everyday. You see that all over India, Africa and other parts of the world. The question of water is far more integrated within the socio economic fabric of our planet. Throw away a pair of jeans and you throw away 6000 ltrs of water. Cotton is a ‘dirty water’ plant. The desire for an export economy and rising local consumption is a huge pressure on dwindling water resources. Destroyed forest land is often replanted with Eucalyptus because it grows faster and therefore more commercially viable. But it depletes water in the ground much more than it puts back.

We need an integrated approach to confront the situation. Rising consumption and economic stimulation packages are as important as global warming and dissapearing glaciers,

I have been in discussion with World Bank and many other organizations. Looking for ways to tie in with my film. Why must a film be just one event ? Can it become part of building a sustainable community around the issue of awareness of water.

Awareness at every level.

Do we our need to have taps gushing ? 90 % of water we use for washing hands is wasted. Products like shampoos, soaps, toothpaste, detergents push the idea of foaming. Greater foaming needs more water to wash it off !

I could go on.

What do we do ? In Mumbai people can shower for 24 hours a day without water running out. They do. Literally, across the road people are fighting over half a bucket of water delivered three times a week by tankers at an exorbitant cost by a growing water mafia. Who are taking control over water in major urban areas.

Awareness ? Film ? Community movement ?

Shekhar

Bollywood: The Greatest Love Story Ever Told’ at the Cannes Film Festival.
On saturday night 14th May, in a Gala red carpet event at the Lumier Theatre, Cannes film festival will screen the documentary I produced along with  UTV and directed by Rakeysh Mehra and Jeff Zimbalist.   It all started with my conversation with Thierry Fremaux about the fascination of people with Music, Song and Dance in Bollywood. And  his desire to find a film that he could show in the main section.We decided  to make one. A documentary.  Here is what I wrote for the Cannes brochure :
“We love it. We hate it. We see it as regressive. We see it as modern. We need it to breathe it to feel alive,  and yet complain about it’s polluted air. Some say its melodramatic. Others call it Mythic. Some say it is the only culture that holds India together. Others say it is the greatest corrupting influence on Indians and would banish it from our shores. Some say it gives identity and individuality to 25 million Indians that have left her shores and who’s third generations that are still addicted to it.
It is certainly disconcerting sitting in the mansion of a young Indian entrepreneur in the Silicon valley that just sold his company for over $ 5 billion and see his third generation immigrant family weeping over the latest melodramatic Bollywood film.  Or celebrate their new found wealth dancing together to it’s songs. Even more disconcerting is me filming in Morocco with Heath Ledger and having hundreds of Moroccan people arrive at my set in the middle of the desert thinking I might be shooting their favourite form of entertainment.
Bollywood.
A love a affair between almost 2 billion people  worldwide  that has lasted over 70 years, and not only refuses to stop. It keeps growing. Embracing it’s most important, it’s most vilified, it’s most loved element.  The song and dance.  The music. No Bollywood film needs to be called a musical. It needs no such excuse. It just is one. Regardless of the genre’.
How does Bollywood reflect the changing history and moralities of the largest and youngest democracies in the world ? Film makers, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra and Jeff Zimbalist try to analyse Bolywood and give up. Or give in. To it’s overpowering beat and sensuality. Preferring to give you an experience of Bollywood  for or you to decide.
For how do you define a love affair  ?
“Shekhar Kapur”

एक रोटी हमे भी दो

एक रोटी हमे भी दो
कुछ जीने का हक तो हमे भी दो

नहीं मंगाते हम आपकी ऊंची इमारतें
थक जायेंगे जहाँ
अपने आप को ही ढूँढ़ते ढूँढ़ते
छु लेंगे हम भी आसमान को
अपनी ही औकात से

लेकिन

एक रोटी हमें भी दो
कुछ जीने का हक तो
हमे भी दो

आपके बच्चे फलें फूलें
विदेश जाके खूब घूमें
चेहरे पे उनके मुस्कराहट रहे
हमारे बच्चे तो चीखते रहे

एक रोटी हमे भी दो
कुछ जीने का हक तो
हमे भी दो

यह सुनामी जो लायें हैं
हमारे अन्ना
देश को बह ले जायंगे
हमारे अन्ना
यह हवा जो चली है तूफ़ान बनकर
कहीं पेड़ को ही उखाड़ न दे
उसे जकड कर

इससे पहले की हम सब बह जाएँ

एक रोटी हमे भी दो

कुछ जीने का हक तो
हमे भी दो

Was Elizabeth a Virgin ? Guest column by Sugabone

The Question was Elizabeth A Virgin?

Or was Elizabeth “the illegitimate heretical whore” that is a great question. Her reign as Queen will always be remembered and not because she lived until nearly 100 but she walked in the ranks of males. Took her fathers position with great honor after suppression and illegitimacy and was named the Virgin Queen, unmarried. However, was she really alone or did she have her loves ripped away and womanhood censored.

Shekhar Kapur creates Cate Blanchett into this mythological Queen whom suitors loved but could not possess. After watching this rendition we know Elizabeth was loathed, loved and protected becoming the heir to the throne while advised to dissipate men immediately regardless of their love for her. Her power and ruling could not allow her to submit to emotion.

Kapur dresses her beautifully garnishes her hair sometimes draping down her back and then cutting it for a symbolic transfigure while slaughtering men literally, figuratively and metaphorically. A grand interpretation as men pray to touch the divine and Elizabeth becomes greater than Jesus. A wonderful, skin crawling interpretation that will chill a woman and thrill any man out of his penile erection as we witness the essence of Elizabeths beauty and enigma.

This movie is an amazing mythological depiction to watch Elizabeth submit to male energy and rule while remaining a virgin? One thing for sure it is film at its best. We travel into the Elizabethan Era and witness a queen who impacts us today and we wonder was Elizabeth a virgin or just a whore that ruled?

Sugabone

aaj wahi din hai

Today – MPKK with Shekhar Kapur by Midival Punditz

Paani. A modern day ‘Blade Runner’ with a heart and purpose ?

Many years ago when I started writing Paani, my main focus was that the film should bring home the consequences of what could happen in a world that was running out of water. It was a call for action. To warn us of the consequences of continuing to treat the resources of our planet callously.

Over the years as the film and it’s characters evolved, I was writing either myself or with David Farr, but always in some kind of personal limbo not knowing whether it would work or not in the end. In the end would all these years of searching for the story inside myself make any sense ?

Two days ago we did a ‘read through’ of Paani with 16 wonderful actors in London enacting each of the characters, much like a radio play. . By the end of the ‘read through’ the emotional journey of the characters had almost every one in tears or at least feeling very moved.

We also had a long discussion on the script and the keywords that people used were :

Very emotional
Honest
Relevant
A modern day Blade Runner with a purpose and a heart
Cuts across cultures and appeals to a universal audience

All this makes me feel that at least the long long journey to get the script right has been worth it. At now I can move forward with confidence. Now to make the film !!! And that too is a very long and hard journey.

The read through was organized by Hubbards Casting. ?I have worked with John and Ros Hubbard before as casting directors on Four Feathers so it was great to be working with them again.

A read through is like doing a radio play on your script. It gives you a sense of the characters, the pace and the movement of the narrative. Professional actors of great quality will often come to the read through, for the experience, for the joy, or just looking to be in the loop. But I am always surprised at how seriously they will take these ‘read throughs’.

My thanks to all the actors that gave their day, their emotions, and their commitment to make such a wonderful read through,

Message from Japan Spokesperson, World Food Programme

shekhar –

I grew up in Japan. I m accustomed to earthquakes. But nothing could have prepared me for this one. It was the first time I saw buildings in Tokyo actually sway back and forth.

I watched live TV coverage as the tsunami swept away entire communities. It was like a horror film, but these are real people  thousands are dead, thousands more are missing. In one city, nearly half of the population is still missing.

And now we’re gripped with the fear of radiation from nuclear power plants. It’s a real-life nightmare.

In the past, Japan has helped the World Food Programme respond to some of the worst disasters around the world. Now, when my country is coping with its own tragedy, I feel proud to stand united with Japan to help people in need.

I m deeply grateful for the outpouring of support from all over the world. Thanks to the generosity of friends like you, in just 36 hours we raised all the funds we require for our operation in Japan. Thank you.

Amid the devastation left behind by the earthquake and tsunami, transporting goods is an enormous challenge, but families remain in desperate need of emergency supplies and WFP is providing its expertise to make sure those supplies are delivered quickly.

As the lead logistics agency for the United Nations in emergency operations, WFP has decades of experience in delivering food and other relief items in the most difficult environments.

It will take a long time to recover from this disaster. But, between the heroic rescue efforts coordinated by the Japanese government and the incredible support of the international community, I know well get there.

Thank you for the role that you are playing.

Sincerely,

Yuko Yasuda

Japan Spokesperson
World Food Programme

The World Food Programme (WFP) fights hunger worldwide, saving lives during emergencies while building a better future for the next generation. WFP is funded solely by voluntary donations.World Food Programme

http://www.wfp.org/?utm_source=emergency_appeal&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=wfp-japanappeal2-others

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