Shuddh Desi Romance had its North American premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) earlier this month. Towards the end of the film, released here as Random Desi Romance, Parineeti Chopra’s character Gayatri complains of a headache.
By then I shared her complaint, having made that pilgrimage to throbbing temples.
But this wasn’t the only commercial film in the category of TIFF’s stiffs. It had a rival for DOA, in the Chinese mainstream industry’s American Dreams in China, which, unfortunately, didn’t involve the recreation of an entirely fake Apple store complete with the latest iPhonies.
Beyond the cluster of clunkers, though, each filmdom did deliver dramas that dazzled.
From China, there was the understated Kafkaesque thriller Trap Street from director Vivian Wu, that riffs on how personal liberty is always at risk, even over an imagined transgression in a totalitarian state.
And from India came The Lunchbox, another gently crafted film, by 34-year-old Ritesh Batra, which some critics want to see as our entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 2014 Academy Awards.
Oh, yes, it’s that time of the year, with the tastemaking TIFF providing the traditional kickoff to the season of speculating about the Oscars.
The frontrunner for Best Picture is certainly 12 Years a Slave, from director Steve McQueen, which won TIFF’s People’s Choice Award, though I’d be tempted to tout the 3D space thriller Gravity, if only because it has an astronaut warbling ‘Mera Joota Hai Japani’.
But this is the year in which actual events could rival the most adventurous of scripts. Among the contenders for Best Picture would be French President François Hollande’s “gormless grin” that had the British media in stitches.
But he could be forgiven bizarre facial tics if only to distract from being stranded by the Obama administration on military action in Syria.
After a ruckus once the photo went viral, AFP withdrew it with a terse message: “Please remove from all your systems. We are sorry for any inconvenience and thank you for your cooperation.” Which sounds like a White House spokesperson’s statement about wimping away from crossing some raid lines.
And for Original Screenplay, how about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Op-Ed in the New York Times about the situation in Syria, if only for this line: “It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation.”
Former chess champion, now political dissident Garry Kasparov, dissed the piece on Twitter, “I hope Putin has taken adequate precautions. Now that he is a Russian journalist, his life may be in grave danger!”
Putin may have several sequels up his sleeve, so no one’s quite certain which genre the final product will be in, though it looks like a disaster at this time while having already included elements of tragedy, comedy and farce.
Meanwhile, despite Gravity’s stellar FX, who can ignore the hi-tech plot cooked up by the US National Security Agency and its PRISM programme.
The most recent of those Special Effects was Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff nixing Obama’s invitation for what would have been the first State dinner of his second term, an unheard of snub to an American president. For some reason, American spooks snooping through her emails and other communications didn’t prove very appetising.
As the White House continues to face the music over the spying, the latest entry in the Best Original Score category has to be the song (and dance) over the racist reaction to Nina Duvuluri being crowned Miss America.
The 24-year-old wannabe doctor (talk about stereotypes) was gracious in ignoring the rants as she said, “I’m so happy this organisation has embraced diversity.”
Though with Bollywood’s best, like Shah Rukh Khan, John Abraham, Priyanka Chopra and Aishwarya Rai, endorsing various unfair and unlovely products, you could wonder how much of the rage in India is just skin deep.
Or just another random romance with a fashionable trope.
(Currently based in Toronto, Anirudh Bhattacharyya has been a New York-based foreign correspondent for eight years)
The views expressed by the author are personal