Category Archives: Features

Comic-Con 2014 Roundup: Winners, Losers and Others #SundayGuardian

– Nikhil Taneja (@tanejamainhoonfor The Sunday Guardian

In an age where it is ‘normal’ for a fully functioning male adult to own superhero costumes and where there are more superhero movies lined up in the future than romantic comedies exist so far in life, if anyone still has a doubt that the geeks have, in fact, already inherited the earth, then they needn’t look any further for conclusive proof than Comic-Con International, San Diego.

A vulgar display of all that is geek, from comics to video games to comic-book movies to fantasy-themed TV shows, Comic Con is a convention that is geek-gasmic level of awesome for the kind of people who aren’t ready to give away their GI Joe collection even after they’ve birthed other people.

But that isn’t to say that Comic Con is only a place for ‘men’ who’ve had wet dreams to Wonder Woman and Princess Leia; this year, the convention that saw 130,000 people go nuts during the massive 4-day weekend from July 24-27, included a sizeable number of women fans who were there to cheer ass-kicking super-heroines in shows like Orphan Black and Game of Thrones, or go ga-ga over the dreamy superheroes in movies like Avengers: Age of Ultron and Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice; or just revel in some of the hottest and craziest cosplay outside of the big screen.

Here’s a roundup of the best and worst of Comic-Con 2014 in Movies that would make fellow Indian geeks excited:

MOVIES: #WINNERS

  1. AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON

How to win Comic-Con: Have a cast that includes the who’s who of big-ticket names like Robert Downey Jr (Iron Man), Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury), Mark Ruffalo (Hulk), Chris Evans (Captain America), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye), Cobie Smulders (Maria Hill) and Paul Bettany (Jarvis… yes, Jarvis) all turn up on one stage, with some of them dancing (and Downey Jr throwing roses at the crowd!). Add to the cast even more stars in new entries Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Quicksilver), Elizabeth Olsen (Scarlet Witch), James Spader (Ultron) and Josh Brolin (Thanos) wearing the much-talked about Infinity Gauntlet. Then reveal some mad concept art for the movie scheduled on May 1, 2015, and an extended first look that includes Iron Man fighting Hulk, Captain America’s shield broken, Thor crushing a tank, the appearance of Andy Serkis (without motion capture) and a devastating scene with some Avengers possibly dead… and as the geeks go bonkers, you know Comic-Con 2014 is yours to claim.

2. BATMAN VS SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE

Where Avengers was the most anticipated panel of the Comic-Con, the Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice panel was Warner Bros’ surprise gift to fans, and what a surprise it was: Director Zack Snyder brought DC Comics’ superhero holy trinity in Ben Affleck (Batman), Henry Cavill (Superman) and Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman) to wave at the crowd (no one was allowed to interact though); tweeted the first look of Wonder Woman, and revealed a minute of footage of Batman turning on the Bat signal even as Superman is waiting in the shadows with glowing ‘heat vision’ eyes (the leaked version of the footage can be found online). The result: madness! The movie, scheduled for April 28, 2016, had the most number of social media mentions at the end of the Comic-Con.

  1. INTERSTELLAR

Another huge surprise that fans weren’t expecting was the appearance of auteur director Christopher Nolan, who made his debut at the Con two years after the end of The Dark Knight trilogy, along with fellow Comic-Con virgin Matthew McConaughey, the star of his next, highly-anticipated film, Interstellar, to see “what the fuss was about”. A new trailer of the movie, scheduled for November 7, 2014, was shown to squealing fans, revealing first hand the fuss to Nolan. The trailer can now be found online. Watch the trailer here: 

  1. THE HATEFUL EIGHT

Quentin Tarantino was at Comic-Con to talk about an upcoming comic that’s a crossover of his film Django Unchained and masked crusader Zorro, when a fan asked him whether The Hateful Eight, the film that Tarantino shelved when its script was leaked online by Gawker.com, would ever happen. Tarantino replied in the affirmative for the first time since the debacle, to loud cheers from fans, and within the next couple of days, also released the official poster for the film, set for a 2015 release. Rejoice, fanboys! Check out the poster here: http://goo.gl/oSTrmZ

  1. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD

With over 8 million views to its YouTube trailer in less than 7 days, one movie that fans all over the world are suddenly dying to watch, as a result of the buzz that its ‘sizzle reel’ generated at Comic-Con, it is George Miller’s reboot of the dystopian Mad Max franchise, that first launched Mel Gibson as a bonafide star. Mad Max: Fury Road, releasing on May 15, 2015, stars Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron and with the maddest, baddest, biggest and loudest stunts (including an incredible car chase sequence) seen in a long time, wins the ‘Trailer of the Year’ award hands down. Watch the trailer here:  


MOVIES: #LOSERS

  1. SKULL ISLAND/JURASSIC WORLD

Another King Kong movie, you say? A prequel, you say? That may possibly have fan favourite Joe Cornish attached to it as director, you say? Doesn’t sound too bad, right? But for all the geeks who went for Legendary Pictures’ panel at Comic-Con hoping to get a first look at Jurassic World, the ‘surprise teaser’ that featured a jungle with an ape instead of dinosaurs, left everyone confused and slightly annoyed, because the reboot of Jurassic Park releases before next year’s Comic-Con, so why had the geeks paid $200 for this kind of betrayal?

  1. LET’S BE COPS/FANTASTIC FOUR

Another betrayal came at the hands of 20th Century Fox that stabbed fans in the back by choosing not to showcase any footage from its Fantastic Four reboot, instead having a panel on Let’s Be Cops, which is a comedy not inspired from a comic-book, which has no geek book or movie affiliations and which can only be considered fantasy if lead actors Damon Wayans or Jake Johnson are alien cops. This befuddling logic took away the buzz from X-Men: First Class director Matthew Vaughn’s next, KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE and THE MAZE RUNNER, both decent properties owned by 20th Century, which would have got a much better showcase if 20th Century Fox had appeased the fans. Watch the trailer of Let’s Be Cops and Kingsman here: 

  1. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 3

Instead of giving any sort of a first look at any sort of a thing to do with the Spider-Man franchise or its various spin-offs in the works, Sony Pictures announced that the third part in the Amazing Spiderman franchise has been pushed to 2018 from 2016, and Sinister Six, its villain-centric spinoff, will arrive first in 2016. No news was given about The Amazing Spiderman 4 that was originally scheduled for 2018. All this added more fuel to the fire that the franchise is in trouble after The Amazing Spider-Man 2 failed to live up to the box office expectations and Roberto Orci, who had penned the first two films with Alex Kurtzmann, left the franchise recently.

  1. SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR

Unanimously called the dullest panel of the Comic-Con, even with stars like Josh Brolin, Rosario Dawson and Jessica Alba and fan favourites, directors Robert Rodriguez and Mark Millar participating, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For generated little to no buzz at the convention this year. This could be because the film’s sequel is coming nine years after the first one, or because bigger stars like Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis were absent from the panel or perhaps because the movie’s marketing campaign included semi-naked girls gyrating live in different parts of the convention turned people off.  Watch the trailer here: 

  1. BLACKHAT

Legendary director Michael Mann made a surprise visit to Comic-Con to unveil the trailer of his new film, a cyberthriller starring Chris Hemsworth, but unfortunately, the only reason fans at Comic-Con were surprised was because had nothing to do with comics and Mann had no reason to be there.  The trailer’s not online yet so the damp squib of a reception that it received at Comic Con could possibly have to do with the genre rather than the trailer’s merits.


MOVIES: #THEOTHERS:

Production Studio Legendary Pictures revealed that GODZILLA will have a sequel, to nobody’s general surprise, but proceeded to tease that it will feature even more monsters than part one, including iconic Japanese monsters, Rodan, Mothra and Ghidorah, which are apparently bigger and more dangerous than Godzilla. At present time, no humans were announced as part of the film. Peter Jackson premiered the first trailer in the final part of the Hobbit trilogy, THE HOBBIT: BATTLE OF FIVE ARMIES. The epic trailer of the movie, which releases on December 17, 2014, can be found online but the movie’s panel, which featured a cast that included the most number of adored celebrities in a single film, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett, Andy Serkin and director Peter Jackson, among others, is an equally awesome watch, especially because of the hilarious Stephen Colbert, who moderated the panel in a Hobbit costume. Watch the trailer here: 

Guillermo Del Toro, who is omni-present at the Comic-Con every year, had another brilliant year, as he released a teaser for his next, CRIMSON PEAK, featuring Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain and Charlie Hannum, that got loud cheers from the crowd; his upcoming animation film, THE BOOK OF LIFE and his TV series, THE STRAIN. THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY PART I also debuted its trailer as did PENGUINS OF MADAGASCAR, but it was the latter that stole the show amongst most big-budget trailer premieres, because its panel featured Cumberbatch, and everyone loves Cumberbatch, probably including Katniss. Watch the trailer of Penguins of Madagascar here: 

The one other movie that made a splash at Comic Con was ANTMAN that lost its long-term director Edgar Wright a few months ago, to general scorn from the internet community. Marvel Studios released a teaser poster for the movie that stars Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly, and is now helmed by Peyton Reed. It also showcased some test footage that was well-received, which is an indication that the movie will not ‘suck all balls’, as some internet comments have given us a reason to believe.


Note: 
An edited version of this article first appeared as The Sunday Guardian cover story on August 2, 2014
Link: http://www.sunday-guardian.com/masala-art/the-winners-and-losers-at-this-years-comic-con

Picture courtesy: Google. None of the pictures are owned by the author all rights belong to the original owner(s) and photographer(s).
© Copyright belongs to the author, Nikhil Taneja. The article may not be reproduced without permission. A link to the URL, instead, would be appreciated.

Follow Nikhil Taneja on FB: /tanejamainhoon, on Twitter: @tanejamainhoon, on Instagram: @tanejamainhoon, on Youtube: /tanejamainhoon

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Cannes 2014 Roundup: Films on our must-watch list #SundayGuardian #Films

– Nikhil Taneja (@tanejamainhoonfor The Sunday Guardian

We may not hold it against you if, on the mention of ‘Cannes 2014’, the image that pops into your head is that of a jaw-dropping Aishwarya Rai on the red carpet. We may hold it against you a little bit if you recall Freida Pinto and Sonam Kapoor’s alleged BFF rumours. But heaven forbid, if Mallika Sherawat is all that you can think of, especially in a year she *gasp* covered herself, you should take a deep look inwards and examine your choices in life.

INDIA AT CANNES
Because at the Festival de Cannes 2014, India had more to be proud of than the assembly line of fashionistas it churns out yearly.

  1. TITLI Chief among India’s growing presence at Cannes was first time director Kanu Behl’s TITLI, about the youngest member of a family of criminals in the ‘badlands of Delhi’s dystopic underbelly’ (according to the synopsis), who teams up with his newly wed bride to try and escape the family business.Produced by Dibakar Banerjee and distributed by Yash Raj Films, the film was featured in the prestigious Un Certain Regard category at Cannes and opened to glowing reviews with Hollywood Reporter calling it “an enjoyable, character-driven Indian yarn” and Variety calling it “a grittily impressive noir debut.”
  1. GRACE OF MONACO Yash Raj Films had even more glory come their way, as they unveiled Nicole Kidman-starrer GRACE OF MONACO, their first ever film produced under the banner of their Hollywood-based division, Yash Raj Entertainment (YRE), headed by Uday Chopra. The film, distributed by indie powerhouse The Weinstein Company, got the honour of opening Cannes, and despite dismal reviews, it was probably the first time Uday Chopra was a sight for sore eyes, as he proudly represented YRE and India alongside director Olivier Dahan, Kidman, Tim Roth, the very hot Paz Vega, and several other international names.
     
  2. TRUE LOVE STORY Another proud achievement was the selection of filmmaker Gitanjali Rao’s 18-minute animation film about a coming-of-age Bollywood-fantasy romance that was selected as one of the 10 short films at the Cannes Critics’ Week. Rao’ silent film won her well-deserved accolades at Cannes.


BEST OF THE FEST
Of course, no matter how much the Indian media tries to showcase Cannes as the sister-festival of the International Film Festival of India, Goa, the hard truth is, Cannes has a lot more to offer than Sonam, Freida, Mallika and Jacky Bhagnani (YES, HE WAS THERE TOO!). So here’s a look at the most-talked about films at Cannes 2014:

  1. FOXCATCHER Moneyball director Bennett Miller’s swan song that won him the Best Director, Foxcatcher features a non-funny Steve Carrell as a creepy, schizophrenic millionaire, Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo as wrestlers, and recounts a real life tragic story set around the 1996 Olympics.
  2. MOMMY Canadian indie film prodigy, Xavier Dolan, 25, continued giving everyone an inferiority complex, with his fifth film in as many years. Mommy, about an Oedipal relationship between a single mother and her son, won the Jury Prize.
  3. WINTER SLEEP At a runtime of 196 minutes, you’d think the film’s name would be a sign of its outcome. But Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylon took home the Palme d’Or and had critics and fans mesmerised about the brilliance of the class-divide drama.
  4. TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT The name may suggest otherwise, but the French film directed by the Dardene Brothers, is not a romcom, but a character-study about a woman fighting depression. Two words: Marion Cotillard.
  5. LEVIATHAN The Andrey Zvyagintsev-directed drama, about an ordinary man fighting against the system, took home the Best Screenplay award, and is said to be the best Russian film in years and thankfully, comes with subtitles.
  6. MAPS TO THE STARS The scandalous take on the Hollywood film industry through the eyes of two former child stars, the film, being hailed as David Cronenberg’s return to form, won Julianne Moore the Best Actress Award.
  7. MR TURNER Director Mike Leigh’s biopic of controversial 19th century British artist, JMW Turner, won Timothy Spall the Best Actor Award for his portrayer of Turner.
  8. IT FOLLOWS An indie horror film that is actually scary! David Robert Mitchell got everyone talking about his film about a teenager who has nightmarish visions after a sexual encounter.
  9. WILD TALES ­The following words have been used often in reviews of Damian Szifron’s comic thriller, a multi-story revenge saga: Dark, noir, comic, outrageous, twisted and violent. Yes, it’s an ode to Pulp Fiction.
  10. THE TRIBE A film without a single dialogue would sound exactly the kind of arty film you’d be likely to avoid, but Ukrainian director Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy’s thriller, set in a boarding school for deaf students, is being hailed as a masterpiece. It also has graphic sex, by the way.


Note: 
An edited version of this article first appeared in The Sunday Guardian on June 7, 2014
Link: http://www.sunday-guardian.com/masala-art/festival-de-cannes-2014-films-on-our-must-watch-list

Picture courtesy: Google. None of the pictures are owned by the author all rights belong to the original owner(s) and photographer(s).
© Copyright belongs to the author, Nikhil Taneja. The article may not be reproduced without permission. A link to the URL, instead, would be appreciated.

Follow Nikhil Taneja on FB: /tanejamainhoon, on Twitter: @tanejamainhoon, on Instagram: @tanejamainhoon, on Youtube: /tanejamainhoon

A Beginner’s Guide: Game of Thrones #TheJuice #TV

Written by Nikhil Taneja (@tanejamainhoon) for The Juice.

A storm of swords is brewing. The Khaleesi and her dragons are going strength to strength in the East, the Lannisters are now reunited and pose a potent threat to anyone who tries to take over King’s Landing, Arya Stark has come of age and is looking for vengeance in the Riverlands, but there is a more dangerous enemy lurking in the shadows beyond the wall. Will the war for the Iron Throne be put on hold to counter the white walkers and the wildlings, even if Stannis Baratheon and his black magic mistress are the only ones taking caution? Or should we be prepared for the ominous forewarning of the season 4 trailer of The Game of Thrones: ‘All men must die’?

If these sentences don’t make any sense to you, I urge you to break free of whatever television prison you have locked yourself in, and WATCH GAME OF THRONES NOW! Because this is the only television series in history that has the words ‘throne’, ‘war’, ‘black magic’, ‘zombies’ and ‘dragons’ in the same synopsis. And if that sounds like the description of a B-film, you only need to experience the show to believe it.

Created by DB Weiss and David Benioff for HBO, and based on the George RR Martin’s bestselling series, a Song of Ice and Fire, Game of Thrones isn’t merely an ambitious television show, it is a concerted effort in trying to change the landscape of what conventional television is. Think the production, scale and quality of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings and episode-by-episode drama on the level of a Sopranos or The Wire. And the themes that the show tackles, from honour and justice to greed and jealousy to vengeance, give the series a humanity that goes hand in hand with the grandeur, instead of conflicting with it. Also, there is plenty of gratituous nudity, and that can’t hurt, right (if you are into that sort of a thing, *ahem*)?

So here’s a handy guide to the world of Game of Thrones, to entice you into watching, what is possibly the greatest event TV series ever made by man:

THE SETTING: The world of Game of Thrones essentially revolves around Westeros, which contains the Seven Kingdoms, each belonging to a different ‘house’ but ruled by one king, as well as the region beyond a great wall constructed to keep out whatever the hell resides beyond it (think an unpleasant cocktail of zombies, ghosts, wildlings and unheard-of animals). The seat of power in Westeros resides in the Crownlands, whose capital city King’s Landing is home to The Iron Throne, which, basically, everyone in the seven kingdoms want to get hold of.

HOUSE STARK: The quintessential heroes are House Stark – the rulers of The North, led by Lord Eddard Stark, and his family, that consists of the most honourable people on celluloid since The Fellowship of Lord of the Rings (Think of Lord Stark as Aragorn). But as we soon come to realize, being good is of no good in Westeros, where everyone has the propensity to be killed at an alarming rate.

HOUSE BARATHEON: At the beginning of the series, Robert Baratheon is the King of Westeros, and Lord Stark, his liege. But as events unfold in the world of the Seven Kingdoms, we realize his family, the Baratheons, which rules from The Stormlands, may want to claim the throne to themselves, particularly Stannis Baratheon, Robert’s elder brother, who is supported in his cause by the sexy priestess (never thought I’d say this), Melisandre, who practices some insane black magic.

HOUSE LANNISTER: Undoubtedly the most interesting family in the history of celluloid families, House Lannister is ruled by Lord Tywin Lannister, the richest man in the seven kingdoms, and also the most powerful because his daughter, Cersei is married to Robert Baratheon, who *may* be more than just a sister to her dashing brother, Jamie Lannister, and whose son, Joffery Bratheon, *may* be a Lannister, if you know what I mean. Yes, it’s a twisted family. The smartest Lannister, Tyrion, born a dwarf to Lord Tywin, is almost an outcast to his family, but if there was a single reason to watch Game of Thrones, it would be Peter Dinklage’s portrayal of Tyrion. Possibly my favourite TV character of all time!

HOUSE TARGARYEN: The rulers of the Iron Throne before Robert Baratheon took over, whatever’s left of House Targaryen after a war in the past – Viserys Targareyn and his sister, Daenerys – now resides in Essos, the landmass across the narrow sea, inhabited mostly by barbarians like the Dothraki people. Danaerys is married off to the Khal of the Dothraki, and becomes ‘The Khaleesi’, but Danaerys is more than just an ordinary human being – she is the mother of dragons. Yes, real, huge-ass, fire-spitting, multi-coloured dragons!

OTHERS: Apart from these four houses, the major houses are also House Tyrell, that rules The Reach, and that may have soon have a bigger role in the story than we think and House Greyjoy, who rule the Iron Islands, and who’ve never for a moment stopped thinking of the throne for themselves. But possibly the group of people more important than all the houses themselves are the Night’s Watch, who guard the Wall, and protect the seven kingdoms from the creepiness beyond it.

SO, BASICALLY: A war for the Iron Throne is raging in the seven kingdoms between the different kings, and each has his/her own reason to claim the throne – the most important being vengeance. The ‘others’ beyond the wall are suddenly coming back to life after years of being undead, and so are the dragons who everyone thought were extinct, and Danaerys  is not going to be shy to use them to get the throne herself. In short, the baap of all TV series, Game of Throne is NOT TO BE MISSED!

 

FIVE OTHER CURRENT SHOWS TO WATCH IF YOU LIKE GAME OF THRONES:

  1. HOUSE OF CARDS: Think the struggle for power, the deceit, the greed and the drama of Game of Thrones, set in modern day, in the White House no less, and you get House of Cards. Starring Kevin Spacey and executive produced by David Fincher, this show will have you addicted.
  2. THE WALKING DEAD: An event series that not only matches GOT in production quality and scale, but also in non stop action and nail biting drama, The Walking Dead is based in a post apocalyptic world where zombies have taken over and a group of humans are trying their best to survive. Created by The Shawshank Redemption’s, Frank Darabont.
  3. BOARDWALK EMPIRE: Executive Produced by Martin Scorsese, Boardwalk Empire is a slow burning period drama about the rise of mob culture and the mafia, during the prohibition era. Starring Steve Buscemi, the show concocts a fictional narrative around real life historical figures, from Al Capone to J. Edgar Hoover.
  4. THE RETURNED: A creepy, haunting and surprisingly touching French horror Television series, The Returned is about a set in a town where the dead suddenly come back to life, but not as zombies. They are their own selves, and have no recollection of ever having been dead. One of the most accomplished supernatural dramas in recent times.
  5. MOST SHOWS ON HBO: The truth is HBO is responsible for upping the ante and pushing the boundaries of what television is supposed to be. So whether it was Sopranos, the mob drama that started the revolution, or the western Deadwood, or The Wire, arguably the best TV show of its genre, or Rome, True Blood, Band of Brothers and the recent True Detective, if intelligent and fantastic dramas are what you seek, try the HBO library, and you shall be occupied for months!

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Note: An edited version of this article first appeared in The Juice in the April issue.
Picture courtesy: Google. None of the pictures are owned by the author all rights belong to the original owner(s) and photographer(s).
© Copyright belongs to the author, Nikhil Taneja. The article may not be reproduced without permission. A link to the URL, instead, would be appreciated.

2013 Roundup: Indian and International TV #ScholasticYearbook #TV

It is arguably too early to say this, but 2013 could be the year that changed both Indian and international television forever.  In February 2013, American internet streaming service Netflix premiered a political drama series, House of Cards, developed by Academy-nominated writer Beau Willimon, starring two-times Academy Award winning actor, Kevin Spacey, with the first episode directed by two-times Academy Award Best Director nominee, David Fincher, who is also one of the executive producers of the series (Phew! What a credit roll!).

Among the first few full-length, season-based series (generally called a ‘TV series’ but obviously not in this case) ever produced for the internet, House of Cards made history by becoming the very original first only series to be nominated for television’s highest honour, the Emmy Awards. Nominated for 14 Emmys, the series picked up two – for Outstanding Directing in a Drama Series (won by David Fincher) and for Outstanding Casting for a Drama Series (Laray Mayfield/Julie Schubert).

Netflix, that was earlier an on-demand internet service for watching the latest in movies and TV shows, is one of the first few online distribution outlets that ventured into multi-episode, TV-length original programming with Norwegian-American series, Lilyhammer, in 2012. The moderate success of the show, along with the phenomenal success of House of Cards and the two shows Netflix followed it up with – prison comedy Orange is the New Black, and a fourth season of the cult comedy Arrested Development – has proved, once more, that content is king, no matter what form it is consumed in.

With video-sharing website Youtube, internet e-commerce giant Amazon, internet streaming service Hulu and even Microsoft’s online gaming service Xbox Live set to launch premium ‘web television series’, the future of content is already here. While television in its current form will not be obsolete anytime soon, the day when computer will be the new idiot box, bought instead of a television set to watch (ironically enough) ‘television content’ , is not that far away!

On the desi side of things, in October 2013, one of the most expensive television shows ever produced in India, the Anil Kapoor-starrer 24, an adaptation of the hit American TV series of the same name, premiered after months of anticipation. With a reported cost exceeding Rs 50 crores, this is an Indian fiction series of many firsts. It is the first time an A-list Indian film ‘star’ of the stature of Anil Kapoor is playing the lead on television, where generally A-list actors only host or judge shows, or make ‘cameo’ appearances to promote their movies. It is the first time an international TV series has been adapted on such a massive scale in India, and also the first time a majority of the 24 episodes of the series were shot in advance, in an industry where one-line stories are stretched to multiple years!

Moreover, the kind of Bollywood talent involved in the series is mind-boggling. 24 is produced by Anil Kapoor, who starred on the eighth season of the original American version of the show alongside contemporary television icon, Kiefer ‘Jack Bauer’ Sutherland. The series is directed by Delhi Belly director Abhinay Deo, written by Rang De Basanti writer Rensil D’Silva, with dialogues by Kaante writer Milap Milan Zaver. It co-stars, along with Kapoor, an array of film talent like Anupam Kher, Shabana Azmi, Rahul Khanna, Tisca Chopra, Mandira Bedi and Neil Bhoopalam.

Indian TV channel Colors has reportedly invested Rs 85 Crore in the show, with the aim of making it one of India’s only TV series with a season-based format (a second season is said to be already in the works). While it is a bit premature to predict the impact of the show on Indian TV, it is suffice to say that if the show gets a high number of eyeballs, there is a good chance that television content in India will start catering to not just the saas, bahu and the beti, but also the sasur, damaad and beta! With Anurag Basu rumoured to be planning an Indian adaptation of the international series Prison Break and an Anurag Kashyap-led Amitabh Bachchan starrer already in the works for the TV channel, Sony, Indian television looks set for a much-needed overhaul in the years to come. Let’s just hope that it arrives before we become as old as the storylines of our current batch of archaic TV shows!

Even as we hope for a fantastic 2014, here are the ups and downs in the land of television in 2013:

 

INDIAN TV SHOWS:

Through the year, General Entertainment Channel (GEC) Star Plus more or less maintained the least in terms of viewership amongst all channels, with Zee TV and Colors juggling second and third spots between them. Sometimes Sony TV would climb upwards but usually it maintained its fourth position. Life OK and Sahara came in last. A major development of 2013 was that Television Viewership in Thousands (TVTs) replaced Total Rating Points (TRPs) as the measurement for television viewership in India, as digitisation was brought about across the country.

And of course, while GECs led the way for both urban and rural viewers through the year, towards the end of the year, Star World launched a subscription-based channel, Star World Premiere, that aims to air popular international TV shows like How I Met Your Mother, on the same day as their international broadcast, a first for India!

Drama

Have a look at this list: Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai, Madhubala – Ek Ishq Ek Junoon, Pyaar Ka Dard Hai Meetha Meetha Pyaara Pyaar, Pavitra Rishta, Is Pyaar Ko Kya Naam Doon, Kehta Hai Dil Jee Le Zara. These are some of the top performing Indian shows of 2013. Notice anything in common? Maybe the words ‘Rishta’, ‘Ishq’, ‘Pyaar’, ‘Pyaara’ and ‘Dil’ give you a hint? Yes, Indian television suddenly seemed to realise that before a woman becomes a bahu and then a saas, she typically falls in love with a man (either before or after marriage), and that could make for a TV show too! And considering the long legacy of our ‘me too’ television history, once the first such show became a success, every channel had at least three such shows on air at any given point of time. They had different faces and the same storylines that eventually did turn into saas-bahu sagas, because the next step after love is obviously marriage and the dreaded in-laws.

Even as love ruled the airwaves with the above shows and shows like Diya Aur Baati (about arranged marriage) and Qubool Hai (About love in the Muslim community), which were the biggest hits of the year, the hits from the years before continued to fare strongly be it Balika Vadhu, Uttaran, Sasural Simar Ka, Punar Vivah, Veera, Saath Nibhana Saathiya and Sapne Suhane Ladakpan Ke, some of which completed milestones between 200 – 1400 episodes (in the case of Balika Vadhu!). As they say, ‘The more things change, the more they remain the same’, and that holds completely true in the case of Indian television. Here’s hoping 24 India brings about some true change for once.

Mythological and Historical

The interest of Indian television audiences in mythological and historical television shows remained steady in 2013. The greatest Indian epic ever written, the Mahabharata, was recreated on television again by Star Plus in 2013, even though a similar exercise by Ekta Kapoor in 2008, for 9X, was a massive disaster. But this version, named Mahabharat, which was targeted primarily at the youth through its large PR and marketing activations across the country, opened to great TVTs and continued to hold fort through 2013.  The show, whose creative team counted amongst its talent legendary Indian writer Salim Khan, author Devdutt Patnaik, Oscar-winning designer Bhanu Athaiya, music composers Ismail Darbar and Ajay-Atul and art director Omung Kumar, was reportedly made on a budget of Rs 150 Crores, a lot of which was spent on special effects, the likes of which were seen less on Indian television.

The historical, Jodha Akbar (Zee TV), produced by Ekta Kapoor, was another huge success, and gathered fantastic TVTs throughout the year. Other shows in this category like Devon Ke Dev Mahadev, Bharat Ka Veer Putra – Maharana Pratap, Buddha and Ganesh Leela were also watched fervently in 2013.

Comedy

Comedy also continued to rule the roost in the year but one show stood out because of its historic ratings and critical acclaim both: Comedy Nights with Kapil (Colors). The show, hosted by stand-up comedian Kapil Sharma went on air in the month of June and quickly became a must-watch television viewing event for families because of its quirky format, the likeable personality of its host, and the enjoyable interactions between Sharma and the celebrity guests of the episode, which included India’s biggest names in entertainment.

Sony TV’s Comedy Circus continued doing well through the year, Sab TV’s Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah continued to be amongst the top 20 highest rating shows of the year, and many other shows like Nautanki – The Comedy Theater (Colors), Hassvya kavi sammelen Wah! Wah! Kya Baat Hai! (Sab TV) and most SAB TV fiction comedies, led by police comedy FIR, had above average viewership through the year.

Reality Television

Tired of watching regular youngsters on talent shows showing off their youthful energy and skills, the audiences gave a mighty thumbs up to any show that brought them kids, parents and even grandparents on their TV screens and made them feel good about themselves. Hence, it was clearly the year of Spin Offs, as Indian Idol Junior, Dance India Dance Super Moms, Junior Master Chef and Nach Baliye Shriman V/s Shrimati did exceedingly well in the off season of their parent talent shows.

Shows like India’s Best Dramebaaz (featuring kids), India’s Dancing Superstars (featuring all ages), and Connected Hum Tum (featuring married or about-to-be-married women) also did well, while new seasons of Jhhalak Dikhhla Jaa, Kaun Banega Crorepati and Big Boss continued their dominance as India’s premiere reality shows. The Bachelorette, where Mallika Sherawat took home a reported Rs 30 crore just too test contestants and find a suitable boy to date, opened to good numbers too.

The success of Crime Patrol also gave way to many crime-based shows like Shaitan – A Criminal Mind, Savdhaan India – India Fights Back and Police – Dial 100 lured in audiences with thrilling re-enactments of real incidents of crime.

Youth Television

Channel V continued its rise as India’s only youth GEC, leaving far behind its old competitors MTV India and UTV Bindass. With its flagship shows Gumrah – End of Innocence, about crime amongst youngsters, and daily serials Dil Dosti Dance, Humse Hai Life, The Buddy Project, The Serial and Surveen Guggal – Topper of the Year, the channel left its old identity of reality and music programming far, far behind.

MTV India, on the other hand, kept experimenting and mixing it up with veteran successful reality shows like Roadies and Splitsvilla (in their 10th and 6th seasons now, respectively), established music properties Coke Studio @ MTV, Unplugged, Soundtripping and their first attempt at a season-based fiction comedy TV series, Reality Stars, a comedy reality series, TimeOut with Imam, and a show on cybercrime, Webbed. While some experiments paid off and others failed for MTV India, they continued maintaining their identity as a universal youth and music channel.

While MTV remained ahead of UTV Bindass in viewership for the major part of the year, it faced tough competition towards the end of the year as their show Yeh Hai Aashiqui, based on emotional real-life love stories, received major love from the audiences. Bindass’ regular reality shows, Superdude, Big Switch and Emotional Atyachar also fared well, although their experiment in re-launching their identity as ‘Rest Less’ had mixed results.

 

INTERNATIONAL TV SHOWS:

If there was one show that defined the year 2013 in international television, it was AMC’s multiple award-winning television series Breaking Bad, that reached its epic, violent conclusion after five years and five seasons. The show, created by Vince Gilligan and starring Bryan Cranston as a high school chemistry teacher-turned-drug lord, has been hailed as the greatest television series ever made by critics and fans alike. Its final episode was watched by over 10 million people on its first broadcast across USA, and by millions more through internet streaming and illegal downloads the world over, in what was a shared cultural experience only experienced during sports broadasts. As the curtains fell for the show on September 29, 2013, television fans across the world fell into collective momentary depression, not sure how they are going to live the rest of their lives without the addiction that was the show, Breaking Bad.

On the other hand, another cable television darling, Showtime’s Dexter, starring Michael C Hall, also came to its conclusion after eight seasons, but left most fans and critics unhappy with the way it ended. Apart from the previously mentioned landmark year for original Netflix series, the new shows that were loved by fans and critics alike were Kevin Bacon-starrer The Following, about a serial-killer who starts a cult; Under The Dome, adapted by Stephen King’s book of the same name about a town that’s surrounded by a mysterious dome, Marvel’s first television series, Agents of SHIELD, which takes place in the time after 2012’s smash hit movie, The Avengers, and brings back to life the much loved Agent Coulson (played by Clarg Gregg), James Spader-starrer The Blacklist, about the world’s most-wanted criminal, and Sleepy Hollow, a fantasy drama about the resurrection.

The rest of the year saw new seasons of the same shows in reality television, serialised fiction and sitcoms faring spectacularly. The Voice, American Idol, Dancing with the Stars, Survivor, Project Runway, So You Think You Can Dance continued their dominance as America’s most-loved reality shows. In cable television, Game of Thrones, Mad Men, Homeland, The Newsroom, The Walking Dead, and Suits, continued causing mass mania and innumerable dinner-table debates amongst television lovers, even as families and kids continued to adorn network television’s top-rated, invincible sitcoms The Big Bang Theory, Modern Family, The Simpsons and How I Met Your Mother, which started its journey towards the end with its final season.

Among network television serialised fiction shows, the second season of Grey’s Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes’ show, Scandal, which stars Kerry Washington as a crisis fixer in Washington DC, became an all-American phenomenon, as television buffs lapped it up in millions, just like they did Grey’s Anataomy. The Good Wife, Person of Interest, Blue Bloods, Elementary, Castle, Glee, Once Upon a Time and Grey’s Anatomy continued their ratings juggernaut while crime procedurals CSI, NCIS, Law and Order and Criminal Minds did as well as they’ve always done.

Finally, among late night shows, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel Live and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno continued to battle it out for audience attention as the funniest talk shows on TV, while The Colbert Report, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and Real Time with Bill Maher continued to master political satire.

Note: This article first appeared in the Scholastic Yearbook 2014. 

Picture courtesy: Google. None of the pictures are owned by the author all rights belong to the original owner(s) and photographer(s).
© Copyright belongs to the author, Nikhil Taneja. The article may not be reproduced without permission. A link to the URL, instead, would be appreciated.

INTERVIEW: GABRIEL ‘HARVEY SPECTOR’ MACHT #PROFILE #SUITS

Looking for the real man in Suits

Gabriel Macht interviewed by Nikhil Taneja (@tanejamainhoon) over phone for Man’s World India. Original article: http://goo.gl/wTYJzo

According to Comedy Central, over three million Indians watch the hit television legal drama, Suits, every day. And, its central character, the rule-breaking lawyer Harvey Spector, is fast emerging as a role model for men across the country. As the show enters its fourth season, we go looking for the real man inside him

 

Hollywood has a very precise idea of what it takes to be a man; rather, what it takes to be the man. The quintessential man, the manly man, the man’s man, the stuff of legend. A man must be able to woo ladies without having to try; ladies must want a man for what he is naturally. James Bond is a man. So is Shaft. A man must be silent and brooding; ideally, a man must not feel at all (and if he does, no one should ever know). Batman is a man (the Christopher Nolan version).  So is Rambo. So is Clint Eastwood in every movie ever. A man has honor; he has a code that all men must live by, but only real men ever do. The Godfather, King Leonidas, Tyler Durden and Maximus Decimus Meriduis are all men. A man can throw a punch when he needs to; and there is always need for a man to throw a punch. John McClane is a man. So is Liam Neeson (and not merely his character in Taken).To top it all, a man is handsome, suave and stylish, but ruggedly; a man is definitely not meterosexual. Gordon Gekko is a man. So are Frank Bullitt and Ryan Gosling’s Driver in Drive.

If Hollywood is right, then there are few who fit the description of a real man better than television’s Harvey Spector (played by Gabriel Macht), from the lawyer drama Suits, which has quickly mushroomed into somewhat of a phenomenon among American TV addicts in India. With a reach of 3.3 million viewers (stats provided by Comedy Central India), Suits is currently the highest rated English language show in its genre and its central character, Spector, is exactly the kind of man ladies want, and men want to be. But who is Gabriel Macht, the man behind the character?

Gabriel Macht is an accomplished man. At 42, the drama graduate from Carnegie Mellon College of Fine Arts, is happily married with a daughter, to fellow actor Jacinda Barrett (The Namesake, The Last Kiss), has a great job that keeps getting better – Suits is in its fourth season now and considering its popularity and ratings, likely to continue for more – and some solid indie acting credits along the way. In a career spanning 36 years from the age of 8, when he played his first role as a child actor in ‘Why Would I Lie?’, just some of the Hollywood legends he’s acted alongside include Robert De Niro (The Good Shephard), Al Pacino (The Recruit), Anthony Hopkins (Bad Company), Gene Hackman (Behind Enemy Lines) and John Travolta (A Love Song For Bobby Long).

Gabriel Macht is also a man of his word. When I call his hotel room in New York at the designated time of the interview, the reception desk tells me there’s no one by the name of ‘Gabriel Macht’ staying there. I try ‘Harvey Spector’ and the reception desk laughs me off. As I put the phone down and mail Macht’s publicist and the minutes fly by, I assume the worst, when I get a tweet from the verified account of Macht, @GabrielMacht, “Call me again and they shall put you through. Apologies”. Macht has somehow hunted me down on Twitter and when I call him, he profusely apologises for what was, essentially, the hotel’s fault: the personnel at the reception desk had changed and Macht’s instructions hadn’t been passed on to him. Not many celebrities of his stature would do such a thing, so I’m definitely impressed.

Gabriel Macht is a gentleman, alright, so I ask him if he is also similar to the Hollywood definition of being a man? He pauses for a bit and then says, “I think that a man is somebody who is responsible for his actions and lives his life with integrity, care and respect for others. When something important is asked of him, he follows through. But Hollywood’s version of what a man is, I believe, is just a little superficial.

“In real life, we can go a little deeper than that guy, you know? We can show weakness a little bit more and I think we can be a little bit more vulnerable. Because, I think, Hollywood’s version of a man’s man can become a bit too serious for its own good. If men can poke a little bit more fun at themselves, and listen a little bit more to the women around them, I think the world would be a little better place.”

So Gabriel Macht is also a ladies’ man, but in all the right ways. I prod him to elaborate on the last line and he chuckles, “Well, I think what makes a man complete, and happy, if he’s in a relationship and if he’s married… is a happy wife. I think when you get down to it, if your partner is happy and fulfilled, I think that’s all that matters.

“You know, when I married my wife, that’s when I fully became a man,” he continues. “When I owned my first property with her, and everything that goes into owning a home, and keeping it in a livable condition (chuckles), and of course, the next stage, when I had my daughter; those are all tests for life. And I think if you seal it in those tests by being there for your family, it’s the most important thing. We can all go to work, and of course, we have to make a living, but at the end of the day, I am living for my family.”

Gabriel Macht is a family man. And that’s as far a cry as can be from what Hollywood’s ‘real men’ are, and certainly from what Harvey Spector is. Spector is a man with a single-minded focus: to succeed, whatever be the cost. He doesn’t need a family; he doesn’t even have time for one. Spector’s a lone wolf, who knows what he wants; he’s essentially the grown-up, corporate version of a bad boy, and that’s perhaps what makes the character so appealing. So does Macht think Spector’s a quintessential man?

“I don’t, actually,” Macht says. “I think Harvey’s got a very solid character and integrity, but I don’t think he’s in touch with his emotions. He’s got a lot of demons inside and (chuckles) some anger management issues, and the way he talks to people under him could be refined. Harvey’s certainly learning to be a man, but he’s got a lot of growth in there, and that’s what makes him interesting. If he was a perfect man, it would be just so boring to watch… because no one’s perfect!”

“But I don’t buy Harvey’s idea of success. I do think there’s something to finding success and feeling worthwhile, but, you know, I don’t think it really matters what everyone around you thinks. If you feel like you’re doing good work, if you think you’re making a difference, if you feel like you are coming to work and giving it your best, I think that’s what real success is.”

Gabriel Macht is a successful man, by his definition or by any other. But this success has taken almost 15 years to come, from his first adult role in a 1991 episode of Beverly Hills, 90210. Even with strong performances in credible indie movies and a much-coveted lead role in Frank Miller’s directorial debut, The Spirit, opposite Eva Mendes and Scarlett Johansson, in 2008, it was only until Suits happened in 2011 that Macht’s charisma as well as acting chops gained worldwide recognition. For an actor who dabbled in movies for so long, did television ever feel like a step down?

“To be honest,” Macht says, “I made the leap to television because I wasn’t finding the roles to sustain myself in films. I I wasn’t getting the ones that guys I really looked up to, like Christian Bale, Matt Damon, and Leo (DiCaprio) were getting. And the movies I had made were not 100 million dollar movies, and so I thought, ‘You know what? Is it really about a successful film or is it really about just finding a character or finding a story that you can tell?’ And so, when Suits came along, I was like, ‘You know what? I just want to work now.’ And there was something about Harvey Spector as a character, that I thought would be fun to play.

“And I think Suits works on so many levels. It’s cinematic, there’s a ton of wit, all the characters really care about what they are upto, and most importantly, women have a really, really strong voice on the show. A bunch of the guys are huffing and puffing on the show (chuckles), but it’s the women of the show that are its spine and the backbone. I think that’s really well done. I always believe that things happen for a reason. Suits has become fruitful in so many ways. There are a lot of great things about the show that I see are really touching a nerve with people. And people from all over the world are really enjoying this show, it’s just fantastic.”

Gabriel Macht is indeed a popular man. If you’re in doubt, ask the ladies who follow Suits in India! Unsurprisingly, Macht is aware of this, “You know, when we shoot Suits in Toronto, and we’re on the streets maybe one or two days out of the episode, we’ve got hundreds of people that come out. And they’re predominantly Indian women, I find. I mean, there’s a huge Indian culture that loves the show! You know, please tell Indian women out there that I love them, and also to everyone else who watches the show, that I’m very thankful.”

So Gabriel Macht is, ultimately, a good man. A man who’s seen failure but come back stronger. A man who’s struggled his way to the top but doesn’t take success for granted. A man who loves his craft but who loves his family more – a man who could take up multiple projects in his five months off from the show but ensures that time is only to “fill up the Daddy well: spend time with the wife and daughter, take her to school, and be there for both of them as much as possible”. A man who has his priorities right. And, of course, a man who looks excellent in a suit! A quintessential man’s man? Hollywood’s found its answer right here.

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Note: An edited version of this interview first appeared in Man’s World India in the June, 2014 issue.  The unedited Q ‘n’ A and the audio interview will be put up soon.
Link: http://www.mansworldindia.com/style/looking-for-the-real-man-in-suits/

Picture courtesy: Comedy Central India. None of the pictures are owned by the author all rights belong to the original owner(s) and photographer(s).
© Copyright belongs to the author, Nikhil Taneja. The article may not be reproduced without permission. A link to the URL, instead, would be appreciated.