Are you ready for it? There are eight movies to choose from on February 17 – five from Hollywood and three from India.
The Ghazi Attack 1971, the Indo-Pak war. An Indian naval submarine meets the Pakistani submarine Ghazi under water. Billed as the first Indian movie to be set on a submarine, Sankalp’s war drama stars Kay Kay Menon, Rana Daggubati, Atul Kulkarni and Taapsee Pannu.
John Wick: Chapter 2 The fearful assassin with a weakness for dogs returns for a second round of annihilation. Keanu Reeves stars as the titular hitman who had single-handedly destroyed a Russian gang in the slick first movie in 2014. In the sequel, Wick has a bounty placed on his head by a gangster played by Common. Also in the cast are Peter Stormare, Laurence Fishburne, Riccardo Scamarcio, Ian McShane, Ruby Rose and John Leguizamo.
Running Shaadi Cinematographer Amit Roy turns director with a comedy about a wedding organiser with a difference: the company run by characters played by Taapsee Pannu, Amit Sadh and Arsh Bajwa help couples elope.
Hidden Figures Among the many titles being released this week as part of the run-up to the Oscars is the inspirational story of the unrecognised contributions of female African-American mathematicians working at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in the 1960s. In the cast are Taraji P Henson, Octavia Spencer, Dorothy Vaughan, Janelle Monae, Kirsten Dunst, Kevin Costner and Mahershala Ali.
Irada A former Army officer, a doughty journalist and an upright government official join forces to expose a polluting chemical plant owner who has the support of the state’s chief minister. The top-notch cast includes Naseeruddin Shah, Arshad Warsi, Divya Dutta, Sharad Kelkar and Sagarika Ghatge.
The Lego Batman Movie Chris McKay’s animated comedy is based on characters inspired by comic books as well as the Lego toys. Bruce Wayne and his alter ego Batman (voiced by Will Arnett) must battle evil forces as well as bring up an adopted boy. The voice cast includes Ralph Fiennes, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, Zach Galifianakis and Conan O’Brien.
Moonlight Barry Jenkins’s Oscar-nominated movie is the coming-of-age story of Chiron, who is black, gay and the son of a drug pusher mother. The cast includes Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris and Ashton Sanders.
Silence Martin Scorsese’s passion project is based on Shusaku Endo’s 1966 novel of the same name. Set in 17th century Japan, the movie tackles the brutal putdown of Catholic believers by the majority Buddhist leaders. Two Portuguese priests travel to Japan to look for a Jesuit who has renounced his faith. The cast includes Liam Neeson, Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver and Tadanobu Asano.
While much has changed, the timeless quality of the city endures.
“I found the spirit of the city matching the Bombay spirit. Like Bombay, the city never sleeps and there was no particular time when you couldn’t wander about the town freely and enjoy the local atmosphere”, says CV Manian, a PhD student in Manchester in the ‘80s, who made a trip to London often. London as a city has a timeless quality. The seamless blend of period architecture and steel skyscrapers acts as the metaphor for a city where much has changed, but a lot hasn’t.
The famed Brit ‘stiff upper lip, for example, finds ample validation from those who visited London decades ago. “The people were minding their business, but never showed indifference to a foreigner. They were private in their own way and kept to themselves.” Manian recollects. Aditya Dash remembers an enduring anecdote from his grandmother’s visit to London. “There is the famous family story where she was held up at Heathrow airport. She was carrying zarda (or something like that) for my grandfather and customs wanted to figure out if it was contraband or not.”
However, the city always housed contrasting cultures. During the ‘Swinging ‘60s’ - seen as a precursor to the hippie movement - Shyla Puri’s family had just migrated to London. Her grandfather still remembers the simmering anti-war, pro-peace sentiment. He himself got involved with the hippie movement in small ways. “He would often talk with the youth about what it means to be happy and how you could achieve peace. He wouldn’t go all out, but he would join in on peace parades and attend public talks. Everything was ‘groovy’ he says,” Shyla shares.
‘Groovy’ quite accurately describes the decade that boosted music, art and fashion in a city which was till then known for its post-World-War austerities. S Mohan, a young trainee in London in the ‘60s, reminisces, “The rage was The Beatles of course, and those were also the days of Harry Belafonte and Ella Fitzgerald.” The likes of The Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd were inspiring a cultural revolution in the city. Shyla’s grandfather even remembers London turning punk in the ‘80s, “People walking around with leather jackets, bright-colored hair, mohawks…It was something he would marvel at but did not join in,” Shyla says.
But Shyla, a second-generation Londoner, did join in in the revival of the punk culture in the 21st century. Her Instagram picture of a poster at the AfroPunk Fest 2016 best represents her London, she emphatically insists. The AfroPunk movement is trying to make the Punk culture more racially inclusive and diverse. “My London is multicultural, with an abundance of accents. It’s open, it’s alive,” Shyla says. The tolerance and openness of London is best showcased in the famous Christmas lights at Carnaby Street, a street that has always been popular among members of London’s alternate cultures.
“London is always buzzing with activity. There are always free talks, poetry slams and festivals. A lot of museums are free. London culture, London art, London creativity are kept alive this way. And of course, with the smartphones navigating is easy,” Shyla adds. And she’s onto something. Manian similarly describes his ‘80s rendezvous with London’s culture, “The art museums and places of interest were very illustrative and helpful. I could tour around the place with a road map and the Tube was very convenient.” Mohan, with his wife, too made the most of London’s cultural offerings. “We went to see ‘Swan Lake’ at the Royal Opera House and ‘The Mousetrap’ by Agatha Christie. As an overseas graduate apprentice, I also had the pleasure to visit the House of Lords and take tea on the terrace.”
For the casual stroller along London’s streets today, the city would indeed look quite different from what it would’ve to their grandparents. Soho - once a poor suburb known for its crime and sex industry - is today a fashionable district of upmarket eateries and fashion stores. Most of the big British high street brands have been replaced by large international stores and the London skyline too has changed, with The Shard being the latest and the most impressive addition. In fact, Shyla is quite positive that her grandfather would not recognise most of the city anymore.
Shyla, though, isn’t complaining. She assures that alternate cultures are very much alive in the city. “I’ve seen some underground LGBT clubs, drag clubs, comedy clubs, after midnight dance-offs and empty-warehouse-converted parties. There’s a space for everybody.” London’s cosmopolitan nature remains a huge point of attraction for Indian visitors even today. Aditya is especially impressed by the culinary diversity of London and swears that, “some of the best chicken tikka rolls I have had in my life were in London.” “An array of accents flood the streets. These are the people who make London...LONDON,” says Shyla.
It’s clear that London has changed a lot, but not really all that much. Another aspect of Indians’ London experience that has remained consistent over the past decades is the connectivity of British Airways. With a presence in India for over 90 years, British Airways has been helping generations of Indians discover ‘their London’, just like in this video.
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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of British Airways and not by the Scroll editorial team.