Tag Archives: The Americans

Interview: Rahul Khanna #OpenMagazine #Profile

Rahul Khanna: The Internet’s Gentleman Boyfriend

The crossover star of the 90s, Rahul Khanna plays a Pakistani intelligence officer in an Emmy-nominated drama and becomes the internet’s latest boyfriend

Note: This piece was written by Nikhil Taneja (@tanejamainhoonfor Open Magazine. An edited version of the piece can be found here: https://goo.gl/BkCbDA


Tucked away in a lane a few hundred meters from Mumbai’s iconic Haji Ali Dargah, you are likely to miss The Royal Willingdon Sports Club, if you aren’t aware of it. Founded in 1918 by Lord Willingdon, the then Governor of the city that was once called Bombay, the club is cited as Mumbai’s “most exclusive”, with its membership closed to outsiders since 1985. It most famously denied membership to Padmashri Dr. DY Patil, in 2010, while he was the governor of Tripura, and is especially known for its snobbery towards all things ‘Bollywood’.

So the elite club is the last place you expect to meet an actor for an interview, least of all an actor who purportedly counts his allegiance to the Indian film industry. But then again, Rahul Khanna is no ‘Boutique Bollywood actor’, even though his Twitter bio irreverently claims otherwise.

Khanna, the son of the legendary ‘70s superstar, Vinod Khanna, India’s first de-facto sex symbol, and former model Gitanjali Taleyarkhan, could well be the living and breathing personification of cinema’s popular ‘fish out of water’ trope. Stylish to a fault and impeccably well-mannered, the actor has the grace and poise of a gentleman more suited to the era in which the Willingdon Club flourished, than the hasty, unruly world of today.

His filmography has been measured and unhurried, his anchoring appearances have been select, his press interactions have been few and far between, and there’s painfully little known about his personal life. And then there’s that paradox: for someone who’s self-confessedly reserved, he is a rage on social media, not so much because he tries to be, but particularly because he doesn’t. His social media profiles are a picture of effortless wit and old world charm, and have led to a collective following of over half a million followers.

It is of little wonder then that the 44-year-old Khanna – who looks at least a decade younger – has been rediscovered by an entirely new section of the audiences, mostly excitable, frenzied millennial girls who have filled the internet with posts declaring that they can’t have enough of his naughty, suggestive Snapchats (he once posted a picture titled ‘morning wood’ that had him standing in front of wooden logs one early morning) or his tantalizing Instagram posts, filled with ‘ovary-busting pictures’, as one listicle site put it.

Is he the internet’s new boyfriend? Ask him and he bursts out laughing, “It’s all a bit of fun, really. You know, I don’t have a publicist or a PRO, and I’m a classic introvert, so when the social media phenomenon came out, I thought this would be a nice way to connect with people who are interested in me. The idea is for it to be a part of your personality and to use it to express yourself. I don’t want to share my opinions or be political, I’m only there for a positive experience. But I never thought anyone’s even paying attention to this!”

And when he did realise that there was rapt attention from female fans, it gave him the license to be a bit sassy, leading to everyone from Buzzfeed to MissMalini  declaring him ‘sex on legs’. “I would be lying to you if I said I don’t love the attention,” he chuckles, “especially since it’s not lascivious, it’s fun and flirty. But now that I know people are watching, there is this temptation to be a bit creative and be a little cheeky.”

Not only does Khanna have fun with his accounts publically, he also stays playful with his rather sweet habit of personally replying to anyone who tags him in a post through a personal, intimate direct message. Once, the actor responded to tweet from a female fan who had asked him to marry him, by messaging her, “Certainly. Is Saturday good for you?” The internet discovered her screenshot recently, driving hordes of female fans ecstatic that the eternal bachelor is now a DM away from marrying them, and he soon started trending for the same. Everyone wanted a DM from Rahul Khanna, and Khanna was only happy to oblige most.

“It was quite bizarre when that happened,” Khanna chuckles. “I didn’t understand that. I feel if someone has taken the trouble to tag me or say something nice, it’s only polite for me to reply. I want my profiles to be happy so I just started using them in the way I would chat with a friend on SMS or Whatsapp. I just want to be authentic.”

The word ‘happiness’, along with ‘joy’ comes up a lot during the course of our conversation. And every which way you look at Rahul Khanna’s story so far, whether you casually google him or speak at length with him, you’d see why authenticity is just as important a trait for him.

As a bespectacled ‘nerdy’ kid with an affinity for pinstriped shirts and khaki pants (“I had a connection with pinstripes that made me feel good about myself”), Khanna grew up with his kid brother, actor Akshaye Khanna, in South Bombay, distinctly away from the heart of Bollywood that resided in and around Juhu and Andheri.  His parents split up early in his childhood, and with it, so did most of his connections with the film world.

“It’s strange that we, as kids, were perceived as belonging to that world,” he reflects. “I sort of equate myself as being an outsider with inside access. All we knew is that our Dad was an actor and people knew who he was. So as a kid, there was a time I wanted to be a vet because I love dogs, and another time I wanted to be an artist because I loved cartooning. I knew it would be something creative but didn’t know it would be film. I ended up here… but I still kind of feel I don’t know which world I belong to.”

It was the opportunity to go to New York along with his interest in the creative arts that inspired him to enroll in film school at The School of Visual Arts, New York. Along the way, he also did an acting course at the Lee Strasberg Theater Institute.

“The end game wasn’t to get into Bollywood, it was only to explore the craft,” he says. “I was very influenced by the new sort of burgeoning Indian independent cinema coming out of the west. There was this little theater in New York called The Angelina that would play only independent, foreign films. I saw a film called Masala by a filmmaker called Sreenivas Krishna from Canada, and it was spectacular to see English language films about India.”

Although his brother, Akshaye, made his Bollywood debut around the same time as he was studying filmmaking, with Himalay Putra, a film produced by their father, Vinod Khanna, Khanna just couldn’t relate to what Bollywood was in those days. “There were no scripts!” he chuckles. “When people would offer me stuff and I’d ask for a script, it would be inconceivable to them that I didn’t understand the Bollywood way of working, and it was inconceivable to me that they wouldn’t have a script.”

Bollywood did happen a few years later, but it was in the early 90s, when Khanna first burst on to the scene as the Indian face of MTV Asia, even before MTV India was launched. After enjoying immense adulation and being hailed as a metrosexual Indian icon, at a time leading Bollywood actors were more famous for their chest hair than their acting skills, Khanna became one of the first young leading men to star in crossover Indian cinema with Deepa Mehta’s 1947 Earth and Bollywood/Hollywood.

It was this experience he had on the film set, along with a 8-shows-a-day, 11 week stint on the off-Broadway stage, with “theater royalty” Scott Elliott-directed play, East is East, that made him believe acting was his calling.

“Earth and East is East were incredible first acting jobs for me. I picked up so much about teamwork and they set the bar really high in terms of the kind of people and crew you could work with. I find acting to be a very intimate process, so it helped me, as an introvert, to connect. And those environments made me realise that if I could continue to do this, it would be a really good thing.”

So post his early days as a crossover star, the reason Khanna only did a handful of films over the next decade was not due to lack of offers, but because for him, relating to the team behind the film was just as important as the scripts he was getting.

“I want to be working with people I respect and who respect me back, because that’s the only way you can enjoy work and get a good result out of it” he emphasizes. “What’s the point of taking on something, when it would seem that you’d be miserable during the process? So when I look back at films of mine that haven’t been received well, if I had a good time on them, and if I’ve made friends, I feel they were worth it.”

He points out that there were times he wasn’t sure of a project but went ahead and did it anyway because he liked the people. “It was also important for me to prove wrong people who believed that I had some sort of prejudice against Bollywood,” he says. “Whenever I’d meet people, it was always implied that I perhaps felt that I was better than Bollywood, and hence hadn’t done so much of it. To them I would say, how could I have anything against Bollywood if I worked with Raj Kanwar!”

That would explain some of the misfires in the early part of his Bollywood filmography, but when he started taking up character-driven roles in films like Ayan Mukerji’s Wake Up Sid and Imtiaz Ali’s Love Aaj Kal, he saw another exasperating side of the same industry.

“After these films, I’d only get offered ‘the other guy’ roles!” he laughs. “People started telling me how brave I was for doing such a role in these films but I never knew these rules. No one told them to me when I was taking up the films! (pause) It did get a bit frustrating that I wasn’t getting to do more of what I love, but it’s not a vanity thing for me to see myself on screen ‘x’ number of times. Besides, isn’t the whole point of it to have fun?”

Having fun has been the driving force behind taking up the cameo in season one of Anil Kapoor’s 24, and also a scene-stealing role in the international drama series, The Americans, that has been nominated for an Emmy Award for Best Drama this year. What started off as a one episode cameo, was turned into a full-fledged arc in the following season, even if that meant coming to terms with the graphic sex scenes he had to indulge in as a Pakistani spy with a keen eye for American women.

“My friends haven’t stopped tormenting me about that,” he chuckles. “From screenshots to Whatsapp group profile pictures, I’ve seen it all. The good thing, acting wise, is that after you spend 16 hours naked in a room full of strangers, there’s nothing you can’t do. It’s no longer an unknown beast.”

The Emmy nomination would certainly give the show a big boost and Khanna will perhaps come to benefit it too along the way. At the moment, even as he hopes to be called back for another arc on the show, he’s looking at scripts in both countries to figure his next steps. He’s got a travel show coming up on NDTV Good Times that will see him on the whiskey trail in Scotland, and while there’s been serious talks and negotiations for a men’s clothing line, given his tremendous style credentials, it’s yet to be worked out.

All of these things are an important part of what he calls, ‘the pursuit of joy’. “I feel that life is really short and if you are not doing stuff that brings you joy, then you are wasting your time,” he smiles. What gives him joy on a daily basis, you ask him? Reading, food, gymming and meeting friends are high on his list. He also has a certain fondness for antique furniture and collects boarding passes, although he’ snot sure why. But it’s not about individual things, he says, but the way you live your life.

“I feel we, as a people, have become a little bit less considered. So everything I do or own or like has been considered. So, if you say, I have nice manner, it’s because it’s a nice thing to have, it’s nice when someone smiles because of you.”

“It’s a horrible example, I know, “he continues with a laugh, “but I see people who may have an amazing car but they’d treat it really badly. My car may be 300 times more modest but I appreciate it and keep it well. I’m not saying my way is right, but I see people who have a lot more than I do, but nothing brings them happiness.”

It’s almost strange to see the Zen-like attitude, especially coming from someone who is a part of an industry fundamentally built on desire, and with a first name that has come to be synonymous with a period of Bollywood that reflected upward mobility and aspiration. But where everyone likes to fit inside little brackets of stereotype and cliché, Khanna’s refreshingly alright about standing out. “I have always been a round peg in a square hole,” he explains through an idiom that’s almost as peculiar as he asserts he is.

“I was uncomfortable about it when I was younger, because there was an emphasis to fit in and be a certain way, but now, I feel it is one of my biggest strengths, that I don’t fit in anywhere. So I’m also really attracted to people who are odd, who don’t play by the rules, and whom other people call weird. I really like those kind of people, and I feel it is a wonderful quality to have: in a world so standardized, to have people who are themselves. I love that!”

That’s perhaps, then, the best way of defining Rahul Khanna, connoisseur of the good life, pursuer of joy, and the internet’s current boyfriend: A gentleman of his own, in a world that is standardized.

Follow the blog on your left and like The Tanejamainhoon Page on FB: /tanejamainhoonpage
Follow Nikhil Taneja on FB: /tanejamainhoonon Twitter:
@tanejamainhoonon Instagram:@tanejamainhoon,

on Youtube: /tanejamainhoon

Liked/disliked the piece? Leave your comments below!
Note: This interview first appeared in Open Magazine on August 5, 2016
Link: http://www.openthemagazine.com/article/cinema/rahul-khanna-the-internet-s-latest-boyfriend
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.

THE AWESOME TV SHOW EP 2: GoT Battle of the Bastards + 5 Great Shows #FILMCOMPANION

Note: This video was written & hosted by Nikhil Taneja (@tanejamainhoonfor Film Companion. Check it out on YouTube here: https://goo.gl/CIR3kc

From June 2016, I have been hosting a YouTube Show called The Awesome TV Show for Anupama Chopra’s YouTube Channel, Film Companion. In the fortnightly show (mostly), I recommend awesome television shows to watch, recap and review new episodes of some of the best ones and gives loads of lists on what to watch and where.

EPISODE 2
In Episode 2,  I recommend 5 more great shows of 2016 and recap the Game of Thrones episode, ‘Battle of the Bastards’.


NOTE: Watch the playlist of ALL episodes of The Awesome TV Show so far here: https://goo.gl/t59b7b


Follow the blog on your left and like The Tanejamainhoon Page on FB: /tanejamainhoonpage
Follow Nikhil Taneja on FB: /tanejamainhoonon Twitter:
@tanejamainhoonon Instagram:@tanejamainhoon,

on Youtube: /tanejamainhoon

Liked/disliked the video? Leave your comments below!
Note: This video first appeared on the Film Companion YouTube channel on June 22, 2016.
Link: https://goo.gl/CIR3kc
Picture courtesy: Film Companion. 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.

MOST AWAITED ENTERTAINMENT OF THE SUMMER 2016 #MOVIES #TV #HT48HOURS

Note: This piece was written by Nikhil Taneja (@tanejamainhoonfor HT 48 HOURS.

MOVIES

This past weekend, Hollywood’s much-awaited ‘summer season’, a magical time when tentpole movies obliterate the box office, dawned on fans worldwide, as easily the most anticipated film of the year, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (crash) landed in theaters. It may well be that in the battle between two of the biggest comic superheroes of all time, it is the audience that lost. But there is good news in that the next three months have some epic entertainment lined up for movie buffs, and the wounds inflicted by Zack Snyder and gang will get several chances to heal. Here’s a look at the five most awaited event films of the next quarter:

The Jungle Book (April 15) – Jon Favreau serves us nostalgia on a platter with a live action version of the classic cartoon from all our childhoods. With an all-star cast starring the voices of Bill Murray as Baloo, Ben Kingsley as Bagheera, Scarlett Johansson as Kaa and Idris Elba as Shere Khan, this is an unmissable ride back in time.

Captain America: Civil War (May 5) – The DC Extended Universe (DCEU) Batman/Superman battle may’ve turned out a damp squib, but all eyes are on the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s (MCU) fight between its own superheroes, Iron Man and Captain America. This one is bigger and badder as it’s a ‘war’ between two factions, with Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye and others on the Cap’s side and Black Widow, Ant-Man and more on Tony Stark’s. With the all new Spider-Man joining the fun, trusted directors Anthony and Joe Russo may have a winner on their hands.

X-Men: Apocalypse (May 27) – If Warner Bros brought a battle and Disney’s bringing war, Fox has an entire apocalypse on its hands with X-Men’s latest multi-starrer juggernaut. Familiar mutants Professor X (James McAvoy) and Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) come together with fresh blood in young Jean Grey, Cyclops and more to fight the ‘immortal and invincible’ Apocalypse (Oscar Issacs), who’s helped, but obviously, by Magneto (Michael Fassbender). If trailers are anything to go by, this one’s sure to rain fire at the box office.

Warcraft (June 10) – June will bring to screens another fantasy epic but this time the universe isn’t out of a comic book but based on the exceedingly popular video game series of the same name, Warcraft. Humans will battle orcs in this battle of two worlds set in the middle ages. Vikings’ star Travis Fimmel and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes antagonist Toby Kebbell star but the most exciting talent in the film is director Duncan Jones, who has proved his sci-fi mettle twice with the brilliant Moon and Source Code.

Finding Dory (June 17) – Thirteen years after endearing itself to all and sundry, Pixar follows up one of the most loved animation films of all time, Finding Nemo, with what promises to be an even more heartwarming sequel, Finding Dory. The movie centers on the amnesiac Dory (Ellen Degenres) as she set sets out to find her family, accompanied this time by Nemo (Hayden Rolence) and Marlin (Albert Brooks) in what should be the beautiful, big family adventure tale of the year.

Honourable mentions go out to two un-blockbusters that may have you talking long after summer’s over. There’s Everybody Wants Some (releasing March 30), Richard Linklater’s ‘spiritual sequel’ to his cult hit Dazed and Confused that expectedly opened to raving reviews at the SxSw Festival in early March.  And then there’s Iron Man 3 director Shane Black’s return to the noir comedy genre he pretty much invented with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, with a droolworthy cast to boot in The Nice Guys (releasing May 20) starring Russel Crowe, Ryan Gosling and Matt Bomer.


TELEVISION

American television has always worked hand-in-glove with Hollywood to ensure that it reserves its best content for the fall, so it’s both at a safe distance to and from the big bad summer season. But these rules were never of any consequence to HBO that prides itself in being the Home Box Office, and over the last couple of years, it has been joined by streaming media like Netflix and Amazon that are best known for creating their own rules. So some quality entertainment’s lined up in the next quarter on our screens from both these worlds:

Game of Thrones (Star World Premiere, April 26) – Is Jon Snow dead? Is Jon Snow Alive? Is Jon Snow Ghost? Is Jon Snow a ghost? Is Jon Snow a White Walker? These questions and many more, like the meaning of the cryptic teaser trailer where the faces of the dead and the not-so-much creepily come together in one foreshadow-y image, will finally be answered when the world’s most talked and downloaded show premieres in April.

Silicon Valley (Star World Premiere, April 27) – If you thought war was only a feat that the brave and able bodied took part in, the funniest geeks on television are all set to prove you wrong in the third season of the aptly-titled silicon valley comedy.  Richard Hendricks (Thomas Middleditch) along with his squad of awkwards will take on the suits who fired him from the CEO position of his own start-up. Cue ROFLMAO humour.

The Americans (Star World Premiere, April) – If you don’t know why this show is featured on the top five most-awaited shows of the next three months, then you’ve missed out watching one of the top five shows of the last three years. A spy show set during the cold war in America  is easily – and consistently – one of the best written TV dramas, also starring one of our own, Rahul Khanna. If you need more reasons to watch it, google Indo-Russian actress, Annet Mahendru. You’re welcome.

Marseille (Netflix, May 5) – The one freshman show to look forward to in the coming quarter is, but obviously, a Netflix Show. After showing the world what it can do with a foreign-language series in last year’s outstanding Narcos, an achievement in original programming, Netflix debuts an original French-language series, Marseille, a political thriller about power and corruption in France, starring French superstar Gerard Depardieu. A French House of Cards? You can bet on it.

Orange is the New Black (Netflix, June 17) – The Emmy Awards may not have been able to decide whether Orange is the New Black should be awarded as the Best Drama or the Best Comedy over the last few years, but that only proves that no matter which way you categorise it, multi-award winning Orange is the New Black is a must-watch. The series that, along with House of Cards, first showed the world that Netflix ‘TV’ is here to stay, is back for its fourth season, and continues to promise badass entertainment.

As English-language channels in India haven’t announced its programming beyond April, it can’t be said whether some of May and June’s international premieres will screen in India, but two shows are worth keeping an eye out for. Filmmaker Cameron Crowe of Jerry Maguire fame is making his TV debut with Roadies (premiering June 26), starring Luke Wilson, Carla Gugino and many others in a show about a touring rock band’s rock-crew that may redeem the term ‘Roadies’ for Indian audiences. And then, of course, there’s season two of Manoj N. Shyamalan’s Wayward Pines (premiering May 25) anthology, season one of which was the most success Shyamalan has seen in over a decade, and this one stars our very own Nimrat Kaur!

 

Follow the blog on your left and like The Tanejamainhoon Page on FB: /tanejamainhoonpage
Follow Nikhil Taneja on FB: /tanejamainhoonon Twitter:
@tanejamainhoonon Instagram:@tanejamainhoon,

on Youtube: /tanejamainhoon

Liked/disliked the piece? Leave your comments below!
Note: This interview first appeared in HT 48 Hours in April 2016.
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: Sneha Koorse #SundayGuardian #Writer #TheAmericans

Note: This interview was taken by Nikhil Taneja (@tanejamainhoonfor The Sunday Guardian. An edited version of the interview can be found here: https://goo.gl/2o1DrX.

‘I excel at writing torture scenes’

It is now a well-established fact that Indian American actors, from Kunal Nayyar in The Big Bang Theory to Mindy Kaling in The Mindy Project, are making a splash on American TV. But over the past few years, some Indian writers have slowly climbing their way to the top of the Hollywood ladder and it’s not an uncommon sight today to see Indian names in the ‘Written by’ credits of a TV series. From Luvh Rakhe in The New Girl to Vali Chandrasekaran in Modern Family, Indian origin writers are becoming a familiar part of the TV scene.

One of the youngest such writers, 29-year-old Sneha Koorse, has a CV that would be the envy of most writers. In the few years since she graduated from the University of Southern California, she’s won the prestigious Slamdance Film Festival Writing Competition, worked with legendary writer-directors like JJ Abrams (Star Trek) and Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity) on the show, Believe; written on the critically acclaimed FX show, The Americans, and is currently working with The Dark Knight writer, David S. Goyer on a DC Comics show, Constantine. In a Google Hangout interview, Sneha gives the dirt on what it is like working as a writer in Hollywood.

How do you get a job on a DC Comics show? One would imagine you’d have to pass a geek test before it!
We are all geeks in our own way. It wasn’t so much about being a comic book geek, but being able to appreciate the character and what stories of our own we could tell with this particular character. We have a good mix of people, some of whom read all the Hellblazers back when they came out, others who were just being introduced to the character and comics. It’s good to have a variety of perspectives.

Is it easy to write for a fan favourite comic book like Constantine? Especially one that is even more fantastical than other comic books.
Some of the comic issues are really best suited for the comic book format and aren’t easily adaptable to television. Some issues are so fantastical – like tripping through different dimensions and all that – it might not feel grounded on a series. But the issues are all incredibly imaginative, and the writers have created this great character that you just want to spend time with. The challenge is in taking this uniquely appealing character and finding a story structure that fits the television format.

You’ve worked on Constantine with writing legend David S. Goyer. Earlier, you’ve worked with JJ Abrams and Alfonso Cuaron. What have you picked up from these greats?
They are all legends and so different from one another! What they all have are strong points of view. I think that’s the biggest thing. Having a vision and being able to communicate that vision with confidence. The idea-generating part of their brains is also very strong. It’s like a muscle that has been strengthened with years of practice.

Sneha Koorse
Sneha Koorse

The other common theme in your career seems to be that you’ve only worked on gritty shows. What’s the fascination with the darker side of things?
(Laughs) I am a very happy person so I wouldn’t say that’s come from anything I have experienced in my life. But I’ve always been fascinated by why human beings are bad and what are the emotions behind them doing something ‘evil’. I’ve always been curious to try and understand them. I have also always been attracted to things where the stakes are raised to life and death. For example, In The Americans, the fact that any decision the lead characters take could lead to death is more interesting to me than a break up (smiles).

The Americans was the first major TV series you were hired for. How did you manage to start your career with a niche cable series, which area far harder to break into?
I had written a bunch of stuff – some feature length scripts, some TV pilots, episodes of Homeland and Breaking Bad – that I applied to the showrunners with. But I think it all comes down to being in a room with them and connecting to them as a writer. Although my interview with them was over the phone, I think when you are speaking to another writer and if you are passionate about being a writer and about the subject matter, they can see that. They can see that writing means something to you.

I think what worked for me was the fact that I was an immigrant and that my parents had an arranged marriage just like the Russian spies in The Americans. In it, the lead characters fall in love after 17 years of arranged marriage. And the fact that I wasn’t from this culture really helped me. Funnily, I have contributed more in terms of the action on the show, because I love writing action. I also somewhat excel in writing torture scenes, which has kind of become a joke now (laughs).

In The Americans, the fact that you are an immigrant worked in your favour. But as a female writer and as an Indian-origin writer in an industry predominantly dominated by white males, did you face a tough time breaking in before this show?
For Believe, the room was about 50% females because the show creator Mark Friedman wanted a strong female perspective for our young female lead. And on Constantine, there are several diverse writers regardless of quota or subject matter. It seems to be about the writing. Every show is different. And you just hope that your show runner is smart, socially aware, and seeking perspectives other than his or her own. I’ve been lucky, as far as who has hired me.

So would you say that Hollywood is now embracing change when it comes to diversity in the writers room?
I would say, yes and no. You know, you can count the number of female showrunners in Hollywood – Meredith Stiehm of The Bridge, Ann Biderman of Ray Donovan, Jenji Cohen of Orange is the New Black, Mindy Kaling. It’s still some time to go before there is balance between white male-dominated rooms and diverse rooms. The thing is that white writers have traditionally tried to work with friends so they can sort of have a room where they can be unapologetic, and don’t have to be politically correct or be aware of women in the room. When there is another perspective they can’t be who they are. It’s been a boys club so they are just more comfortable making jokes and not having to be diplomatic. But that’s changing because there is now a drive to hire more female writers and more writers of colour. Of course, if you are not a good writer you will not be able to stand the test of time.

Do you think such drives of diversity quotas are a good sign for writers? Doesn’t it mean we are still not at the point where great writers would be hired irrespective of the colour of their skin?
I think it’s complicated. I think quotas still exist because they’re still needed in a predominantly white male industry. People tend to hire who they know. However, people are also more accepting that diversity provides the kind of perspective needed for complex writing. The great thing about television right now is that there are so many niche markets that these diverse perspectives can take center stage.

So ever plan on writing or making anything in India?
Definitely. India is a rich setting for stories. I have some stories set there, but with some American characters as well. A clash between the two cultures, or any story that involves an interweaving of the two cultures, would best represent me, since I’ve grown up in the U.S. but I’m still connected to my Indian heritage. If I was ever to write an epic, maybe I would look to a Bollywood film. They’re sprawling stories!

What would you say has been your ‘Hollywood moment’ so far?
I’m not sure I would call it a “Hollywood moment” because it wasn’t this big glamorous thing, but it was a very proud moment — when my first episode of television aired, I had a group of my close writer friends in Los Angeles gathered at a friend’s place to watch it. When my “Written by” credit appeared on screen, we paused the show and they snapped photos of me standing next to my credit, a big smile on my face. It was a special moment, I think for all of us, because it’s a challenging thing to achieve, that first credit. But we’re all in the fight together, so when one of us “makes it” it’s a victory for the team. We all root for each other and look forward to those moments in all our careers.
Liked/disliked the interview? Leave comments below! 🙂
Note: An edited version of this article first appeared in The Sunday Guardian in the January 31, 2015 issue.
Link: http://www.sunday-guardian.com/masala-art/sneha-koorse-i-excel-at-writing-torture-scenes
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.

THE BEST OF 2014 TV – OVER 50+ SHOW RECOMMENDATIONS

I watched 119 international TV shows (at least 4 episodes of each show – and over 70 shows where I saw full seasons) this year .  Even by my ridiculous standards (I watch more stuff than I sleep, eat or take baths), I would say THAT IS A LOT. In spite of these numbers, I have  missed out on some super TV shows movies and that is my shame to bear. But among the ones I did watch, here are my recommendations for the BEST TV of 2014:

BEST NEW SHOWS (DRAMA)

1. Fargo (Crime thriller/drama) –  Because the best ensemble of the year (Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman, Alison Tolman, Colin Hanks, Key & Peele!) makes the best crime series of the year.
2. True Detective (Crime thriller/drama) – Because Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson are movie stars on *any* screen (also, what gyaan!)
3. The Missing (Crime thriller/drama) – Because Brit drama (& thriller) writing in the hands of James Nesbitt is a national treasure.
4. Manhattan (Period/War drama)- Because this outstanding show about the men behind the atomic bomb will probably explode in a big way into mainstream pop culture soon too.
5. Happy Valley (Suspense thriller) – Because this Brit crime thriller can match any American thriller worth its salt and may even whoop their asses every once a while.
6. The Honourable Woman (Political/spy thriller) – Because this whooped House of Cards’ ass last year for the best political drama.
7. The Flash (Teen superhero) – Because sometimes a fun and lightning-paced drama can be just as awesome to watch as the slow-burning ones.
8. The Affair (Drama) – Because the he said-she said structure is the most interesting play out of an age old premise (also, RUTH WILSON I LOVE YOU).
9. The Assets (Crime/spy thriller) – Because this is The Americans (a cold war spy thriller) if made by Brits.
10. The Leftovers (Drama) – Because this strange, sad and brilliant series is like the spiritual, mature and grown up Lost if there was no plane crash.
11. The Divide (Legal drama) – Because this Innocence Project-inspired series is the best surprise of the year (also, Marin Ireland RULES).
12. The Knick (Period drama) – Because what Steven Soderbergh could bring to 1900s racially charged New York needs to be seen and relished.
13. Mozart in the Jungle (Dramedy) – Because Gael Garcia Bernal and Malcolm McDowell facing off in the backdrop of the symphony   orchestra world is a bunch of fun to watch (also Jason Schwartzmann writes!).
14. Transparent (Dramedy) – Because Jeffrey Tambor.
15. Penny Dreadful (Horror) – Because THIS is how you do horror, American Horror Story.
16. Outlander (Period Drama) – Because a period romance set against the backdrop of a revolution is never going to go out of fashion.
17. Turn (Period/war drama) – Because a spy thriller against the backdrop of the civil war is just the right kind of awesome.
18. The Red Road (Drama)- Because it stars Jason Mamoa and the brilliant Julianne Nicholson and is on SundanceTV, which has shown the mad awesome Rectify, Top of the Lake and The Honourable Woman.
19. Kingdom (Drama) – Because Nick Jonas playing a mixed martial arts fighter is the gritty fix you need when your favourite shows are away (also, Frank Grillo is awesome).
20.  Satisfaction (Drama comedy) – Because this is one of the most interesting takes on a mid-life crisis you’d see.

Note: I haven’t caught up on Oliver Kitteridge, Marco Polo, How to Get Away with Murder, Gotham, Grantchester, Detectorists, and Glue yet.


BEST NEW SHOWS (COMEDY)

1. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver – Because JOHN OLIVER!!!!!!!!!!
2. Silicon Valley – Because awkward nerds spewing R-rated curses is funny as f–k.
3. You’re The Worst – Because an antiromcom is just what was needed to give the genre a boost.
4. Deadbeat – Because an underrated Tyler Labine comedy is a thing to cherish.
5. Broad City – Because this is what Girls should’ve turned into before it went batshit crazy.
6. Survivors Remorse (Drama comedy) – Because Entourage set in the sports world is just as awesome to watch as it is to read.
7. Betas – Because before Silicon Valley came along, awkward nerds trying to launch a startup was executed to perfection here.
8.  Black-ish – Because a comedy that work its black-ishness on its sleeve is exactly the kind of fresh we need.
9. Married – Because Judy Greer, Nat Faxon, Jenny Slate and Brett Gelman is an FX comedy cast from heaven.
10. Mixology – Because this was the most candid, foul-mouthed comedy network television ever made (and hence scrapped).

Note: I haven’t caught up on Jane The Virgin, Selfie, A to Z, Please Like Me, Faking It, High Maintenance, Getting On, Looking, Doll and Em and Review yet.

 

BEST RETURNING SHOWS (COMEDY & DRAMA)

1. The Americans (spy thriller/drama) – Because it is the best damn drama on television at the moment.
2. How I Met Your Mother (comedy) – Because in the year of its farewell – and perhaps its best season ever – it deserved a LOT more love from awards and critics lists.
3. Game of Thrones (fantasy drama) – Because The Viper vs The Mountain and the trial by combat, goddamit!
4. The Good Wife (political/legal drama) – Because it is the best damn network show on television on any given day.
5. Sherlock (suspense drama) – Because Benedict Cumberbatch.
6. The Wrong Mans (action comedy) – Because it is the funniest TV series you aren’t watching, Brit or otherwise.
7. Rectify (drama) – Because it is the most brilliant, affecting and sadly underrated TV drama you don’t know about.
8. About a Boy (comedy) – Because it is the most refreshing, funny and sweet comedy on network TV at the moment.
9. Ray Donovan (crime thriller/drama) – Because in its second season, Ray Donovan truly came into its own as a badass TV show.
10. Homeland (political thriller) – Because it managed to overcome the awkwardly written first half of the season with an OUTSTANDING second half.
11. Vice (news docu) – Because it is a gonzo style news journalism and it KICKS SO MUCH ASS I CAN’T EVEN…
12. Suits (legal drama) – Because Harvey Specter and Mike Ross are the best partnership on television by a long mile.
13. The Walking Dead (thriller/drama) – Because how does it stay so consistently good when its premise is basically, ‘Kill zombies’.
14. Bates Motel (mystery drama) – Because this show balances the suspense, the creepy, the atmospheric and the dramatic brilliantly.
15. New Girl (comedy) – Because there’s something endearing and awesome about the motley bunch of demented actors that form its cast.
16. House of Cards (political drama) – Because even with a season that had as many insane twists as it had people, Francis Underwood is a legend.
17. Elementary (mystery drama) – Because even with a shaky third season, this Sherlock Holmes interpretation remains one of the best done.
18. Veep (Comedy) – Because even when it falls short of being brilliant, it is still better than most comedies on TV.
19. Key and Peele (sketch comedy) – Because there’s always that one gag in every episode that will go down as a classic.
20. Boardwalk Empire (period crime drama) – Because though it may not have ended as strongly as it began, it was some of the BEST TV on TV.
and 20. (tied) The Newsroom (drama comedy) – Because it ended a pretty great first half with a messy second half, but it still remains a piece of art because AARON SORKIN wrote it.

Note: I haven’t caught up on the 2014 seasons of In The Flesh, Peaky Blinders, Person of Interest, Masters of Sex, Scandal, Mad Men, Justified, Parks and Recreations, Shameless, Brooklyn Nine Nine, The Comeback, Louie, Utopia, Banshee, Da Vinci’s Demons, Line of Duty, Rev, The Mindy Project, Orange is the New Black, Arrow, Hannibal and Vikings yet.


In case you are looking for *even* more recommendations, I had reviewed 50 summer TV shows in August. Here’s the list – https://tanejamainhoon.com/2014/09/01/summertv2014/

Next post: The Best of 2014 Indies – Over 50+ Indie movies reviewed!

What are your favourite TV shows of the year? Agree/disagree with  this list? Any shows I missed out on? Do leave your favourites in the comments below 🙂
Follow the blog on your left and like The Tanejamainhoon Page on FB: /
tanejamainhoonpage
Follow Nikhil Taneja on FB: /tanejamainhoonon Twitter:
@tanejamainhoonon Instagram:@tanejamainhoon,
on Youtube: /tanejamainhoon

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.

The Best of Best Of Lists 2014 – TV

(Read The Best of Best of Lists 2014 – Movies here: http://goo.gl/a3W4zf)

‘Tis the season of Best Of Lists! And now that there are *SO* many out there, it’s quite difficult to get a real idea of TV that has truly stood out in the year – since the lists of every individual critic varies just that much. So I’ve drawn up the best of lists of some of the best TV critics out there.

Unlike ‘The Best of Best of Lists 2014Movies version (read here), there seems to be more unanimity in the TV lists. Film critics have generally not agreed upon the best films of the year, saving a very few; while TV critics have pretty similar lists over all, barring a few personal choices.

But here are some of the things that stood out after going through the lists:
The TV show on almost *all* lists: The Americans (My interview with Annet Mahendru from The Americans here: http://goo.gl/drIeeF)
The TV shows that’s *nearly* on all lists: Orange is the New Black & Transparent
The only network TV shows on most lists: The Good Wife and Hannibal
The only news comedy show on most lists: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
The most buzzed about shows on least number of lists: True Detective & The Leftovers
The least buzzed about shows on a lot of lists: Rectify & Review
The new TV comedies on most lists: Broad City & You’re The Worst (My interview with Desmin Borges from You’re The Worst is herehttp://goo.gl/SmCV8u)
The only long-runnings show on most lists: Mad Men & Louie


Here are the lists, that will be updated as more lists come up (The name of the critic links to his/her Twitter page):

The Daily Beast’s ’14 Best TV Shows of 2014′ – By Kevin Fallon http://goo.gl/mCNOGH
(1 to 14) The Good Wife, Transparent, Veep, Fargo, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,  Orange is the New Black, Hannibal, Broad City, The Comeback, Mad Men, Louie, You’re The Worst, Getting On, True Detective

Hitflix’s ‘Top 10 TV Shows of 2014’ – By Alan Sepinwall: http://goo.gl/wGL8gJ
(1 to 10) The Leftovers, The Americans, Transparent, Review, Fargo, Orange is the New Black, Rectify, Hannibal, Mad Men, True Detective

The Huffington Post’s ‘Top 10 TV Shows of 2014’ – By Maureen Ryanhttp://goo.gl/JElHlh
(no order) The Americans, Enlisted, Happy Valley, Jane the Virgin, Orange is the New Black, Penny Dreadful, Rectify, Review, Transparent, You’re The Worst

The New York Times’ ‘Best TV Shows of 2014’ – By Mike Hale: http://goo.gl/0gyrmy
(no order) The Americans, Broen, Fargo, Happy Valley, Homeland, The Knick, Louie, Masters of Sex, Mozart in the Jungle, The Walking Dead

Screencrush’s ‘Top 10 TV shows of 2014’- By Ryan McGeehttp://goo.gl/ewrRXg
(1 to 3, then no order) You’re The Worst, Review, Enlisted, The Americans, The Good Wife, Jane the Virgin, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Orange is the New Black, Penny Dreadful, Rectify

Slate’s ‘Top 10 TV Shows of 2014’ – By Willa Paskinhttp://goo.gl/DbASQU
(1 to 10) Broad City, True Detective, Transparent, Srugim, The Good Wife, You’re The Worst, High Maintenance, Orange is the New Black, The Americans, Louie

Thompson on Hollywood!’s ‘Top 10 TV Series of 2014’ – By Matt Brennanhttp://goo.gl/MhePZL
(1 to 10) Mad Men, Transparent, The Knick, Broad City, The Americans, Please Like Me, Masters of Sex, Orange is the New Black, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Gotham

TIME’s ‘Top 10 TV Shows’ – By James Poniewozikhttp://goo.gl/TiW4a2
(1 to 10) Transparent, The Americans, The Good Wife, Orange is the New Black, Fargo, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Broad City, Louie, High Maintenance, Silicon Valley

Vulture’s ’10 Best TV Shows of 2014′ – By Matt Zoller Seitzhttp://goo.gl/ZkIhSp
(1 to 10) Hannibal, Olive Kitteridge, Private Violence, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, The Missing, The Americans, Mad Men, True Detective, Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, The Roosevelts
So, obviously, after I made this list, I realised there are other such lists out there too. So I’ve kept this list exclusive to critics whose reviews I read and love. You can read other compilations with even more lists here:
Metacritic Compilation: http://www.metacritic.com/feature/tv-critics-pick-10-best-tv-shows-of-2014
Also, here’s a great article by Anne Thompson on ‘How to Make a Ten Best List in Five Easy Steps‘: http://blogs.indiewire.com/thompsononhollywood/how-to-make-a-ten-best-list-in-five-easy-steps-20141210

 

What are your favourite TV shows of the year? Do leave your favourites in the comments below 🙂
Follow the blog on your left and like The Tanejamainhoon Page on FB: /
tanejamainhoonpage
Follow Nikhil Taneja on FB: /tanejamainhoononTwitter:
@tanejamainhoononInstagram:@tanejamainhoon,
onYoutube: /tanejamainhoon

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: INDO-RUSSION ACTRESS ANNET MAHENDRU #THEAMERICANS #PROFILE

FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE: ANNET MAHENDRU
“I don’t look like Hollywood’s idea of an Indian woman”

Note: This interview of Annet Mahendru was taken by Nikhil Taneja (@tanejamainhoon) over Skype for The Sunday Guardian. Here’s the external link: http://goo.gl/AZrJsM

At some point in the middle of an hour-and-a-half-long Skype interview with Afghanistan born Indo-Russian actress Annet Mahendru, talk steers towards storytelling; in particular the stories she wants to tell the world. Annet, who is the star of American cable TV FX’s hit spy series, The Americans (that airs in India on Star World Premiere),  takes a long, deep pause, and then says, “I think human beings are capable of anything and I would like to show that through my work, in my storytelling.

“I want to tell transformative stories. I want to access things inside of me that turn me upside down, twist me inside out, stories in which I’m a princess and in which I’m also a dragon. Stories about the darkest dungeons that are also my home. Stories like that of Gia, from Angelia Jolie’s Gia, or of Lisbeth Salander, from Steig Larsson’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, or of superheroes – but not like the ones in films – of authentic superheroes, superheroes of the underground, who are real, free and genuine.”

Over the course of the conversation, Annet comes across as a genuinely likeable twenty-something who giggles at the end of just about every sentence and whose eyes twinkle each time she talks about her two homes, India and Russia, or her years growing up all over the world. But you would be anything but prudent in pegging her as merely girlish, because, like the aforementioned example, whenever she is faced with a question about the craft of acting, her role as Russian double agent Nina Sergeevna or filmmaking and cinema, she is a smart, evocative, measured and deep-thinking woman, who takes her time in coming up with a response that emanates as much from her heart as it does from her head.

And when Annet speaks about her craft, she is subliminally speaking about herself as well; her answers are not just a reflection of how she thinks, it is of who she is. So if Annet is interested in transformative stories, it is in essence because she has spent a lifetime embodying one herself. As a child born in war-ravaged Aghanistan to a Russian artist mother and an Indian professor and journalist father, she grew up a self-confessed nerd, with interests ranging from chess and karate to Bharatnatyam.

“It would seem like I had an identity crisis,” she laughs, “but the truth is, somewhere deep inside of me I knew that I’d be a storyteller. You never know what you can be asked to transform into to tell your stories effectively, and subconsciously, I wanted to be prepared for everything.

“Of course, another part of it is because I have had an affinity to all sorts of cultures and passions inherently,” she says, citing her ‘gypsy’ childhood , much of which was spent traveling between Germany and Russia, after moving from Afghanistan, before she finally moved to USA during her teenage years.

Her memories of growing up are distinct and striking, and she remembers fractured instances of life as a kid who had a malleable concept of home. “Of Aghanistan, I remember hiding in the bathtub thinking there were fireworks going on outside the apartment for New Years, when we were actually in the midst of war,” she recalls.

“And when we shifted to Russia, Russians would be fascinated with me. They didn’t have much interaction with the outside world at that time and they would literally touch me and call me ‘gypsy girl’ because I was this weird looking foreigner.”

The first legible concept of home that Annet ever had was staying in Germany where most of her father’s seven siblings lived with their respective families. “It was there that I picked up my love for performance by watching reruns of Bollywood movies,” she smiles. “When I was five years old, each time guests would come over to our house, I would come out in my Indian dress and put up a dance performance for them on ‘Choli ke peeche kya hai.’”

After she moved to New York and eventually LA, and her love for the arts took a life of its own, Annet’s ethnic ambiguity helped her realise that as an actor, she could both blend in and stand out. “I have always auditioned for parts of all background – from European to Afghan to Hispanic to American and Indian – because I wanted to move beyond ethnicity. I have also worn lose, baggy clothes to auditions because I didn’t want to be seen as a ‘hot girl’. I want to tell all kind of stories and not be limited by the colour of my skin or hair. I’m not just this or just that; like everyone, there are so many sides to me.”

The multi-faceted and culturally diverse identity she epitomizes helped her land her career-defining role in The Americans too. She was auditioned on Skype by the show’s creator, ex-CIA operative Joe Weisberg, and won the part because after learning of her eclectic background, Weisberg jokingly concluded that either her parents must be spies or she is one herself. “I think he was interviewing me as a potential agent and I passed the test on a human level,” she laughs.

Her role in The Americans was at first a guest arc that was soon converted into a series regular after the audience couldn’t get enough of Annet’s character, the enigmatic Nina. Apart from the professional success that came from playing a Russian double agent on a hit TV show, The Americans in many ways helped her  come even closer to her mother and her Russian roots.

“When I put on my makeup for the first time on the show and looked at myself as Nina, from ‘80s Russia, I saw my mom looking back at me and it was beautiful,” she glows. “Through Nina, I was able to connect with my Russian ancestry and access the truth of what it meant to be a Russian at the time my mother was my age, as well as explore it physically.”

It was also this ability to seek the truth that helped Annet comprehend and rationalise the partial nudity that was required of her character, Nina. “My body is sacred to me and I was fearful about approaching these scenes at first,” she says. “But I realised that when I’m Nina, I can’t continue being Annet. Nina doesn’t have guns so if she needs to survive, she has to use her intuition and her truth. And the only way you could be truthful as a woman spy at that time was to bare yourself physically and mentally.

“The writers were very careful in the story to ensure that Nina doesn’t just take her clothes off for frivolous reasons. When Nina is unclothed, she is a woman to her utmost and fullest degree and she owns everything in that moment. And for me, as an Indian woman, embracing the femininity and expressing my sexuality through that character was, in a way, empowering too.”

Annet is currently filming the third season of The Americans, has done guest parts in high profile shows like Grey’s Anatomy, stars in the upcoming animated film, Penguins of Madagascar, besides a couple of independent movies, in which she plays the all-American lead (Bridge and Tunnel and Sally Pacholok), she is now “thirsty” to find a role to express the Indian side of her genes and complete her transformation into the woman who can break out of the stereotypes and boxes the world tries to put her into, and achieve everything she wants. An offer by a big Indian film studio couldn’t work out because of scheduling conflicts, but Annet knows it’s only a matter of time.

“I have never been able to get the role of an Indian so far because I don’t look like Hollywood’s idea of an Indian woman, which is a brown-skinned exotic princess,” she says. “But I can’t wait for it to happen. When you tap into one part of yourself, you understand more about the other part too. Even the dynamic that I bring to Nina comes from this personal ability to shift perspectives and find truth in both worlds inside of me. I have all these perspectives within me, and I feel at home in different places because of that. That’s why I am never truly home at just one place… and yet, the world is my home.”

Note: If you haven’t seen The Americans, you *must* watch it since it is one of the best shows on TV today. Here’s what I had written about it in another article: http://goo.gl/aCMfGO 


If you liked/disliked the interview, do leave a comment below 🙂
Follow the blog on your left and like The Tanejamainhoon Page on FB: /
tanejamainhoonpage
Follow Nikhil Taneja on FB: /tanejamainhoononTwitter:
@tanejamainhoononInstagram:@tanejamainhoon,
onYoutube: /tanejamainhoon

Note: An edited version of this article first appeared in The Sunday Guardian in the November 9, 2014 issue.
Link: 
http://www.sunday-guardian.com/masala-art/from-russia-with-love-annet-mahendru
Picture courtesy:
 Brian Sunday. 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.