Tag: Vidya Balan

REVIEW: Sherni (The Tigress) – Upright forest officer confronts crooked system

Screengrabs from Sherni.

By Neeraj Nanda

MELBOURNE, 19 June 2021: Director Amit Musrakar takes us into a Madhya Pradesh forest area where an upright district forest officer ( Vidhya Vincent played by Vidya Balan) battles the man-animal conflict in the context of the larger conflict between the environment and development. In 2017 Amit’s Newton dealt with an Election Officer in a battle to conduct a free and fair election in a conflict-ridden forest facing an insurgency. Sherni is a shadow of Newton in a different context.

It’s not easy for the government officer (Vidya) to deal with a situation where a Tigress is attacking or killing locals and her duty is to conserve wildlife in a dwindling forest. The locals are dependent on the forest for livelihood and area politics runs deep. A bureaucrat away from family in a remote rural outpost confronts day-to-day issues that defy solutions. Vidya is calm but resolute being wedded to her work.

Photo-Amazon Prime

The bureaucracy as one officer tells Vidya was a creation of the British colonists with officers longing for brownie points to get a good promotion. But if one is committed to work, then you become involved in confronting the system which does not seem to accept rational solutions. A Copper mine in the area, politicians raising issues, gender bias, and family issues speak for themselves.

The beauty of this movie is it does not shout. The storyline reflects the socio-economic parameters of environmental degradation and the challenges of a sincere bureaucrat to deal with it. There is setback and hope. Life goes on.

The two hours and 10 minutes movie is a mix of a feature and documentary-style beautifully done. The forest greenery is refreshing with excellent camerawork. Vidya Balan and Vijay Razz shine in the movie. Overall, the performances of others is good and fits well with the script. This is another gem from director Amit after Newton.

Cast- Vidya Balan, Vijay Razz, Mukul Chadda, Sharat Saxena, Neeraj Kabi, etc; Director Amit Masurkar; Cinematography Rakesh Haridas; Editing Dipika Kalra and Produced by Bhushan Kumar, Krishan Kumar, Vikram Malhotra, and Amit Masurkar.

I give the movie 4 and a half stars out of five.

The movie is streaming free at the IFFM-2021.

IFFM-2020 Online Oct. 23-30 : Over 50 films in 17 languages, 34 International Premiers, 56 Aussie Premiers


By Neeraj Nanda

MELBOURNE, 13 October: Movie bonanza for film buffs is not far off. The Indian Film Festival of Melbourne 2020s (IFFM-2020) cinema magic will cast its spell from 23-30 October, as the pandemic lockdown eases and life inches towards a normal. The announcement of IFFM-2020 online, in line with coronavirus gathering restrictions, screening of over 50 films in 17 languages, including 34 International Premieres and 56 Premiers Australian, is no surprise. The IFFM has been doing this feat for years now.

IFFM Festival Director, Mitu Bhowmick Lange says, “Indian filmmakers – from independent short filmmakers to our most powerful directors – turn their gaze to issues of freedom and equality in the contemporary world and celebrate the diversity that defines us all. The film is a powerful way to bring people together be they sitting in a packed cinema or in 2020, in their own homes.”

All films will be available for viewing free of charge across Australia from October 23 to 30 in recognition of the pressures this year has placed on many people, IFFM is partnering with Mental Health Foundation Australia and encourages festival participants to donate to the MHO when booking.

Opening the Festival are two outstanding films addressing disability and gender equality – NATKHAT (The Brat) and HABBBDI:

NATKHAT (transl The Brat) is a 25-minute film produced and starring Vidya Balan.   One of India’s most powerful and
acclaimed actors, widely recognized as pioneering a change in the portrayal of women in Hindi Cinema, Balan plays an abused mother teaching her son about gender equality and empathy through the telling of a simple bedtime story.“Natkhat makes you confront the reality that most women in this country live on a day to day basis and how we are bringing up children and how if we want to see a change, we have to bring up our children differently,” says Vidya Balan

The delightful feature HABBBADI focuses on Kabaddi a popular contact sport in Southern Asia that first originated in
Ancient India and shows how sometimes our biggest weakness becomes our biggest strength. When the news of his village’s Kabbadi team traveling to Mumbai breaks out a 10-year-old boy with a speech impediment sees the opportunity to meet the girl he adores. But will he be able to chant kabbadi kabbadi without stammering?

An IFFM-2020 media release says, ” The 2020 Festival features five dynamic program streams of new and classic films from India and the subcontinent.‘Hurrah Bollywood’, the best mainstream Hindi cinema from the last twelve months; ‘Beyond Bollywood’ art-house and cinema in regional Indian languages; ‘Films from the Subcontinent’ – Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal; ‘Film India World’ focussing on Indian films that cross international borders, and the Documentary section including a number of critically acclaimed documentaries. Stand out highlights include the micro-budgeted, guerilla-filmed noir LORNI THE FLANEUR; THE ILLEGAL,” a timely film about immigrants in the U.S” (Variety);EEB ALLAY OOO!, award-winning director Prateek Vat’s uses monkeys as a metaphor to satirize blind faith and superstition in modern India, and MOTI BAGH, a documentary film based on the struggle of a farmer in a remote Himalayan village which is India’s official entry in this year’s Oscars.”


The festival will pay special tribute programs honoring the works of 3 of India’s finest actors Rishi Kapoor, Irrfan Khan, and Sushant Singh Rajput, all of whom sadly passed away this year.

“‘Together’ is the theme of the 2020 IFFM Short Film Festival Competition which this year received a remarkable and unprecedented 3000+ entries indicating people’s creativity during the lockdown. A selection of the best films submitted is available for viewing during the Festival and the winner will be announced.

The winning film is being judged by Varun Sharma, our 2011 Short Film Competition. This year, Varun is making his directorial debut with the feature film BUNTY AUR BUBLI 2, starring Rani Mukherji and Saif Khan. We are hugely proud,” says Mitu Bhowmick Lange.

The festival is being supported by the Victoria Government/Film Victoria, City of Melbourne, BlackMagic, Mental Health Foundation of Australia, Singapore Airlines, G’Day India, South Asia Times (SAT), Civic Outdoor, IndusAge, RRR, and Radio Hanji.

Full festival information can be accessed at – iffm.com.au

Facebook – @IndianFilmFestivalOfMelbourne @FilmVic @MBFWorld
Twitter – @iffmelbourne @FilmVictoria @MBFWorld
Instagram – @IFFMelb @FilmVic

QUICK REVIEW: Shakuntala Devi, Amazon Prime


By Neeraj Nanda

SHANKTULA DEVI, Hindi, 2h 7m, 2020; Director Anu Menon; Starring Vidya Balan, Sanya Malhotra, Jisshu Sengupta; Genere Drama; Subtitles English

MELBOURNE: Shanktula Devi, the wonder mathematical genius came to my school probably in the late 60s for a show, which made me crazy about her speed of calculations. A few teachers (probably including the Math teacher) shouted at her towards the end of the show and it was abruptly ended. They were upset at being humiliated (a presumption) by her being a woman and a declared genius. Me myself not good in Maths never forgot her but she faded in my memory as I pushed ahead in life. I had no idea about her life or her struggles.

At a senior age now seeing Shanktula Devi on the small screen I feel elated at her achievements and her coming to my school. Her extraordinary story, her struggles as a human and as a woman forms the rather zig-zag path to glory. When she becomes a mother and her career as a mathematical celebrity the strains of society become visible, but she says, ” Kya Maa Banne Ke Baad Aurat Ka Dimag Chalna Band Ho Jata Hai”, quite liberating in her times. And, her oft-repeated dialogue, “I never lose”.

Her husband is gay and (we are told) she later wrote a book on the subject, a taboo subject in ‘sanskari’ India. What, in reality, the film focusses on is her relationship with her daughter, who herself is trying to be herself and be independent of her mother’s shadow of a celebrity. The mother’s and daughter’s struggles independent of each other and the contradiction of their relationship are beautifully crafted in the movie. The humanization in both the women is evident but tense. Maybe, that is what life is.

The movie clearly reflects how Shanktula Devi lived on her own terms of battling with society. Vidya Balan gives a sterling performance. Maybe, she always shines in a biopic. I attended her recent IFFM Film Club interview (on Zoom) by Rajeev Masand, where she said, ” I hope the best content comes to me. I have no idea or plans, but I am crazy to do a biopic on Sridevi”. Any producer listening?

Other actors in the movie sail smoothly with astute direction. At times Vidya Balan looks similar in different stages of Shakuntala Devi’s age. Plus, for international audiences, the movie can be a bit shorter. The movie on Amazon Prime means it can be seen globally. The pandemic has impacted the movie industry. It’s a different cinema experience compared to a cinema hall. As Vidya, herself says, ” OTT streaming will have an impact on mainstream cinema. It’s going to change things but theaters are there to stay. Both streaming and theatres will work.”

This biopic movie should be seen for its content, which encompasses issues still plaguing the 21st century. I give this movie three out of five stars.

IFFM Film Club: Rajeev Masand to interview Vidya Balan followed by Q-A


By SAT News Desk

MELBOURNE, 27 July: Former brand ambassador of the IFFM and leading film actress Vidya Balan whose new movie ‘Shakuntala Devi’, is releasing on Amazon Prime on 31 July, will be interviewed by Rajeev Masand for the IFFM Film Club on Wednesday 29 July. The live streaming event on Zoom will have a Q-A session after the interview.

This is the fourth streaming event of the IFFM Film Club. In the three earlier events Soojit Sircar and Ronnie Lahiri (First), Aparna Sen (second), and Anurag Kayshap were interviewed by Rajeev Masand.

Vidya Balan in Shakuntala Devi

Vidya’s latest Shakuntala Devi premiering on Amazon Prime Video also stars Sanya Malhotra, Amit Sadh, and Jisshu. Sengupta. The Hindi movie is directed and written by Anu Menon and produced by Sony Pictures Networks India and Vikram Malhotra under his banner Abundantia Entertainment.

The biopic is based on the life of exemplary mathematician Shakuntala Devi known as the ‘Human Computer’ with Vidya playing her role. The movie is being released on OTT because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The time of the event will be soon announced and registrations can be done at – info@mindblowingfilms.com

Vidya Balan praises IFFM for moving beyond movies

Photo: SAT/NN.

By Neeraj Nanda

Melbourne, 19 August: IFFM-2016 Brand Ambassador Vidya Balan is impressed with the iconic festival taking up issues beyond films. Speaking today at a function at the Victorian Parliament she said, “I am grateful and honoured to be at the Parliament of Victoria promoting the film festival’s core values of the diversity and inclusiveness.”

Praising the festival director Mitu Bhowmick Lange’s initiative of moving beyond films, Vidya Balan said, “breaking down walls and boundaries with the La Trobe University’s project of students taking part in a new effort to help children with special needs in India and the good work being done by the Royal Children’s Hospital is basically breaking barriers in the minds of the people.”

“People do not know how to handle children with special needs and the need of the hour was to treat people as people,” she said.

“The La Trobe University’s initiative was an icing on the cake,” she commented.


About her being the Brand Ambassador of the film festival, Vidya Balan says, “The journey of the past five years has been so wonderful. I come back here year after year and go back with memories cherished for ever.”

“When Mitu first asked me to be the Brand Ambassador of the festival, I thought it will be a one off, but next year again she came to me and then continued to ask me to remain in the position year after year and that kicked off my love affair with Melbourne,” she nostalgically says.


The Bollywood legend was honoured by Hon. Luke Donnellan, Minister for Roads, Roads Safety and Ports, the IFFM Gold Medal for her contributions to cinema and interest in social issues.

A large number of festival organisers, parliament MPs and officials, Indian Consul in Melbourne Manika Jain, Festival Director Mitu Bhowmick and others were present at the function.

- SAT News Service.