VIFF 2014 Review: Highway



I’ve always been one to enjoy a good dose of Bollywood fare but it’s been some time, read years, since I’ve liked a Bollywood movie quite as much as I love Highway.

It could be that Imtiaz Ali’s new movie feels like a hybrid of typical Bollywood fare and a more western approach to filmmaking, largely leaving behind musical dance numbers and replacing them with long winded musical montages which work just as well if not better, or it could just be that this is great fun (it’s a bit of both).

Up and comer Alia Bhatt stars as Veera, a soon to be married young woman from a well to do family who is inadvertently kidnapped for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. At first she does everything she can to escape but after a particularly bad attempt, she gives into the fact that she’s been taken and that her captors will let her go when they’re ready and so she befriends them: Mahabir (Randeep Hooda), the handsome leader who takes time to warm up to the young woman, and Aadoo (Durgesh Kumar) the sidekick who is easily befriends Veera.

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Hot Docs 2012: Despite The Gods Review

“This is mayhem. This is India. Isn’t it beautiful?”

This observation to the camera, uttered by a crew member at one point during a bit of down-time during the shooting of Bollywood horror-fantasy HISSS, nearly encapsulates things in a single thought. A rare US/India co-production involving an indie director Jennifer Lynch, and collaborating with significant Bollywood stars Mallika Sherawat and Irrfan Kahn, featured a six million dollar budget an and heavy media spotlight. Chaos and confusion is nothing new to film sets (or any creative process) but Lynch seems ill prepared for the trial-by-fire culmination the language barrier with her Indian crew, a producer who is the Bollywood super-star’s brother, and the seemingly never-ending battle with nature, cities and the culture. To top things off Lynch, who is a single mom, has her 13 year old daughter Sydney in tow for the ride. The movie begins with the director taking up smoking again, just for kicks. Penny Vozniak was asked to stay on by her friend, the producer Govind Menon, to help Lynch look after Sydney and also to shoot some EPK (behind-the-scenes electronic press kit) stuff for the eventual DVD release. As the production both drags on and spirals out of control with clashing ideals – the crew and producer want speed, the director wants care – Vozniak ended up sticking around for the entire 8 months (only 3 of them were ‘scheduled’) of shooting and the result is Despite The Gods, a very candid look at the experience of an seasoned and pedigreed director (Surveillance took the top prize at Sitges’ in 2008) slowly losing her grip on the production and burning out in the process.

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mallika2After last week’s festival screening of Jennifer Lynch’s Surveillance (our review), I’ve recently become pretty interested in the up-and-coming career of daughter of David Lynch. Lo and behold, despite Surveillance having not even been released commercially yet (to my knowledge), post-production is already complete on her newest project, Hisss:

Based on the Far Eastern myth of the snake woman who is able to take on human form, The Curse of the Cobra Goddess. Anytime man desecrates or violates the cobra, they are doomed to suffer the petrifying curse of the snake woman, of death and infertility. Only respect and worship can keep the population safe and the women fertile.

While the trailer below does look a bit campy in some places, it also has some pretty stunning moments and my guess is it will work pretty well as a super-natural/mythological scare-fest of a thriller. The films stars the beautiful Mallika Sherawat, the great Irrfan Khan and is scheduled to be at Cannes later next month.


IMDb profile


Bollywood Invades Golden Globes

Shah Rukh KhanI have a soft spot for awards shows and will admit having as much interest in the red carpet/gossip worthy arrivals as to the shows themselves but over the last few years, I haven’t put much effort into seeing anything aside from the Oscars but this year, I may have to make a special exception for the Golden Globes.

According to recent news this year’s awards show, which airs and January 11th, will have a very special guest in attendance and I for one, can’t wait to see what sort of reception he gets. The only actor to make Newsweek’s 50 Most Powerful, Shah Rukh Khan has been invited to present an award at the Golden Globes, the first time in the award’s history that an Indian celebrity has been invited to present.

Apparently the invitation has been extended but Khan hasn’t “officially” signed on yet though I have a hard time believing he would pass up the great opportunity. I can’t wait to see him grace North American TV screens.

I’ve marked my calendar!

Thanks again to Ramchandra Solanki for the heads up!