The Front Row with Anupama Chopra is the reel thing
Finally India gets a film review programme that's worth its salt — it's fun, it's original and its host's voice does not grate. Rajeev Masand should be a little worried.
For the film-crazed nation that we are, and for the sure number of excellent film-makers that we’ve seen emerge from India over decades, it’s always surprised me that we don’t seem to have any film review programmes worth their salt in India. But all that seems to have changed with the new film review show in town, The Front Row with Anupama Chopra. And it's not a rip-off from some international show. I always go into shock when there’s any glimmer of originality on Indian television or film.
Anupama Chopra earlier used to host one of the better film review shows on TV called Picture This for NDTV 24X7, which I think has been off air for the last six to seven months. Or at least I haven’t noticed it while flicking channels. The only other film show, which was, and is sort of worth a watch, is Now Showing hosted by Rajeev Masand.
Now, a film review show tends to depend a lot on its host. Masand’s show had managed to carve a niche for itself but, intentionally or uninententionally, he’s slowly and steadily started sounding like Vir Sanghvi. The other handicap for Masand’s show is that it feels stuck in time. It looks the same as it did when it launched. The set is the same, the hosting style is the same, the format is the same – only his diction has changed. There are of course other shows like Bollywood Business hosted by Komal Nahta on the ever-popular ETC, and the Zoom Review Showwith Omar Qureishi. Two programmes which thanks to their hosts – one utterly boring and the other a little unwittingly smarmy – might actually put you off watching films in toto.
The Front Row with Anupama Chopra is a bigger, better and more improved version of Picture This. It’s like she’s perfected the formula now. It’s on Star World though, so NDTV might just be kicking itself.
The first episode which was telecast last Friday night had an interesting format. The programme itself is very slick, with very attractive sets. Nothing flashy or over-the-top like Foodistan or Masterchef India. The Front Row’s set is suitably glitzy and classy and Chopra is extremely affable and well-spoken, which is half the battle won because her voice doesn’t grate on your nerves unlike many other hosts.
The first episode had a Superheroes theme. And stuck to it diligently. And did it well. Pegged on the release of The Avengers, Chopra introduced the film and then went on to a spot of film history in India and spoke about the emergence of super hero flicks in India and why we’ve never really been successful in making a good super-hero film, other than the double consonant-ed Kkrish. There were interesting and rarely-seen film clips like the 1960 film, The Return of Superman starring Jairaj. Of course, the flip side is that if you aren’t a film buff you might find the detailed discussion on a certain genre of film a tad boring. But I don’t think the show is meant for you then. It definitely seems aimed at serious lovers of film who want to know more than just how many stars have been bestowed on this week’s latest release.
The other hook is that for once there’s no preponderance of Hindi cinema at least going by the inaugural show. Since the episode was on superheroes and she was reviewing The Avengers, there were also interviews of Robert Downey Jr, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston and Mark Ruffalo. Of course, knowing the need for the requisite Bollywood star in an Indian film review show, Chopra did have a short 6-minute segment called 'In The Front Row' where she called Ranbir Kapoor on set to speak about superhero films in India and have a little chat with four film fans who were brought into the studio. Thankfully he’s erudite and seems bright, so the sudden commentary by him didn't jar. What was also a welcome change was that the four films fans called on to chat with him in studio weren’t fawning fans, but seemingly normal film lovers.
Chopra always had a charming interviewing style. Conversational and well-informed. So the interviews were interesting. Short, sweet, anecdotal. With little tid-bits like Tom Hiddlestone’s sister working in The Hindu and living in Chennai. It’s also nice to see non-Bollywood stars give interviews because they’re so devoid of brown nosing and pandering to each other’s egos.
All in all, Anupama Chopra seems to have done a smack-up job. The show is extremely well produced, edited, researched and scripted. The conversation is bright, non-pedantic and entertaining. Chopra seems to have mastered her art and the new and improved avatar of both her and her film review programme fills one with hope for the future of Indian non-fiction programming.
Next week’s episode has Dibakar Banerjee and kissy-boy Emran Hashmi in it, so I’m assuming it’s going to review the much-awaited, Shanghai. Finally, there’s no need to watch BBC’s Talking Movies and wonder whether we’ll ever have our own version. Chopra’s done one better and come up with an original. Definitely time for Masand to ask for a set revamp and go in for some rejuvenation classes, though.
The Front Row with Anupama Chopra is telecast every Friday at 8.30 pm on Star World.
Rajyasree Sen is a bona fide foodie, culture-vulture and unsolicited opinion-giver. In case you want more from her than her opinions, head to www.foodforthoughtindia.blogspot.com and order some delicious food from her catering outfit. If you want more of her opinions then follow her at @rajyasree
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