Category Archives: Views on News

Today in Wait, What — Yo Yo Honey Singh reportedly offered Rs 25 crore to write biography

Rapper Yo Yo Honey Singh is apparently being offered Rs 25 crore to write a tell-all novel and it better make us meet God.

Yo Yo Honey Singh in all his glory. Image from Twitter/@khina7092

As an afterthought, we don’t know what’s more surprising — the money or the possibility of him writing a book because, you know, he thinks it’s okay to rhyme ‘paani’ with ‘sunny’.

The ‘Brown Rang’ rapper, who suddenly disappeared from the music scene, has been offered this whopping amount by a publication house, which is currently pursuing him to write about

EntertainmentFP StaffOct, 17 2017 14:37:19 IST

Rapper Yo Yo Honey Singh is apparently being offered Rs 25 crore to write a tell-all novel and it better make us meet God.
Yo Yo Honey Singh in all his glory. Image from Twitter/@khina7092

Yo Yo Honey Singh in all his glory. Image from Twitter/@khina7092

As an afterthought, we don’t know what’s more surprising — the money or the possibility of him writing a book because, you know, he thinks it’s okay to rhyme ‘paani’ with ‘sunny’.

The ‘Brown Rang’ rapper, who suddenly disappeared from the music scene, has been offered this whopping amount by a publication house, which is currently pursuing him to write about his life, according to a DNA report. The report also suggests that the biopic might be turned into a film later.

The identity of the publishing house has not been revealed, obviously, otherwise we would’ve been writing a pitch instead of this piece.

Just in case the publication house is reading this — we’re willing to sell our soul to you. We will write a tell-all, draw the illustrations, design the cover, develop a marketing strategy — both for digital and on-ground and we will also arm-twist friends and family into buying the biography once it touches the stalls. Not to mention the incessant spamming on family groups.

And we are ready to do all this in just Rs 5 crore. Rs 2 crore will also work since it’s Diwali time and we love Diwali discounts irrespective or our economic well-being. You can get in touch with us if you are interested (pls get in touch pls pls pls*insert Hi5 emoji which is being used as a praying emoji for decades now*).

As for the singer, he has had his share of highs and lows. After breaking into the music scene with ‘Lak 28 Kudi Da’, which is also every Delhi-ite’s guilty pleasure, he went on to become one of the highest paid music producers of the country. However, towards the fag end of 2014, he disappeared, to announce in 2016 that he is suffering from bipolar disorder.

Our lives might not be as interesting as Singh’s but hey, we swear our biography will be read by all people of different skin colours — black, brown, yellow, white, Yami Gautam, orange — everyone!

Chef movie review: Saif’s flimsy but occasionally sweet film takes the chefing out of Favreau’s Chef

It is hard to entirely dislike any film starring Saif Ali Khan. He has such a likeable personality and such natural ease before the camera, that he ends up adding charm to any project he is a part of, however flimsy or dismal it might be. Chef is not dismal, but it is flimsy.

Airlift director Raja Krishna Menon’s new film is an official remake of the Hollywood film Chef directed by and starring Jon Favreau, in which a once shining star on the American culinary scene has a meltdown when a critic skewers his restaurant. The video clip of his moment of weakness turns viral and ends up almost ruining him professionally. Instead of allowing that trough in his career to translate into a complete full stop, he uses the opportunity to find a new road and simultaneously bond with the son he had with his ex-wife.

In the Hindi Chef, Khan plays top chef Roshan Kalra who is plateauing and loses his job at a plush restaurant in New York when he hits a dissatisfied patron. At first feeling sorry for himself and angry at what he perceives as an injustice, he soon realises that he had indeed allowed his work to qualitatively decline. The customer, it dawns on him, was, in fact, right.

On the urging of his good friend and former colleague Vinnie, (the lovely Sobhita Dhulipala from Anurag Kashyap’s Raman Raghav 2.0 last year), he uses the hiatus to visit his son in Kochi, where the boy lives with his mother Radha Menon, a successful classical dancer who was once married to Roshan. Without going into the details of how it happens, it can be told that like in the original, the father and child end up on a road trip in a food truck Roshan has decided to run.

What Chef has going for it is that Saif is as seemingly effortless as always before the camera. So is Janakiraman who, as it happens, is a hottie. Seriously, she is exquisite. Janakiraman is a pan-India actress with a filmography dominated by Malayalam, Tamil and Telugu. She is not a known face in Bollywood though, which is truly Bollywood’s loss.

Both lead actors share good chemistry with debutant Svar Kamble who plays Roshan and Radha’s kid Armaan. And in a small role, Milind Soman reminds us that there are few creatures in this world sexier than a well-built man in a well-draped mundu.

The thing about Kerala is that it is so spectacular, that wherever you aim your camera you will automatically see beauty, and director of photography Priya Seth takes full advantage of the picturesque landscape at her disposal to lay out an array of stunning visuals for our consumption. That becomes particularly important because after a while, Chef transitions into a road film, taking us along from Kerala to Goa and finally Delhi. What Seth does not serve us though are food visuals, a fact that turns out to be this film’s death knell since it is – wait for it – a food movie.

So yeah, Chef is a slick production, with everything and everyone looking good from start to finish (I particularly enjoyed Anuradha Shetty’s designs of the interiors of Roshan, Radha and Soman’s character Biju’s homes – each one markedly, and interestingly, different) but when viewed as a whole, it is an extremely frustrating experience. The joy of watching any road movie is to see the changing geography and cultures of the places the protagonists pass through. We get a decent serving of the former and a teeny bit of the latter here. What is truly unforgivable though is Chef’s lack of fervour for food.

It is hard to believe that Menon is not well-acquainted with the genre. If he was not, all he needed to do for inspiration and education was to look within Kerala, where most of Chef is set, and from where, just this year,Angamaly Diaries dished out a plethora of thoroughly exhilarating food scenes on screen, set in the roadside eateries and kitchens of a small southern Indian town. Alternatively, he could have sought out reference material from the film industry in which he operates. Although Bollywood does not frequent food films, just recently in 2013 director Ritesh Batra brought home to us the enticing sights and sounds of cooking in The Lunchbox– oil bubbling in a pan, the whoosh when fresh onions meet the surface of that oil, the crackle of mustard, human hands affectionately putting it all together. Forget these two films — all he needed to do was watch the original Chef for guidance.

Favreau’s film was not earth-shatteringly brilliant, but it had clarity about what it wanted to do and no hesitation in doing it. It told a heartwarming story, and was almost meditative in the way it captured the lead character’s intense romance with cooking. To see him slice, chop and dice vegetables, select meats and veggies, fry, bake, boil and roast, and then plate up as a painter would work a canvas or a dancer would work a stage was enough to get any normal viewer’s mouth watering and heart racing. That is, after all, the primary mission of any such film.

Throughout the Hindi Chef, I wanted to shake my fist at the screen and scream at it in anger when large passages went by with no reference to food at all, interspersed with scenes where people were shown cooking, serving and eating in long and medium shots, with little to no focus on what lay on their plates, the processes that got it there or their pleasure while tasting the end product. It took almost 45 minutes for Chef to give us an entire scene devoted to the hero conceptualising and cooking a complete dish, with the camera closing in on his ingredients, his methods and his invention. I am not even a particularly obsessive foodie, but the moment that scene was over, I immediately felt the urge to rush back home to my kitchen and try out that thing Roshan christens a rotzza.

That is the effect that any good food film should have on its audience.

When Armaan tries chhole bhature for the first time and the camera gingerly watched him at arm’s length, I almost yelled, “Oh, for God’s sake, zoom in on that bloody bhatura, will you?” Somewhere, there is a mention of idiyappam, a.k.a. string hoppers, a steamed rice-noodle preparation with a coconut filling that is a popular part of Malayali cuisine but little known in the north – again, no close up. Was this the DoP’s failure, or did she take those shots and did the editor remove them, or was it the director’s call not to feature such shots at all? Whatever be the reason, Menon’s film takes the chefing out of Chef which is pretty much like taking the music out of a musical. What’s the point then? Huh?

Raghu Dixit has come up with some agreeable background music for Chef, but his songs are surprisingly bland, with the exception of an up-tempo number called Shugal laga le that revs up the mood as soon as it is played. Dixit himself makes an appearance to sing it, and his introduction is one of the film’s most awkwardly constructed scenes. The other comes in the interactions between Roshan and Biju. Both appear to be the most hurriedly written, poorly developed parts of the screenplay.

There is some sweetness to be experienced in the interactions between Roshan and Armaan and separately between Roshan and Radha, some insights that emerge from the story of Roshan’s early struggles and poignancy in his experiences in Amritsar, but it is just not enough. Besides, the lethargic pace of the narrative underlines the flimsiness of the screenplay by Ritesh Shah, Suresh Nair and Menon.

Ankur Tewari’s lyrics for Shugal laga le, “Ghoomey awaara se / Mere kadam jahaan / Bantaa gaya bas rastaa / Rahi miley jahaan bhi / Pagley manmauji jo / Badhta gaya bas kaarvaan” (Wherever I wandered, wherever my path took me, I made my own road / Wherever I encountered fellow travellers, crazy whimsical beings, the caravan got longer), capture the essence of what this film wanted to be and might have been if it had explored Roshan’s relationships – with the owner of Galli, with food, with Radha, with Armaan and with himself – in greater depth.

On the plus side, the blending of Hindi, Malayalam and English in Ritesh Shah’s dialogues is neatly done, though the writing team’s lack of research is shocking in a scene where a character informs Roshan that he knows Hindi, which he describes as “the national language”. Err, India does not have a “national language”, Team Chef. Have you not read the Constitution or the history of the country’s language movement? It is bad enough that Hindi propagandists work hard to spread this lie, but such ignorance from a screenwriting crew is grossly inexcusable.

This is not to say that Chef has nothing to offer. It is pleasant in parts, pretty almost throughout, and the cast is appealing. In the absence of heft and a commitment to its genre though, it remains an ineffectual film.

A close scrutiny of the credits reveals that there was actually a food stylist – Sandhya Kumar – on the rolls. What the heck? Why bring her on and then waste her work? It also turns out that the chefs at Galli Kitchen, Roshan’s New York eatery, were all drawn from JW Marriott, including some leading names from the world of gastronomy. Umm, why bother with such detailing in the casting if you ain’t gonna show them cook? Oh lord, I want to bang my head on my table in exasperation as I write this.

Saif Ali Khan, who I believe is one of Hindi cinema’s most underrated actors, needs to choose better.

It does not speak well of Menon’s latest screen offering, that I felt the need to compensate for the deep dissatisfaction I felt after watching it by coming home and watching an entire episode of Masterchef Australia. To see Gary rustle up a simple plate of roast chicken with pea custard and fondant potatoes was a yummilicous and sensual experience. That’s what Chef should have been but is not.

Julie 2 actress Raai Laxmi on her Bollywood debut — and those persistent MS Dhoni questions

If an actor’s 50th film marks her foray into Bollywood, then the interviewer should probably steer clear of questions involving the actor’s ‘confidence’. Raai Laxmi — Bollywood debutante and South film industry veteran — certainly has a lot of it, and is confident about making an impact with her upcoming film Julie 2. When we meet up to chat about her film, a torrential downpour rages outside, but Raai Laxmi — a Mumbai resident for the past 10 years — is calm and comfortably ensconced on a settee, sipping a cup of chai.

Why did she choose to make Mumbai her base, despite being a popular star down South? “I lived in Chennai for about three years and when the studios took over, we started shooting elsewhere. It made no sense (to stay put in Chennai) and the locations were so far from my home that I normally had to take two flights to get there. It was easy for me to work with Mumbai as base. It’s been more than 10 years and now I consider airports and flights as my first home,” says Raai, laughing.

Raai Laxmi in a poster for Julie 2. Image courtesy Facebook/@Julie2Film

In the initial years of her career, Raai was credited as ‘Lakshmi Rai’. It is only recently that she adopted the name we now know her by. “I changed from Lakshmi Rai to Raai Laxmi some three years ago; there was no trigger for it. It was my father who forced me to change my name. He didn’t have any explanation for it, he just said that the change would be good for me. And it has worked well for me!”

Not many know that in 2006, Raai was approached by Yash Raj Films for a role in Chak De India. Raai was finalised for a part, but things didn’t fall into place at the contractual level. Raao too got busy with Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam and Tamil cinema, shooting (in the initial phases of her career) as many as six films a year. “When big opportunities knock on your door, you definitely want to show your presence. In the past there have been three attempts to ‘introduce’ me. While dates didn’t work out in a few cases, it was a contract issue in some others. There were also clashes of opinions with a few producers,” she explains.

Down South, Raai has worked with all the top stars of the day. Why debut with Julie 2 in Bollywood ten, instead of a project opposite an A-lister/one supported by a big banner? “Bollywood, to me, is a new industry and I have no idea how it operates. I come from a different school of thought and wonder if it’s the same here. We don’t chase people and I would have been happy to accept a film from a big banner or with a known star. It’s just that the Khans do one film in a year and Akshay does three films with a long queue of producers behind him. Also it’s a rare thing that you get to see a fresh face in the films of such stars.”

One of the dampeners during the Julie 2 promotion press interactions have been questions related to MS Dhoni, with whom Raai was once in a relationship. For Raai, it’s in the past and the questions about Dhoni seem to visibly annoy her. “It is annoying,” she says. “I feel like banging my head against a wall. People start judging you and imagine that you’re doing this for publicity. I have my own identity, and if I’ve not been talking about (the relationship), then why are people asking me about it?”

When faced with a couple of persistent questions about Dhoni at a press conference for Julie 2, Raai responded with, “Who is he?” She tells us that the constant questions are in a sense, ‘forcing (her) to not acknowledge him’. “When you say something, it becomes a headline. When you don’t say anything, it becomes a headline,” she says, wryly, adding, “Maybe I shouldn’t date someone famous, only to bring an end to these questions.”

Perhaps after Julie 2‘s release, the focus will shift to other talking points when it comes to Raai Laxmi.

Bigg Boss 11: Judwaa 2 cast Varun, Taapsee and Jacqueline to join Salman Khan on opening episode

Salman Khan, who is set to host Bigg Boss 11, will have Judwaa 2 actors Varun Dhawan, Jacqueline Fernandez and Taapsee Pannu as his guests during the opening episode of the upcoming show.

Varun Dhawan has stepped into the shoes of Salman, who played a double role in the 1997 film Judwaa, which was also directed by David Dhawan. It has Karishma Kapoor and Ramba in the female lead roles.

Interestingly, Salman was also present on the wrap-up day of Judwaa 2, which is a remake of Judwaa.

Now, the team of Judwaa 2 will visit the original Judwaa superstar on Bigg Boss season 11’s launch episode. The cast will be shooting with Salman on Friday, said the spokesperson of the film.

The show will premiere on October 1 on Colors.

Produced by Sajid Nadiadwala and directed by David Dhawan, Judwaa 2 is presented by Fox Star Studios and Nadiadwala Grandson Entertainment.

The film is slated to release on Friday, 29 September.

Newton brings forth the point of view of those who conduct elections: Amit Masurkar

It was the search of a political idea on the web that led to the inception of Newton.

Amit Masurkar was determined to make his next film a political one after the critically acclaimed Sulemani Keeda. Amit spent the subsequent days doing things that writers often do – type out words on Google and look for all possible search results.

“The words that caught my attention were ‘polling booths’, ‘EVMs’ and ‘Presiding Officer’. I typed other words too and the search threw up ‘political dynasties’, ‘conspiracies’ and ‘scandal’. We already have seen films dealing with the latter topics but one has never seen anything from the point of view of people who conduct elections,” reveals Amit, on how Newton was born.

After having travelled to roughly 50 film festivals across the world with the film, the moment is finally here for the director, as his labour of love will be screened in cinema halls of its origin country.

Newton was shot in the Naxal prone areas of Chhattisgarh.  Amit maintains that he was very clear about rooting his film in the region of Chhattisgarh because of its red earth and unique tree topography. So was it a cakewalk shooting in the Naxalite zone? Amit answers, “Do you think so? It was quite tough actually. We wanted to cast local people for the film. It would have been tough getting them to a different location. With so many people it was easier for us to just go there and shoot.”

Despite the assurance and cooperation by the state government, the first day of the film unit in Chhattisgarh was anything but a smooth ride. The first location earmarked for the shoot was a forest area near Raipur. To the unit’s horror, ten days before the shoot of this low budget flick was to commence, the forest officer (also the signing authority), was found guilty of corruption charges. The subsequent raids yielded millions in cash stashed at his house.

“We had no clue what to do next as he had also turned a fugitive. After the officer was sent to jail, the next one was scheduled to join in his place only after few days. It was only after the local line producer informed us of another location called Dallirajara that the shoot could commence,” informs Amit. When the shooting began, the unit was informed by the local police chief not to take any police protection, as it would have meant danger to their lives. The covert message was to be behave like locals.

newton (1)

Being a low budget flick, the film also had its share of disappointment even at the scripting stage. Two leading production houses rejected the script even before reading the plot. Was it disappointing? “Not at all. I am more comfortable working with faces that I know. If somebody green lights a project and later quits his job, chances are that when someone replaces him your project might just go south. No one is interested in taking chances at these foreign studios.”

Amit was also part of the writing team that gave the fabulous The Great Indian Comedy Show, but the following years were full of struggle bearing no results despite the hard work. He would pitch ideas to directors and after being signed would start working on a script. The saga continued for four years and not a single script could fructify in the shape of a film. This was also the phase when he suffered depression. “I don’t know how I got out of it. I just decided not to depend on other people. It was then that I decided that I should do my own thing. I made a list of things that were available to me and then wrote a script around it and that’s how Sulemani Keeda happened.”

It was sheer luck for Amit when Newton metamorphosed from an independent film to a studio-backed film. It was a one-month assistantship under Aanand L Rai in 2004 for a telefilm that tilted things in his favour. “Rajkummar Rao showed him a clip of Newton and the shots impressed him. When Raj told him about me, his instant reaction was ‘I know him’. He then took my phone number and called to say that he loved the clip and was open for help of any sort,” reveals Amit.

Thanks to the filmmaker of Tanu Weds Manu and Raanjhanaa, the initial plan of releasing the film in 150 screens has now trebled.

For this engineering drop out, jungles have now become addictive. “I realised after the shoot, jungles are very addictive. You have to build your own infrastructure. There is a thrill and it gives a very sublime feeling,” he adds.

Bhoomi director Omung Kumar on Sanjay Dutt: ‘The industry loves him for who he is’

Sanjay Dutt is all set to make yet another comeback to films with this week’s release Bhoomi, and even as director Omung Kumar says that it’s a huge responsibility on him, he appears quite confident and upbeat. That’s probably because Omung feels the film will be lapped up by Dutt’s fans, who’re eager to watch him on the big screen after such a long hiatus. For Omung, who previously helmed two biopics — Mary Kom and Sarbjit — Bhoomi is a different genre altogether, an out-and-out mainstream commercial potboiler.

Bhoomi is certainly a different genre for me but I have done it in my style. I have paid lot of attention to the performances. You won’t see the hero Sanjay Dutt, you will see him as the character, Arun Sachdeva,” Omung told Firstpost in the run-up to his film’s release. The director’s confidence also stems from the fact that Dutt has chosen him over other filmmaker friends to make his big screen return with. In fact, Dutt has expressed his confidence in Bhoomi being his perfect comeback vehicle.

Sanjay Dutt with Omung Kumar on the sets of Bhoomi. File Photo

Bhoomi is an entertainer, a commercial action film and this is the genre I want to be in,” Dutt told Firstpost in a recent interview. Omung seconds: “Bhoomi is a complete potboiler. It has the quintessential Bollywood score, whistle-worthy dialogues, raw action sequences. I’ve also shot in unusual locations like Chambal.”

Omung recounted how he got Sanjay to agree to do the film. “I went to meet Sanjay and showed him Sarbjit’s trailer which he loved. Then I narrated four scripts to him, out of which, Sanjay chose Bhoomi. Maybe the script touched his heart and it matched his sensibilities. I was just producing the film at that time but then he insisted that I direct it as well. At that time my psychological thriller Five was about to go on the floors but since I got busy with Bhoomi, I had to push that one (back).”

Dutt has had many ‘comebacks’ — like a cat’s nine lives, his career has received fresh impetus every time he’s returned from a (forced) break. Jaan Ki Baazi (1985) was his first movie after he came back from his drug treatment and rehabilitation in the US;  Daud (1997) was his first film after his 1993 arrest in the Mumbai serial bomb blast case, and having wrapped up his jail sentence, Dutt is now back with Bhoomi. His last two films before being sentenced to imprisonment in early 2013 were PK and Ungli (both released in 2014).

Omung looked back at how Dutt’s always managed a successful return and said, “(It’) probably because the industry loves him for whatever he is that the offers keep flowing in. He has had a long journey of about 186 films but few films touch you more like Vaastav, Naam, Saajan, Munnabhai… For us, he is a fabulous actor, he is known for his style, for his swag, his physique…but in my film, I didn’t want all of that. I wanted a new person. I have broken that mould and you will see his acting ability. His face speaks, each frame looks like a painting because his wrinkles talk, his beard talks, all that oozes emotion — and to me those were the high points.”

Omung revealed that Dutt and he were both nervous on the first day of the shoot as they tried to understand each other’s method of acting. “I realised that Sanjay would want me to okay the shot in the first take. He hates rehearsing!” said Omug, adding with a laugh: “There is a huge court room scene with dialogues running into 10 pages. He did that scene in one take — he had told me earlier that he won’t give a second take at all!”

Daddy: Arjun Rampal gives his heart, body and nose to the film, but is let down by Ashim Ahluwalia

The first time you see him, it’s through a glass wall. Light tinted, slightly oversized sunglasses  and a small, neat moustache embellish the face, carefully half hidden in profile. He hasn’t spoken and you don’t take much notice of him except as a big gangster, Maqsood (read Dawood). He is, apparently, a man of some importance. We know this because he has a sidekick who addresses him as “Bhai”.

The second time you see him, he is seated in a car. He is dressed in a printed silk shirt. His hair is long and thick and the camera is close enough to see his eyes through those light gold shades. And then he speaks. The unmistakable grainy voice belongs to Farhan Akhtar. The hitherto dull and dim lit screen, suddenly lights up. The rest of the long hour and a half, you wait for the next glimpse of Bhai.

Oh, but isn’t this film about Arun Gawli, the gangster who became known as Daddy?

Unfortunately, yes. It is also a film that attempts to walk the thin line between the real and commercial cinema. But how real can a movie be, without it being a documentary?

In the previous scene with Bhai, the men, sort of huddled outside, are being given an important assignment. One of them dares to enquire about the payment. He is Arun Gawli, a small time goon from Dagdi Chawl in Mumbai’s Byculla area.

If Farhan Akhtar is unrecognizable, with the perfect detailing of the underworld man from the eighties; Arjun Rampal as Arun Gawli fondly called Daddy, is equally nondescript behind the prosthetic big nose and long hair. Utmost care has been taken to recreate the real world of a man whose humble beginnings in the 70s and 80s are traced to a place called Dagdi Chawl.

The old staircases, the crowded, long balconies, the small rooms with faded, cracked paint and weak, wooden doors — are painstakingly lit with dim light to show a world as dark as Gawli is made to be. This is that Mumbai chawl  where he woos a Muslim girl across the balcony and eventually marries her. This is the unsafe place which he builds into a mini fortress, armed with his faithful men and guns. This is where crossfires are exchanged every time the cops come to get him. This is the hideout where he religiously prays to his God — Shiv Shambho.

This is the home where he holds his baby and a gun with one hand and a toy rattle with another.

The latter, particular image should ideally evoke some strong, mixed emotions.  But it doesn’t. In fact, the film, does not stir up any emotion, whatsoever.

Daddy has been positioned as a ‘real’ film with ‘commercial’ value given by Arjun Rampal’s name. But this faithfulness to the realistic feel, ends up overlooking the required drama and entertainment in films, which go beyond repeated shootouts. The silk shirts and the bell bottom pants also need some flesh, blood and soul, just like a simple Dagdi Chawl-made vada pau needs its dry garlic, and red, hot chutney.

Rampal’s Gawli says “ikde ye” quite comfortably but does not engage you with a real conversation after that.

The matter of fact tone is as dull as the Wikipedia page which informs you of as much as you see in the movie. The story had sufficient meat in the way three men — Baba (Anand), Ramu (Rajesh) and Arun (Arjun) — formed the BRA gang and their eventual journey. However, you never really get to know who they were as people or friends.

None of the fantastic detailing to recapture the ’80s matters. The flat dialogues make the pace  and the tone feel so stretched that the songs provide a welcome break. Particularly, an item number that reminds one of Parveen Babi in a gold, shimmery costume and of the popular disco beat.

Arjun Rampal seems to have given his heart, mind, body, soul and ‘nose’ to this film as actor, co-writer and producer. Hence, it’s disappointing to see it all ruined by director Ashim Ahulwalia who is obsessed with art direction and the costume department. The setting and sepia tones take precedence over the screenplay and the character.

This is not so surprising, considering his debut film — the Nawazuddin-starrer Miss Lovely — which drew some attention during film festivals but failed when released in theatres.

Rampal in Daddy, is like Aishwarya Rai in Sarbjit. Both are fighting their immense good looks and their image, with heartfelt sincerity. Rampal gives a satisfactory, restrained performance in Daddy but he needed better scenes, especially with the ineffective and badly miscast Nishikant Kamat who plays Inspector Vijaykar.

Daddy could have been like Ram Gopal Varma’s Satya but ends up as fake as Farhan’s character name, Maqsood, in its guise to be real. Was Dawood singing in their ears — “main hoon kaun…main hoon, main hoon… DON”?

Kumaraissance: Tracing Akshay Kumar’s reinvention from ‘Khiladi’ to India’s most bankable star

Just this year, Akshay Kumar has delivered two crackling performances in two very different films and won the National Award for his work in 2016’s Rustom.

He also launched Bharat Ke Veer, a website and app that enables donations to families of army personnel.

His social media feeds are peppered with videos that address social issues. Akshay’s public image is currently undergoing a multi-media reinvention.

And, then there were buzz-worthy moments when he sang Frank Sinatra’s ‘Strangers in the Night’ to his wife Twinkle Khanna on Koffee With Karan or when he thanked his ‘overpaid trainer and underpaid cook’ while accepting the award for ‘Most Beautiful Man of the Decade’ at the recent Vogue Beauty Awards 2017.

We’re in the throes of a full-blown Kumaraissance, and it’s been long overdue.

For about three decades, Akshay has been a Bollywood A-lister, which in itself is a genuine accomplishment. But his career spanning 124 movies has mostly banked more on ‘Akshay the Star’ rather than showcase his talents as an actor. His filmography has the odd Sangharsh or Dhadkan but action and comedy has always been his forte.

From being stuck in the doldrums of mindless films like Rowdy Rathore and the Housefull franchise, Akshay seems to have re-invented himself as an actor who is not just pushing boundaries but also consistently delivering hits.

In the last two years, he has picked films unlike anything he’s done before. Rustom was based on the Nanavati murder trial of 1959 that transformed the judicial process in India. His portrayal of Naval officer KM Nanavati earned him the National Award.

He essayed another real-life character in the hugely appreciated Airlift. Akshay delivered his first blockbuster of 2017 as the Lucknow-bred underdog lawyer Jagdishwar Mishra aka Jolly in Subhash Kapoor’s Jolly LLB 2. In Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, which released on the Independence Day weekend,

Continuing the trend, Akshay’s next release Padman will attempt to spread awareness about menstrual hygiene. Directed by R Balki, the film is based on the life and work of Arunachalam Muruganantham, a social entrepreneur who invented a low-cost sanitary pad making machine.

The actor is also filming director Reema Kagti’s Gold, a sports drama on the hockey team that won the first Olympic medal for India as a free nation in 1948.

What is common to Akshay’s recent films has been the focus on meaningful stories. He’s moved beyond generic masala crowd-pleasers to films that do more than just entertain.

Many credit Akshay’s association with filmmaker Neeraj Pandey for triggering the Kumaraissance. The duo first collaborated in the 2013 heist thriller Special 26 and, since then, Neeraj has directed Akshay in the spy film Baby and co-produced Rustom, Naam Shabana and Toilet: Ek Prem Katha.

After decades of being Khiladi Kumar, Akshay is going towards not having an image. While his contemporaries like Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan are struggling to reinvent themselves, Akshay has laid claim to being the ‘superstar everyman’.

(Clockwise from top left) Stills from Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, Padman, Jolly LLB 2

Whether he is Kuwait-based Indian businessman Ranjit Katyal spearheading the largest civilian evacuation in history or cycle store owner Keshav who would do anything to build a toilet for his wife, Akshay never stops being a Bollywood hero. There is also enough swagger, high-decibel dialoguebaazi and humour to keep the single-screen viewers happy. His directors seem to have found that elusive balance between realistic and revved up.

If we measure this shift in Akshay’s career in terms of financial success, it’s obvious that the audience loves it.

Raking in Rs 126.94 crores at the box-office, Toilet: Ek Prem Katha is this year’s highest grossing Hindi film as yet. Also in the 100-crore club are Jolly LLB 2 (Rs 117 cr), Rustom (Rs 124 cr) and Airlift (Rs 123 cr).

Akshay has been one of Bollywood’s most bankable actors but at a time when the industry is going through a slump, he is undoubtedly Bollywood’s biggest money-spinner right now.

In the past, Akshay has always managed to stand up to the draw of the Khans but this reinvention has given him a substantial edge over his contemporaries. It’s their move now.

Shraddha Kapoor’s next film Haseena Parkar will release on 22 September, says director Apoorva Lakhia

Haseena Parkar director Apoorva Lakhia on Tuesday cleared the air about the film’s release being postponed and said the film is releasing on September 22.

Originally the film was supposed to release on July 14 but it was pushed to August 18 to avoid the clutter at the box office.

Then according to a statement issued on behalf of the producers the film’s release date was finalized as September 22.

When media asked about the film’s release being postponed again, Lakhia said, “People can write what they want as long as we are coming in the news. We are coming to theaters on the 22nd of September and we never said anything otherwise. We are really looking forward to it and today we start the promotions for the film.”

He was present at the Twitter office for the song launch of the film.

Asked why the makers chose to release a romantic song first from the film, Apoorva said, “From the trailer it seems like a very violent and action oriented film but that is not the case, Haseena was married to her elder brother’s best friend Ibrahim who not only ran a restaurant but in his free time used to work as a stunt man in Bollywood.

“They were madly in love and she was married at a very young age. She had a beautiful marriage and she lost her husband at a young age. This song is by Sachin and Jigar and we thought this would be an ideal song to show the world a softer side of Haseena Parkar because when she was young she was very romantic but her circumstances were what got her where she reached.”

Shraddha Kapoor plays the title role along with her brother Siddhanth Kapoor as Dawood Ibrahim and Ankur Bhatia as Haseena’s husband. The film marks the time in Haseena’s life from 17 to 40 years old.

Shraddha, the lead actor in the film, said that she does not want to generalize their (Shraddha and Siddhanth Kapoor) characters as villains. She said, “I would not generalize our characters because that will be putting a judgment and a point of view, so we are completely portraying this as a character and it’s entirely up to the audience to decide. We are showing a wide perspective so that people can judge based on the film.”

The song Tere Bina is the first song released from the film. Composed by Sachin-Jigar and written by Priya Saraiya, Tere Bina is a duet sung by Arijit Singh and Priya Saraiya.

This film will also mark Shraddha Kapoor’s first female protagonist film. She was last seen in Half Girlfriend with Arjun Kapoor.

Sidharth Malhotra: ‘I never felt left out while working with the star kids’

There is a lot of hustle-bustle in Mumbai’s Mehboob Studio, with quite a few vanity vans parked in the compound. In this chaotic scenario, one man who is looking bright and sunny is Bollywood’s resident hunk Sidharth Malhotra. Dressed in a floral blue shirt and joggers, he steps out of his vanity van flashing a charismatic smile and does a quick photo shoot with his happy-go-lucky and glamorous co-star Jacqueline Fernandez as part of promotions of their upcoming film, A Gentleman – Sundar, Susheel, Risky.

He playfully strangles her with her jeans jacket, she utters a yelp and gives a light punch to her screen hero making for a perfect capture for a fun photo. Soon, Sidharth settles down in his colourful vanity van for an exclusive chat with Firstpost. He is playing a dual role in the movie that revolves around a mistaken identity; one is ‘susheel’ while the other is ‘risky’.

“We never shot for both the characters on the same day and hence I could separate them mentally. Gaurav loves his 9 to 5 job, he wants to learn to cook for his wife and take his family for a drive, whereas Rishi is a loner and does not mind taking risks. Lots of humour has come out of both the characters,” says Sidharth, who bonded big time with his first time heroine. “Jacqueline doesn’t carry stress, she is always happy. She loves the outdoors, just the way I do. We bonded even off-camera; we would go horse riding and have poker nights in my house. Today we are great friends and that shows,” he adds.

Sidharth Malhotra has so far had six releases in his five-year-old career. He is a huge fan of action comedies and a great admirer of director duo Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK’s (popularly known as Raj and DK) work. It’s essentially what made him give a nod to this project.

“I would love watching action comedies while growing up but so far we have seen only loud films in this genre, with elements of gags, slapstick. A Gentleman, however, is very stylised. It has deadpan humour and a lot of physical comedy. I love Raj and DK’s work, especially in the humour zone. Their debut film 99, and Go Goa Gone are my favourites. The film speaks a universal language and has got a good mix of what I have done in the past — romance, comedy, action,” says the actor.

Talking about the confusion surrounding the movie being a sequel to Bang Bang, Sidharth says, “We had to write it on the clapper board of the movie, ‘Not Bang Bang 2′. The cast, directors, story, characters, everything is different.”

Recognition for acting talent may not have come easy for this Delhi boy, with his good looks and modelling background coming in the way of him being taken seriously. But the 2016 release Kapoor & Sons kind of shifted this perception with the audience getting a glimpse of his acting chops.

“People have a perception that those who come from a modelling background can’t act. That is why I am here: to change the perception (laughs out loud). Nobody could tell 10 or 15 years ago that I would do a Karan Johar film. With a middle class upbringing in Delhi, I started from scratch but now I am a working actor. My next three films will change the perception that people have of the background that I come from, which is of an outsider or the modelling industry,” says Sidharth.

He has an interesting line-up of films like Ittefaq, a murder mystery, Neeraj Pandey’s thriller drama Aiyaary about a mentor-prodigy relationship, and Mohit Suri’s romance franchise Aashiqui 3. “Next six to seven months are very interesting for me. I have some amazing scripts coming up. People will get to see me in three different avatars in these credible, story-driven films. What else could an actor ask for?” he smiles.

Sidharth has had his share of ups and downs, and he believes nothing’s permanent in the industry. “It is all very temporary and seasonal, so you have to be on your toes. You can’t live off your previous hits or you can’t be low about your past flops. It is a matter of being relevant and reinventing yourself,” he says, adding, “But yes, there is a difference in how I choose my scripts now. There is definitely more instinct, more understanding of my craft, of my personality, my presence. With the audience getting more picky and choosy, they are pushing and nudging us to write better content.”

Work-wise, comparisons are often drawn between Sidharth and two of his first co-stars (and industry kids), Varun Dhawan and Alia Bhat; the trio debuted with Karan Johar’s Student Of The Year (2012). “In all honesty I am very consumed by the line-up of films and I mostly compete with my previous work. When Ek Villain did really well, I wished that (snaps fingers) Brothers worked better. Baar Baar Dekho was not accepted (snaps fingers again) so now I wish more aggressively that Gentleman becomes my biggest. It is all very personal, very internal. Nobody will help me in my journey, my journey is only mine,” he says.

One can’t resist asking this self-confessed ‘outsider’ about his take on the ‘N’ (Nepotism) word. Laughing uproariously, he queries, “Oh, so now it’s become the N word? Good thing is, majority of India and the youth now know the meaning of the word; we have become a bit more articulate.”

On a serious note, he adds, “Enough has been spoken about it but yes, nepotism exists. There are so many actors from film families who get chances again and again. There is no point denying it and I don’t know whether it is good or bad. The only advantage for them is that they have a sense of awareness and comfort because of the world they know, as opposed to people like us who come from outside. We take slightly longer to settle down. I never ever felt left out while working with the star kids but just that there was no awareness and I was absorbing the process until my second and third film, whereas the industry kids were comfortable right from their first film. But now that sense of awe is fading away and I’m genuinely enjoying the process of film-making.