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Mississippi Masala ( 1991 )

During the time of the British empire , many Indians from India were brought to Uganda in Africa as indentured labourers . Gradually they were freed and stayed on in Uganda . After Uganda got it's freedom they began to believe that they were Ugandans more than Indians . However they retained their original ( mostly hindu ) religion and Indian culture .

But they were mostly originated from the mercantile community of the Indian state of Gujarat and were very industrious . Their prosperity grew more than common Ugandans and this caused resentment among native Ugandans towards them . Taking advantage of this resentment , Idi Amin who became dictator of Uganda ordered all of them out of the country in 1972 . They were divided and some of them went back to India , some to Britain , and some of them were taken by USA .

This movie shows the travails of a family that lived in Uganda until forced by Idi Amin to leave , and were later settled in Mississippi in USA . The head of the family is Jay ( Roshan Seth ) , who is deeply attached to his roots in Uganda . Even when in USA he pines for going back , and writes letters to the Ugandan government to get back his property and citizenship after Idi Amin has fallen from power . He also is affected by the fact that his best friend from Uganda said that Africa belongs to the Africans when it came to say goodbye to him ; this even though that African man gave his own money to release Jay from jail when Jay began to write against Idi Amin and was arrested for that .

Jay however feels that his African friend betrayed his friendship and has resentment towards the black community . He has now settled among Indians originated from Gujarat and they have become prosperous in Mississippi . Because of their relatively fairer skin and economic success this community takes on the airs and attitudes of white people in USA .

But Jay's daughter Mina has darker skin and this worries her mother Kinnu ( Sharmila Tagore ) , for she feels that Mina won't be able to get a good match among her community . But precisely due to her darker skin , Mina has no problems with black people and secretly begins to date a young black man called Demetrius ( Denzel Washington ) . She mingles with his family and charms them all .

And soon her love leads to bedroom sessions in motels . The love making is aesthetically pictured and I began to like Sarita Choudhury's ( the actress playing Mina ) lovely dark honey coloured exposed skin and her belly and and navel and her just barely exposed breasts---you are given a bare glimpse of those lovely orbs .

But some Gujarati Indian Americans have got wind of the affair and they rush into the room to beat Demetrius . As he fights back they call the police and he and Mina are both caught by police but later released . Demetrius gets his reputation besmirched and his business of cleaning carpets is in losses as no one wants to deal with a black man who was caught by the police beating rich people .

Demetrius tries to contact Mina but she has been effectively cut off from him by her parents . The parents have to confront the fact that their daughter is not an Indian but an American , and she tells them that she has her own mind like an American girl .

What brings the situation to boil is the letter that Jay receives from Uganda that his case will be heard in court , and he wants to take his family back to Uganda . But Mina revolts and chases the by now reluctant Demetrius and forces him to elope with her because she loves him and does not want to go to Uganda .

So Jay is forced to travel to Uganda alone and when lands he realises that the Uganda of old is gone ; he has no place in the new Uganda . His home is now America , and his family is like masala---a mixture of spices which have some Indian and some Ugandan and some American flavour but they all come to ultimately settle in Mississippi....Mississippi Masala .

Acting be everyone is decent and colours and photography are okay too . Music is good and turns emotional whenever Jay remembers his beloved Uganda .

Verdict---Decent .

Three stars out of five .

"Money won is twice as sweet as money earned."

The Least Of These : The Graham Staines Story

( March 2019 )

Review has spoilers

This is an English language movie made by Americans on a barbaric hate crime that took place in India in 1999---the burning alive of Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two sons by Hindu chauvinists who believed that Staines was paying money to poor tribal people to convert to Christianity . The central event of the movie is real of course , but the movie is a fictionalised account of that .

Stephen Baldwin plays the missionary and Shari Rigby plays his wife Gladys Staines . Sharman Joshi plays Manav Banerjee , an Indian reporter who comes to the Indian state of Orissa where Graham is working . Manav meets a newspaper editor ( played by Prakash Belawadi ) and promises to unearth evidence of Graham paying money to poor people to convert to Christianity , something that is a crime in India if done by money inducements ( though preaching and conversion to any religion is acceptable if done without fraudulent means ) . But the editor asks him to join Graham as a trojan horse by accepting Christianity in order to win Graham's trust , and then report and take photographic evidence of Graham paying money to poor people to convert .

However Manav directly confronts Graham , who denies using money to convert Indians . Manav gets to closely observe the work that Graham is doing curing leprosy patients in India and soon realises that Graham is doing a commendable job serving these patients who are pariahs among their own people after having contracted leprosy . Graham is the only person willing to touch them and give them any shred of dignity and hope . Of course Graham admits that he hopes that they will convert , but without money inducements it is not illegal at all . Manav tries to find out evidence that people are being converted by fraudulent means but finds no such thing .

During his research Manav comes to realise that a man named Mahendra ( Manoj Mishra ) is ready to take Staines' life and goes to warn Staines of this , but too late....Mahendra and his goons have already committed the deadly crime of burning alive Graham and his two small sons Timothy and Philip . Manav is affected by the dignity with which Gladys forgives her husband's killers , and by the fact that Graham's son had begun to believe himself to be an Indian and dreamt of becoming a cricket player not of Australia but of India like Sachin Tendulkar the Indian cricket star .

Also Manav comes to realise the motive of his newspaper editor in having a hatred towards Graham ; he is son of a leprosy patient that Graham allegedly converted to Christianity . But the patient says that he never converted to Christianity and opens Manav's eyes . Manav then goes to press in another newspaper telling the truth about Staines and the false allegations his earlier editor was making , thus resulting in the editor's expulsion from his job . Gladys goes on to continue her husband's work and she and her husband are duly recognised by the Indian government and given civilian honours .

The movie furthers India's image in the west as not only being poverty afflicted but also leprosy afflicted , and this forms a most unwelcome image . Of course , the movie gives a one sided picture as it has been produced by American Christians . Was Graham Staines really using money to convert the downtrodden ? God knows , but certainly burning him and his two young sons alive was unforgivable .

Acting and emotions wise , the movie scores and has a sentimental effect on the audience . Photography and colours are decent . Music wise , the movie again does very well and the music does a good job of heightening the emotional aspect of the movie .

Verdict---Good .

The Curse Of La Llorona

Review has spoilers

This movie is based on the Mexican folklore of a woman called La Llorona ( played by Marisol Ramirez ) . In the seventeenth century a Mexican woman was deeply in love with her husband , with whom she had two children . But upon learning about his affair with another woman she killed his and her own children in a fit of mad jealousy by drowning them in water in order to take away from her husband what was most precious to him . Now she stalks other people to take away their children from them in order to replace her own lost ones .

Cut to the Los Angeles of the 1970s . Linda Cardellini plays Anna who is a social worker . Anna goes to investigate the disappearance of two children who have been locked up by their mother as they are being stalked by La Llorona . The mother tries to attack Anna but Anna manages to free the children with the help of a police officer . The children are taken to a child services centre , but are attacked there by La Llorona at night and taken away . The mother of the children blames Anna for the disappearance of her children and in revenge prays to La Llorona to take away Anna's children and give her own back . So the spirit now begins to stalk Anna's children .

Anna is directed by a priest to take help of a priest turned shaman named Rafael Olvera ( Raymond Cruz ) who can do rituals to ward off the evil spirit trying to take away her children . As Rafael comes to her house , the woman who had prayed to La Llorona to take away Anna's children also unexpectedly arrives armed with a gun to create trouble . And the spirit of La Llorona is forever stalking the house to take away the children .

The movie does give some scares and jolts as La Llorona constantly makes attempts to take away the children by attacking at the most unexpected junctures . Silences are interspersed with screams of the victims and the spirit leaves red marks on the bodies of the young children even in unsuccessful attempts of taking them away . She tries to drown them in swimming pools and bathtubs just like she drowned her own children . So does Anna and the shaman manage to save the children , and what about the mother who prayed that the children be taken ? Watch the movie for the answers .

Colours , photography , acting . background music is okay but nothing special . But the movie will give some entertainment for aficionados of horror movies like me .

Verdict---Decent .

The black prince

This English Hindi bingual movie is on the life of Maharaja Duleep Singh , the last Maharaja of the Punjab region of India and son of Maharaja Ranjit Singh---who was called Lion of the Punjab .

After the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh , within ten years the Sikh empire is overrun by the British and Duleep who is just a child is forcefully taken from the arms of his wailing mother Maharani Jindan ( Shabana Azmi ) and sent to Britain to be raised as a Christian . He is under care of Dr Login and his wife Lady Login . But when he grows up Duleep ( Satinder Sartaj ) inevitably wants to meet his real mother . Maharani Jindan is old when he arrives to India to meet her , but has lost none of her fire . She impresses upon Duleep his royal heritage and reminds him that he was born into the Sikh religion not Christianity . Blue turbaned Sikhs crowd to meet him and he agrees , but the watchful eyes of the british are all around to prevent any anti british activity .

The Maharani accompanies Duleep back to Britain on his request and is acerbic towards his wards---the Login couple . Even though Duleep's hair have already been cut , she asks him to follow his Sikh heritage . Duleep is converted to her thoughts and begins to live more and more like a Sikh . He meets Queen Victoria on many occasions and argues with her that her conquest of his kingdom was nothing but fraud . She is fond of him and calls him her black prince . Maharani Jindan says that he is a King not a prince on hearing this .

Later on the Maharani passes away , but not before she has instilled the fire of nationalism in Duleep . He gets married to a white Christian woman and they have children with Christian names . It was unclear to me as to why he married a western woman ; was it because he was forbidden to marry a Sikh by his british wards or he had grown up in the habits of a british gentleman and could not adjust with a Sikh ? Anyway he soon begins to wear a turban and follow Sikh customs much to the chagrin of his wife .

Soon Duleep invites fellow Sikh revolutionaries to Britain and dreams of getting back his kingdom by colluding with other Indian revolutionaries . An old european general of his father gifts a sword given by Maharaja Ranjit Singh himself back to Duleep to start the revolution against the british . Duleep forms a plan to go to Russia from France and invade Punjab from Afghanistan . He is told that Sikhs in british Indian army will revolt on his bidding . He abandons his crying wife and goes to France , where he has a relationship with another woman and children from her too ; totally he has nine children . He and his female companion take train to Russia where they are promised a meeting with the czar , but the czar refuses to meet .

Duleep has sent his men to India to collude with bengali revolutionaries , but the british infiltrate their ranks and all are caught and thrown in prison . Duleep has to return bankrupt to Britain after his attempt to go to India is stopped by the british by making the ship's captain arrest him , though he shows respect to Duleep's royal status by refusing to put him in fetters .

Duleep's last days are in sadness and put me in pathos . His son begs him to ask Queen Victoria to resume his privy purse which has been terminated due to his anti british activities . The proud Duleep refuses . Duleep is denied a Sikh cremation after death even though he wished that . He is buried according to Christian rituals . We are informed that the struggle to bring back his bones to be cremated according to Sikh rituals is on even today .

The movie has decent acting and grand settings . Photography is decent and colours are okay . Background music and songs in punjabi language are nice . But the struggle of Duleep Singh against the british has an air of futility about it as it happened in the late nineteenth century when the british grip over India was strongest . He died in 1893 and remarkably none of his nine children had heirs . The line of Maharaja Ranjit Singh died out .

Verdict---Okay .

Two and a half stars out of five .

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

This one is to be liked only by those immersed in cinema. The whole movie seems somewhat pointless and the violence that we associate with Tarantino comes only at the end . Were the hippies taking revenge for the character played by Brad Pitt's visit to the ranch where they stayed six months before when he questioned the owner of the ranch about them or it was just a coincidence that they came barging in to kill some Hollywood people six months later ? I was entertained since I am immersed in cinema. But not sure lay public will enjoy the film because basically nothing exciting happens in parts of the film . Just life of Hollywood folks in late sixties. The action comes at the end and is pretty violent with an entire hippie woman getting burnt to cinder by flamethrower . And the Male characters then act cool as if it was a normal day out for them .

The two huge stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt enjoy real chemistry with each other in the film with the character played by Pitt playing chauffeur to Leonardo DiCaprio's character. Leonardo is a reel life tough guy but brad is the real life toughie ; beats up a character playing Bruce Lee in a scene smashing him in a car denting it....I mean he just smashes Bruce Lee , THE Bruce lee !! Wait till lee wakes up from his grave hearing this !!

But the film falls short of action I felt . More a tribute to Hollywood of the sixties with shootings of westerns and all , and the character played by Leonardo crying out over his spent career....he's a has been and gets drunk a little too much. Also is shown drug intake with the warning about drug intake being dangerous flashing on screens in my country India.

Margot Robbie plays Sharon Tate , a murder victim in real life . However she just prances about in miniskirts in this film and goes to watch her own film in theater to watch audience reaction to her scenes . But I thought the hippie girl who enticed the character played by Brad Pitt to the ranch was sexier and wore even more exposing clothes and moved her body more provocatively .