Category Archives: ENTERTAINMENT

The Kashmir Files were rejected by the International Film Festival Of India. Jury Head Nadav Lapid called it a ‘propaganda, vulgar movie, inappropriate for the film festival’.

Filmmaker Nadav Lapid, head of the jury at the International Film Festival of India (IFFI), slammed the controversial film The Kashmir Files – an official entry at the event – calling it a “propaganda, vulgar movie, inappropriate for an artistic competitive section of such a prestigious film festival”.

The controversial Kashmir Files, laced heavily with the anti-Muslim sentiment, has warranted attention from critics and politicians as they voice their condemnation and air their concerns in the wake of the film’s plot, which is thick with right-wing radical patriotism.

Speaking at the closing ceremony of the event in Goa, in the presence of top government ministers, Lapid said, “All of them [jury members]” were “disturbed and shocked” to see the film screened at the festival. The annual film festival is organized by the Directorate of Film Festivals, which is part of the Union ministry of information and broadcasting.

“I’d like to thank the head of the festival and the director of the programming for the cinematic richness of the program, for its diversity, for its complexity. It was intense. We saw seven films in the debutant competition, and 15 films in the international competition — the front window of the festival. 14 out of them had cinematic qualities, defaults and evoked vivid discussions,” said Lapid.

“All of us were disturbed and shocked by the 15th film, The Kashmir Files. That felt like a propaganda, vulgar movie, inappropriate for an artistic competitive section of such a prestigious film festival. I feel totally comfortable openly sharing these feelings here with you at this stage. In the spirit of this festival, can surely also accept a critical discussion, which is essential for art and life,” Lapid added in his remarks at the event.

‘Personal opinion’

After massive backlash, another IFFI jury member Sudipto Sen took to Twitter to clarify a few things. He said that Nadav Lapid’s comments on The Kashmir Files are his personal opinion. He further added that, as a juror, he refrained from making any political comments. One of the jury members and filmmaker Sudipto Sen took to Twitter to clear the air surrounding the controversy.

He wrote, “Whatever has been said by IFFI 2022 Jury Chairman Mr Nadav Lapid about the film, The Kashmir Files, from the stage of the closing ceremony of 53-rd IFFI was completely his personal opinion. In the official presentation of the Jury Board to the Festival Director and in the official Press Conference, where we 4 juries (the fifth jury had to leave for her personal emergency) were present and interacted with the press, we never mentioned anything about our likes or dislikes. Both were our official collective opinion (sic).”

He further added, “As jurors, we are assigned to judge the technical, aesthetic quality, and socio-cultural relevance of a film. We don’t indulge in any kind of political comments on any film and if it is done, it is completely in a personal capacity – nothing to do with the esteemed Jury Board (sic).”

The Ruckus

The director of the film, Vivek Agnihotri, since then posted a cryptic tweet hours after his film was termed ‘vulgar propaganda’ by the jury head at the ongoing 53rd International Film Festival of India. Without mentioning the film or the incident, Vivek tweeted about how ‘truth can make people lie’.

Actor Anupam Kher, who played the lead in The Kashmir Files, has responded on jury head’s claims. On Tuesday morning, while speaking to the media, he referred to Lapid and said, “It seems pre-planned as immediately after that the toolkit gang became active.”

He added, “It’s shameful for him to make a statement like this. Jews have suffered Holocaust and he comes from that community. For him to make such a statement, he has also pained those people who have been victims of this tragedy many years ago. May God give him wisdom so that he does not further his agenda on stage using the sufferings of thousands.”

In the late hours of Monday, Ranvir took to Twitter and wrote, “The singling out of a film and the language used to describe it is completely unbecoming of a film jury or critic. It reeks of politics. Cinema has always been the harbinger of truth and change, not an agent to stifle or snuff it. Shameful display of political opportunism at IFFI.”

About The Kashmir Files

The problematic film was released in March of this year and is set in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The story is concocted from the interviews conducted by Agnihotri that form the basis of this fictional drama. The interviews are of first-generation victims of the alleged Kashmir Genocide of the Pandit Community of 1990.

It is important to note that the ethnic cleansing that took place indeed saw lives lost in the region; however, it is vital to point out that the numbers pale in comparison to the 1947 Jammu massacre that tallied at over 200,000 Muslims murdered in cold blood.

Bollywood under siege as rightwing social media boycotts start to bite

Laal Singh Chaddha is the latest film to face targeted attacks from anti-Muslim, Hindu-nationalist trolls who some claim are beginning to impact box office performance

In August this year, a week after the release of Laal Singh Chaddha, Bollywood’s adaptation of Forrest Gump, a Twitter account with about 280,000 followers, tweeted: ​​“#Urduwood is trending. Thanks to all who have accepted this term to accurately define the anti-national, anti-Hindu pedophile cabal that takes your money to destroy you.” The tweet received more than 1,700 retweets and about 5,800 likes.

For those not familiar with the term “Urduwood”, it is a pejorative popular among far-right social media and politicians. Urdu is an Indian language with a Perso-Arabic script, and is the national language of Pakistan; hence it is associated with Muslims and its use is a way to claim the film industry is “Hinduphobic”.

For decades, India’s Hindi film industry, known as Bollywood, has been one of the country’s most popular products, for Indians themselves and the world at large. But the consolidation of Hindu nationalism under the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has marked a cultural shift.

Laal Singh Chaddha stars, and is produced by, Aamir Khan, one of Hindi cinema’s trio of superstar Khans (Shahrukh and Salman are the other two, all unrelated). On its release, social media platforms witnessed a tidal wave of targeted attacks calling for a boycott of the movie. The resurfacing of remarks made by Khan on the rise of “intolerance” in India in 2015, as well as clips from his 2014 film PK (which criticized blind-faith belief) were coupled with targeted tweets. Laal Singh Chaddha has fared poorly at the box office, but the calls for a boycott have not stopped. Other movies, such as Vikram Vedha, Dobaara, Shamshera and Brahmastra, are also in the line of fire, the last two owing to the recirculation of 11-year-old remarks by the lead actor, Ranbir Kapoor, on eating beef.

“Bollywood is an industry where Muslims have had representation and success, which bothers the Hindu right,” the Bollywood actor Swara Bhasker said. Bhasker herself has repeatedly been on the receiving end of rightwing ire, including a death threat. She adds: “If a popular mass medium of entertainment is so organically secular, pluralistic and diverse, then to further their agenda of a Hindu nation and discredit secularism, they have to discredit that medium.”

Organized trolling has also been deployed against films and streaming series such as Thappad, A Suitable Boy, and Bombay Begums, particularly for the last two’s depictions of interfaith romance. After a scene from A Suitable Boy depicted a Hindu girl and Muslim boy kissing, a state-level BJP minister called for a criminal case against Netflix India, which streamed the show. Politicians, particularly leaders and parliamentarians affiliated with the ruling BJP, also called for “introspection” and “ripping apart” of the Bollywood “ecosystem”, with some alleging that Khan was “money laundering” and that Laal Singh Chaddha “glorified terrorism”.

Screenwriter Hussain Haidry said that these campaigns “directly or indirectly cater to anti-Muslim sentiments or Hindu persecution complex”. Referring to the outrage over the web series Tandav, which depicted a Muslim-origin actor dressed up as a Hindu deity in a now-deleted scene. Haidry added: “This combination of a Muslim presence with supposedly anti-Hindu depictions strikes gold for them.”

A recently published paper by Joyojeet Pal, associate professor of information at the University of Michigan, and researcher Sheyril Agarwal found that tweets with the hashtag #BoycottBollywood were made in an organized manner, with several ghost accounts using hate speech, misinformation and presenting south Indian (particularly Telugu) films as more “traditional” compared with the “degenerate” and “culturally aloof” Bollywood. Their research found that 12,889 out of the 167,989 accounts that sent an anti-Bollywood message had zero followers and were mostly created in the past two years, suggesting collusive behavior.

How effective have these boycotts been? It is not always clear. Of the 26 big Bollywood releases so far in 2022, about 20 of them (77%) reportedly flopped, losing half or more of their investment. Experts, however, view the box office results as a sign of post-Covid reluctance, with Indians taking to streaming platforms.

Taran Adarsh, a movie critic, and trade analyst told the media that film exhibitors he spoke to said that boycott campaigns had affected Laal Singh Chaddha. But Adarsh also stressed other factors, including the rise in online streaming platforms during Covid lockdowns, which reduced the incentive to pay for a movie-hall experience. “So now, the hook to draw the audience to theatres is well-made big-screen entertainers,” he said.

The recent success of Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt’s Brahmastra has been held up as a counter-example – despite vicious trolling, it performed well at the box office, though some critics have ascribed its success to its Hindu symbolism that borrows from the Hindu mythology-inspired fantasy style of films such as the globally popular RRR.

Haidry suggests that this made a difference. “The campaign against Laal Singh Chaddha used anti-Muslim motivations, which couldn’t be weaponized against Brahmastra.”

Bhasker says: “I don’t think Bollywood necessarily understands that this targeting is coming from an ideology ruling India. This ideology aims to achieve total control over thoughts and expression. Their cultural project is majoritarian and totalitarian.”

Zombies will once again kick off Cannes Film Festival

The Cannes Film Festival will open on its 75th anniversary next month with the screening of a film about zombies, Z (Comme Z) by Michel Hazanavicius, director of the award-winning film The Artist.

“It’s a zombie comedy that evokes passion for cinema,” festival director Thierry Fremaux told a news conference on Thursday, recalling that the 2019 event had kicked off with a film from Jim Jarmusch on the same theme.

The festival runs from May 17-28 and will feature heavy-hitters including Tom Cruise’s Top Gun sequel and an Elvis biopic by Baz Luhrmann starring Austin Butler and Tom Hanks.

Organizers have said the competition will include James Gray’s Armageddon Time, a drama with Anne Hathaway, Jeremy Strong, and Anthony Hopkins, and a screening of Three Thousand Years of Longing by George Miller, with a cast including Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton.

The festival, which announced in March it would ban official Russian delegations from the event unless the conflict in Ukraine ends, will feature Tchaikovski’s Wife by exiled Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov, who has been outspoken about the war.

In the category of first-time projects, the festival will feature a debut film from Maksim Nakonechnyi, shot recently in Ukraine. Entitled Butterfly Vision, it traces the story of a young Ukrainian woman who returns to her country after being captured then released in a prisoner swap.

Fremaux signaled an openness to platforms like Netflix while acknowledging he still had to try to convince those who disagreed with him.

“It’s clear we have to acknowledge the existence of these new types of distribution and production, I think we need to maintain a dialogue with them,” he said.

Fremaux drew criticism from the French movie theatre industry in 2017 by allowing Netflix films — seen as a threat to the industry because they are streamed to subscribers rather than shown in cinemas — into the Cannes competition.

Meanwhile, movie theatres around the world continue to face the challenge of bringing back audiences.

“I hope the Cannes Film Festival will serve as a spark for the return of audiences to the movies, but for the moment there is not a big return and some countries are suffering from a loss of interest,” he said.

Gilbert Gottfried, actor and comic’s comic, dies at 67

Gilbert Gottfried, the actor and legendary standup comic known for his raw, scorched voice and crude jokes, has died. He was 67.

Gottfried died from a rare genetic muscle disease that can trigger a dangerously abnormal heartbeat, his publicist and longtime friend Glenn Schwartz said in a statement.

“In addition to being the most iconic voice in comedy, Gilbert was a wonderful husband, brother, friend, and father to his two young children. Although today is a sad day for all of us, please keep laughing as loud as possible in Gilbert’s honor,” his family said in a statement posted on Twitter.

Gottfried was a fiercely independent and intentionally bizarre comedian’s comedian, as likely to clear a room with anti-comedy as he was to kill it with his jokes.

“The first comedian I saw who would go on and all the other comics would go in the room to watch,” standup comic Colin Quinn said on Twitter.

He first came to national attention with frequent appearances on MTV in its early days and with a brief stint on the cast of Saturday Night Live in the 1980s.

Gottfried also did frequent voice work for children’s television and movies, most famously playing the parrot Iago in Disney’s Aladdin.

“Look at me, I’m so ticked off that I’m molting,” a scratchy-voiced Gottfried said early in the film as his character shed feathers.

To a younger generation, he’s known as the voice of Digit the bird on PBS Kids’ Cyberchase.

Gottfried was particularly fond of doing obscure and dated impressions for as long as he could milk them, including Groucho Marx, Bela Lugosi and Andrew “Dice” Clay. He would often do those voices as a guest on the Howard Stern show, prompting listeners by the dozens to call in and beg Stern to throw him off.

In his early days at the club the Comedy Store in Hollywood, the managers would have him do his impression of then-little-known Jerry Seinfeld at the end of the night to get rid of lingering patrons.

Gottfried was especially beloved by his fellow comedians and performers.

Jon Stewart said that getting to open for Gottfried was one of the great thrills of his early standup career.

“He could leave you gasping for breath,” Stewart tweeted, “just indescribably unusually hilarious.”

“I am so sad to read about the passing of Gilbert Gottfried,” actor Marlee Matlin said on Twitter. “Funny, politically incorrect but a softie on the inside. We met many times — he even pranked me on a plane, replacing my interpreter.” (Gottfried bore a close resemblance to Matlin’s American Sign Language interpreter Jack Jason.)

Gottfried was interviewed by The Associated Press last month following Will Smith’s Oscar night slap of Chris Rock. While he took the attack seriously, saying it might imperil other comedians, he couldn’t resist wisecracks.

He said that before on stage, he “just had to worry about wearing a mask. Now I have to worry about wearing a football helmet.” He later added, “If Will Smith is reading this, dear God, please don’t come to my shows.”

The year has already seen the loss of several beloved comedians, including Louie Anderson and Bob Saget.

In January Gottfried tweeted a picture of the three men together with the text, “This photo is very sad now. RIP Bob Saget and RIP Louie Anderson. Both good friends that will be missed.”

Gottfried was born in Brooklyn, the son of a hardware store owner and a stay-at-home mom. He began doing amateur standup at age 15.

He thought he was getting his big break when he landed a spot on Saturday Night Live alongside Eddie Murphy in 1980. But he was given little to do on the show.

He later said a low point was playing the body in a sketch about a funeral. He would last only 12 episodes.

But he would find his own way, doing bits on MTV and as both beloved and hated guest on talk shows.

He had roles in Beverly Hills Cop II and the Problem Child films and presented bad movies as host of USA Up All Night from 1989 to 1998.

And he had recurring voice roles on Ren and Stimpy, The Fairly OddParents, and several spin-offs of Aladdin.

Gottfried’s schtick wasn’t always popular. In 2011, Aflac Inc. fired him as the voice of the duck in its commercials over a tasteless tweet the comic sent about the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

Less than a month after the attacks of Sept 11, 2001, at the Friars Club Roast of Hugh Hefner, Gottfried made jokes about planes making stops at skyscrapers and was met with boos and shouts of “Too soon!” He responded with an especially foul version of the comedians’ inside joke “The Aristocrats,” which many in the audience took as a message that he believed it was the comic’s job to remain crude at all costs.

“To me, funny is funny,” he told the AP last month. “I’ll regret a bit I do that just doesn’t get a laugh, because it’s not funny or an ad lib that doesn’t work. But if it gets a laugh, I feel like, I’m the comedian and that’s my job.”

He made many notorious contributions to televised roasts, his harshness and love of old-timey standup style making him a perfect contributor. He took famously cruel and relentless jabs at roastees including Matlin, George Takei and Roseanne.

“Like most monsters she goes by one name,” he said at the Roseanne roast in his signature style, leaning into the microphone, hands spread apart, shouting himself hoarse. “And that name is Rozilla.”

“I shall miss you, my friend, my sometimes foil, my always pain in my side, usually from the belly laughs,” Takei said on Twitter Tuesday. “The heavens are a great deal louder with you out there now, I’m sure. Keep ’em shaking their heads and smiling, Gilbert.”

Gottfried is survived by his wife Dara, sister Karen, 14-year-old daughter Lily and 12-year-old son Max.

Actor James Franco admits to sleeping with students, says he had a sex addiction

Oscar-nominated actor James Franco has acknowledged sleeping with students of an acting school he previously ran, saying he struggled with sex addiction and has been working to improve his behavior in recent years.

In excerpts from The Jess Cagle Podcast made public on Wednesday, Franco, 43, said that while teaching, he “did sleep with students, and that was wrong.” He said he did not start the school to lure women for sexual purposes.

“I suppose at the time, my thinking was if it’s consensual, okay,” he added in the SiriusXM podcast. “At the time I was not clearheaded.”

The remarks were Franco’s first extended comments about accusations levelled against him nearly four years ago when the Los Angeles Times reported that five women had accused Franco of conduct they considered inappropriate.

Later, in October 2019, two women filed a civil suit against the Pineapple Express star, accusing him of exploiting aspiring actors at his now-defunct school and duping young women into shooting explicit sex scenes.

Franco said he developed a sex addiction after he became sober from an alcohol addiction he developed at a young age.”It’s such a powerful drug,” he said. “I got hooked on it for 20 more years. The insidious part of that is that I stayed sober from alcohol all that time.”

Franco co-hosted the Oscars ceremony in 2011 and was a nominee at the 2012 awards for his performance in 127 Hours.

The actor agreed this year to pay $2.2 million to settle the 2019 civil lawsuit, according to documents filed in Los Angeles Superior Court.

In the podcast interview, Franco also said he has been in recovery from sex addiction since 2016 and has “been doing a lot of work” after the allegations against him “and changing who I was.”

“I didn’t want to hurt people,” he said.