VIDEO: LA LA LAND’S DAMIEN CHAZELLE AND JUSTIN HURWITZ

 

We got an opportunity to speak with Damien Chazelle and Justin Hurwitz about the making of La La Land, its music, the influence of Hollywood musicals, Jacques Demy and their first day in Los Angeles. Are there any autobiographical elements in this film? Tune in to find out.

Chazelle wrote and directed the film and Hurwitz composed the music. They have worked together since their student days at Harvard University. Their last collaboration Whiplash for which JK Simmons won an Oscar for best supporting actor.

La La Land stars Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, JK Simmons and John Legend.

This interview was originally aired on TV in the US.

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PODCAST: JOHN MADDEN ON “MISS SLOANE,” JESSICA CHASTIN & STAR WARS

Director John Madden on the set of EuropaCorp's "Miss Sloane". Photo Credit: Kerry Hayes © 2016 EuropaCorp – France 2 Cinema

Director John Madden on the set of EuropaCorp’s “Miss Sloane”.
Photo Credit: Kerry Hayes
© 2016 EuropaCorp – France 2 Cinema

Director John Madden’s new film Miss Sloane is about a powerful Washington DC lobbyist played by Jessica Chastain. We caught up with Madden at Industrial Light Magic’s (ILM) office in San Francisco. ILM was a fitting venue since Madden’s first American project was a radio drama of Star Wars. George Lucas is a big fan of radio drama and gave the radio drama rights to his alma mater University of Southern California (USC) points out Madden.

We talked with Madden about his association with ILM, Star Wars,  the making of Miss Sloane and Chastain. The film is based on a screenplay by debut writer Jonathan Perera.

Madden first worked with Chastain in The Debt and was impressed with her acting. Tune in to find out what he has to say about Star Wars, the making of Miss Sloane, Jessica Chastain and Perera.

LISTEN: JOHN MADDEN ON “MISS SLOANE,” JESSICA CHASTIN & STAR WARS

Madden started his career in directing radio dramas and went on to work in theatre, TV and films. His first film was Ethan Frome followed by Mrs. Brown, Shakespeare in Love, The Debt, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel 1 and 2 and now Miss Sloane.

 

  • Title: MISS SLOANE
  • Running Time: 132 minutes
  • Status: Releases Nov 9, 2016 in San Francisco Bay area
  • Country: USA
  • GENRE: POLITICAL THRILLER, DRAMA

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PODCAST: VAASANTHI ON JAYALALITHA & TAMIL NADU POLITICS

VaasanthiJayalalitha Jayaraman, the Chief Minister of the southern Indian India state Tamil Nadu passed on Dec 5, 2106 in Chennai. Jayalalitha (68) represents a rare breed of Tamil politicians, who built their career in the Tamil film industry before joining politics. Jayalalitha along with MGR and Karunanidhi exerted a powerful influence on their voters and on the policy and politics of Tamil Nadu.  This is a rare and unusual phenomenon where these 3 politicians were democratically voted in and out of power for over 40 years.

These 3 politicians  – Jayalalitha, MGR and Karunanidhi have been elected as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu since the 1970s till 2016. With the passing away of  Jayalalitha and MGR, the only person left in the triumivirate is Karunanidhi, who is is 92 years old now.

Tamil Nadu politics is filled with complexties and contradictions. To an outsider Tamil Nadu politics is full of contradictions points out Vaasanthi author of  Cut-outs, Caste and Cine Stars.  But, for an insider or someone who grew up in Tamil Nadu (like I did)  the contradictions were part and parcel of their life.

We spoke to Vaasanthi about Jayalalitha, Karunanidhi and the evolution of caste politics in Tamil Nadu and the central roles that Tamil films played. We get a peek into Jayalalitha’s personality and political style through Vaasanthi.

LISTEN: VAASANTHI ON  JAYALALITHA & TAMIL NADU POLITICS 

This interview was recorded in 2016 when Tamil Nadu had just held its state elections, where Jayalalitha’s party failed to win the elections. At a personal level Jayalalitha did well in the 2016 elections. Don’t write off Jayalalitha yet she says. Vaasanthi was right. A few years later Jayalalitha won the elections and became the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu.

This interview was originally published in May 2006.

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RIP: JAYALALITHA – AN ACTRESS TURNED POLITICIAN OF TAMIL NADU

Jayalalitha Jayaraman - Amma

Jayaraman Jayalalitha, the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu passed away on Sunday, Dec 4, 2016 in Chennai. She was 68 years old. This obituary from the BBC sums up Jayalalitha’s life in films and politics. She was popularly known as … Continue reading

VIDEO: ALAM KHAN ON USTAD ALI AKBAR KHAN, THE LEGACY OF MAIHAR GHARANA & HIP-HOP

Alam Khan is a musician, composer and educator. He plays the sarode.  We spoke with Khan about his father Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, the legacy of Maihar gharana and his love for both Hindustani or North Indian classical music and hip-hop.

Ustad Ali Akbar Khan was one of the most famous sarode player and Khan is carrying on the legacy of his father’s music and Maihar gharana that traces its roots to Tansen, the court musician in the court of Mughal Emperor Akbar.  Members of Maihar gharana include Allauddin Khan, Ali Akbar Khan, Annapurna Devi, Ravi Shankar, Nikhil Banerjee and others.

Ustad Ali Akbar Khan founded a music school in San Francisco Bay area in 1967 and his music influenced quite a few iconic musicians like The Grateful Dead and others. Khan teaches at the school just like his father did. The school celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2017.

Khan shares how growing up in Marin county he listened to both Hindustani music and mainstream American music like Crosby, Still and Nash, Jim Hendrix and hip-hop. He learnt to play the guitar from Jai Uttal as a teenager. Khan dabbled with playing the sarode as a 7-year old and then returned to it as a 12-year-old and spent many years learning to play the sarode from his father.

Besides Hindustani music Khan is a also a big fan of hip-hop music and recently released an album called Grand Tapestry with Elijh on vocals, Saler Nader on tabla and Alam Khan on sarode.

What did Ustad Ali Akbar Khan have to say about hip-hop and rap music. “Too much talking and not enough music,” was his answer as his son shares in the interview. Rap music is “loop-based and about words,” adds Khan. It sounds like Khan has found a way to embrace both Hindustani and hip-hop music in a happy way.

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VIDEO: LUCAS HEDGES ON MANCHESTER BY THE SEA, KENNETH LONERGAN AND ACTING

Lucas Hedges is a fine, fine actor. I sat down to speak to Hedges about his role in Manchester By The Sea, Kenneth Lonergan, his new film with Martin McDonagh, acting, music and Harry Potter. Hedges has known Lonergan since he was a kid and yet was very nervous when he audioned for the film. He auditioned 5 times before he found out that he had bagged the role in Lonergan’s film. Tune in to find out how Hedges was nervous.

Manchester By The Sea is a sharply nuanced film that gets under your skin and makes you a little uncomfortable. It is bleak, tragic & funny. Hedges provides the much-needed humor in the film. The film is about love, tragedy, and circle of life and is written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan, who also wrote the screenplay for Analyze This and Gangs of New York among others.

The film is a “masculine melodrama that doubles as a fable of social catastrophe,” writes AO Scott of The New York Times. “Manchester-by-the-Sea is a study of family dysfunction and the worse loss imaginable,” writes  of The Guardian.

  • Title: MANCHESTER BY THE SEA
  • Running Time: 137 minutes
  • Status: Limited Released on Nov 25, 2016 in SF Bay area & expanding in first weeks of December
  • Country: USA
  • GENRE: DRAMA

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BINGE WATCHED BROWN NATION ON NETFLIX

You know how Netflix makes recommendations for you? That is how I discovered Brown Nation. At first I overlooked their suggestion since I had no clue what Brown Nation was all about.And then I succumbed out of sheer curiosity and was hooked. Part of the reason for being hooked is the way the series captured the desi elements in an authentic way complete with a sprinkling of Punjabi, Gujarati, Malayalam and Tamil. Oh! And there is a fair amount of Bollywood reference that should appeal to your desi heart.

The series may remind some of you of NBC’s TV show Outsourced, which essentially had an American cast and was about an American’s company’s back office in India. Brown Nation differs from Outsourced in a couple of ways: the cast is a mix of Indian and American actors and the series is about the existential crisis of an American IT company in America. And, the other thing that is different about Brown Nation is that it has a distinct East Coast perspective and I say this after having lived on both sides of the coast.

I ended up binge watching the 10 part series of Brown Nation about an Indian American business family in New York. Hasmukh (Rajeev Varma) owns a small IT consulting company and his wife Dimple (Shehnaz Treasury), who is is working hard to get a break as an actor. Calling Hasmukh an entrepreneur is a bit of a stretch since his company barely makes any revenue and yet he has a small retinue of workers, who try to keep themselves busy. The show essentially is about your everyday life in America told through the lives of Hasmukh and his wife and their pet doggie Bobby.

The people who shine in Brown Nation are Shehnaz Treasury, Remy Munasifi and Omi Vaidya. And kudos to the creators of Brown Nation Abi Varghese, George Kannat and Matt Grubb.

I guess there will be a second season of Brown Nation. Wonder how that will pan out since Hasmukh’s little IT company is at an inflection point. Will his company pivot? We will have to wait to find out.

VIDEO: JAZZ IMPROVISATION OF BAGS’ GROOVE BY DR. AARON LINGTON & CHRIS MOTTER

Dr. Aaron Lington and Chris Motter play their version of Bags’ Groove, a well-known jazz tune by Milt Jackson. Dr. Lington shares how they have funkified their version and explains how they improvised this well-known jazz number.

Dr. Lington is an educator, composer and arranger, who teaches at San Jose State University. Motter is a musician and guitarist, who got his master’s in music from San Jose State.

This interview was sponsored by Zoho Corp.

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VIDEO: LUCAS HEDGES ON “MANCHESTER BY THE SEA” & KENNETH LONERGAN

Actor Lucas Hedges shares how he got to star in Kenneth Lonergan’s film Manchester By The Sea. He auditioned for his role 5 times and was very nervous if he’d bag the role he shares.

Lonergan wrote and directed the film that stars Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler and Lucas Hedges.

We have a longer interview of Hedges coming up.

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LEONARD COHEN’S VISITS TO INDIA AND BUDDHISM

Singer-songwriter and novelist Leonard Cohen died in his sleep in Los Angeles on November 7, 2016. He was 82 years old.

Cohen’s “dry, monotone voice…provided a rarefied alternative to more accessible troubadours, employing meticulous language to plumb the vagaries of the human condition,” writes Joseph Cerna of Los Angeles Times. And, Cerna is absolutely right. When you first listen to Cohen’s songs it is that dry, monotone voice that strikes you. And, you wonder what is this fuss all about? What is so special about Cohen’s music? But, when you start listening to the words you realize why so many people are drawn to his music. He had a way with words is a pedestrian way of describing Cohen’s great facility with words.

He was “high priest of pathos.” and “The Godfather of Gloom,” writes Nick Paton Walsh in a 2001 article in The Guardian. Pathos and gloom were familiar friends for Cohen. He sought different ways to find depression that included visits to India and becoming a Buddhist monk for a few years.

Perhaps it should come as no surprise then that Cohen made multiple trips to India to find answers. We get a hint of Cohen’s visits to Bombay via  Ratnesh Mathur‘s post. Cohen spent time in Bombay visiting with Ramesh Balsekar, a Vedanta teacher. Soutik Biswas of the BBC writes about Cohen’s visits to India and how it changed him.

He turned to Buddhism and became a Zen Monk for a few years. Pico Iyer has a nuanced piece in Utne Reader on how he spent a few days with Cohen at the Zen Monastery outside of Los Angeles.

Often described as enigmatic Cohen leaves behind a rich legacy of songs, poems and writings.

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