Video: Omi Vaidya on “For Here or To Go,” Films and Cinequest

Actor Omi Vaidya’s film “For Here or To Go?” will have its world premiere at Silicon Valley’s Cinequest Film Festival this evening. We caught up with the actor last night at Cinequest to talk about his new film, working in Bollywood and his future plans.

For Here or To Go?” captures the angst and uncertainties of young immigrant workers in America. The film is set in Silicon Valley and highlights the unsettling nature of  working on a H1B visa, also known as a work visa. Many of them put their ambitions  and lives on hold given the uncertain nature of their immigrant status. For example, you cannot do a startup when you are on a work visa. The film highlights the other side of the equation of what happens when someone is on H1B and what it takes for them to survive and fulfill their dreams. Not everybody who comes on a H1B visa gets a green card. The one constant refrain in any immigrant life is do they stay in America or go back to their country of origin. Continue reading

Podcast: Shlomi Elkabetz on “Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem”

Shlomi Elkabetz copyright The Kamla Show 2015

Shlomi Elkabetz

Filmmaker Shlomi Elkabetz’sGett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem,” was Israel’s entry for the 2015 Oscars. This is an intense, heart-wrenching and sometimes difficult to watch film that Elkabetz wrote and directed along with his sister Ronit Elkabetz, who plays the central character Vivian Amsalem.

The film revolves around Amsalem’s drawn out court battle to get a divorce from her husband. Set in a small court room the film uses a point-of-view style to tell the story of Amsalem that is at times difficult to watch. You wonder why does this woman need the paper as Elkmbetz points out in our interview. Why does she need the paper so much that she waits for years and keeps going back to the court repeatedly in spite of her husband’s obvious reluctance to sign the divorce papers?

The film is riveting and makes for an absorbing watch and mid-way trough the film I wondered where did the idea for the film come from? “The inspiration for the character of Vivian was our mother,”  points out Elkabetz. Their mother went through a similar struggle and that experience seems to have left a deep impact on her children. Continue reading

Video: Kathleen Powell of Cinequest Film Festival in Silicon Valley

For 25 years Kathleen Powell and Halfdan Hussey, co-founders of Cinequest Film Festival have worked hard to bring this unique festival that combines films and technology under one roof in the heart of Silicon Valley. Besides well-known filmmakers and actors, the festival features emerging artists and filmmakers and shines a strong spotlight on the contributions of youth through their “Picture The Possibilities” program. And then there is the technology dimension to the festival, where new tech and digital tools for filmmakers are highlighted. For example, Apple’s Quicktime was first shown at Cinequest.

Powell is a computer scientist by training, who worked in Silicon Valley’s tech industry. We were intrigued. How did a math whizz studying computer science became involved with films, and keep it going? How did she juggle her work in the tech industry along with her work with the film festival? Continue reading

Cinequest Turns 25

Silicon Valley’s Cinequest Film Festival turns 25 this year. The film festival opened tonight with Dana Bachman’s “Batkid Begins”  at the historic art deco California Theatre in San Jose. This feel-good and  inspirational documentary about a little boy’s wish to be a super hero seemed to have resonated with the audience. The film and the filmmakers got a standing ovation from the audience.

When 5 year old Miles Scott was diagnosed with leukemia one of his wishes was to be a Superhero for a day. His favorite super hero was Batman. In 2013 Greater Bay Area Make-A-Wish Foundation helped 5 year old Scott’s dream come true. They turned San Francisco into Gotham City complete with bat mobile, Batman, Penguin and the whole nine yards. Continue reading

Video: Damien Chazelle on “Whiplash”

Damien Chazelle’s film “Whiplash” won 3 Academy Awards this weekend at the 87th Academy Award for best supporting actor, editing and sound mixing. Chazelle wrote and directed the film.

“Whiplash,” is an intense film centered around two ambitious musician – a 19 year old drummer (Miles Teller) and his draconian music instructor (JK Simmons).  This tightly scripted film takes you behind the scenes and offers a rare glimpse of what it takes to make that beautiful music. Ambitions and dreams are sometimes shaped in very tough environment and that is what you get to see this film. The film is inspired by Chazelle’s own experience learning music as a high school student. Continue reading

Video: Thuli Thuliyaai

That language is not a barrier to music is amply illustrated in this track “Thuli Thuliyaai” by Vandana Srinivasan. I got hooked to this Tamil song the first time I heard it. While I don’t completely understand the lyrics of the song, I instantly connected with the music. That is what matters in the end, right?

Srinivasan is based in Chennai, India. She trained in Carnatic music before branching off to make her name as an independent artist. “Thuli Thuliyaai” is a collaboration with Shanker Tucker, an American musician, who works with musicians in India and the US.

You can follow Srinivasan on Twitter.

Podcast: Academy Award Winner Resul Pookutty

LISTEN: Academy Award Winner Resul Pookutty

Academy Award Winner Resul Pookutty

Resul Pookutty

“I don’t remember getting up from my seat and getting the award from Will Smith…I had a blackout,” confesses Academy Award winner Resul Pokutty, who won an Oscar in 2009 for “Slumdog Millionaire.”

“ I never imagined I’d win an Oscar…I was shocked. I never thought  that we, the Indian talent will get acknowledged in the Hollywood community, especially the Hollywood technical community to that level,” he adds.  Pookutty dedicated the award to India in his acceptance speech.

Pookutty won the Oscar for sound mixing along with Ian Tapp and Richard Pryke. In 2010 Pookutty was invited to become a voting member by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Continue reading

Podcast: Academy Award Winner AR Rahman On His Musical Journey Part-2

LISTEN: Academy Award Winner AR Rahman On His Musical Journey Part-2

AR Rahman

AR Rahman

In February 2009 I spoke to AR Rahman or AR as he prefers to be called about his musical journey and how it all started in his hometown of Chennai in Tamil Nadu. We spoke on the eve of his big Academy Award night for Danny Boyle’s “Slumdog Millionaire.” AR won 2 Oscars, and the film won the best picture award.

An intensely private person AR prefers to sit huddled in his music studio rather than talk to the media.  But, with the sudden and unexpected success of Boyle’s “Slumdog Millionaire” AR found himself in the media spotlight, especially international media.

In Part-2 of our conversation AR talks about this musical journey that began when he was in high school. It all started in Kodambakkam, the epicenter of Chennai, (then Madras) of South Indian film industry. His mother played a pivotal role in shaping his career. Continue reading

Podcast: Academy Award Winner AR Rahman Part-1


LISTEN: Academy Award Winner AR Rahman on Slumdog Millionaire

AR Rahman

AR Rahman

In early February 2009 I caught with AR Rahman on one of his brief visits to Los Angeles. AR as he likes to be called was in Los Angeles for the big night at the Oscars. AR’s  music in Danny Boyle’s “Slumdog Millionaire” was a huge success and the film had won strong praise from critics and movie goers.

Slumdog Millionaire” was nominated for multiple awards in that year’s Academy Awards. AR himself was nominated in 3 categories and this was a first for a member of the Indian film industry, the largest in the world. AR went to to win 2 Academy Awards and became the first music composer from the Indian film industry to win 2 Oscars.

Like everybody else I was curious to find out about how AR came to work with Boyle and how did they work on this film that became such a big success. Continue reading

Video: Academy Award Winner Eddie Redmayne on Meeting Stephen Hawking

British actor Eddie Redmayne plays the famous scientist Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything.”  The film takes you into the personal life Hawking and his time as a graduate student at Cambridge where he met his future wife Jane Wilde. It was around this time that Hawking got his diagnosis about the motor neutron disease. The film is centered around the first 20 years of their marriage and the toll it took upon the couple. The film is in fact based on a book that Wilde wrote about her marriage to Hawking. Continue reading