Tuesday , December 12 2017

‘Last’ true portrait of Dalai Lama – B’desh film star turns Islamic preacher

The thing you want from a documentary about his holiness the 14th Dalai Lama is the chance to get right up close to him, in the way that movies can do. You want the chance to bask in his presence and come out with a heightened sense of what he’s about. “The Last Dalai Lama?” accomplishes that, and with an offhand eloquence, though it’s a sketchy, catch-as-catch-can movie — an update, of sorts, by the director Mickey Lemle of his previous documentary about the incomparable Buddhist leader, “Compassion in Exile: The Story of the 14th Dalai Lama,” released 24 years ago.

The new film makes extensive use of footage that was shot for that one, back when the Dalai Lama, then in his late 50s, was still relatively youthful and hale. In “The Last Dalai Lama?,” the twinkle in his eye hasn’t aged, and neither has his offhand way of staring at whoever he’s talking to with a concentrated gaze that’s more worldly than beatific. He’s canny, sage, playful, serious; he drinks people in and sizes them up. But the eyes now crinkle, and he is bent over, with a bad knee that makes him walk slowly.

“The Last Dalai Lama?” opens in 2015, during a celebration in New York of the Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday, and as he saunters on stage in his red-and-yellow monk’s robes, with his shaved head and his trademark glasses and purse-lipped smile, it’s a little like watching an event organized to honor the Buddhist Santa Claus. The Dalai Lama would probably be the first to point out that everything about him that’s famous and iconic and legendary and “one-of-a-kind” is stuff that just gets in the way of letting you really see him. He has become a cosmic celebrity, and there isn’t a concept on earth that could be less Buddhist.

The film goes back to paint in his history, with photographs and film footage from the ‘30s, ‘40s, and ‘50s, and it’s a wonder to see these silvery dusty images now, because they have the effect of a true-life fairy tale: the boy who was plucked from the obscurity of poverty, at age two, and declared to be the reincarnation of the previous Dalai Lama, then raised and molded into a kind of Jedi Knight of enlightenment — and who then, in 1950, after the birth of Communist China, when he was a skinny teenager with a bright eager grin, went to have a summit meeting with Chairman Mao.

It’s fascinating now to hear his first impressions of Mao, whom he found, on a personal level, to be “so gentle, so friendly”; in hindsight, it’s a bit like hearing that Ted Bundy always came off as such an all-American nice guy. He initially believed that Mao would let Tibet stand as an independent region, but in 1959 the Tibetan government was crushed, and Tibet itself was coerced into the People’s Republic of China. We hear tales of the Dalai Lama’s escape to India, and of what happened to a number of his associates — including one of his brothers — who were captured and imprisoned by the Chinese.

Bollywood star Akshay Kumar’s unusual and polemical “Toilet: A Love Story” (aka “Toilet: Ek Prem Katha”) is looking to go beyond Indian cinema’s traditional international markets. It will be released day and date in several non-traditional territories, including Japan and Chile, on Aug 11.

Directed by Shree Narayan Singh, “Toilet” is inspired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Clean India Movement. It sees Kumar’s character begin a campaign to build a toilet for his house after his wife rebels against having to defecate at dawn in the fields. The film is produced by Plan C Studios, a joint venture between Reliance Entertainment and Friday Filmworks.

The traditional Indian cinema overseas market comprises some 50 territories including the US, UK, UAE, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore. Reliance Entertainment and Kriarj Entertainment are distributing worldwide and expanding the same day release of “Toilet” to more than 70 territories. Among the 22 in Europe are: Greece, Czech Republic, Hungary, Malta, Croatia, Estonia and Latvia.

“With ‘Rustom’ widely accepted and loved across the world, we were emboldened to go for a bigger and more aggressive release,” said Prerna Arora and Arjun N. Kapoor of Kriarj Entertainment. Kumar is Bollywood’s banker, churning out hit after hit, including “Rustom,” “Airlift,” and the “Jolly LLB” franchise.

Also:

DHAKA: A Bangladeshi film star who became an Islamic preacher said Wednesday he wants to use his fame to draw young people in the Muslim-majority nation to the faith.

Ananta Jalil is the latest actor to take up the practice after 22-year-old Naznin Akter Happy, whose decision to become an ultra-conservative Islamic preacher was the subject of a best-selling book.

Thousands of fans turned out late last month to watch 39-year-old Jalil preach in the capital Dhaka. Photos of him wearing an Islamic turban and long robe went viral on social media.

He told AFP he had joined the Tablighi Jamaat — a Sunni Muslim evangelical movement that boasts millions of adherents in Bangladesh — after a pilgrimage to Mecca earlier this year.

“The main reason Allah gave us life… sent us to the earth is to worship Him. I learnt it there,” he said by phone on Wednesday. (Agencies)

“If I can preach Islam to the young generation, they’ll abide by Allah and the traditions of the prophet and they’ll say prayers five times a day.”

Unlike Happy, Jalil said he would keep making movies although his next one would be used to “propagate Islam”.

Jalil made his fortune as a textiles entrepreneur and used the money to bankroll films in which he played a starring role.

He has made six movies, starting with “Khoj” (“The Search”) in 2010, in which he played a secret service agent who takes on an international arms syndicate.

The moderate version of Islam practised in Bangladesh for generations has been slowly replaced by a more orthodox version of the faith in recent years.

The burka most associated with the rigid Islam of Afghanistan and the Gulf is becoming more commonplace, new mosques and madrassas are flourishing and hardliners have won symbolic victories in their push to overhaul Bangladesh’s secular constitution.

By Owen Gleiberman

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