‘The War Within’

I recently dismissed an upcoming Sarita Choudhury effort because she plays yet another brown terrorist.

But the high-def production, now called The War Within, also stars cutie-patootie Nobel scion Nandana Sen, who played the sister in Black. It also stars our cereal Cyrano, Aasif Mandvi. Although the Village Voice pans the Mark Cuban-financed movie, now I have to see it. That’s a double chocolate fudge sundae of pillow lips, subcontinental curls and attitude, and if anyone tells you they don’t see questionable movies just for the stars, they’re lying.

Pillow lips, subcontinental curls and attitudeThe War Within follows in the introverted footsteps of Hassan (co-writer Ayad Akhtar), a Pakistani wrongly imprisoned and tortured for terrorist affiliations… The film’s title may seem to spill the beans–will the watchful Hassan carry out his mission or renege after enjoying America and flirting with Sayeed’s ravishing sister (Nandana Sen)?–but in fact, whatever inner conflict rages looks to us like moping and staring blankly out at the East River. (Time killed gazing from the beach or dock is a telltale sign of indie floundering.)

Shot in DV by Lisa Rinzler, Joseph Castelo’s modest drama struggles for verisimilitude, but it wears clichés like concrete boots… [Link]

Here’s a plot summary:

Hassan undergoes a radical transformation and embarks upon a terrorist mission, surreptitiously entering the United States to join a cell based in New York City. After meticulous planning for an event of maximum devastation, all the members of the cell are arrested, except for Hussan and one other. With no alternative and nowhere else to turn, Hassan must rely on the hospitality of his former best friend Sayeed, who is living the American dream with his family in New Jersey… Hassan takes advantage of Sayeed’s generosity while plotting his strategy and amassing materials to create explosives. Eventually, Hassan’s skewed religious fervor clashes with his feelings for Sayeed and his family, especially Sayeed’s sister Duri. [Link]


p>The movie opens in NYC this weekend and in LA next weekend.

Previous post here. More on Sarita Choudhury here, Aasif Mandvi: one, two, and Sen’s brother Kabir: one, two, three.

32 thoughts on “‘The War Within’

  1. The fact that the Village Voice pans something is not indicative of anything. Their reviewers are so clever, they often end up being wrong. (Also: I personally don’t mind a clich&#233 or two with my popcorn.)

    I’m going to try and see this as well, and not just for Nandana Sen!

  2. hmm. I tried to win tickets to see this – we had a screening here in Dallas last week (it’s Mark Cuban’s baby – that has to be why!) …. when it comes out in wider release, I will so go see.

    And remember that movie critics are movie snobs. They are only ALLOWED to like, oh, four movies a year or something.

  3. Their reviewers are so clever, they often end up being wrong.

    So very true. Famous example (for me, at any rate) being the time Simon Reynolds reviewed a MIA performance, and was so caught up in trying to say she was British and didn’t represent all Sri Lankans/third worlders (or something) that he actually wrote, “don’t let her brown skin throw you off.”

  4. Am going to look forward to impressions about this film. Wish I could see it, but schedule doesnt allow in the next few weeks. (Dvd, maybe)

    I remember Nandana from freshman year in college. Its wonderful to see how much territory she has traversed.

    Anyone has any thoughts on paheli being the official entry for the oscars from India? Sumita

  5. I may get completely flamed and cost myself a few hipster friendships here, but I think Paheli is a great choice. I didn’t love certain parts of the story line, but I forgave them as it was all just a sweet fun fairy tale. Though a bit slow-going, it was visually beautiful, the story was very compelling, and by the end I was quite satisfied. Not any smarter, but satisfied. And sometimes I like a movie that doesn’t push my buttons or rock the roof off the hipster art house.

    Black was good, definitely, but AB was overacting so much that it was a bit grating.

  6. now i actually thought “black” was visually beautiful, and the story and rani’s acting compelling. i haven’t seen “paheli” though but any movie with shah rukh khan and his typical, overplayed soulful but intense gazing doesn’t bode well for india’s chances at the oscar’s.

    i’m surprised that they didn’t choose “parineeta”–for a mainstream movie made by a mainstream director, it had me at ‘kolkata, 1965′.

  7. I hope everyone gets to see it. The Village Voice guy is more than a little misinformed.

    First , the movie was shot in High Definition, no DV. A HUGE difference. It really has a unique visual style

    2nd, there have been other very fave reviews and the response in Toronto was amazing.

    Finally, ifyou buy a ticket from Moviefone or movietickets online, we will give you the soundtrack for free as a download.

    So, in a very self serving way, I ask that everyone come out and see the movie .

    If you are in NY, please come out with ALL of your friends this week, and the same in LA next week.

    The bigger the open, the further we can take the movie.

    I promise you wont be disappointed.

    thanks for the forum


  8. Paheli is good in the sense of being extremely colourful, but possibly Black would have been a better choice due to its highly unconventional story. It therefore would have been a good way to break a few stereotypes about Bollywood films from the perspective of the mainstream Western audience.

    I loved the way that Parineeta bent the rules by being set in the 60s, plus Saif in quite a different role from his usual jokey romantic image (well, apart from Ek Hasina Thi – worth seeing for his villanous performance — you’ve never seen him like this before, and he’s very good too). Some of the music was also superb. Vidhu Vinod Chopra is a very good director, willing to think outside of the box (not as much as Ram Gopal Verma, obviously) in the context of mainstream commercial films, and his films are always visually striking.

  9. and he found it about 7 hours after the post ;)

    Maybe he’s been lurking all this time?!

    Hey Mark, I liked you better than that Donald guy anyway!

  10. Jai

    Parineeta’s had a new director Pradeep Sarkar. Its under the VV chopra banner though.

    An interesting tid bit. Chopra and Sarkar differed on who the leading lady should be. Chopra wanted Ash but Sarkar’s choice prevailed. It made for a more authentic movie, even as it might have missed out on Ash’s wide popularity.(Many didnt see the film as she wasnt in it)


  11. Paheli is good in the sense of being extremely colourful, but possibly Black would have been a better choice due to its highly unconventional story. It therefore would have been a good way to break a few stereotypes about Bollywood films from the perspective of the mainstream Western audience.

    Sorry Jai – I have to disagree with all of the above. Black is alright but hardly unconventional. It’s extremely derivative of certain cinematic traditions of Western cinema and when viewed in the context of THOSE traditions, one realizes that it’s neither unconventional nor particularly good. I don’t especially see the value in presenting an inferior Hollywood product to people who are already familiar with the best of Western cinematic traditions. [As an aside, it isn't surprising that the break with Indian cinematic traditions was also carried into the time and place in which Black was set - Bhansali's selected Anglo-Christian community was simply unrecognizable to me. When and where in India do/did they supposedly exist?]

    Black illustrates my main quibble with the new Bollywood – that when Hindi movies “go Hollywood,” the product is often mediocre and only leaves me craving the “real” thing (whether Hollywood or Bollywood). I suspect any fan of film, especially one versed with the sort of films that clueless Indian movie critics have compared Black to, would be similarly unmoved by Black.

    Paheli, on the other hand remains stubbornly true to many Bollywood traditions while breaking with those traditions in many aspects. The explicitly folk-tale roots and consequent small scale of the story is very un-Bollywood. The nod to women’s struggles in rural settings, the lack of “God” in a story connected with the supernatural…all very un-Bollywood I thought…

  12. I guess paheli means “riddle”…traditionally it was a riddle the answer of which was a pun…the medieval Sufi poet and mystic Amir Khusrau is supposed to have come up with dozens of these…

  13. I might add Amol Palekar neatly uses the “pun” aspect of the Paheli: for the film features two SRKs who look the same but of course aren’t the same…

  14. He probably used his blog search engine, Icerocket.

    that’s what i thought too but i searched for sepiamutiny in their listings and didn’t find anything… it would be kind of interesting to see what led him here =)

  15. … probably Googled the title of the movie.

    Not likely, considering we’re not in the first 10 pages of Google results for “The War Within,” but were in the first page of IceRocket results. The advantage of blog search engines like IceRocket, Technorati and Feedster is immediacy– blog software tells them when a blog is updated rather than waiting for a crawler.

  16. From the NY post…

    CHILLINGLY realistic but deeply repellent, “The War Within” is a film that should not have been made. It puts us in the shoes of a Pakistani who wants to bomb Grand Central Terminal. But I don’t want to be in those shoes. I want those shoes on his feet — and those feet chained to a wall at Gitmo

    I almost wanted to see the movie after reading the review (consider the source!) but I think the plot is morally bankrupt.

    Please do not watch such filth. Mr. Cuban shame on you for almost siding with the enemy!

  17. I found it myself searching on IceRocket.com

    Hopefully people are more open minded and intellectually curious than realmeverick.

    The film turned out great. HOpefully everyone on the board will go check it out.

    I will be back looking for your impressions.