Ezel – Turkish Series on Netflix

Three of my addictions… I like to read books from foreign authors (Japan and Scandinavian countries mostly but also some South and South East Asian); listen to foreign music (from everywhere) and watch foreign movies and TV series (Korean, Japanese, Scandinavian, Eastern European, Latin American). I find most American music is just noise – nothing really artistic; and American films and TV series are clichéd, predictable and overrated. Made using the studio cookie cutter formulas – rarely something inspiring comes along. These days even here in Hollywood, they are buying rights to scripts and plots from foreign films and TV series and re-making them as American.

Turkey is one such place where the hottest TV shows come from now. Turkey went from nothing to become the largest producer or TV shows.

Angelina Jolie, Cristiano Ronaldo, Nancy Ajram and other celebrities will appear in roles in a new Turkish series about Syrian refugees…that’s the power of Turkish TV. The production values are higher and licensing fees around the world for many of the Turkish TV series are even higher than American ones, that’s how much the demand is for them. As one Hollywood studio executive said “We’re all learning Turkish now”. When the Turkish drama 1001 Nights aired in Chile in 2014, the ratings beat all the Latin telenovelas and there was a sudden rise in the number of children named Onur and Sehrazat – the main characters in the series. In Israel-Palestine, there were reports that between 3-4pm when a popular Turkish drama airs, everyone stops fighting….governments can’t bring peace there but Turkish dramas can it seems. In India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the number one ratings aren’t for Indian or Pakistani shows but Turkish ones. Turkey is mounting an attack on some of the foremost sources of entertainment for the world. Here’s looking at you, Hollywood and Bollywood.

Currently I am a big fan of a slick Turkish series called Ezel. The story is a revenge crime drama inspired by Alexander Dumas’ novel “The Count of Monte Cristo” (one of my favorite books of all time I have read it so many times but still enjoy it so much that I stay up to finish it).  Normally though I get disappointed by the screen adaptations as they don’t live up to the novel.

However, Ezel was a game changer. Hailed as the best Turkish series ever produced, it tells the story in present and in flashbacks. Originally Dumas wanted to tell the story of “The Count of Monte Christo” in flashbacks, Ezel uses time as a tool going back and forth. However the tale of Ezel doesn’t follow the novel. It is set in present day Turkey and Cyprus instead of 19th century Paris and defies genre as it is a revenge crime thriller, drama, action, mystery, romance. The actors are all brilliant in their roles and the story itself is very poetic….Betrayal tears them apart, revenge brings them together.

 The soundtrack is a masterpiece. Every musical piece in the thrilling scenes or dramatic is moving and fantastic. It has one of the best soundtracks by Toygar Isikli who has created a masterpiece of music that lives up to legendary screen music like the ones from “Last of the Mohicans”, “1492: Conquest of Paradise” and “The Godfather”.

 The series was licensed in about 100 countries, dubbed in many different languages and has even been re-made by Mexico (as Yago) and Armenia (as Ancanoty). A Hollywood re-make is also in the works.

 Here’s one of the gentler tracks from the soundtracks that is one of my favorites:

Mullah Omar/Ayatollah Khamenei to Star in Rumi Biopic

Breaking News.

Los Angeles, California.

Taliban leader Mullah Omar was selected by David Franzoni, the Oscar-winning writer of Gladiator to play the role of 13th century Sufi mystic, scholar, philosopher and poet Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamemei will play the part of Shams-e-Tabriz.

ayatollah-ali-khamenei-smile

Initially, Franzoni after much research, had selected Leonardo DiCaprio to portray Rumi and Robert Downey Jr. to play his friend, instructor and companion Shams-e-Tabriz, but after being deeply moved by the outcries of whitewashing, he decided that in order to be politically correct, only an Afghani should play the part of Rumi who was born in Balkh, which is in present-day Afghanistan and as Tabriz was born in Tabriz, Iran – no one would be better suited than Ayatollah Khamenei (he hopes Khamenei’s birth in Mashhad, Iran will not complicate matters should the Twitter Brigade ask for a birth certificate). Franzoni, who has in the past written great screenplays like King Arthur, Amistad, and Gladiator, hoped this new casting would bring no objection or accusations of whitewashing from the Twitter Whiner Brigade, a powerful group of activists who although never have made a film, are well versed in the art of whining on the Internet from the comfort of their chairs.

In his speech at the Motion Picture Academy’s annual dinner,  Franzoni stated his film could have lost billions by mistakenly casting DiCaprio and Downey Jr despite their being the most bankable stars in the industry today.

“Besides, Mullah Omar and Ayatollah Khamenei’s onscreen chemistry will bring out the sensuality that was lacking in his earlier cast – the world will be drooling over these new hunks.”

“We, the veteran film makers of Hollywood – despite historically being the world’s oldest, largest and most commercially successful film industry – are completely clueless when it comes to making and casting people for successful films. We have proven again and again, that people who produce, direct, write or finance films should have absolutely no say in whom to cast, this should be left to the professionals. I hope to set a trend by engaging the Twitter Whiner Brigade to select casting for all my future films and also have been in talks with President Trump to create a bill making it law that casting for a film will only be serviced by the Twitter Whiner Brigade.”

President Trump has promised to build a wall around Hollywood and make the Taliban pay for it.

(Disclaimer: This is satire)

Film Review: Green Zone

“Green zone” is an intelligent and gripping thriller. It is loosely based on Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s non-fiction book “Imperial Life In The Emerald City: Inside Baghdad’s Green Zone”.

The film stars Matt Damon and is directed by British director Paul Greengrass (Bloody Sunday, Bourne Supremacy, Bourne Ultimatum). Damon plays Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller whose job is to find the WMDs (Weapons of Mass Destruction) in Iraq after the invasion. That was the whole reason the US went to war with Iraq in the first place. Going from site to site and finding them empty, he can’t help asking why? Where is the intelligence coming from? Who is telling them that the WMDs are hidden in an abandoned toilet factory? He wants to do the right thing and so searches for the truth.

The film has so many true-to-life in Iraq moments – An Iraqi man approaches the US soldiers to tell them something and gets slammed to the dirt, Iraqis without water and electricity (even today electricity and water is not restored completely – our bombs destroyed the plants), the Bush speech “Mission Accomplished” (after that is really when the war began – over four thousand US soldiers have died since that speech). In the film, the US officials are seen lazing around the pool in Saddam’s palace after the invasion.

Miller finally discovers the truth about the WMDs -they are really lies which isn’t what anyone — the military, the administration, even the public — want to hear.

“Green Zone” is a brilliant film and much better than the “The Hurt Locker” (winner of 6 Oscars).“The Hurt Locker” is really a war propaganda film that does not examine the reasons for the war, or even the fact that the war was based on lies and therefore the soldiers are not fighting for the truth – they are only puppets of the military industrial complex.

“The Hurt Locker” shows how “brave” the US soldiers are (yup – very brave ….they have committed many war crimes – tortured people, raped 14 year old girls, shot innocent families in minivans, and incinerated women and children with white phosphorus violating the Geneva Conventions) and how difficult and valuable their lives are while completely dismissing the lives of the Iraqis whose land they invaded and occupy (British Journal “The Lancet” and America’s top research center John Hopkins estimate that 1.3 million Iraqi lives have been lost due to the US invasion of Iraq. – Source: http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/iraq).

Green Zone is more realistic, more hard-hitting, than the typical war movie and is both a slam-bang thriller and a remarkable assessment of the American government’s failures in Iraq, and I completely recommend it.

Watch the Trailer below:


www.bendib.com – America’s Most Wanted Cartoonist.
The pen is funnier than the sword. Cartoons that speak truth to power.

The Bankrupt States of America

If this continues…we may as well rename the country “The Bankrupt States of America”.

States of Crisis for 46 Governments Facing Greek-Style Deficits

Californians don’t see much evidence that the worst economic contraction since the Great Depression is coming to an end.

Unemployment was 12.4 percent in May, 2.7 percentage points higher than the national rate. Lawmakers gridlocked over how to close a $19 billion budget gap are weighing the termination of the main welfare program for 1.3 million poor families or borrowing more than $9 billion in the bond market. California, tied with Illinois for the lowest credit rating of any state, is diverting a rising portion of tax revenue to service debt, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its August issue.

Far from rebounding, the Golden State, with a $1.8 trillion economy that’s larger than Russia’s, is sinking deeper into its financial funk. And it’s not alone.

Even as the U.S. appears to be on the mend — gross domestic product has climbed three straight quarters — finances in Arizona, Illinois, New Jersey, New York and other states show few signs of improvement. Forty-six states face budget shortfalls that add up to $112 billion for the fiscal year ending next June, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington research institution. State spending is 12 percent of U.S. GDP.

The lesson from Greece (which a 5 year old can understand) is that spending more than you make will bring you to financial ruin.

Governments can increase taxes, but eventually taxes are paid by people who need jobs to pay taxes. Or by businesses that make money… governments do not create jobs – they tax you and take part of your paycheck and call it theirs.

High taxes cripple businesses and drive up cost of doing business. That doesn’t help the economy – example; Hollywood films and TV series are now moving to places that offer lower labor costs, no unions, lower taxes and more tax credits. “The Blind Side” was moved to Georgia, “Green Lantern” (set for next year release) went to film in Louisiana. Canada (and British Columbia in particular), Ireland and New Zealand, among others, have been aggressively luring film companies in part by drawing production away from Hollywood – like Avatar, Spartacus: Blood and Sand, The Last Airbender (went to film in Pennsylvania and Greenland).

Maula Mere, Maula Mere

The other day I was playing this song in my car and thinking about my beautiful wife – Mahi Jaan. I called her and tried singing the words to her but I was causing such a traffic jam on the 405 so gave up. She was probably worried that the Bel Air residents would come out wondering what shattered their windows or “Who let the dogs out?”. Let’s face it – We all don’t have magical voices like Tahir.

But as I listened…suddenly everything I looked at turned into sheer beauty….on the 405, the San Fernando Valley below me. On the 101, the sun rising so majestically, yet delicately veiled by gentle clouds, the mountains in the eastern distance still wearing their white caps….

Oh boy, it was indeed a mystical experience. As Carmen would say “QUE BONITO ES EL AMOR!”

Funny thing was that Hitesh also happened to think of the same song on the same day! Coincidence? Maybe he was also enveloped with sheer beauty everywhere – since London is such a beautiful city.

Here is the song with such beautiful and expressive poetry. I also have translated the lyrics to English below, to be as close as possible to its original Urdu meaning and in most places have used the literal meaning of the words but sometimes the symbolic to try stay true to its Sufi poetic form.

Enjoy!

Singer: Roop Kumar Rathod
Lyrics: Sayeed Qadri

You can listen to it here on YouTube:

Maula Mere Maula Mere

    Maula mere, maula mere, maula mere, maula mere

    Aankhein teri, kitni haseen
    Ke inkaa aashiq, mein ban gayaa hoon
    Mujhko basaa le, inme tu

    Ishq hai…

    Maula mere, maula mere maula mere, maula mere

    Ke inkaa aashiq, mein ban gayaa hoon
    Mujhko basaa le, inme tu

    Mujhse yeh har ghadi, meraa dil kahe
    Tum hi ho uski aarzoo

    Mujhse yeh har ghadi, mere lab kahe
    Teri hi ho sab guftagoo

    Baatein teri itni haseen,
    Main yaad inko jab kartaa hoon
    Phoolon se aaye, khushboo

    Rakh loon chhupaa ke main kahin tujhko
    Saayaa bhi teraa naa main doon

    Rakh loon banaa ke kahin ghar, main tujhe
    Saath tere, mein hi rahoon

    Zulfein teri, itni ghanee
    Dekh ke inko, yeh sochtaa hoon
    Saaye me, inke main jiyoon

    Ishq hai…

    Maula mere, Maula mer, Maula mere, Maula mere

    Meraa dil yahi bolaa, meraa dil yahi bolaa,
    Yaara, raaz yeh usne hai mujh par kholaa
    Ki hai ishq mohabbat, jiske dil mein
    Usko pasand karta hai Maulaa mere

    TRANSLATION:

    O’ My Master, O’ My Master,

    Your eyes, how beautiful they are
    That their lover, I have become,
    Captivate me within them

    It is passionate love…

    O’ My Master, O’ My Master

    Your eyes, how beautiful they are
    That I have become their lover,
    Captivate me within them

    Every moment, my heart keeps saying
    That you are its deepest desire

    Every moment, my lips keep saying
    Only you should be all they talk about

    Every word you speak, so charming
    That whenever I reminisce them,
    I smell the fragrance of flowers

    Let me take you and hide you somewhere
    Where even your shadow cannot reach

    Let me build you a house somewhere
    Where only I, will be with you

    The tresses of your hair, so rich
    I glance at them and imagine,
    In their shadow is where I’ll live

    It is passionate love

    O’ My Master, O’ My Master

    My heart has spoken, my heart has spoken
    O’ friend, this secret, it has revealed to me…
    Whoever has passion and love in their hearts,
    They are the beloved ones of my Master

Jai Ho to Slumdog Millionaire!

Who the hell would have thought that the best film on Oscar night in Hollywood was an intense, romantic melodrama that delivered satisfaction in a brilliant way, was made in the slums of Mumbai with a mostly unknown star cast, directed by a British director, who made films like “Trainspotting” and “28 Days Later”?

“All my life, I’ve had a choice of hate and love. I chose love, and I’m here,” – Bollywood music director, A.R. Rahman as he accepted two of the Oscars for Best Original Score and Best Original Song – “Jai Ho”.

“Jai Ho” means “May Victory Be Yours” in Hindi….and indeed victory was with “Slumdog Millionaire” last night.

With a whopping, truly deserved, 8 Oscars (from the 10 it was nominated for) “Slumdog Millionaire” the independent film that cost $14 million (compared to Dark Night made for $180 million) topped the list of most Oscar wins (including Best Picture) for any film last night at the Academy Awards in Hollywood, CA.

Here’s the oscars.com link where you can watch some of the highlights from last night’s big wins.

The movie was indeed one of the best films my wife and I have ever watched. It was like watching “Salaam Bombay” meets “City of God” – two of my favorite films of all time in one. A truly brilliant masterpiece of art!

“Jai Ho” song being performed live on the Oscars stage was fantastic!

Here’s the clip from the Oscars:

You can watch the song performed live by A.R. Rahman on the Jay Leno show:

The Oscar Winners are as follows :

BEST PICTURE:
Slumdog Millionaire

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE:
Sean Penn
Milk

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE:
Kate Winslet
The Reader

DIRECTING:
Slumdog Millionaire

FORIEGN LANGAUGE FILM:
Departures

MUSIC(SONG):
Slumdog Millionaire

MUSIC (SCORE):
Slumdog Millionaire

FILM EDITING:
Slumdog Millionaire

SOUND MIXING:
Slumdog Millionaire

SOUND EDITING:
The Dark Knight

VISUAL EFFECTS:
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

DOCUMENTARY SHORT:
Smile Pinki

DOCUMENTORY FEATURE:
Man on Wire

ACTOR IN SUPPORTING ROLE:
Health Ledger
The Dark knight

SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION):
Spielzeugland (Toyland)

CINEMATOGRAPHY:
Slumdog Millionaire

MAKEUP:
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

COSTUME DESIGN:
The Duchess

ART Direction:
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

SHORT FILM (ANIMATED)
La Maison En Peptits Cubes

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM:
Wall-E

WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY)
Slumdog Millionaire

WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY):
Milk

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE:
Penelope Cruz
Vicky Cristina Barcelona

[Source : Official OSCAR Website www.oscar.com]

Gaza 2009 – We Will Never Forget

Here is a brief montage documenting the genocide committed by Israel in “Operation Cast Lead”. It also shows the war crimes as well as the the brave and noble people who stood up, who spoke out, who demonstrated (like my dear friends the Viranis and Peeras) against the Israeli Slaughter Machine.

Bear in mind – it is your taxes that are paying for these crimes:

President Obama if you are reading this blog, I’d like tell you that you are siding with the wrong people in this conflict.

“It is the job of thinking people not to be on the side of the executioners.”
— Albert Camus.