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The A to Z of Hollywood, pop culture in 2017: Reboots, Oscars envelop-gate and Harvey Weinstein

It’s been a wild and wearying year in the world of pop culture, with memorable moments by the dozens. From surprise box office hits, new Hollywood tropes and fresh reboots to the wave of sexual misconduct allegations that toppled Hollywood power brokers, politicians, media icons and many others.

A collage of some of 2017's top entertainment news stories

A collage of some of 2017’s top entertainment news stories

So, here’s your A-Z guide to everything pop culture from 2017 with some of the biggest entertainment stories of the year (though a few of them are perhaps best forgotten):

A – Ariana Grande’s benefit concert

Ariana Grande, hardly a household name in the UK before a suicide bomber killed 22 people at her Manchester concert in May, emerged as a national heroine following an emotional televised benefit performance. She held a benefit concert, One Love Manchester, on 4 June 2017 at Old Trafford Cricket Ground in Manchester for the victims of the bombing at her show.

B – Baby Groot and BB-8

They were two of the year’s most adorable characters bringing joy to our hearts with their endearing non-human performances. Following the catastrophic events of Guardians of the Galaxy in which Groot sacrifices himself to save the Guardians, the sequel sees the powerful tree alien as a baby sapling, changing the dynamic between the five heroes. Baby Groot offers up comedic relief during high-stakes scenes, such as a battle with a giant monster in which the tree sapling dances his way through the chaos and delivers tiny roars. Sure, Baby Groot is kind of a gimmick to sell toys, but that cute monosyllabic tree still managed to upstage Chris Pratt. Director James Gunn knew just where to use Baby Groot, whether dancing with abandon to “Mr. Blue Sky” while his fellow Guardians are fighting a monstrous space alien or spectacularly failing to comprehend a simple plan that would help his friends escape from a locked cell. Despite boasting a cast of incredible characters like Poe, Rey and Finn, BB-8 is still one of the most loved characters in the new Star Wars franchise. Before the premiere of The Last Jedi, the robot bowed to Prince William and Prince Harry on the red carpet at the Royal Albert Hall and even seemed to have had a serious chit-chat with Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke.

C – Coco

Coco, one of the largest American productions ever to feature an almost entirely Latino cast, not only celebrated Mexican culture but also helped bridge the political gap between the United States and Mexico. Disney-Pixar’s colourful animated adventure into the land of the dead is a story of family, memory and legacy. The film, based on the traditions surrounding the Day of the Dead holiday in Mexico, centers on a 12-year-old Mexican boy, Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez), who longs to become a musician but faces a generations-old family ban on music.

D – Dustin, Dart and the “demodogs”

In Stranger Things 2, Dustin’s interdimensional pet, D’artagnan, starts out as a cute little pollywog but he and his fellow demodogs prove they were anything but cute by the season’s end. A year has passed since a supernatural demon terrorized the town of Hawkins, Indiana, but as Netflix’s hit 1980s science fiction series Stranger Things returned for a second season, life still did not return to normal for the unlikely heroes. But it still made for one fun and thrilling nostalgia trip.

E – Envelopegate

La La Land producer Jordan Horowitz (front C) shows the card saying Moonlight won the best picture as actor Warren Beatty (front 4R), and Host Jimmy Kimmel (3R) look on at the 89th Oscars. AFP

La La Land producer Jordan Horowitz (front C) shows the card saying Moonlight won the best picture as actor Warren Beatty (front 4R), and Host Jimmy Kimmel (3R) look on at the 89th Oscars. AFP

Moonlight won the Oscar for best picture on Hollywood’s big night but that was overshadowed by an embarrassing onstage gaffe over the top award. In a mishap that caused uproar and confusion, presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway initially announced that romantic musical La La Land, the presumed favorite for best picture, had won. As the casts of both films stood awkwardly on stage, Beatty explained he had been given the wrong envelope to open. It was the first time in living memory that such a major mistake had been made at the Academy Awards, Hollywood’s biggest night. It even eclipsed the prior three hours of a show peppered with jokes about US President Donald Trump. Accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers, who oversee the ballots, said the presenters had mistakenly been given the wrong category envelope.

F – The F word In the year that Donald Trump’s inauguration triggered nationwide women’s protests and powerful men were toppled by a firestorm of sexual misconduct allegations, Merriam-Webster named “feminism” its word of 2017. This year the dictionary announced a 70 percent increase in online searches for “feminism” compared to 2016, recording multiple spikes corresponding to a string of news reports and events. Searches rose following the Women’s March on Washington and other US cities on 21 January, the day after Trump was sworn in as president, the dictionary said. Interest was also driven by The Handmaid’s Tale, the Hulu series about a dystopian future in which a woman lives as a concubine during a time of dictatorship, and Hollywood blockbuster Wonder Woman starring Gal Gadot.

G – Gal Gadot With Wonder Woman, the Israeli actress and all-round badass saved superhero films from being a boy’s club with Wonder Woman, which was the first superhero movie to star a woman since 2005 and the first to be directed by a woman (Patty Jenkins). It rode to the top of the box office on a wave of good reviews and female empowerment. We still get goosebumps thinking about Gal Gadot emerging from that trench and walking confidently with a steely calm into that empty and unwinnable field, swatting bullets away with her golden bracelets and giving hope not only to those counting on her in the film but to every woman in the audience too.

H – The Handmaid’s Tale Margaret Atwood’s 1985 book about a totalitarian regime where fertile women live in sexual servitude, resonated with millions of women because those worlds no longer seemed so far-fetched. Having been turned into a major television show on Hulu, the story’s trademark red cloaks and white bonnets have been donned as symbols of protest at US demonstrations against threats to women’s healthcare under Trump.

I – I, Tonya I, Tonya is the Tonya Harding film you never knew you wanted: an outrageously entertaining reappraisal of the Olympic figure skater who, in 1994, was involved in a scheme to injure her main rival, Nancy Kerrigan. It begins in a mock-documentary style with the characters — Margot Robbie as Harding — giving present-day interviews recalling “the incident.” It is a bold reevaluation of one of the soapiest tabloid scandals of the last century and the most audacious film of the season.

J – Jordan Peele

Daniel Kaluuya as Chris Washington in a still from Get Out

Daniel Kaluuya as Chris Washington in a still from Get Out

Get Out isn’t your standard horror and that’s what makes it great. Writer-director Jordan Peele brilliantly weaved poignant social commentary into a top-notch genre pic — a tricky thing to do, especially when it’s your directorial debut. With it, the man who had previously been known as a comedian and actor made himself a must-follow filmmaker too. Despite a $4.5 million budget, the critically acclaimed tale of a young black man meeting his white girlfriend’s sweet-turned-sinister family earned $175 million — with takings of $254 million internationally. It was recently announced that Peele will be helming the reboot of a renowned CBS science-fiction series. Are you ready to re-enter “The Twilight Zone?”

K – Kimmel’s health care segments

Late-night talk show host and comedian Jimmy Kimmel emerged as the unlikely town crier against the Republican plan to overhaul Obamacare, highlighting his son’s heart disease in an emotional new appeal to salvage America’s health care system. For two straight nights he has stood on stage at an ABC studio in Los Angeles and, using his own son’s harrowing story as an example of the extraordinary costs of emergency treatment, argued that poor and middle class families would be priced out of health care under the new plan. “I want you to know I am politicising my son’s health problems, because I have to,” Kimmel said in a lengthy monologue in which he blasted a bill unveiled by Republican Senators Bill Cassidy and Lindsey Graham. In a tearful on-air appearance in May, the late-night host stressed that “no parent should ever have to decide if they can afford to save their child’s life.”

L – Lynch returns

Twin Peaks, David Lynch’s famously surreal noir soap opera about murder in small-town America, returned in May after 26 years away, for a new 18-episode run in perhaps one of the most eagerly anticipated television events of the year. Lynch and Mark Frost created a layered revival with some delightful cinematography and disquieting moments as we saw the return of the coffee- and pie-loving FBI agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan). Other than Lynch veterans Harry Dean Stanton, Laura Dern and Naomi Watts, the show’s star cast included Michael Cera, Monica Bellucci, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jim Belushi, Tim Roth, Robert Forster, Ashley Judd and Amanda Seyfried.

M – McCarthyism

Melissa McCarthy lampooned then-White House press secretary Sean Spicer in a January edition of a Saturday Night Live sketch where the actress taunted reporters as “losers,” fired a water gun at the press corps and used the lectern to ram a (fake) Wall Street Journal reporter. “I want to begin tonight by apologizing on behalf of YOU to ME for how you have treated me these last two weeks,” McCarthy said in opening the mock press briefing. “And that apology is NOT accepted.” It was one of the funniest bits on television as SNL‘s popularity soared in the era of Trump.

N – The reign of Netflix

The old model of hefty pay TV packages supporting the content creators is fading, and the struggle for power in the industry is now referred to by some analysts as a “Game of Thrones”. Fueled by huge piles of subscriber money, Netflix, in particular, has disrupted the sector with some critically and commerically successful original programming. This year saw the premiere of plenty of new shows like 13 Reasons Why, GLOW, Mindhunter, Godless, etc. The Meyerowitz Stories and Okja were the first Netflix original movies to be shown at Cannes. Hit shows like Stranger Things, Orange is the New Black and Bojack Horseman returned for new seasons.

O – Okja

Directed by Korean Bong Joon-ho, known for Snowpiercer and The Host, Okja is the story of a little girl’s relationship to an intelligent giant pig-like animal which has, unknown to her, been bred by a U.S. biotech company to produce cheap meat. The animal is saved, but also used, by activists from the Animal Liberation Front (ALF). It marked a milestone for Netlix’s ever-growing slate of exclusive and diverse original content. At Cannes Film Festival, as the Netflix logo hit the screen, sections of the crowd booed, and the opening scene was difficult to hear due to heckling and slow handclapping – apparently due to the film being projected in the wrong aspect ratio. The projection was stopped, the screen adjusted and the movie then restarted, with the Netflix logo again being booed, but the rest of the film watched in respectful silence and ended to hearty applause. Gyllenhaal made light of speculation the screening glitch had been sabotage, possibly by Netflix’s opponents in the French movie industry angry at its refusal to release the film in theatres, saying: “It was the ALF I guess.” French rules mean that movies cannot be streamed online until three years after their theatrical release, and Netflix has ruled out any such release in France – creating a controversy that has been hard to avoid at the festival.

P – Pennywise

Pennywise in 2017's It

Pennywise in 2017’s It

It has been 27 years since a deranged killer clown terrorized a town on the small screen in It and ushered in a generation’s fear of clowns. Now, Stephen King’s Pennywise the child-eating clown is back, with bloodier teeth and a fresh set of victims. The long-awaited movie version of King’s 1986 horror novel is filled with gritty thrills, gory deaths and a Loser’s Club – the group of hero teenagers – not shy about cursing and making crude comments. “It” begins with a very vivid homage to the 1990 miniseries as little Georgie Denbrough, clad in a yellow raincoat, chases a paper boat down the rain-soaked streets of the fictional suburban town of Derry, Maine, right to a storm drain. There Pennywise, a supernatural demon clown, lurks underground and lures Georgie to a gory fate that kicks off a chain of deaths for the town’s teenagers and strange visions among the seven members of the Loser’s Club.

Q – Quentin Tarantino to helm Star Trek?

The Pulp Fiction director apparently has “a great idea” for the next instalment of the sci-fi movie series, and has shared the idea with JJ Abrams, who himself is currently busy preparing for “Star Wars Episode IX”. Tarantino and Abrams are in the process of setting up a writers’ room. If the script is approved by both parties, Tarantino may direct the potential project, with Abrams attached to produce. Tarantino, 54, is currently working on an untitled Manson Family murders film, which is set to release on 9 August, 2019. Considering Tarantino’s repeated insistence on sticking with his 10-film retirement plan, would you want his last to be a Star Trek film?

R – Rooney Mara’s pie

It is not necessarily supposed to be funny when Rooney Mara, in a bizarre moment of grief over the death of her husband, eats an entire pie in one take in David Lowery’s A Ghost Story, but awkward laughter is just one of the many emotions you experience watching her stab at the pie pan with a fork. It was made even better when Mara revealed that she’d never actually eaten pie before.

S – Stephen King renaissance

Other than the box office hit It and Netflix’s Stranger Things homage, it was a good year to be Stephen King. While The Dark Tower film adaptation was a box office and critical failure, Netflix premiered two original horror films based on King’s works, Gerald’s Game and 1922 — both earning plenty of praise. And there are more adaptations planned of the famously prolific writer’s books. Along with the upcoming Hulu series Castle Rock, and a new remake of Firestarter, an eponymous remake of the 1989 horror film Pet Sematary is slated to release on 19 April, 2019. New Line Cinema also announced that the It sequel is scheduled to release on 6 September, 2019.

T – Twins send social media into a frenzy

Amal Clooney and Beyonce’s twins turned motherhood into the biggest celebrity stories of the year despite the striking contrast in styles of the two women who have become the focus of a baby-obsessed public. The birth of George and Amal Clooney’s twins sent media into a frenzy with paparazzi lined up outside a London hospital clamouring for the first pictures and celebrity websites outdoing each other for clicky headlines like “10 Reasons George Clooney Will Make a Great Dad.” Yet for all the fuss that greeted babies Ella and Alexander Clooney, they were merely the warm-up act to the summer’s blockbuster. Beyonce released a slew of photos of herself posing pregnant and nude, a day after announcing she was expecting twins with her husband, rapper Jay-Z. The announcement instantly went viral with a photo of the singer stripped down to her lingerie holding her bare belly and a veil draped over her head. Then, after their delivery, she debuted the pictures of her twins, Sir Carter and Rumi, in an Instagram post, causing an internet sensation once more in her first public acknowledgement of their birth. She wore a blue veil and a colorful flowing robe that fell off her left shoulder. The picture had been “liked” more than 6.5 million times nine hours after it was posted.

U – Unreviewed films at the awards season

Two films that have yet to be released or reviewed (and in some cases even seen) by critics, All the Money in the World and The Greatest Showman, scored three Golden Globe nominations each. The PT Barnum musical The Greatest Showman earned a best musical or comedy nomination and an acting nod” for Hugh Jackman. The Getty kidnapp”ing drama All the Money in the World, which got a publicity boost when Scott decided to replace Kevin Spacey with Christopher Plummer six weeks before the film’s release, got a nod for Plummer, actress Michelle Williams and Scott. Films like The Post, Phantom Thread and Molly’s Game are also yet to be released in theaters, but at least those have been widely seen and evaluated by critics and press beyond the mysterious members of the HFPA.

V – Villeneuve’s reboots

Canadian director Denis Villeneuve had fended off numerous requests to direct big-budget sequels until he was approached to make a follow-up to Ridley Scott’s 1982 neo-noir sci-fi film “Blade Runner.” Blade Runner: 2049″ sees Gosling as a new Los Angeles Police Department “blade runner” — charged with killing bioengineered androids known as “replicants.” On uncovering a secret which threatens society, he embarks on a search for Harrison Ford’s character, a former blade runner who disappeared 30 years ago. Unfortunately, despite stellar reviews, the reboot fell far short of expectations at the box office. After making three acclaimed movies in three years with Sicario, Arrival, and Blade Runner: 2049, Villeneuve is working on his passion project, Dune, which he promises won’t be anything like David Lynch’s adaptation of the iconic Frank Herbert novel.

W – Weinstein and Co

Sexual harassment allegations: This combination of photos shows, top row from left, broadcaster Bill O'Reilly, U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore, U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., and broadcaster Matt Lauer. Bottom row from left are actor Kevin Spacey, conductor James Levine, broadcaster Charlie Rose and film producer Harvey Weinstein. AP

Sexual harassment allegations: This combination of photos shows, top row from left, broadcaster Bill O’Reilly, U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore, U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., and broadcaster Matt Lauer. Bottom row from left are actor Kevin Spacey, conductor James Levine, broadcaster Charlie Rose and film producer Harvey Weinstein. AP

On October 5, the New York Times publishes a bombshell investigative report accusing Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, 65, of sexual harassment over several decades. Allegations of sexual misconduct have since been levelled at a long list of personalities in film, television, journalism and politics around the world. Actors and other public figures began vanishing from the TV screen (and elsewhere) in October as scores of allegations of sexual misconduct targeted one prominent man after another. Fox News Channel’s fired Bill O’Reilly had led the way in April, but in the wake of Harvey Weinstein’s disgrace, Kevin Spacey was removed from the final season of Netflix’s House of Cards. Louis CK lost a Netflix comedy special and other TV projects. Charlie Rose was removed from CBS This Morning and his own public television interview show was cancelled.

X – Xenophobia is funny

2017 saw immigrants go from xenophobic tropes to chief protagonists. The Big Sick is an autobiographical comedy scripted by real-life couple Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V Gordon. The two wrote the screenplay together and Nanjiani played himself in the film, opposite Zoe Kazan, with Holly Hunter playing her mother. The film has been one of the most celebrated of the year since its premiere last January at the Sundance Film Festival and splashy acquisition by Amazon. It also had one of the year’s funniest moments in film.

Y – Yes, we do!

While 2017 saw some famous splits (Josh Duhamel and Fergie, Ben Stiller and Christine Taylor, and Chris Pratt and Anna Faris), it also saw its fair share of big celebrity weddings with tennis ace Serena Williams and Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, Australian supermodel Miranda Kerr and Snapchat co-founder Evan Spiegel, and The Adventures of Tintin star Jamie Bell and House of Cards actress Kate Mara. But taking the crown as this year’s best engagement announcement was Prince Harry and Suits star Meghan Markle.

Z – The father of Zombies

George A Romero, creator of the zombie film genre with Night of the Living Dead and a series of sequels that left a lasting impact on horror movies, passed away. Romero wrote and directed the 1968 classic, in which the dead come back to life and eat the flesh of the living, and five sequels including the 1978 box office hit Dawn of the Dead. Romero influenced a generation of filmmakers including Quentin Tarantino, Guillermo del Toro, Robert Rodriguez and the late Wes Craven.


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ASC Awards: Roger Deakins wins top cinematography honour for sci-fi film Blade Runner 2049

Legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins has won the top award for a theatrical release at the 32nd annual American Society of Cinematographers Awards, for his fantastic and surreal imagery of Denis Villeneuve’s film Blade Runner 2049, as reported by Variety.

Roger Deakins. Image from Twitter/@TalkFilmSoc

Roger Deakins. Image from Twitter/@TalkFilmSoc

This is the fifth honour for the cinematographer by the prestigious body, including a Lifetime Achievement award in 2011. Deakins has already won the Golden Globe for Blade Runner 2049 this award season, and is the current favourite for an Oscar, an achievement that has eluded the veteran cameraman, known for his work in The Shawshank Redemption, Fargo, and The Assassination of Jesse James. Traditionally, in the 32 year long history of ASC Awards, thirteen winners have gone on to win the Oscar as per the same report.

Blade Runner 2049, saw Deakins build on Ridley Scott’s original and influential neo-noir futuristic world. The film was marked with giant, intensely illuminated holograms advertisement interact with the lead actor, and a glitch-ridden virtual Elvis Presley performance in a low-lit abandoned Las Vegas auditorium. The dusty, apocalyptic vision of the Blade Runner universe was deftly crafted by Deakins for the 2017 sequel.

“He has to be Roger Deakins on every shot. He has all the pressure of the world on his shoulders. He’s very, very focused. He doesn’t talk very loud. He doesn’t like to repeat. And his crew…his crew would die for him,” Villeneuve, who has collaborated with Deakins on his two earlier films, Prisoners and Sicario, told Vanity Fair.

ASC Awards also honoured lensman Mart Taniel with the spotlight award for November. The honour focuses on excellence in world cinema. Taniel beat the exquisite Hungarian movie On Body and Soul, which is also up for an Academy Award this year.

Published Date: Feb 19, 2018 13:02 PM | Updated Date: Feb 19, 2018 13:02 PM


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North India’s angry young men: Snigdha Poonam examines a generation’s anxieties in her new book, Dreamers

Upon reading Dreamers, Snigdha Poonam’s splendid cultural study of a generation’s appetite for ruthless ambitions and change, it’s apparent that India’s young men from the north are driven by a peculiar hunger. They chase fame, fortune, power and lofty dreams just like every other millennial but these small town youth are unlike their city counterparts. It’s an unquenchable anger that sets them apart — anger that their country was spoilt by the Congress, anger that corruption was at its peak, anger over their lost izzat, anger over the lack of jobs… Enough anger to make them want to be famous, important and rich beyond their dreams. And while some of them are lucky enough to realise their dreams, some others are stuck in an illusion forever.

Poonam, who writes for Hindustan Times, travelled to India’s towns and villages in the north, besides her own hometown of Ranchi, to find out what these young Indians wanted. “The idea was to [go to a small town] find out four or five people whose stories stood out and follow them for a year to see how close they get to their dreams. As I progressed with that brief, it became a larger project,” she says. Initially, Poonam chose four people in and around Ranchi, but as she travelled to other places, it became 6-7 people in 3 or 4 locations, to whom she kept going back for anywhere between a year and three years.

Snigdha Poonam

Snigdha Poonam

South India and its millennial population feel like a glaring omission from the book, but Poonam says she chose north India for a reason — that it was “representative of the frustrations of this generation because it does more badly than south India; its level of education and employment is poorer. More logistically, the book was never meant to be a sequel to Butter Chicken in Ludhiana [Pankaj Mishra’s travelogue on small-town India]. I was doing the opposite thing; I wanted to limit the number of people and places,” she says.

Among the people Poonam meets is Pankaj Prasad or ‘The Fixer’, an entrepreneurial young man in southern Jharkhand, who is a small-time lobbyist and liaison — an important link between the  state administration and citizens — or rather a go-to man for villagers ready to pay him for sarkari services. Then there’s the founder of WittyFeed or ‘The Click-Baiter’, a startup that thrives on American obsessions from Kim Kardashian and lip-sync battles to banal listicles on Katy Perry’s weirdest faces. To match success stories, Dreamers also has a chapter on the disputers — the angry young men complaining about the future of this country and turning to various Hindu groups who tend to their anxiety. Like Vikas Thakur, with his funky tattoo and beach sandals, who wants to become a politician because he wanted to stand up for Hindus. Or 19-year-old Arjun Kumar who cannot wait for Valentine’s Day year after year because it’s the only day he can deal with couples the way he wants, with an iron rod.

Poonam also gifts us with a rare chapter on an angry young woman — Richa Singh, who fought the Allahabad University elections and won and moved on to mainstream politics. Just like the south Indians who are absent from this book, women too are very obviously missing. But it wasn’t intentional, says Poonam. “I met young women too who had dreams, but when you talk to young men about their dreams, they’re not just talking about their own dreams but also what they want for their country and what they want from the world.” For many young women dreamers, “it was about changing their own lives and in some sense that itself was a huge leap for them to take and they weren’t going to talk about how India should go back to becoming the glory of world civilisation. A lot of the anxiety about their place in India and India’s place in the world was very manly,” she says.

To round off, Poonam has the strugglers as well — men who dream big, plan elaborate and push hard but still remain at the lowest possible level, men like Mohammad Azhar who dream of becoming Bollywood superstars but instead get exploited.

The underbelly of Dreamers not just gives us a peek into toxic masculinity and anger, but also uncovers the appeal of religion, specifically Hinduism, to these men. What does it offer them in a way of appeasing anger or giving them something to move forward? According to Poonam, it offers them a basic sense of identity, honour, and masculinity. “When I spoke to these young men, they were not speaking about religion per se because I knew more about religion than they did and they didn’t connect with any texts, they didn’t have the most basic understanding of what they were fighting for, starting with cows,” she says. And most of the angry men just ended up being Hindu. “I was looking for anger in general, but what I found was that the minorities — young Muslim and Dalit men — were busier looking ahead in terms of opportunities, whereas the Hindu men were looking at the past, at what they had lost, and wanted to restore the old order. Religion had very little meaning in their lives…”

Book cover for Dreamers

Book cover for Dreamers

Essentially, these men always saw a society that’s constantly conspiring against them and their Hindu heritage. They also saw a leader in Narendra Modi — someone like them who’d made it, from tea vendor to Prime Minister — who promised them the India they wanted, whose politics aligned with theirs and whose rhetoric reeked of Hindu nationalism. Modi would transform their beloved India back to its glorious past, they believed. Poonam says that the growing young population she talked to were political in an ambitious, idealistic way in that that there should be smooth roads, no corruption, and trains running on time. “But there was a general hope in Narendra Modi and a lot of disappointment in how Congress had steered the country since independence. That is very common and a lot of that was borrowed perception,” she says.

Poonam writes that less than 17 percent of India’s graduates are immediately employable and only 2.3 percent of the workforce has undergone formal skills training, which means that the country needs to educate about 100 million young people over the next 10 years, “a task never before undertaken in history”. Yet these young Indians, who have grown up with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and “cultural values of their grandparents”, are creating opportunities for themselves in various fields with the help of the ubiquitous internet. Facebook especially, Poonam says, is a tool through which young people are able to manage how other people see them. “The sense that they can manage their perception is very common among young people even in the villages. Even if you want to have the slightest of part to play in politics — and these are the people who are doing this at the block, tehsil level — Facebook and WhatsApp is where they like to do that and they’re becoming really good and smart at it.”

Perhaps this is how young Indians will change the world, one status at a time.

Published Date: Feb 19, 2018 13:15 PM | Updated Date: Feb 19, 2018 13:15 PM


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Jayam Ravi on upcoming space film Tik Tik Tik: ‘It’ll be a milestone in the history of Tamil cinema’

Actor Jayam Ravi, who established his career by starring in Tamil remakes of several popular Telugu films in the beginning of his career, made really interesting choices in the last three-four years which has paid off handsomely.

From playing a boxer in Bhooloham to turning into a zombie in Miruthan, he was last seen on screen playing a tribesman in Vanamagan. As he awaits the release of Tamil cinema’s first space film Tik Tik Tik, in which he plays an escape artist cum astronaut, Ravi opens up in an exclusive chat with Firstpost about the experience of working in the film which is unlike anything he’s done in his career so far.

Jayam Ravi in Tik Tik Tik.

Directed by Shakti Soundar Rajan, the film marks Ravi’s second collaboration with the director after the zombie actioner Miruthan. Recalling how the project materialised, he said: “After the release of Miruthan, Shakti called me one day and said he has two scripts – a big project and a small film. He asked me which one I want to work on. I told myself that I’m anyway not going to be around to do 200-300 films. Even if I do one film, the experience should be equivalent of doing five projects. I conveyed the same thought to Shakti and that’s when he pitched the idea of Tik Tik Tik.”

As much as Ravi was excited about the idea of starring in a space film, deep down, he was hesitant. “Initially, I was very hesitant. But I always look at positives over negatives in anything I do in life. When Shakti pitched the idea of Tik Tik Tik, I saw many positives. A lot of people didn’t attempt a space film so far is because of the misconception that we can’t shoot in India and the high cost involved. But Shakti and I had faith in our script and we found a VFX studio (Ajax) in Chennai which delivered the kind of output which was beyond our expectations. We gave them some test shots to work upon and they came out really well.”

Despite his faith in Shakti and the script, Ravi said a lot of people couldn’t believe they could pull off a space film. “When I told some well-wishers and friends that I was going to do a space film, nobody believed in me or in the project. They looked down upon the idea itself. The bigger challenge for us was to script a movie like this in the first place. It needed a lot of vision and clarity. I could foresee the result when I read the script but nobody believed in us expect our producer. But I was quite confident because audiences have always supported whenever I attempted something different. Even though the execution was very strenuous, we were thrilled with the output which was beyond our satisfaction. It’ll be a milestone in my career and in Tamil cinema,” Ravi said, heaping praise on his director.

“A project of this scale and vision requires a lot of research work. Even while shooting, Shakti had to look after so many things as this is a script that’s powered by logic. Since it’s about science and space, he had to keep in mind several things when on the sets. We had to make sure that everything looked believable. Shakti was well backed by art director Murthy. They complemented each other so well. This is a film with a lot computer graphics and most scenes were shot on green mat. A lot of planning went into the shooting process. Everything the actors could touch was actually built from scratch. What the actors couldn’t touch which was mostly everything in the background was created with the help of CG.”

Nearly 80 percent of the film was shot in zero gravity condition. A race against time thriller, it’s a story of five astronauts, who go on a mission to stop an oncoming attack of a meteorite. “As most of the shooting took place in zero gravity conditions, we had to be attached to the harness. We’d wear the space suit and then be attached to the harness for long hours. We’d shoot from morning to evening and most of the times we don’t even take a break because taking off the suit and putting it back on was a time-consuming process.”

Having grown up watching space films such as Deep Impact, Armageddon and 2001: A Space Odyssey among others, Ravi hopes that children celebrate Tik Tik Tik as this generation’s space film, which also stars his son, Aarav, in a pivotal role. “I really hope children warm up to this film. When we made Miruthan, it was passed with an A certificate by CBFC, so it was not suitable for children. I’m sure Tik Tik Tik will appeal to children as well,” he said.

Published Date: Feb 19, 2018 14:01 PM | Updated Date: Feb 19, 2018 14:01 PM


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