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Aamir Khan says artistes have a responsibility to highlight gender issues

New Delhi: As sexual harassment scandals rock Hollywood, superstar Aamir Khan says creative people have an important role to play in changing mindsets on gender issues.

The actor, whose recent films Dangal and Secret Superstar focused on female empowerment, also believes that the issues are directly linked to patriarchy.

Aamir Khan. Photo courtesy Facebook/@aamirkhan.com

“I think sexual harassment is a very sad thing to happen to anyone, irrespective of what your sex is. Sexual harassment is just not on,” he said when asked about the Harvey Weinstein case.

Such cases, he said, happened not just in the world of films, but in other areas, too.

“I understand that people are free to be romantically involved with whoever they want. But you cannot pressure a person into being with you physically. It happens not only in films but in all walks of life and is very unfortunate,” Aamir, who is currently shooting for Thugs of Hindostan in Thailand, told PTI in an exclusive telephonic interview.

The New York Times and The New Yorker took the lid off Weinstein’s history of sexual abuse, encouraging prominent women such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Ashley Judd and Rose McGowan to open up about the disgraced producer. The scandal led to the expose of other Hollywood heavyweights.

Aamir said sexual harassment should not be looked into isolation as it is connected to larger issues of how gender roles have been defined in society. He also believes that creative people have an important role to play in changing such perspectives.

“It is connected to the larger issue. Not only in India but all over the world, (it is) this thinking of patriarchy that men are stronger or are more important that leads to various kind of things. Sexual harassment is one of them,” he said.

The actor-producer believes that artistes help mould opinion. “Creative people do have a role to play in showcasing men and women in a manner that influences people in the right way. I do believe we have some sort of responsibility in that,” he said.

Many of his films have dealt with issues of empowerment.

Dangal focused on a father’s decision to turn his daughters into wrestlers in a patriarchal society, while Secret Superstar revolved around a teen’s struggle to pursue music despite facing opposition from her father.

The actor highlighted issues that women face in India in his TV show Satyamev Jayate. In Secret Superstar, he said, he went a step forward by portraying a girl who asserts her independence and helps her mother do the same.

“I am hoping that things will change in the future for the better. It takes time both for the people and the society to change.”

Women’s issues, he said, span a big canvas.

“When we look at women’s issues, it is not just about female foeticide and domestic violence, which are huge issues. But even in day-to-day life, women sometimes find that they are not in the possession of their own decisions,” he said.

A woman may not be sexually harassed or face domestic violence, but there may be a host of other issues.

“She may still be with a man who wants to control her and that is equally disturbing. It is really about the fundamental independence of a person, irrespective of your sex.”

Secret Superstar, starring Dangal actor Zaira Wasim in the lead role, may have been seen by some as a risky business venture in the formula-driven film industry, but Aamir, who has been rewriting the rules of the box office, said he felt strongly about the subject.

The movie has not only done good business in India but has also opened well in countries such as Taiwan.

Aamir, whose Dangal was a super hit in China, is now looking forward to the release of Secret Supertar there. He hopes the film will be released there in January or February next year.

Secret Superstar has done really well in all the territories. I strongly felt about the story and I am happy that the audiences felt the same. It is most reassuring.”

The actor is considered a marketing genius in Bollywood as none of his films in the last many years has failed at the box office. But Aamir said it all boiled down to how good a story was.

“When I am selecting a film, I am not thinking about the box office or the audiences’ reaction. I am reacting to it personally. When I get a script and love it as a person, it touches me and moves me, makes me laugh and cry or excites me, then I want to be a part of it.”

He selects films based on his personal response to the story, he added.

“For me, filmmaking is a journey. In most of the cases, the films I end up choosing are very risky. I don’t plan it that way but it turns out that way. My taste is a little unusual and I get excited about stuff which is not considered mainstream by the market.”

Aamir said he looked at marketing as an intrinsic part of making a film rather than treating it as a separate process.

“I find the journey of making the film as exciting as the end result. I do one film in a year or sometimes one film in two years. So the process is what excites me… I am living that journey for a year or so. It becomes my life and it is a passion for me.

He believes he is “fortunate” that the unusual stories he has picked up have done well at the box office.

“That is something I don’t plan. Taare Zameen Par was one of the top hits of that year and did huge business at that time. When films like Secret Superstar do well, it makes me very happy. As a creative person, you feel reassured. You get a lot of encouragement and strength.

Padmavati has a risk cover of Rs 160 crore, reveals director of insurance company

Padmavati has not only been a risky project for the makers of the film, but also for the insurance company that worked with them on the project.

Aatur Thakkar, Director of Alliance Insurance said, “It has been a difficult project from the very beginning, as you are aware the sets of the film were attacked by fringe groups. However that was nothing compared to the threat the movie faces now.”

Alliance has been associated with Padmavati since the very beginning and they claim to take a lot of pride in this association. Thakkar added, “we have not only insured the movie during production but also covered them for a safe release. We are also protecting their revenues if they get affected post a release.”

Padmavati had been postponed from its earlier release date of December 1, and the film has been banned in five states including Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan even before the Central Board of Film Certification certified the film. This is definitely not a good sign for the makers, who have a risk cover for the film of Rs 160 cr, apart from the production insurance.

Thakkar informed, “The risk commences only once the movie is allowed to release and there is a claim like situation if the release is disturbed, affecting the revenues from ticket sale collection. We are hoping every thing settles down and the movie releases soon as the filmmakers and the media has promised that there is nothing in the movie which should create this havoc .”

Here is a list of films that fell prey to politics before its release:

Garam Hawa (1974)

The film remained uncensored by the CBFC for nearly 8 months fearing communal violence. But KA Abbas showed the film to government officials leaders and journalists before it found its way to the cinema halls.The film was premiered at Regal cinema prior to the release, and Bal Thackeray, who had threatened to burn down the cinema halls, got to watch the film at a special screening.

Aandhi (1975)

The film was a political drama and was alleged to be inspired from the real life story of the then prime minister Indira Gandhi and her estranged husband Feroz Gandhi. The film did not get a proper release while Indira Gandhi was in power and later got banned during the emergency. But in 1977 after the Congress was defeated and Janata Party came into power the film got a proper release on national television.

Shahenshah (1988)

There were allegations, which were later dismissed by the court, of Amitabh Bachchan’s involvement in the Bofors scam before the release of the film. Audiences were curious to see the film as it was his first release after a gap of two years. It released to a thundering response despite protests and trade pundits said the protests actually helped the film at the box office.

Khalnayak (1993)

This Sanjay Dutt film’s release coincided with his arrest in the 1993 Mumbai blasts. But the controversy, again, played a part in the film’s huge success.

Fanaa (2006)

Aamir Khan’s statement in support of Narmada Bachao Andolan got him into trouble with then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. The film did not get released there even the actor’s effigies were burnt. But the controversy helped the film and it was a big hit.

Jo Bole So Nihaal (2005)

 Jo Bole So Nihaal was in the eye of a storm for allegedly insulting the Sikh religion. Large-scale protests were seen in Jalandhar and other cities of Punjab. Sikh organisations threatened to launch more protests if the Central Board of Film Certification failed to impose a blanket ban but the film released despite the warnings. It, however, had to be pulled out of many halls because of protests and the producer lost crores.
Water (2005)

The movie faced opposition during its shooting from Hindu organisations in Varanasi. The sets were destroyed. The Uttar Pradesh government decided to stop the shooting on 31 January 2000. The shooting was shifted to Sri Lanka later. Shiv Sena Chief Bal Thackeray had said that he hated Deepa Mehta the most. Shiv Sainiks even burnt DVDs of the film. The movie was released in India much later in March 2007.

Fire (1996)

On its opening day in India, some film theatres were attacked by Hindu fundamentalists for depicting a lesbian relationship.The film was withdrawn and sent back to the Censor Board. But, later it was released uncut.

My Name is Khan (2010)

Before the release of My Name is Khan, Shah Rukh Khan had stated that he had no qualms about having Pakistani cricketers playing in the IPL. This didn’t go down well with Shiv Sena, who tried to obstruct My Name is Khan‘s release. The movie, which finally managed to reach the theatres, was given heavy police protection and had a fractured start at the box office. But the film later went to become a big hit and won critical acclaim as well.

Bombay (1995)

Mani Ratnam’s film was a inter-religion love story set in the backdrop of the Bombay riots. The film was slammed by both Hindu and Muslim leaders of Mumbai. Muslim leaders alleged that there was a biased depiction of the Mumbai riots in the film, and as a result Ratnam had to screen the film for Bal Thackeray before it released in Maharashtra.

Bharti Singh to reunite with fellow comedian Kapil Sharma on his show in early 2018

Comedians Kapil Sharma and Bharti Singh are all geared up to appear alongside each other on the Kapil Sharma Show early next year, confirmed bride-to-be Bharti Singh.

Kapil Sharma and Bharti Singh. Image from Twitter/@PinkvillaTelly.

“We (Bharti and Harsh) have planned our honeymoon to Europe for a month. However, I will be going 10 days after the marriage during which I will do some one-off episodes. Once I return, Kapil Sharma and I will reunite on his show early next year,” said Singh, according to a DNA report.

In the same DNA interview Singh talked about Sharma’s wit and his professional growth ever since she’s known him. She claimed that Sharma was “extremely witty and good at one-liners” and went on to add that “his tongue is his biggest weapon”. Having known Sharma for nine years, the comedienne shared that Sharma was her teacher in many ways as he gave her tips back when they were in college. Singh also backed Sharma up over reports of his unprofessional behaviour that have been doing the rounds for months in the Bollywood and television circuit.

Singh also expressed her desire to do a combined show with both Kapil Sharma and Krushna Abhishek as she feels that the trio would make a terrific combination on screen. “Tehelka mach jayega (it will be a riot)”, claimed Singh.

Singh is all set to get married on 3 December to long time beau Harsh Limbachiyaa, whereas Sharma is awaiting the release of his film Firangi.

Kapil Sharma to return to small screen with his comedy show, confirms Sony Entertainment Television

Mumbai: Comedian Kapil Sharma will be back “with a bang” on the small screen with his popular entertainer The Kapil Sharma Show soon, a channel official has confirmed.

“Kapil will be back (on TV) very soon,” Danish Khan, Executive Vice President and Business Head, Sony Entertainment Television, told IANS.

The actor-comedian is currently in the midst of promoting his forthcoming Bollywood film Firangi.

Kapil Sharma. Image by News 18

“His movie Firangi is releasing on 24 November. We are very fond of Kapil. We are even doing a promotional show (which will be televised) for his movie. We believe he has made a good movie and it’s going to be successful. Then, Kapil will be back with a bang on Sony,” Khan added.

In August, the channel had announced a “short break” with Kapil and his show.

An official spokesperson from the channel had said then that since Kapil had been under the weather, they had “mutually agreed to take a short break”, and that they would start shooting again once he recovers completely.

For Kapil, it was an “emotional moment” when earlier this week he visited the set of Super Dancer Chapter 2 to promote Firangi. It once used to be the set of The Kapil Sharma Show.

Priyanka Chopra lost out on 10 big projects because she said no to harassment, says mother

With the news of allegations against Harvey Weinstein, Louis CK and Kevin Spacey coming to the fore, many have wondered when the misogyny and abuse rampant in Bollywood will finally be spoken about. In the wake of this, Madhu Chopra, Priyanka Chopra’s mother and a producer, has spoken about how the Quantico actress let go of big projects because they were being helmed by people who made her uncomfortable with their lewd suggestions and requests.

Priyanka Chopra with her mother Madhu. Image from Facebook/@priyankachopra

Shaadi Mein Zaroor Aana movie review: Even Rajkummar Rao cannot rescue this romantic drama

She’s got perfectly set hair, immaculate make up and is dressed in a flattering, fitted pink kurta. He’s bowled over. Pink is her colour, he says, clearly smitten.

He sweeps her off her feet with his liberal attitude, something unexpected in Kanpur. Aarti Shukla (Kriti Kharbanda), who doesn’t want to marry because she wants to pursue a career, surprises herself by accepting the match of Satyendra Mishra (Rajkummar Rao).

He is young, idealistic and obedient. Shukla, impressed by his progressive mindset, is better educated than him and keeps correcting his awkward English.

Still from Shaadi Mein Zaroor Aana

The courtship is adorable, with all its small-town innocence intact. Sharing of coffee cups, making plans for the honeymoon and discovering the best friend in one another.

Simultaneously, the Shukla and Mishra families are engaged in a cold dowry negotiation. Marry a family lower than you in status and you can be sure the girl and her family will always be in check, says one character as he’s suggesting a match for his nephew.

In this stratum of society, securing a government job is like winning the lottery. It’s interesting to see how it’s Satyendra’s mother who is determined to uphold and exploit traditions of dowry and how Aarti’s otherwise unyielding father bends to the pressure of a prestigious match.

Satyendra and Aarti seem oblivious to this, somehow, and carry on smiling sweetly and making plans for the future. She is bright, but limited by her father’s (Govind Namdeo) old-fashioned beliefs. So when she passes her PSC exam (Public Service Commission) in the first attempt, it’s both a matter of pride and the catalyst for a complete shakedown.

After many possible interval points, we come to the designed one and then transition to five years later. The runaway bride is now a revered government officer but a graft charge is likely to destroy her career. During the course of the investigation, she is reunited with Satyendra.
It’s a moment that should have carried emotional weightage, but Kriti Kharbanda’s still-perfectly set hair, immaculate make up and tightly draped sarees are a distraction. Maybe they distracted me because I didn’t really understand what Aarti was about. A successful, independent woman who had taken charge of her future should have shown more chutzpah. But she seemed short in self-confidence and high on tears.

Ratnaa Sinha directs a film written by Kamal Pandey that suffers from the second half malaise. The screenplay is as twisted as a telephone wire. A breakdown in communication in the modern age of saturated connectivity is hard to swallow.

Sure you may not connect with someone on the phone but who doesn’t use email/ SMS/ snail mail? The schizophrenia of Satyendra’s character and Aarti crumbling into a whimpering mess in a starched cotton sari are overplayed and the film becomes rather soap opera-like, with the entire extended family dragged back in.

First-time director Sinha manages to weave in social messages (dowry, gender equality, corruption etc) without becoming preachy, besides reiterating the fact that Aarti passed her PSC exam in the first attempt. However with the lighting and camera work in particular, the scenes often look washed out, and the drama is in parts directed like a TV serial. What keeps proceedings afloat is a supporting cast, including Manoj Pahwa, Vipin Sharma and Navni Parihar, who interpret some well-written characters ably.

Kharbanda does not infuse qualities into Aarti that would have you supporting her, not even when she hits her lowest point. You are told she is intelligent, but her actions hardly demonstrate that characteristic.

Rao’s Satyendra shows two shades. He starts off as the youthful, warm-hearted young man unaware of the biases towards him as a boy child waiting to come of age. In the latter half he’s the cold-hearted and bitter officer determined to bring down the Mishras who so badly humiliated his family. Rao interprets both with expected nuance and control.

Shah Rukh Khan, Ranveer Singh, Sushant Singh Rajput’s films may clash on Christmas 2018

December 2018 is going to be packed with big-ticket films. Two of Bollywood’s biggest stars — Shah Rukh Khan and Ranveer Singh, might have a box office clash in the coming year. According to a report by India Today, Aanand L Rai’s film which stars Shah Rukh Khan and Rohit Shetty’s remake of a popular Tamil action starring Ranveer might release on the same day in December 2018.

Untitled design (25)

However, another actor who joins the race is Sushant Singh Rajput, whose Kedarnath is releasing on 21 December 2018, too. Therefore, Bollywood buffs have a lot to look forward to during 2018’s Christmas weekend.

Although the release dates of Shetty and Rai’s films have not been confirmed yet, speculations about both the films hitting the screens in December next year are rife. This clash, if it occurs, will be a major one since Saif Ali Khan’s daughter Sara Ali Khan is also making her Bollywood debut with Kedarnath. Shah Rukh, too, is doing a highly experimental film after a while and the action flick will be Singh and Shetty’s first collaboration.

Shah Rukh and Singh’s films have previously clashed with each other only once. In 2015, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Bajirao Mastani and Rohit Shetty’s Dilwale had opened on the same day. Bhansali’s period drama surpassed Shetty’s rom-com in terms of box office collection.

Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan were Mukta Arts’ popular choice for Subhash Ghai’s Pardes

Filmmaker Subhash Ghai has revealed that he was under pressure to cast Salman Khan, Madhuri Dixit and Shah Rukh Khan for his romantic drama Pardes.

Salman and Shah Rukh do the signature pose on Bigg Boss Weekend Ka Vaar

The 1997 film featured Shah Rukh along with newcomers Mahima Chaudhry and Apurva Agnihotri.

For the role of Ganga (played by Mahima) and NRI Rajiv (played by Apurva), Ghai said his production house wanted Madhuri and Salman respectively.

“After several hits, Trimurti was Mukta Arts’ first flop. When a film flops, the industry is quick to write you off. I decided to write a film in my own style. When the script was over, we were discussing the casting, which was a big problem. My production house thought Shah Rukh could be in the film along with Salman, playing an NRI, and Madhuri would play the central character.

“I had narrated ‘Ganga’s’ character to Madhuri during Khalnayak too. But I wanted newcomers paired with Shah Rukh. His Trimurti had flopped and DDLJ (Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge) had worked, so I knew he was a great performer,” Ghai said.

Trimurti released in 1995, helmed by Mukul Anand, featured Shah Rukh along with Anil Kapoor and Jackie Shroff in the lead. The 72-year-old director said though people in his production house wanted the three superstars together, he was not convinced.

“My office wanted me to make the film with Salman, Madhuri and Shah Rukh because then it would be a big film and losses of Trimurti would be covered as well. They were right too. But the director in me wasn’t convinced that we need such a big star cast.

“I said three big stars won’t go well in the script that I have. I wanted someone who looked like he has come from foreign for the NRI part. It was a big challenge but I finally managed to get Mahima, Apurva and Shah Rukh,” he said.

The director was speaking at the special screening of the film, which completed 20 years in August. It was showcased at New Excelsior Cinema, which was recently acquired by Mukta A2 Cinema, a branch of Ghai’s Mukta Arts.

Ghai said another challenge for him once the cast was locked was to present Shah Rukh in a non-romantic role.

“Shah Rukh’s image had turned romantic after DDLJ but this role wasn’t romantic at all. The challenge was to tell Shah Rukh that he won’t be like a romantic hero in any shot.

Priyanka Chopra finds spot on Forbes list of 100 Most Powerful Women; ranks 97 globally

After having tasted immense success in Bollywood and then later in Hollywood — with her show Quantico and film projects like Baywatch — actress and former Miss World Priyanka Chopra has added another feather to her cap. In the recently-released list of 100 Most Powerful Women by Forbes magazine, Chopra is ranked 97th along with the likes of Beyonce Knowles (#50), Taylor Swift (#85), JK Rowling (#88) etc.

In the list of 15 Most Powerful Women in Media and Entertainment by Forbes, Chopra is placed at rank 15.

Many Indian women including Chanda Kochhar (who also happens to be the most powerful Indian woman on the list at #32), Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw (#71), Roshni Nadar Malhotra (#57) have been featured on the list.

Image courtesy: news18

Chopra’s bio on the Forbes website reads: “Chopra is arguably the most successful Bollywood actor to cross over to Hollywood. She began her acting career in 2003, and has since appeared in more than 40 Bollywood films, making her US big-screen debut in 2017’s Baywatch. As the star of ABC’s Quantico, she’s one of TV’s highest-earning actresses and the first Indian actor to lead a drama series on American television. As a producer, Chopra founded Mumbai-based Purple Pebble Pictures, which strives to promote regional filmmakers and up-and-coming Indian talent. Passionate about protecting children’s rights, she’s a global UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and United Nations Foundation Girl Up Champion, and her nonprofit The Priyanka Chopra Foundation for Health and Education provides schooling and medical care.”

Secret Superstar, Newton, Shubh Mangal Savdhaan: It’s the year of real stories, engagingly relevant content

For many years, Hindi Cinema has been about aspirations, and it being the sole driving force to pull in audiences to theatres.

Everyone wants to go to the snow-capped mountains in Switzerland, dance around, and hashtag DDLJ in their photos. A lot of them do the trip for that one photo only. For years we’ve been following the norm of hero-and-heroine-ism in our films.

However, for a long time, we have made films that either generalise things or dilute them from their authenticity, so it reaches a larger audience and can be relatable for many cultures. The truth is — how many times can you weave a film around the same situation? How many “love stories” can we rehash?

A welcome change has been brought in by a lot of people who have come from various places and joined the madness of movie-making. They have their own stories, own struggles, which makes them unique. Directors like Anurag Kashyap, Shoojit Sircar, Sriram Raghavan, Sujoy Ghosh, Dibaker Banerjee, Shakun Batra, Imtiaz Ali, Nitesh Tiwari, Ritesh Batra, Tigmanshu Dhulia and many more, have been at the forefront of bringing a personal flavour to Indian cinema, far away from formulas.

They have been influential enough to change the craft, which has been breathing the same year for many years. Take 2017 for example — Who would have thought that a film about erectile dysfunction would have done a fantastic job at the box office (and otherwise)? Shubh Mangal Savdhaan was loved by not just the youth but people went to watch the film with their families and came back elated.

Secret Superstar, a film about a 16 year old girl who aspires to be a singer in a world which is suffocated with patriarchy, will possibly be the most-liked film of the year. These films are miles away from the flimsy tropes we have come to terms with, dealing with emotions that are real and not elevated for the heck of it.

In Secret Supertsar, Zaira Wasim convinces us that she is Insiya from Vadodara who is tied down with the shackles of patriarchy and is looking for freedom through music. Her father is a middle class abusive man who believes in reprimanding his wife and daughter for anything under the sun, but loves his son immensely. Insiya is innocent, sincere and is full of so much anger. Frankly, full marks to the director Advait Chandan, who has managed to nurture this film and the talent of Insiya. He has handled so many tricky scenes so sensitively, for example we never get too much of the actual voilence in the film.

The terrain changed because of a bunch of new writers, directors and actors taking the baton in their hands. Seeing how rewarding it has been, our megastars have finally decided to follow the path. We are not selling films anymore but reality and that is why more people are buying it.

Hindi Cinema has been churning out wonderful content this year and the frequency of it is increasing by the day. Who would have thought a mega star like Akshay Kumar would be the face of a film which discusses the problem of sanitation in the country? Toilet- Ek Prem Katha was a wonderful way to propagate what the nation is still lacking. Akshay will now he takes it a notch higher with Padman co-starring Radhika Apte and Sonam Kapoor.

Topics that have taboo for many many years are coming out in the open and taking advantage of the popularity that mega stars have, they are creating awareness.

We don’t need to be hush hush anymore — menstruation in Padman, erectile dysfunction in Shubh Mangal Savdhaan, sanitation in Toilet- Ek Prem Katha or a dark comedy about a fair election in a conflicted part of the country in Newton, all now exist in the same space as Golmaal Again and Judwaa 2.

While Golmaal 4 is entertaining the audiences at par with the festive spirit of Diwali, Newton is making us proud internationally. As commercial films are still making the stupendous bucks that they do at the box office, the happy thing is that budgets are now being created for projects that might look risqué at first. Even studious are showing trust in scripts that might have not seen the light of day a decade back.