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Sunflower: Quirky but lacks focus

“Sunflower” keeps you guessing all the way, all right — but that’s because the show tries to do too many things, diluting the impact of the dark comedy thrills it should have stuck to. It’s starts on a different sort of a high as a murder mystery, showing you the murder (and murderer) right at the start. The screenplay then struggles to weave enough suspense drama to sustain interest through its eight episodes.

Creator Vikas Bahl’s writing tries setting a quirky tone while lacing the plot spins. The fun factor is mostly brought alive by an interesting ensemble cast, for Bahl and co-director Rahul Sengupta have got the casting bang-on. The handpicked set of actors living out the protagonists of the show bring alive even the most insane moments in the story and end up its primary redeeming feature.

At the centre of the plot is the murder of Mr Kapoor (Ashwin Kaushal). He is killed in a rather ingenious manner by his neighbour and bete noire, Mr Ahuja (Mukul Chadda), as the story begins. The cops arrive, with Inspector Digendra (Ranvir Shorey) and Inspector Tambe (Girish Kulkarni) in charge. Everyone in the society plus the support staff is a suspect, but the focus falls on the happy-go-lucky bachelor Sonu Singh (Sunil Grover), who lives a few floors below the victim and gets tangled in the probe in a bizarre manner.

Sunil Grover, towering over all in an author-backed role, proves again he is a talent who just needs to be tapped with the right role. Grover makes Sonu impish and stupid at the same time. He keeps it cool and comical when Sonu is in charge, just as when he is caught with his pants down (literally) and, yes — if you’re a Gutthi fan — he does get to wear the skirt at one point and he pulls it off with vintage aplomb.

Ashish Vidyarthi as the conservative Iyer, Mukul Chadda as Ahuja, Radha Bhatt as his wife, Ranvir Shorey and Girish Kulkarni as the inspectors, and Annapurna Soni as the domestic help are particularly worth mention, adding to the humour and the drama.

“Sunflower” is an okay watch but with some more focus in writing could have had the essential resonance to stick in your mind as an entertainer.

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‘Uljhan/The Knot’ to have Asia premiere at Shanghai International film fest

“Uljhan/The Knot”, directed by Ashish Pant, will have its Asia premiere in Shanghai International Film Festival as an official selection in the SIFF Gala section. SIFF is one of the largest film festivals in Asia, and will be held from June 11 to June 20 this year. “Uljhan/The Knot” will be screened on June 13 and 14.

The film features Saloni Batra and Vikas Kumar, and tells the story of a married couple involved in a car accident where they injure a pedestrian. The film is about how the incident impacts their lives and how they deal with its practical and emotional implications.

In its description of the film, the SIFF press catalogue states: “A middle-class couple drove and knocked down someone. The two had completely different attitudes towards the accident, which caused an unbridgeable crack in their relationship. The film uses a realistic style to discuss issues such as class contradictions and materialism in contemporary Indian society, and question whether the middle class can help promote social progress. Director Pant repeatedly uses Ozu’s “cross-axis” dialogue and scheduling in the film, so that the subjective point of view of the character coincides with the point of view of the audience, so as to ask the audience’s soul. Although the film is Pant’s feature film debut, it is particularly sophisticated in its handling of characters and social themes.”

The film was recently screened at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) and Indian Film Festival in Los Angeles (IFFLA).

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‘Scam 1992’ is top Indian series in IMDb

The popular series “Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story” has made it to the Top 10 Highest Rated TV Shows Worldwide list of Internet Movie Database (IMDb). This makes the Pratik Gandhi-starrer directed by Hansal Mehta the highest rated Indian show in the list of 250 titles.

Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story” has a rating of 9.6 out of 10 on IMDb. The show, directed by Hansal Mehta, has acquired the ninth spot in the list globally.

Ratings of a film or series on IMDb are based on user ratings, and done of a scale of 10. The top spot in the list is taken by “Band Of Brothers” followed by “Breaking Bad” and “Chernobyl”.

Other shows featuring above “Scam 1992” are “The Wire”, ” Avatar: The Last Airbender”, “Game Of Thrones”, “The Sopranos”, “Rick And Morty”. The tenth spot belongs to the Japanese anime series “The Fullmental Alchemist”.

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Nicole, Melissa co-star in series ‘Nine Perfect Strangers’

Nicole Kidman and Melissa McCarthy have teamed up for the first time in the new web series “Nine Perfect Strangers” based on The New York Times bestselling book of the same name from Australian author, Liane Moriarty. 

The trailer and first look images of the eight-part drama series dropped last weekend, and the show is scheduled to premiere on August 20 worldwide including India, but not in the US and China.

Filmed on location in Australia, the drama is set at a boutique health-and-wellness resort that promises healing and transformation. The series traces the story of nine stressed-out city dwellers looking for a better way of living. Kidman plays the resort director Masha (Kidman), a woman on a mission to reinvigorate tired minds and bodies. However, the protagonists have no idea what is about to hit them.

The cast includes Luke Evans, Tiffany Boone, Bobby Cannavale, Melvin Gregg, Regina Hall, Manny Jacinto, Asher Keddie, Michael Shannon, Grace Van Patten, and Samara Weaving. Both Kidman and McCarthy are among executive producers of the show along with the novel’s author Liane Moriarty.

“Nine Perfect Strangers” is co-written by David E. Kelley and John Henry Butterworth, with Jonathan Levine directing the series.

The first three episodes stream on Amazon Prime Video on August 20, with subsequent episodes being added over the next five weeks.

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There is misconception that my lawsuit is against 5G: Juhi

Actress Juhi Chawla Mehta, who has filed a lawsuit in Delhi High Court on the health risks associated with 5G telecom technology, says there has been a general misconception that her suit is against the technology. The actress said concerned authorities should make public all data associated with the technology, in order to clear the air.

Juhi Chawla Mehta shared: “There seems to be a general misconception that our present suit filed in the Hon’ble Delhi High Court is against 5G technology. We wish to clarify here and once again very clearly state, we are NOT against 5G technology. However, we seek from the Government and the governing authorities, to certify to us and, therefore, to the public at large, that 5G technology is safe to humankind, man, woman, adult, child, infant, animals and every type of living organism, to flora, and to fauna.”

Talking about lack of studies on radiofrequency radiation, the actress further stated: “Having written to several concerned government authorities since 2010, making a presentation to the 53rd Parliamentary Standing Committee 2013-2014, filing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Mumbai High Court 2015, found there has been no substantial movement in the EMF radiation matters, whatsoever. In 2019, on enquiring from the Ministry of Telecommunications, Government of India, I was informed in writing vide reply under the RTI Act that no studies have been conducted with regards to RF radiation, even as of today.”

“Since prevention is well-accepted to be far better than cure, immediate measures must be taken to protect humanity and the environment, and for which all I am asking is for the concerned authorities to show me the data,” she added.

The plea filed by Chawla, Veeresh Malik and Teena Vachani contended that the levels of RF radiation are 10 to 100 times greater than the existing levels. It claims that the 5G wireless technology can be a potential threat to provoke irreversible and serious effects on humans and it could also permanently damage the earth’s ecosystems.

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Tillotama wins award for ‘Raahgir: The Wayfarers’ in the UK

Actor Tillotama Shome has made everyone proud by winning the Best Actor award at the latest edition of the UK Asian Film Festival.

Taking to Twitter, Tillotama shared that she has won the award for her film Raahgir: The Wayfarers, which is directed by Goutam Ghose.

Shot in Jharkhand, the film also stars Adil Hussain and Neeraj Kabi. It revolves around three strangers, who live on a daily wage basis.

Raahgir: The Wayfarers was earlier screened at several film festivals — including Busan International Film Festival, MAMI – Mumbai Film Festival, Shanghai International Film Festival and Cinemasia Film Festival.

Apart from Tillotama, filmmaker Goutam Ghose has also won the award for Best Director. 

Tillotama is best known for her intense roles in movies like Qissa, Shadows of Time, The Waiting City and Children of War.

A few months ago, she had even bagged the Critics Best Actress award for her film Is Love Enough, Sir? at the 66th edition of the Filmfare Awards.

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‘EastEnders’ actress Gurlaine Kaur Garcha opens up on racist attack

Punjab-origin British actress Gurlaine Kaur Garcha, widely known for her role of Ash Panesar in the popular series “EastEnders”, has opened up on feeling “angry, sad and embarrassed” on being the target of racism.

The 27-year-old actress, born in Luton, England, said the incident “came from nowhere” and left her in tears and feeling “ashamed” because she was unable to “brush off” the unnamed woman’s tirade, reports dailymail.co.uk.

Garcha made the revelation in a long post she shared on Instagram the day before. 

In the post, she categorically talks of being a “victim to verbal racial abuse” that she described as “a completely unprovoked attack”. Adding that she was proud of her British, Punjabi, Kenyan and Sikh roots, Garcha questioned in her post: “When will racism end?”

She shared her post with a picture of a pink and a brown hand clasping each other. “Say no to racism”, goes the slogan beneath the visual in the image.

“I am proud to be British. I am proud that my grandparents were born in Punjab. I am proud that my parents were born in Kenya. And I am proud to be Sikh. I celebrate all these things. I wish others did too,” she said.

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Rhea names Sara Ali Khan in Sushant drugs case

Almost a year after actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death, a written statement of Rhea Chakraborty (his girlfriend at the time of death) to NCB has surfaced in which she is seen naming actor Sara Ali Khan. 

A written statement given to the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) in the drugs case connected to the SSR death case has emerged in which Rhea talks about ‘rolling marijuana joints’ with Sara in the year 2017.

A report in Zee News has published the copy of the statement submitted by the NCB as part of its charge-sheet in the case. Rhea has written about her WhatsApp chat with Sara in the statement. 

On June 4, 2017, as revealed by the actor, she was offered rolled marijuana joints and vodka by Sara who used to share ‘hand-rolled doobies’ with her.

Meanwhile, Sushant Singh Rajput’s elder sister Meetu Singh warned fans against funds being raised in the late actor’s name, adding that the family does not permit “anything about or related to SSR, be it a movie, a book or a merchandise”.

“Unfortunately, it has come to our notice that some people are taking advantage of this situation for their own personal benefits which is an unexplainably inhuman act. All these people are required to refrain themselves from doing so,” Meetu wrote in a tweet.

Sending out a message for Sushant’s fans who are still fighting for justice for him, his sister tweeted: “With relentless efforts all the SSRians have been chasing Justice for Sushant as their only motive and I assure you all that the family is fighting for justice with equal desperation if not more. All the SSRians have the freedom to continue Sushant’s legacy. #SushantSinghRajput.”

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Classic cinema of Satyajit Ray to stream this month

When “Ray”, a four-story anthology based on stories by late Satyajit Ray, drops on OTT later this month, it will be an interesting attempt by a set of new-age artistes and filmmakers at exploring the thought process of an auteur who passed away nearly three decades ago, but who continues to topline any discussion on world cinema if it involves India.

For the record, the anthology has two films directed by Srijit Mukherji, and one each by Abhishek Chaubey and Vasan Bala.

Let us see how the cinema of Satyajit Ray touched upon these ideas in his era.

THE PANDEMIC

Ray couldn’t have possibly foreseen what the world is going through currently, as there was no virus outbreak of the proportion of Covid between 1955 and 1992, the time span when he made 29 feature films, five documentaries, and two short films.

Yet, two films resonate the idea, in different ways. His 1973 film “Ashani Sanket” is a fiction based on the Bengal Famine of 1943, when an estimated two to three million died of disease and starvation, even as World War II raged on in the West. While the film’s premise is war-induced famine in British India, the horrors it portrays are not far from newspaper images and news TV vignettes that have dominated over the past year.

The second film is “Ganashatru”, his 1990 release adapted from Henrik Ibsen’s 1882 play “An Enemy of the People”. Ray’s Indianised plot is set in a small town, where the major draw is a temple that attracts local devotees and tourists alike. A doctor discovers that the rise in jaundice cases in the town could be linked to the contaminated water being distributed as the ‘charanamrita’ (holy water) that devotees consume.

FASCISM

At a time when many nations are run by right wing governments, and the shadow of dictatorship keeps rearing its ugly head, Ray’s 1980 film “Hirak Rajar Deshe” could make for an interesting watch. Billed primarily as a family entertainer, the sequel to the 1969 release “Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne” actually unfolds a layered narrative about a fictional dystopian world.

This is a world where fascism — portrayed by a mighty king — uses science (symbolised by a scientist who invents a machine that can brainwash people) to bring the masses under his control. Everyone speaks in rhyme, symbolising that thought process is curbed to sound nice and politically correct, except the teacher, who represents education that sets off free will and, hence, free speech.

Goopy the singer and Bagha the drummer represent the power of art, which ultimately joins forces with science and education to bring down fascism.

WOMEN’S EMPOWERMENT

The first would be Karuna Banerjee as Apu’s mother Sarbojaya in “Pather Panchali” (1955) and its sequel “Aparajito” (1956). She holds her family together against every storm, and is a classic template of the quintessential mother who cares and protects.

Sarbojaya strikes a contrast to Ray’s most unforgettable female protagonist — Madhabi Mukherji as the titular “Charulata” in the filmmaker’s 1964 gem of the same name. Based on a Rabindranath Tagore story titled “Nashtanir”, “Charulata” highlights a traditional housewife of a conservative, upper-class Bengali household in pre-Independent India. The film was ahead of its time, and the poignancy with which Ray sketched Charulata on screen remains unparalleled.

Madhabi Mukherjee also stars as the remarkable Arati in Ray’s 1963 film “Mahanagar”. Widely acknowledged as a celebration of feminism, the film narrates the story of a middle-class Kolkata couple. The film was outstanding in its understanding of a woman’s sense of freedom as an entity that’s equivalent to that of a man’s.

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