Diane Warren and Sofia Carson’s song ‘Applause’, from Tell It Like a Woman, nominated for Best Original Song, lost out to ‘Naatu Naatu’ from RRR at the Oscars last week. But Leena Yadav, one of the seven directors of the film, is not that upset. Yadav, whose segment in the anthology starred Sri Lankan actor Jacqueline Fernandez and transgender model Anjali Lama, was sitting at her home in Los Angeles when the winner for Best Original Song was announced, and says it brought unprecedented attention to the Indian film industry. Tell It Like a Woman had a highly successful screening at the United Nations General Assembly on March 3 and plans are now afoot to write a Hindi version of ‘Applause’. Written by Krupa Ge, Yadav’s segment, Sharing a Ride, deals with love, how quick we are to judge people, gender fluidity, relationships, and the idea of beauty. Fernandez, who has been buffeted by allegations of accepting expensive gifts from conman Sukesh Chandrasekhar, now lodged in Tihar Jail in Delhi, is a surprise in the film that has minimal dialogue. The film was put together by the collective We Do It Together, a non-profit film production company founded by Chiara Tilesi, to produce films, documentaries, TV, and new media, uniquely dedicated to the empowerment of women. The eventual goal is to start a studio for female-driven content. The film assignment fell into Yadav’s lap during Covid-19 in September 2020. She had a month to turn around the segment which she shot in five days in the Fort area of Mumbai. The segment also stars Avantika Akerkar and Ayesha Raza as two women that Fernandez’s character, a cosmetic surgeon, lives with. Nothing in the film is defined. Yadav says: “We live in a world where we are immigrants in motion, in our own spaces, in our own places.” From a real-life transgender traffic policewoman in Kerala to a woman autorickshaw driver she encountered, Yadav has put a lot of her own experiences into the film. Her film Parched won global applause in 2015 and she also directed the stunning documentary series for Netflix, House of Secrets: The Burari Deaths, in 2021. She is now organising funding for her next movie, starring Geena Davis. Written by Kris Hunt, the film, Cowgirl’s Last Ride, tells the story of an ailing rodeo rider who takes her oxygen tank and drives off in a van into the sunset. “Difficult things are difficult to make,” she says, but that’s never stopped her.
The Nobel Storyteller
While on the subject of winners and losers, one of the short documentaries nominated along with The Elephant Whisperers, Stranger at the Gate, had another subcontinental connection. Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai has become a fully assimilated member of the New York- Los Angeles celebrity club, down to the custom-made Ralph Lauren gown with a hijab for the Oscars red carpet. Yousafzai is the executive producer of the film, which is distributed by The New Yorker, about an aborted bombing in an Indiana mosque. She was quite the interview subject in the run-up to the Oscars, speaking about the art of storytelling and her company, Extracurricular Productions, which has a multi-year programming pact with Apple TV+. She is also executive producer of the Pakistani feature film Joyland that won hearts and minds at the Cannes Film Festival but lost out at the Oscars.
Scene and Heard
Zooni, Muzaffar Ali’s love letter to Kashmir, was abandoned after trouble began in the Valley in 1989. The movie, based on the legend of poet Habba Khatoon, starred Dimple Kapadia and the late Vinod Khanna as her husband, the last king of independent Kashmir, Yusuf Shah Chak. Ali shot 70,000 feet of film which has never been seen before. Now comes news that the filmmaker and his son, Shaad, also a filmmaker, are thinking of giving it a shape and structure. Should that happen, it will be a document worth preserving. Not only for the passion with which Ali undertook the film but also the historic moment that has been forever lost in the Valley. There were to be two versions, one for the international market, with music by Oscar winner Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto and songs in Kashmiri by Mohan Lal Aima. The Urdu version had songs by the great Shahryar and music by Khayyam. The Los Angeles-based James Killough wrote the script while global tastemaker Mary McFadden, introduced to Ali by Bim Bissell, designed the costumes of the film.
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Behind the Headlines Kaveree Bamzai