Category Archives: Views on News

Kriti Sanon on her special number in Kalank: The feel of the song is a mix of ‘Kajra Re’ and ‘Ghagra’

Kriti Sanon’s upcoming Dinesh Vijan production, Luka Chhupi, is about to hit the screens. But the actress also seems excited about something else. Sanon will be perform a special number in Abhishek Varman’s multi-starrer period drama Kalank, state reports.

Kriti Sanon. Facebook

The song will feature Kriti along with the two lead actors of the film, Varun Dhawan and Aditya Roy Kapur. The shooting of the song was reportedly done in June 2018.

Talking about the song, Kriti tells Mirror that the feel of the song is a combination of ‘Kajra Re’ (from Bunty Aur Babli) and ‘Ghagra’ (from Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani). This will be Kriti’s second association with Varun after Rohit Shetty’s Dilwale, which featured Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol as the leads.

“Since Kalank is a period film, you will see me in a very different avatar. In fact, this is the first time that Manish Malhotra, who I have been telling since my modelling days to do a film with me, has styled me for a song,”
the actress says.

The other period drama that Kriti will be a part of is Ashutosh Gowariker’s historical drama Panipat, where the actress will be feature opposite Arjun Kapoor. The feature recently went on the floors. Kriti is also reportedly preparing for her second schedule of the film which begins next week in Jaipur, Rajasthan.

Fraud Saiyyan song Chamma Chamma blatantly objectifies Elli Avram in Urmila Matondkar’s chartbuster remix

If you thought that you were done with remixes for the year, lo and behold! Another ’90s chartbuster, this time, Urmila Matonkar’s hit song ‘Chamma Chamma’ has been revamped by the makers of Fraud Saiyyan to give it an Elli Avram twist.

Elli Avram in Chamma Chamma. YouTube screengrab

Whether or not remixes are good, bad or ugly is a debate for a different occasion, but what is jarring about this number is not its overuse of led-bulbs or the drowning percussion. It is the blatant objectification of the former Bigg Boss contestant, whose dancing skills are not the focus of the song. AT ALL! From skimpy clothes to close-up camera shots that seem to hug her body at different obtuse angles, the makers have done it all to live up to the infamous ‘item number’ tag.

It is perhaps important to note that the only time the camera seems to zoom out of the different contours of Avram’s body is when Arshad Warsi is injected into the frame. Surely enough, no such treatment is given to Warsi.

Neha Kakkar, who has almost become synonymous with party numbers, has lent her voice to this ‘Chamma Chama’ version, along with Romi, Arun & Ikka. It has been recreated by Tanishk Bagchi.

Fraud Saiyyan is slated to release on 18 January.

With Zero, has Shah Rukh Khan bid goodbye to the quintessential lover boy for more eccentric characters?

When Shah Rukh Khan appeared on the big screen in Deewana, he was challenging a hegemony that was created nearly twenty years back.

He would become a ‘lover’ – arguably Hindi cinema’s most successful lover, breaking the formula of the ‘Angry Young Man’ created by Salim-Javed and Amitabh Bachchan in the early 1970s. All of 1980s and a big part of 1990s had heroes playing versions of Bachchan’s original act, the vigilante taking revenge for death and/or dishonour.

Shah Rukh Khan was the lover boy who turned the tide against the action hero. Of course, Aamir Khan and Salman Khan came before him but neither matched SRK’s early successes or his virtuosity in playing a wide range of lovers. And SRK’s career can be divided into segments where a certain kind of lover type has dominated, and each phase has brought him great success. Almost always.

Shah Rukh Khan as Raj from Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. Image from Facebook/@DilwaleDulhaniaLeJayenge

His opening act was that of a ‘cute and (sometimes) bumbling lover’ – with a disarming charm and a raw edge. The Deewana character was a Hindi film stereotype – rebelling against parents for a quasi-forbidden love – but Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman had a guy who knocked glasses off tables and stammered through his lines. Be it the less successful Chamatkar or the super-successful Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa, the early SRK was tripping over himself and tumbling into women’s hearts. In Maya Memsaab, he was the charming youngster that older woman took on as a lover and the lovemaking had an energetic childishness.

Almost intertwined with the bumbling lover was his ‘crazed lover’ phase – a character not seen before or since. The trilogy of Baazigar, Darr and Anjaam catapulted him to stardom and audience reaction went from gasping surprise to starry-eyed adulation to eye-covering disgust. It is interesting how well SRK positioned these roles in his career to wrest the spotlight away from star sons and actors backed by bigger production houses. And that spotlight helped him get films with the biggest directors of Hindi cinema. Rakesh Roshan, Ramesh Sippy, Subhash Ghai and Mahesh Bhatt all worked with him in the year after these films.

This gave him the launchpad for his next phase – where he was the quintessential ‘lover boy’.

Shah Rukh Khan was the anti-hero in 'Baazigar'

The one known for his signature pose with extended arms and dimpled smile. This phase officially kicked off with Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, an iconic film that married sanskar with subdued sexuality. He perfected this with Dil To Pagal Hai, Pardes and Dil Se, before hitting the partnership that would establish SRK as one of the greatest heroes of Hindi cinema. Karan Johar and SRK did Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham and Kal Ho Naa Ho in a five-year period, films which – along with Mohabbatein in the same period – made him the face of the modern romantic hero – in India and abroad.

Kal Ho Naa Ho was an interesting transition point because this is the point where SRK turned into his next persona – the ‘mature lover’.

File image of Shah Rukh Khan.

He was a lover and philosopher rolled into one, dispensing advice and murmuring sweet nothings simultaneously. Be it the older brother in Main Hoon Na or the suave scientist of Swades or the old convict of Veer Zaara, this was a character we continue to see even today. If we keep aside the two Don films and Ra.One, all his films from the mid-2000s have shown him with a mature or jaded side. Fan had the ageing superstar Aryan Khanna, nearly an SRK alter-ego. Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi’s ritzy Raj had a sedate Surinder while SRK declared himself to be 40+ in Chennai Express.

Which brings us to the observation that this phase of his has lasted way too long.

Still from Zero Eid teaser. YouTube screengrab

While the other phases – with very different characterisations – lasted less than five years each, we are seeing the ‘mature lover’ for more than a decade now. While there have been attempts to get in different shades, the SRK who pushed the envelope in characterisations is sorely missing. We were supposed to get a debauched older man in Jab Harry Met Sejal but the character turned out to be sweet and safe guy, befitting a superstar but not the edgy SRK we probably wanted.

Zero trailer: Shah Rukh Khan takes a leap of faith for love in Aanand L Rai’s colourful film

The makers of Zero recently released the trailer of the much awaited film. The trailer was released on Shah Rukh Khan’s 53rd birthday.

Still from Zero trailer

The trailer depicts Anushka, who is wheelchair-bound, as Shah Rukh’s love interest. There are hilarious moments in the trailer, one being an altercation between Shah Rukh and his father, when Khan replies saying, “Guthka khaate rehte ho, sperm chhoti ho gayi hogi.”

Unfortunately, Anushka and his love story does not reach fruition and Khan moves on to Katrina, who is portrayed as a celebrity. Most of the Zero trailer revolves around the three main characters. Finally, the trailer takes us all by surprise with a sweeping shot of a rocket, with Khan’s voice over in the background, saying, “Kahaaniyon mein suna tha ke aashiq mohabbat mein chaand tak le aate hain, saale humne yeh baat seriously le liyi.” Zero may have Khan taking the leap of faith for his love.

Khan will reportedly not be the only one playing a special role in the film (he plays a vertically challenged man). Kaif will be playing an alcoholic in the film who struggles with her addiction, while Sharma plays a struggling scientist.

Director Aanand L Rai also shared a new poster of Zero featuring SRK on his birthday. The poster depicts Shah Rukh standing on what seems like a New York street amidst tall sky-scrapers with a garland of notes strung around his neck. Rai dedicated the poster to Khan’s dimples.

Recently, the first look posters of Zero were unveiled which saw Katrina and Anushka with SRK.

The teaser and title of the highly anticipated film was released on 1 January and it left the internet in a frenzy as Khan was seen as a “dwarf” for the first time by the audience. For SRK’s challenging look, the makers reportedly used advanced technology inspired from Hollywood films.

Shah Rukh on Salman Khan’s special cameo in Zero song: Very dignified and loving of him

Mumbai: Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan who unveiled the trailer of his upcoming film Zero on the occasion of his birthday on Friday, 2 November, said that he was touched by the gesture of Salman Khan doing a cameo in the film.

Still from Zero Eid teaser. YouTube screengrab

During the trailer launch of the film when he was asked about how Salman came on board, Shah Rukh told the media: “Anand (L. Rai, Director) has spoken to Katrina (Kaif) regarding this film quite sometimes ago and that time Salman also heard the story.”

“Then Salman called and said that there was this story and hear it. The coincidence is that, when finally, I said yes to the film, after that he said that I will be a part of this film for sure, by doing a song. That was very dignified and loving of him.”

The film also features Anushka Sharma and Katrina Kaif. It is interesting to observe that after Yash Chopra’s Jab Tak Hai Jaan this trio is coming together all over again to execute Rai’s vision.

Talking about her journey Anushka said: “This year I am completing 10 years in Bollywood. I made my debut with Shah Rukh and now after 10 years, in 2018 I am doing another film with him, it is so special and this is how life has come in a full circle.”

In the film Shah Rukh is playing a character of a dwarf and Anushka and Katrina are playing a physically challenged person and an actress respectively.

Badhaai Ho movie review: Neena Gupta, Ayushmann Khurrana & Co redefine warmth in Sai Paranjpye/Basu Chatterjee style

What happens when a woman gets pregnant in her twilight years. If some gentle ribbing is all you are expecting, then you are out of touch with reality and the subconscious prudery that even supposed liberals direct at the elderly.

Now imagine if the expectant mother and her husband, the child’s father, are already parents of a teenaged son and another who is in his 20s. The contempt they face within the home then is no less than what the outside world inevitably throws at them, as Priyamvada and Manoj Kaushik discover in Badhaai Ho.

badhaaiho825

Manoj (Gajraj Rao) is employed in the Indian Railways and Priyamvada (Neena Gupta) manages their home. Their son Nakul (Ayushmann Khurrana) works in an advertising firm and is dating his colleague Renee (Sanya Malhotra). The younger one, Gullar (Shardul Rana), is in school.

Their family is rounded off by a tetchy, demanding grandmother (Surekha Sikri). Or so they think until a sudden bout of unease takes Priyamvada to the doctor and they realise she is almost halfway through a pregnancy she was not aware of.

The Kaushiks live in a congested house in a lower-middle-class Delhi locality with an old-world air. Nakul’s office is in Gurgaon, the suburb characterised by its glitzy, gigantic, modern buildings. Their worldview lies somewhere in between.

And so, first comes the older couple’s shyness to announce what in their youth would have been demanded of them as “good news” they owe to the human species. Then comes the laughter and derision of family and their larger social circle. This much is expected in such a story and makes Badhaai Ho a lovable slice-of-life comedy.

What is most telling and a departure from the expected is the nuance and sensitivity with which director Amit Ravindernath Sharma (who earlier made the dreadful Tevar) and his writing team (story: Shantanu Srivastava and Akshat Ghildial, screenplay: Akshat Ghildial) examine Priyamvada and Manoj’s own response to their situation, and the judgement they face from a seemingly forward-thinking character who sees in their decision not to terminate the pregnancy a sign of backwardness.

Messrs Sharma, Srivastava and Ghildial’s work reminded me of an article I read a few years back by a rape survivor who said she had to deal with considerable social opprobrium in small-town America when she decided not to abort the child she conceived from rape. Too many people who view themselves as liberal think that pro-choice means pro-abortion. It does not. It means being in favour of the right of every woman to choose for herself. So if you pressure her with your expectation that she absolutely must, in certain specific circumstances, exercise the option the law gives her, then how are you different from fundamentalists who want to change the law that gives women this freedom?

Priyamvada holds the conservative view that abortion is a sin, Manoj clearly does not and would like her to consider it. Badhaai Ho for its part reveals its standpoint in the position Manoj ultimately takes when he tells his beloved Priyamvada: “Kasht tera hai, final decision bhi tera hi hoga” (You are the one who will go through the trouble that this pregnancy entails, therefore the final decision too will be yours). That, and the fact that Badhaai Ho openly acknowledges abortion as an acceptable possibility, takes it light years ahead of most Hindi cinema so far including the Salman Khan-Anushka Sharma-starrer Sultan (2016) which steered clear of the subject perhaps for fear of antagonising a traditionalist audience.

This is what makes Badhaai Ho not just warm, funny and realistic, but also thinking, intelligent and unobtrusively politically and socially conscious. What makes it so enjoyable is that it wears its IQ lightly.

The characters in this film are not painted in black and white but in all the colours of the rainbow. The middle-class protagonists are not portrayed as saints nor are the upper classes presented as evil cliches. The screenplay, like these people, does have its imperfections though. Halfway down the line it moves too far away from Priyamvada and Manoj in its focus on Nakul and Renee. It’s not that we don’t get to spend time with them – of course we do – but they are dears and it feels like not enough. Since the young are the top priority of most cinema, it would have been nice to get better acquainted with the older pair here and especially know more about Priyamvada’s mindset, her goals and life-long dreams.

Still, what Badhaai Ho offers is precious – an insight into the lives of real people rather than glossed-up specimens of humanity that exist only in the imagination of commercial filmmakers. Sanu John Varughese’s camerawork plays a part in highlighting the contrasting spaces Nakul in particular inhabits. Varughese scales down while shooting the Kaushiks’ home milieu and even Renee’s wealthy residence, but his frames become more expansive when they shift to Gurgaon. The cast and Sharma’s vision are a match made in heaven.

Ayushmann Khurrana is gradually becoming the Amol Palekar of his generation, yet different. This young artiste is capable of top-lining conventional Bollywood cinema (as we see even with the closing song and dance routine in Badhaai Ho), but chooses to work in small films where the star is the story. He is completely convincing here as a well-intentioned though conflicted son. He also shares a comfortable chemistry with his co-star Sanya Malhotra, whose calling card as of now is her role as a wrestler in the Aamir Khan-starrer Dangal (2016). Within a span of just three weeks, Malhotra has managed to display amazing versatility playing a sensible, urban, wealthy woman of today in Badhaai Ho, a character that is chalk to the cheese that is the loud, pugnacious sibling living in rural Rajasthan that she was in Vishal Bhardwaj’s Pataakha.

Surekha Sikri is rollicking good fun as the cantankerous Dadi who turns out to be not quite as old-fashioned as you might think at first. Hers is a character that occasionally is in danger of being overplayed, but Sikri holds back just at the point where she needs to. The always wonderful Sheeba Chadda’s performance as Renee’s mother is marked by her trademark restraint.

Neena Gupta plays Priyamvada with the natural ease that has characterised all her performances on film and TV. In addition it is worth noting how she has been styled and how she chooses to carry herself in Badhaai Ho. When she was young I never particularly thought of her looks, but in this film I was struck by her luminous prettiness in a face filled out beautifully with life experiences. Gajraj Rao is so credible as her reticent yet romantically inclined partner, and they are so good together, that they bring to mind these lines from ‘I Believe In You’ sung by the legendary American country musician Don Williams: “But I believe in love / I believe in babies / I believe in Mom and Dad / I believe in you.”

Geetika Tyagi on Aamir Khan backing out of Mogul: ‘It’s always nice to get support, but I’ve been fighting my battles alone’

With Aamir Khan stepping away from producing Mogul, which was scheduled to be directed by Jolly LLB director Subhash Kapoor, media professional-turned-actor Geetika Tyagi says she is happy with the support she has recieved, especially since she wasn’t expecting any. Kapoor is currently embroiled in a legal battle with Tyagi, who has alleged that the director tried to molest her in 2012. “It is always nice to get support. But this is happening when I stopped looking, and I thank him (Aamir) for it. I never looked or asked for any support. I have been fighting my battles all alone,” said Tyagi in an exclusive chat with Firstpost.

As soon as Tyagi learnt about Aamir’s decision of walking out of the project, in the wake of India’s #MeToo gaining momentum, she tweeted about it.

Aamir and Kiran Rao also put out a statement regarding his decision stating that at Aamir Khan Productions, they have zero tolerance policy for sexual harassment.

Aamir Khan took this strong step after Geetika Tyagi tweeted to Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival (Kiran Rao is the chairperson), reminding them of the sexual harassment she faced by Mogul director, Subhash Kapoor.

Geetika asked Kiran if she remembers that Aamir Khan is working with Subhash Kapoor who she alleged had earlier sexually assaulted her. Tyagi’s tweet read, “Although @MumbaiFilmFest hs disassociated itslf frm directors&producer whose names have come out in #Metoo movement but I hope its chairperson #KiranRao remembers tht @aamir_khan her husband hmslf is working wth #subhashkapoor who’s being prosecuted for sexual assault&molestation” .

It may be recalled that Tyagi, who has acted in films like Aatma, What The Fish, One By Two and television series, Powder, had accused Kapoor of molesting her after a party and even trying to drag her into the bedroom.

Tyagi had further taken to her Twitter handle to share a 30-minute video in which she named Subhash Kapoor as her molester and had also captioned the video as “Subhash Kapoor’s true face”. The video, which was shot through a hidden camera, saw Kapoor, his wife Dimple Kharbanda and Tyagi discussing the ‘sexual misconduct’ of the director. A few minutes into the video, and Kapoor tells Tyagi, “I didn’t drag you inside”, to which the actress reacted by saying, “You pulled me, Subhash. You were holding my hand.” Further (in the video), Tyagi she tells Kapoor,  “I can’t trust any man. I don’t have a single friend aaj ki date mein jisey mai bolun let us have coffee together or go out, sit and talk. Maine bahut bahut suffer kiya hai, Subhash. I’m jittery, I’m always fu***ng jittery”.

The director of the Arjun Kapoor-starrer Aurangzeb, Atul Sabharwal, was also seen in the video speaking in support of Tyagi, who was further seen slapping Kapoor. Kapoor seemed to be apologising to her. While Tyagi’s seen crying hysterically in the video, the director’s wife is seen pleading to the actress to keep the matter under wraps as she was worried about her son’s future and didn’t want him to be affected by this.

Kapoor was working with Aamir Khan on Bhushan Kumar’s Moghul, but the actor has backed out of the film after the news of Kapoor’s ‘sexual misconduct’. After this, Bhushan Kumar also decided to drop him as the director of the film.

Speaking in response to the development, Kapoor posted a statement saying, “I understand and respect Aamir Khan’s and Kiran Rao’s decision. Since the matter is subjudice, I intend to prove my innocence in the court of law.”

Kalpana Lajmi’s films highlighted varied aspects of womanhood — from Rudaali to Daman

Renowned filmmaker Kalpana Lajmi breathed her last at Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital in Mumbai early morning on 23 September. The writer-producer had been diagnosed with kidney cancer last year. Actors close to her tweeted their condolences, remembering her polemic against exploitation of women, which often formed the crux of her films.

After making her debut as an assistant director on one of Shyam Benegal’s films, she went on to make movies which had women and themes of womanhood at their very core. From starting a conversation about marital rape and the struggles of the LGBTQIA community, to exploring India’s urban landscape, here’s a look at some of her most noteworthy outings.

Rudaali

Probably the most acclaimed Kalpana Lajmi directorial, Rudaali was India’s pick for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 66th Academy Awards. However for some reason, the film was not accepted as a nominee. Starring Dimple Kapadia, Raakhee and Raj Babbar in lead roles, Rudaali borrowed its plot from Mahasweta Devi’s short story about Shanichari, a woman in a caste-conscious village in Rajasthan. Tears evade Shanichari even as the biggest tragedies strike her repeatedly.

Poster for Kalpana Lajmi's Rudaali; Raveena Tandon in Daman

Darmiyaan: In Between

Set in Bollywood in the 1940s, Darmiyaan: In Between tells the story of a famous actress who finds out her son is intersex. She refuses to accept the child as her own and addresses him as her younger brother till destiny reverses the roles. A poignant tale of love, loss, and acceptance, the film is considered way ahead of its time, by giving the LGBTQIA community a voice.

Daman: A Victim of Marital Violence

A chilling narrative capturing the horror of marital rape an violence, Daman got its leading lady, Raveena Tandon, the distinguished National Award. The story follows the life of Durga (Tandon), a young woman born into a poor family, who is married off to a man with a raging temper. Her life is turned upside down as her drunken husband beats her up and forces himself on her, forcing her to live a life of anonymity, only to be tracked down again.

Chingaari

Starring Sushmita Sen, Chingaari is an impassioned attack on using religion as a tool to subjugate women, especially those on the lowest rung of the socio-economic ladder. Chingaari exposed Indian society’s double standards which allow men to exploit women to fulfill their desires, but keep women from claiming agency. The film ends with Sen, who plays a prostitute, avenging the death of her lover by killing the main priest of her village.

Kyon?

Although different from the films in her repertoire, Kyon? made for an edge-of-the-seat thriller, directed by Lajmi. Set in urban India, the film aimed to shine a light on the problems faced by the privileged teenagers in the country. Sex, alcohol and drugs remained Lajmi’s focal points in Kyon? to show corrupt morals and lack of remorse in the younger generation.

Other lesser-known films in which Lajmi showed her directorial prowess include A Work Study in Tea Plucking, D.G. Movie Pioneer, Along the Brahmaputra, Lohit Kinare and Ek Pal.

Alia Bhatt on being directed by father Mahesh in Sadak 2: ‘I think I may just end up being born again

Mahesh Bhatt will be once again donning the director’s cap for Sadak 2, the follow-up to his 1991 film Sadak, starring Sanjay Dutt and daughter Pooja. Alia Bhatt and Aditya Roy Kapur are also part of the sequel slated to release on 25 March, 2020. In an interaction with DNA, both sisters expressed their admiration for him

Pooja Bhatt, Aditya Roy Kapur, Alia Bhatt, Sanjay Dutt and Mahesh Bhatt. Image via Twitter/@TaranAdarsh

Alia told DNA that she had never thought that her father would step out of his retirement and work with her on a film. Pooja talked about Mahesh’s acumen as a director that very few possess. Alia also spoke about being narrated the film’s story which made her realise that no other filmmaker could direct Sadak 2 other than Mahesh.

“When I heard the story, I told him what Sanju had already said, that I cannot do this film if you are not directing it. I was not just in tears, but I was sobbing and shaking at the end of it. He put up the most creative narration that I have heard in my life with the music and the beats. It was so earnest that it broke my heart. Sanju recently told me, ‘Alia you don’t know what you are getting into. You have no idea what it is to be directed by your father’. At the shoot of the picture with the cast, I got a glimpse of it. And to tell you the truth, I am scared for my life because if that’s the kind of emotional journey that we are going to go on for I don’t know how many odd days, I think I may just end up being born again.

Anurag Kashyap’s Manmarziyan isn’t merely a ‘comeback’ for Abhishek Bachchan; it’s a reminder of his potential

The one thing that Abhishek Bachchan almost always brings to every role he plays, is a hint of gravitas – and this is irrespective of the commercial fate of his films.

Revisit some of his now-forgotten lead roles over the last decade and a half – Naach (2004),  Bluffmaster (2005), Delhi-6 (2009), Dum Maaro Dum (2011) – and you’ll see why brand Abhishek Bachchan continues to find takers among film creators and film consumers alike, despite the fact that he mostly relies on his own real life personality and charm to coast through performances.

Abhishek Bachchan. Image via Twitter/ @ErosNow

Heist leader Charlie in the disastrous Abbas-Mastan non-thriller Players (2012); suave NRI Rishi in Karan Johar’s Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (2006); or even the London-returned Robbie who’s sewn from husband material in his latest film, Anurag Kashyap’s Manmarziyan; Abhishek Bachchan has often done a fair job of playing himself on screen.

That, though, is the real tragedy of Junior Bachchan’s career – because his best, most impactful performances have been those where he actually manages to escape his own persona and dive deep into characters.

It’s when he’s stripped of his slick, urban skin – like Mani Ratnam did with him in Yuva (2004) and Guru (2006), or shorn off the stature and privilege associated with him (Happy New Year’s Nandu Bhide comes to mind) that Abhishek Bachchan the actor comes to the fore. (This might be an unpopular opinion, but irrespective of how Happy New Year was as a film, Abhishek’s Nandu Bhide was easily one of his best characters to date, one that was made impressive by how much of his inhibitions the actor was able to shed to play the part.)

In Manmarziyan, Abhishek seems to be reprising his role as the bland arranged marriage proposal for the feisty heroine in Sooraj Barjatya’s melodrama-on-crack, Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon (2003). Like his Prem Kumar (*not* Prem Kishen) in MPKDH, Manmarziyaan’s Robbie is stoic and polite, speaks softly, likes drifting off into long silences, and is generally the guy who the girl’s family backs in the love triangle.

Yet, his latest performance shows you how much Abhishek has grown as a screen performer, while also reminding you of how much more untapped potential he still has.

Abhishek Bachchan may have been the first in Bollywood to brood with his beard, but his Robbie is a little more nuanced than just that. It helps that there’s an attempt to set the character apart in the way it has been designed. Writer Kanika Dhillon makes Robbie a millennial upgrade to Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam’s selfless, benevolent husband Vanraj – a man who’s secure about his own masculinity as well as his wife’s right to make her own choice. He’s instantly smitten by the spunky woman of the story, but doesn’t try to force-fit his own beliefs and values upon her.

Abhishek on his part makes Robbie instantly likeable and trustworthy, but the character doesn’t really push him to dig deep and make him seem less like a Bachchan and more like a whole other person. Abhishek may have made his entry into Bollywood’s Aram Nagar club, but the film never seems to challenge him in the way some other films may have done in the past.

In Yuva, which is still arguably Abhishek’s best performance to date, you see an angst, a pain, a drive in his eyes that you’ve only ever seen sporadically in other films. He was fierce, battle-worn, street-smart and so real. Yet, even realism can be a hit-and-miss with Abhishek Bachchan. He tried a character in a similar zone in 2010’s Raavan, but that was a complex part that even Mani Ratnam didn’t seem to have a firm hold on. The result was a mangled mess of a man who never connected with the viewer.

Abhishek Bachchan also managed to flesh out an intriguing character in Rohan Sippy’s Bluffmaster – that thoroughly underrated ‘adaptation’ of John C. Reilly-starrer Criminal, which shows that it isn’t so much about which world his character is set in, as opposed to how much effort is made in pushing the actor towards completely unshackling himself from the tics and traits that come so naturally to him.

Abhishek Bachchan and Priyanka Chopra in a still from Dostana. YouTube

Abhishek Bachchan may have managed to remain relevant and keep his career on the rails with his portrayal of ACP Jai Dixit in the three Dhoom films over his career, but it’s his little obscure parts that reveal what’s otherwise hidden – talent that needs to be mined and honed. You can see glimpses of this in Robbie – when his eyes gently widen at the sight of his newly-wed wife guzzling neat whiskey without a flicker of discomfort, or when he merely stands next to his wife’s lover, calm and composed, as far away from insecurity as one could be.

Manmarziyan, thus, isn’t so much a return from a hiatus from Abhishek Bachchan, as it is a gentle reminder that the man is capable of so much more than what we’ve already seen. It’s him testing waters outside his comfort zone, which is the first step. Who knows – perhaps a truly great Abhishek Bachchan performance isn’t too far away.