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#Iconic: The first trailer of Disney’s ‘The Jungle Book’ looks pretty spectacular.

Rudyard Kipling’s iconic ‘The Jungle Book’ is arguably the greatest collection of children’s stories ever written.

It has also, unsurprisingly, inspired countless TV and big screen adaptations – the latest of which is arguably the most eagerly awaited of all.

Disney have released the first trailer for the live-action version of the film and it appears to continue the recent trend with blockbuster films to do the “dark, brooding” thing alongside the spectacular special effects.

Kipling, who based the book on his early years in India, was inspired by the teeming jungles around Bombay and this latest big-screen version of his work appears to have taken that as the central theme.

It all begins with a set up by the fiendish snake ‘Kaa’ – voiced by Scarlett Johansson whose voice talents appear to be as Oscar-worthy as all her other talents – before we see Mowgli (Neel Sethi) dodging all manner of jungle creatures, all of whom look quite incredible.

Adding to the anticipation surrounding this movie is the cast of characters both behind and in front of the camera.

Directed by Iron Man-helmer Jon Favreau, ‘The Jungle Book’ features a galaxy of acting talent – including Bill Murray, who plays Baloo the bear; Idris Elba, who plays the tiger Shere Khan; Sir Ben Kingsley (the panther Bagheera); King Louie (Christopher Walken) and the wolves Akela and Raksha, played by Giancarlo Esposito and Lupita Nyong’o.

The coveted character of Mowgli – the feral child who befriends a forest-full of animals – is played by 10-year-old Indian American Neel Sethi.

New York-born Sethi beat out thousands of hopefuls to win the role following a series of auditions in the UK, US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia.

The film's director Jon Favreau has said of the precocious youngster: "Neel has tremendous talent and charisma. There is a lot riding on his little shoulders and I'm confident he can handle it".

Sethi has no previous acting experience but, according to the film’s casting director, had “a natural instinct” that was unforgettable.

‘The Jungle Book’ is slated for release in 2016.

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#Iconic: Meet the young filmmaker paying homage to ‘Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge’

Natasha Rathore Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge Aditya Chopra Yash Raj Films

 Natasha Rathore Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge Aditya Chopra Yash Raj Films

Few Indian films merit “iconic” status than Aditya Chopra’s unforgettable 1995 romance ‘Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge’ – the Bollywood romance that redefined the Bollywood romance genre.

The film, which starred Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol, is now set to be the subject of a documentary by Natashja Rathore, a young filmmaker from London, who was a mere toddler at the time of the film’s release and is testament to the enduring, cross-generational appeal of ‘DDLJ’.

A graduate of the London Film School, Rathore decided to turn her attentions to DDLJ having worked on and directed several short films and commercials.

Rathore aims to rediscover the magic of 'Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge' through poignant visual poetry, encounters with real life characters and intimate interviews with the men and women behind the epic romance.

The as-yet-untitled film will explore the ‘DDLJ’ legacy – not least the film’s 1000-week run at cinemas – and delves into how it catapulted its stars into superstardom. 

Rathore also intends to explore the film’s iconic locations – including London, India and Switzerland.  The young filmmaker has already enlisted the support of Yash Raj Films, the studio behind ‘DDLJ’.

YRF spokesman, Rafiq Gangjee said: “Ms Rathore came to YRF for a meeting in January this year and over the following couple of weeks we communicated and evaluated her previous work and found it promising and interesting.

“However, more than anything else, it was her persistence and dogged passion for the subject that prompted us to support her.  As a student of the renowned London Film School, it certainly made it easier for us to put our faith in her as a deserving graduating student.”

Rathore aims to begin filming later this summer and complete the shoot in two months – taking in Switzerland, London before moving on to India.

The documentary is set to be released this October.

I caught up with Natashja to find out more.

Sana Nooruddin: What drew you to this film and inspired you to make a documentary on it?

Natashja Rathore: There are a lot of issues in our society and culture that need to be addressed at the moment and it needs to be done in a way that is entertaining.  ‘DDLJ’ is a film that not only entertained generations but was also one of the first films to cross the boundaries to connect with NRI audience.  It was something that united Desis across the globe irrespective of caste, class or religion.  Whether they loved it or hated it didn’t matter - nobody could avoid it.  I saw this subject as a stepping-stone to delve into something that is much deeper and what better occasion than the film’s 20th Anniversary?

SN: The documentary genre is a tricky one isn’t it?

NR: There is this notion that documentaries are informative and boring.  It is true to a large extent because many documentaries are just a series of events.  For me, a good documentary needs to entertain and more importantly – it needs to be dramatic.  India has still not seen a documentary that is truly cinematic and that’s one of the reasons for the lack of awareness.  The only documentaries people watch are the ones made for television.  It’s time someone made something dramatic and cinematic for the silver screen. 

SN: It must be a real boon for you to have the support of Aditya Chopra and YRF films.

NR: I obviously needed permission and rights from Aditya Chopra and YRF to make this film so I approached them.  But if you’re truly passionate and genuinely devoted to something – the universe will do everything in its power to make it happen.

SN: How are you funding this film?

NR: YRF isn’t funding it because it is a London Film School production and we wanted to have full creative autonomy.  To their great credit, they didn’t want this to be a self-indulgent YRF production.  So we thought we’d get the fans to fund it through a crowd-funding campaign.  We’ve raised about £2000 from 58 contributors out of which only 3 are fans.  The other 55 consist of people who hate ‘DDLJ’ or who haven’t even watched the film or who have absolutely nothing to do with Bollywood. They trust our artistic vision and believe in us.  So even though we are far away from the £33,000 that we require, the kind of people who have come forward to support us have really given us a lot of motivation.

SN: What should one expect from the documentary and what do you hope to achieve?

NR: It’s going to be a Road-trip of discovery from the migrant desi community in London, to the multitudes of Raj & Simrans who flock to Switzerland every summer, to immersing ourselves in the vibrant splendour of Mumbai and exploring Bollywood.  Like any filmmakers, we want this film to be successful.  In keeping with London film school tradition, we plan to have the major premieres at film festivals around the world.  We aren’t just making this for the Bollywood audience; we’re also making this film for people who have absolutely no clue about Bollywood. Ultimately, Yash Raj Films holds the rights to distribution so our fate for any commercial success rests in their hands.  If at all YRF decides to distribute it, the London Film School have pledged all its revenue from this film to commence a Scholarship.  Private film school education is very expensive and as students, we have struggled a lot to arrive where we have.  As filmmakers transitioning into the industry, we understand the struggle, ambition, and passion it takes and we want to make it easier for the next generation of talented individuals who want to pursue a career in film; who otherwise don't have the means for a formal education.

SN: Tell us more about your experiences in the film industry?

NR: I worked in Bollywood once as a Camera Assistant on a feature film and a couple of commercials but I would never count that as ‘work experience’ because at that time I didn’t know anything and neither did I learn anything from it other than the fact that Bollywood can be chaotic.  My real work experience has been during the 6 years of my film school education, in Singapore and then in London – they have been the most enriching years of my life and as a result I’ve also been able to build this wonderful network of talented individuals that spans across the globe.  For instance, we have people from 8 countries at the moment working on this project.

SN: What appeals to you about the documentary genre?

NR: I have directed a bunch of short fiction films but the Documentary has always been a passion.  I think it is because it’s a more organic process. The process of making the film is discovering what the film is.  What I like about it is that you are constantly faced with the unexpected.   Even life would be boring if you knew the future – so I like to maintain the suspense and let it unravel.  That said, I’d love to make a feature film someday too – that has its own flavor and I’d love to explore that realm.

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#Iconic: Sri Lanka to re-build ‘Bridge on the River Kwai’

Its detonation is one of the most iconic scenes in movie history.

Now, 57 years after it was blown to smithereens, authorities in Sri Lanka are planning to rebuild the "Bridge on the River Kwai" to assuage the anger among locals over a controversial dam project.

While the World War II epic was supposedly set in Japanese-held Burma (present-day Myanmar), it was mostly filmed in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) between 1956 and 1957, less than a decade after independence from Britain.

The final scene in which a British officer, played by the legendary Alec Guinness, blows up a rail bridge that his fellow prisoners of war have just built was shot at sleepy Kitulgala, two hours' drive from the capital Colombo.

In recent years, the village has become a magnet for adrenalin junkies who can white-water raft down the river, whose real name is the Kelani.

So when Sri Lanka's Electricity Board unveiled plans to dam the river as part of an $82 million hydro-electric project, there was widespread dismay among locals whose livelihoods depend on tourism.

But in a bid to soften the blow, the electricity board has announced that it will pay for the reconstruction of a new wooden bridge, built on the original's foundations, to attract fans of the Oscar-winning movie.

"We have offered to rebuild the bridge at the same location," the board's chief project engineer Kamal Laksiri told AFP on a visit to Kitulgala which is around 90 kilometres (56 miles) north-east of Colombo.

"Today there is no bridge, only a few concrete posts remain. But we have looked at drawings and pictures of the bridge and we will recreate it."

The explosion scene, in which a train packed with Japanese VIPs derails and then plunges into the river below, had to be shot twice in 1957 after a cameraman failed to give the correct signal to director David Lean.

Elephants were used to haul the train out of the river for the second take and locals used the wooden debris to build homes or keep as souvenirs.

While only a few concrete stumps serve as testament to the dramatic finale, 59-year-old Chandralatha Jayawardena still steers foreigners to the river along a leach-infested path on a daily basis.

"My husband was an extra in the movie and we earn a living by guiding tourists," she said.

After Sri Lanka's 37-year ethnic conflict came to an end in 2009, Sri Lanka's tourist industry has been steadily growing and more than 1.2 million foreigners are expected to visit this year.

While most head for the beaches, Kitulgala has carved out a niche as a white water rafting destination, generating nearly $20 million last year.

Adventure sports operators in Kitulgala say the project to build a dam at Broadlands, a few kilometres upstream, will tame the 17 separate classified rapids on their stretch of water.

The Sri Lanka White Water Rafting Association, which represents more than a dozen firms, rejected the idea that a rebuilt bridge would offset the damage.

"If there is no rafting, there will be no need for tourists to come here," the association's secretary, Priyantha Pushpakumara, told AFP at his Ceylon Adventure resort on the banks of the Kelani.

Water under the bridge?

"What is the income you can get by issuing tickets to see a brand new bridge? That is not what we want. Even if you build it, what is the point? There will be no water under the bridge."

The electricity board says it will release water from the dam during the day so water sports can continue, although it concedes at night a section of the river will go dry.

"This will be a model for sustainable development," engineer Laksiri said.

"We will lose some energy (by releasing water during the day), but we are willing to do that."

Tourism chiefs say the rebuilt bridge, along with a new visitor museum, will guarantee Kitulgala remains on the tourist map.

"Kitulgala was always promoted as the place of the bridge in the Bridge on the River Kwai," Rumy Jauffer, the Sri Lanka tourism promotion bureau's managing director, said.

"Recreating that bridge will certainly add value."

But Alfred Haslinger, an Austrian who steers thrill-seekers along the rapids on his rubber raft, is unconvinced by such assurances.

"You can't just turn a river on and off," he said. "It won't be the same again. It is really a shame."

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Iconic directors reveal trailer for ‘Bombay Talkies’

Viacom 18 have unveiled the trailer to the most eagerly-anticipated film of 2013, a film to mark the occasion of the Bollywood centenary that is unlike any collaboration  previously seen in the first 100 years of Indian cinema. ‘Bombay Talkies’ is a series of 20-minute short films, written and directed …

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10 Iconic Bollywood Female Leads

More often than not, the average female Bollywood lead is no more than a garnish, ornamental to begin with and then dissolving in patriarchal narratives.  Now and then however, comes a role that demands audiences take note of women being counted for something more than beautiful props: women of substance, …

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