Category Archives: Bak Bak

NGK movie review: Suriya is the mainstay in this political drama with a loosely knit plot

Before heading to see what NGK has to offer, let’s first look at the line-up of actors in the film. Suriya Sivakumar, Sai Pallavi, Rakul Preet Singh, Devaraj, Bala Singh and Ponvannan among many others. With such heavy load of stars, you can expect the experience of their coherent performance to be fireworks. But NGK is a complete letdown and feels like a wasted opportunity. Director Selvaraghavan’s focus on Suriya is more than any other element in the film including the narrative. NGK is a mashup of many political films from the past laced with thumping performance by the mainstay Suriya. But can Suriya carry the film single-handedly till the end?

What’s it about:

Nanda Gopalan Kumaran, played by Suriya, is a principled young man who wants to do his bit for the society and keep it clean. Kumaran gives up his lucrative job and takes up organic farming and encourages people around to adopt this method of farming. And in this process, Kumaran rubs shoulders with local MLA Pandian, played by Ilavarasu, who runs a business in conventional farming commodities. Pandian warns Kumaran of harsh consequences if he continues with his organic farming and beats up his associates. As situation demands, Kumaran is forced to join Pandian’s political party which makes him realise that politics isn’t what he always thought it to be. Kumaran’s wife Geetha, played by Sai Pallavi, is supportive of him in his perusal and encourages him to not give up. What happens when NGK aka Nanda Gopalan Kumaran fights all the odds and emerges as a winner forms the crux of the story.

What’s hot:

Suriya Sivakumar playing the titular role is all fireworks and delivers a whistle-worthy performance. From subtle to fierce, Suriya puts up a show which is a compilation of every emotion you could ask for. Selvaraghavan’s intense writing adds fuel to Suriya’s fire in the plot which takes a brisk walk in the first half. Sai Pallavi proves yet again why she is an actress par excellence and doesn’t bring any dull moment whenever she is on screen. Her presence itself lights up the frame in the film and keeps you hooked to the screen. Rakul Preet, playing Vanathi, comes up with a performance which no one would have expected. Besides Suriya, the other hero of NGK is music composer Yuvan Shankar Raja whose craft in the film is commendable. Besides the impressive album which is already a hit, the background score of NGK is like an anthem which keeps giving goosebumps moments.

What’s not:

While all the above mentioned elements light up NGK, it’s the lacklustre narrative which makes it a humdrum affair. Selvaraghavan, as a writer, has the habit of building drama gradually in an episode where the climax of episode is the only worthy moment. This has worked for him in the past successfully. But in NGK, it falls flat. Movie buffs may not cherish these moments with Suriya in the equation since a lot is expected from his film. Post the interval, the film takes more than anticipated time to get to the climax and is almost a drag. A forced song between Suriya and Rakul’s characters tests your patience and will make your wait harder for the end.

BL Verdict:

It may be too harsh to say NGK is a wasted opportunity since there is a lot of binge in the political drama. At times, it makes you wonder if it is way ahead of its time, but doesn’t waste a moment in making you realise that it is a loosely knit screenplay. We go ahead with a 2 for NGK.

History be damned in Bollywood

In a recent column, renowned journalist-food critic, Vir Sanghvi, lamented the lack of original ingredients and the dulled palettes of Indians. He complained how most of the ice cream sold here wasn’t ice cream at all, for it contained neither milk fat nor egg yolk. Cheap vegetable oils and synthetic flavours are the options we are now used to.

The case is similar to how our taste in popular cinema has become dulled, and few genres reflect the fact as blatantly as the period film. We are impressed by the essence of ‘glossy packaging’ and we don’t bother to know whether the ‘ingredients’ are real or not.

History be damned in Bollywood

 

The notion crosses your mind watching Varun Dhawan shimmy with Kriti Sanon and Kiara Advani in what can only be classified as new-age item numbers, in producer Karan Johar’s just-released period melodrama Kalank. The Partition drama is Bollywood’s latest effort at courting history, packaged with trademark K.Jo plasticity. As Sanon and Advani heighten the glamour quotient in provocative choli-ghagra ensemble, their item dances almost seem like a free offer deal that comes with a bumper shopping spree. The audience cannot resist it even if they know they don’t need it.

Baaki sab first class hai, goes Dhawan’s lip-sync as he matches Advani’s moves. Clearly, sab first class nahi hai.

Johar’s new designer opus Kalank apparently rides a cool `80-crore budget. Honestly, the number of zeroes that go into the mighty budgets of such historical dramas as Kalank is mind-boggling, which is why the utter callousness towards history and becomes shocking.

The food metaphor works here again. We sit ‘chewing on’ a vanilla bean, while K.Jo laughs his way to the bank.

The two item numbers are only symptomatic of several liberties that Kalank takes. The designer costumes and sets that try to cross the standard requisites of a Sanjay Leela Bhansali film with Games Of Thrones grandeur, the Gen-Now body language of Alia Bhatt, Varun Dhawan or Aditya Roy Kapoor, and even the very contemporary-sounding title song seem to point at the same thing: History is an excuse, Johar merely wanted to set up formulaic melodrama against a ‘different’ backdrop — removed from the teenybopper vibes that often mark his love stories.

What is to not to like about a starry ensemble and Bhansali-esque set design, you ask? And then, what’s there to mind watching Madhuri dhak dhak Dixit returning in Kalank to do her jig on the dancefloor, looking gorgeous even after all these years? The opulent sets and Dhawan’s Baaki sab first class hai are designed to make us forget blatant communal politics, GDP and joblessness, after all.

Kalank, like every Bollywood period biggie, insists upon willing suspension of disbelief on the audience’s part as the excuse to set up its larger-than-life lack of authenticity. It was the same when Kangana Ranaut as Rani Lakshmibai breaks into a masala dance in Manikarnika, or Priyanka Chopra as Kashibai and Deepika Padukone as Mastani do a very Bollywoodised Pinga dance in Bajirao Mastani, or — in a filmi twist to history — Padukone as Rani Padmavati entering Alauddin Khilji’s Delhi lair to rescue her captured husband, Rawal Ratan Singh, in Padmaavat.

Paisa vasool is what matters, historicity be damned.

The counter argument offered is Bollywood cinema is fiction, and this is what the janta wants. Market logistics is vital, but giving up on facts to aim for the lowest common denominator cannot surely be the aspiration of filmmakers who comprise one of the biggest film industries in the world.

Maybe, if Bollywood paid their researchers at least half of what they pay their set and costume designers (and listened to them!), our period dramas wouldn’t leave such a fake flavour in the mouth.

We Indians like our history as long as it doesn’t come from textbooks. That is where Bollywood, along with Facebook and Whatsapp in recent times, is important. Our filmmakers must realise there is an overwhelming majority that considers what they show to be the absolute truth, especially when it comes to drama recreating history.

History mixed with patriotism does fabulously at the box-office, as Uri, Kesari and Manikarnika have proved lately. History and absurdity, on the other hand, don’t blend well — obvious from the failure of Thugs Of Hindostan or Mohenjo Daro. The common factor for both kinds of films, though, has been the fact that our filmmakers normally don’t try to be authentic either way. More often than not, period films are just an excuse for over-the-top costumes and sets. In trying to accommodate these excesses, logic is left behind. Even today, a vintage car here or a blonde character there is enough to set up the milieu for a pre-Independence drama. It works, milking our love for our often-imagined ‘glorious past’, especially now that we seem to be losing grip on the present.

Kangana Ranaut responds to Krish, Sonu Sood, Apurva Asrani: Maybe they can get back at me by making a film together

Kangana Ranaut has not been one to shy away from controversies ever. She has taken on the media and her naysayers head-on and has on most occasions, come out victorious.

In a recent video interaction with the media, when the actress was asked about the various allegations against her which have been levied by her fellow Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi co-director Krish, Simran co-writer Apurva Asrani and actors Sonu Sood and Mishti Chakravarty, Kangana replied by saying that targeting her will not solve anything and that they need to prove her wrong through their works.

Still from Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi trailer. YouTube screengrab

“It is of no use if all of them hurl criticism at me. I have also become popular through hard work in the industry and brought myself to a position where I can take a creative call to edit scenes and ensure a good film like Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi. Instead of blaming me for their misfortunes, they should take inspiration from me and bring themselves up to the position of power.”

The actress also mentions how she intends to make a better directorial than Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi with her next venture behind the cameras.

Kangana addressed the issue of Krish’s name being second on the list of credits in the film. “Krish should direct another film, which stars Sonu Sood and is scripted by Apurva Asrani. At least that way they can ensure that they get back at me,” quips the actress before signing off.

Ankita Lokhande, who made her Hindi film debut with the film, also defends Ranaut when she states that most of Jhalkari Bai’s (Ankita’s character in the film) have been shot by Kangana. In an article in News18, Ankita reiterates that she is not speaking up in support of Kangana just because the film has done well, it is because she truly feels Kangana did not go wrong anywhere, and much like Lakshmibai’s protector, Ankita feels protective towards Kangana and the barrage of criticism that is being channeled towards Kangana.

Ankita’s remarks come at a time when Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi actress Mishti Chakraborty alleged that Kangna had unfairly edited out portions of other actors.

2.0 director Shankar reveals Kamal Haasan was offered Akshay Kumar’s role as antagonist in Rajinikanth’s film

2.0, director Shankar’s magnum opus starring Rajinikanth and Akshay Kumar, is set to hit theatres very soon. 2.0 has created headlines ever since the film went on the floors, especially as it’s being touted as the most expensive Indian film ever with a humongous budget of Rs 500 crore.

Poster for 2.0/Image from Twitter

Shankar’s wish to cast Hollywood action icon Arnold Schwarzenegger in the role of the main antagonist is familiar news. However, the director recently revealed that south star Kamal Haasan was also considered for the role now being played by Akshay Kumar, reports The Indian Express.

Recounting the deal with Arnold, Shankar said that it had been almost finalised adding that the Hollywood star was also pumped for the project but unfortunately, while drafting the contract, the makers were unable to reach a consensus on every detail. Post that, Shankar was keen on Haasan. “It was my desire to see Rajini sir and Kamal sir in the same movie. Jeyamohan (2.0 dialogue writer) and I met Kamal and discussed the role. But Kamal was more interested in doing Indian 2 and so we moved on,” said the director.

The report adds that though Rajinikanth and Kamal have had quite a number of films together, Hassan decided to not work with Rajini post 1979 film Ninaithale Inikkum so that he could get his own films.

The trailer is scheduled to be launched in an extravagant manner in Chennai on 3 November. 2.0 is due in cinemas on 29 November.

How Sara Ali Khan and Jhanvi Kapoor became Bollywood’s most hyped debutantes in recent history

After years of speculation, Amrita Singh and Saif Ali Khan’s eldest daughter Sara Ali Khan has started shooting for her first Bollywood film, Kedarnath. Directed by Abhishek Kapoor (Kai Po Che, Rock On!!), Kedarnath is described as a love story that unfolds during the course of a pilgrimage. Sara, along with her co-star Sushant Singh Rajput, visited the Kedarnath temple on the eve of the shoot.

Meanwhile, Sridevi and Boney Kapoor’s daughter Jhanvi Kapoor’s debut film, a remake of the Marathi blockbuster Sairat, will go on the floors this November. Her co-star, in this Dharma Productions film, is another star kid — Shahid Kapoor’s younger brother Ishaan. The Sairat-remake will be Ishaan’s second film. The 22-year-old will make his debut with Iranian filmmaker Majid Majidi’s Beyond The Clouds.

These two newbies are probably the most hyped debutantes Bollywood has seen in recent times. Even Alia Bhatt, who debuted in Karan Johar’s Student of the Year five years ago, didn’t have the kind of pre-launch hype these girls do.

Let’s take a look at how Sara and Jhanvi’s debuts compare.

Sara Ali Khan with Karan Johar. File Photo

The Beginning

Bollywood first took notice of Sara in early 2012 when she posed, with her mother Amrita Singh, for the cover of Hello magazine. The then-16-year-old Science student looked elegant in an ivory-and-gold Abu Jani-Sandeep Khosla creation. While it was obvious that the teen had her heart set on a career in Bollywood, her parents insisted that she complete her education. Weeks after the magazine hit stands, Amrita, in an interview, said, “Sara is good at academics. She even plans to go for further studies to Yale University. So we need to give her some time.”

Even while Sara was studying at Columbia University, speculations about the film she’d debut in continued to swirl. There was Dharma productions’ remake of the Hollywood film Fault in Our Stars opposite Shahid Kapoor’s brother Ishaan Khattar, a film opposite Hrithik Roshan which was to be directed by Karan Malhotra (Agneepath, Brothers) and the sequel to Student of the Year opposite Tiger Shroff. It was only earlier this summer that Kedarnath was confirmed by Amrita as Sara’s debut film.

Close on Sara’s heels, Jhanvi also first made her presence felt with a magazine cover. She was seen on the cover of People Magazine (Dec 2012), along with her mother Sridevi and young sister Khushi. Like Amrita, Sridevi also said that Jhanvi ‘was too young to sign a film’ but ‘she’s always wanted to act’. The 20-year-old finished her schooling at Dhirubhai Ambani School, Mumbai before completely focusing on getting Bollywood ready. While Amrita hesitated about Sara’s association with Dharma, Sridevi, it was said, didn’t even bother looking at any other opportunities for her daughter. After Karan Johar announced in 2015 that Dharma will launch Jhanvi, it was just a matter of finding the right film.

Jhanvi with her parents, Sridevi and Boney Kapoor, and younger sister Khushi on the IIFA green carpet a few years ago. File Photo

The Film

In June last year, Karan watched Sairat, the highest earning Marathi film of all-time, and he was bowled over. Directed by Nagraj Manjule, the film is a young love story juxtaposed against caste conflict. With Nagraj keen on focusing on his Hindi directorial debut (starring Amitabh Bachchan), the reins of the Hindi remake were handed to Shashank Khaitan whose previous two films — Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania and Badrinath Ki Dulhania — were megahits.

What made Parshya and Archie’s love relatable was that Sairat was soaked in realism. From the naturalistic acting to the brutal violence, the semi-rural landscape and even Archie’s inexpensive sartorial sense helped make the film real. It would be interesting to see how Shashank will find the balance between realism and the trademark Dharma sensibilities. After all, Manish Malhotra has been roped in to dress Jhanvi for the remake.

Details about Sara’s film Kedarnath, on the other hand, have been hard to come by. Even the film’s ‘first look’ that was launched to coincide with the beginning of the shoot, gives away almost nothing about the storyline, which is credited to its director. According to early buzz, the Uttarakhand floods of 2013 form the backdrop of this story of human spirit that persists in the face of tragedy. Sushant’s character in the film is a pitthu, who carries pilgrims on their shoulders. The film will mostly be shot in Uttarakhand.

The Mothers

Like the “heroine’s mummyjis” of yore, both Amrita and Sridevi have been working meticulously behind-the-scenes to make sure that their daughters make the right moves. The Mom actress has come a long way from when she wasn’t keen on a career in showbiz for either of her daughters. In the early days when Jhanvi first started making headlines for her Instagram posts, her superstar mom even ordered her to stay off any kind of social media. Sridevi was instrumental in getting Karan to launch Jhanvi and now that the film’s shoot is just months away, it’s all hands on deck. One hears that she is even closely monitoring all the looks Malhotra is creating for her daughter.

While Sridevi was instrumental in her daughter getting a launch as a ‘Dharma heroine’, the buzz is that Amrita is the reason why Sara lost out on the opportunity. Apparently, the actress wasn’t keen on the three-film caveat that a Dharma launch film came with. By debuting with Kedarnath, not only is Sara not tied down to any production house, she is also free to choose managers and staff that she’s comfortable with instead of those ‘recommended’ by Karan. What also tipped the scales in favour of Kedarnath, for Amrita, was that her friend Ekta Kapoor is one of the film’s producers.

Kedarnath is slated for a summer 2018 release and if the untitled Sairat-remake doesn’t get pushed, it should also hit theatres next year. While trade pundits feel that Jhanvi might have an edge over Sara because she has Karan Johar as a mentor, only time will tell how the audience will receive these star daughters.

Sunny Deol: ‘Because of my image, people have the wrong perception about me

Would you believe Sunny Deol is now a new person? Vocal and outspoken without a trace of the reticent and introverted superstar of the 80s and 90s.

The actor is now social media savvy, albeit he uses it only to reach his fans; he doesn’t shy away from speaking his mind, or cracking jokes on himself, or even taking on an unorthodox and unconventional subject like vasectomy in his upcoming comedy drama, Poster Boys.

The film, which hits the screens on 8 September, also marks the directorial debut of Shreyas Talpade and is a remake of his 2014 Marathi production of the same name. “I loved the idea of three people from different backgrounds falsely implicated for Nasbandi (vasectomy). The situations were quite interesting, and if I like something spontaneously then I always do it. I heard that Shreyas was already planning to make it in Hindi. I was aware of Shreyas’s talent since we had worked together in Bhaiyyaji Superhit and therefore asked him to direct the Hindi one.”

Poster Boys

But one wonders why Sunny himself didn’t direct, as he has already directed couple of films like Dillagi (1999) and Ghayal Once Again (2016).

“I was already working on my son Karan’s film, Pal Pal Dil Ke Paas, I can’t be doing so many things,” says Sunny, when we caught up with him in Juhu, Mumbai. Dressed in a military green shirt, light blue jeans and sneakers, the 60-year-old son of yesteryear actor Dharmendra, undoubtedly looks like he is at his healthiest best. He seems to be in a great mood and guffaws at various instances.

While talking about shedding his ‘image’, Sunny winks and says with tongue firmly in cheek, “I have gotten so used to these film promotions because that is part of your scripting (laughs out loud). One has understood it. We have to do all this otherwise people don’t notice you with there being so much noise all around you.”

Sunny has undoubtedly been more popular than some of his contemporaries, with quite a few huge blockbusters and highest-grossers like Gadar, Border, Ghayal, Tridev under his belt. Yet somehow, he has been much less visible while his contemporaries like Anil Kapoor, Sanjay Dutt, Jackie Shroff, Mithun Chakraborty are seen in a variety of projects on the silver screen and television.

Is it Sunny’s insistence on playing only the central character that is responsible for this?  The actor dismisses that he has been resisting character roles, saying, “No, nothing like that. Doing character roles is certainly not an issue for me. Damini was a character role but it turned out to be as important as the central character which people still talk about. I want to do characters that I enjoying playing and not just for the heck of it. Also, because of my image people have such a wrong perception about me (laughs out loud). But I don’t want to give them any explanation, I am not bothered about it. Why should I bother? They assume that I won’t do it and that I am very difficult. That doesn’t stop me from doing what I want to do.”

He continues, “I don’t do  television or ads, hence I am not seen at all if I am not seen in movies. Even in the 90s, I wouldn’t do other stuff. I wouldn’t go for parties or functions and that has been my nature. I joined the industry to be an actor and that is what I am doing. Once your films start doing well, you become a star and people want to see more of you but basically I want to do good acting and play good characters.”

Sunny Deol spotted at their upcoming movie " Bhaiyyaji Superhit '' at Borivali Sachin Gokhale/Firstpost

Our conversation now veers towards the launch of his elder son Karan in Pal Pal Dil Ke Paas. In one chance meeting with Karan, three years ago, this writer had asked him the genre he is best suited to. Karan responded, displaying amazing wit, “Besides films and acting, the Deols have carried on the lineage of short temper. All of us at home are short-tempered people. So, obviously, it has to be action roles.”

Sunny has a hearty laugh at this and says, “It is not true, we Deols are not only into action roles, but maybe because others can’t do action well and hence our name is leading in that genre,” he laughs. So what advice does he give Karan?  “I don’t give him any advice. He has to work hard, be honest to his profession and love and enjoy what he does,” says Sunny.

With the recent bunch of films with big stars proving to be duds at the box office, Sunny attributes it to the changing audience and lack of good writing and content. “I haven’t seen much of the current lot of films, I can’t comment, but I get a feeling that content wise, the depth of directors, and depth of characters is getting really frivolous. Hits and flops are part of the game and this is the correction period,” he says.

Though reviews and criticisms do matter to Sunny, he would still want to go by his own strong conviction. “If a review is nice, it matters; if it is bad, it matters. If you accept good, you accept bad as well. I know when I have done good or bad. You should know what you are doing. The day I come to that point and it happens to me then I don’t think I would want to act, I will quit acting,” he says.

Watch: Irrfan Khan is the new ‘Meme-lord’ in town, thanks to this AIB video

You don’t have to worry about making memes if you are the meme’ — Irrfan Khan just made this famous, thanks to All India Bakchod (AIB).

After the successful Every Bollywood Party Song, Khan has once again collaborated with AIB for another hilarious video, Dank Irrfan. The first three minutes of the five minute video stand nowhere in comparison to the final minute which could have been better as a standalone video.

Khan, like a true sport, poses for five rib-tickling memes.

Irrfan invites you to his haweli

In the first one (our personal favourite) he poses as the late Amrish Puri in his spooky avatar from Rakesh Roshan’s 1995 action thriller Koyla. He follows that up by completely nailing the dialogue, ‘Aao kabhi haweli par‘, which suits him even more given the fact he is from Rajasthan.

meme1

Irrfan is all ears as Uncle Sam

The second meme shows Irrfan take a dig at all the Americans whose only window to India is Danny Boyle’s 2008 film Slumdog Millionaire. This one is hysterical given that he starred in the film and also that he is actively working in Hollywood.

Priyanka Chopra is proud of Indian judiciary on 2012 Delhi gangrape case verdict

Mumbai: Priyanka Chopra has penned an emotionally touching note after the Supreme Court confirmed the death sentences of all four convicts in the 2012 Delhi gang-rape case. The Indian actress says she is “proud” of the justice system.

Priyanka on Friday shared a note, where she said that she refuses to accept the brutality of such heinous crimes.

“Yes, it has taken five long years, but today justice finally prevailed. The flame of this verdict should singe not just the dastardly four (of the other two, one is dead and one accused is a juvenile) but such perpetrators in India as well,” Priyanka wrote.

“‘The brutal, barbaric and demonical conducts of the convicts shook the conscience of humanity and they don’t deserve leniency’ — said the Supreme Court while reading out the death sentence to the four accused in the Nirbhaya rape cum murder case. “I’m so proud of the justice system for hearing her voice.. in her dying declaration she appealed that her perpetrators not be spared,” she added.

priyanka chopra

The 34-year-old actress said that it was “justice” that the entire country demanded

“Each voice that joined the battle was strident and clear – the six must be punished. Finally, they will pay. The brutality of such crimes is something I refuse to accept,” she said.

The former beauty queen also voiced her concerns over the fact that even in 21st century, how can a society allow such heinous crimes taking place against women and expressed that it “never ceases to trouble” her.

“Unfortunately, the past can never be undone. So, we move on and make a promise to ourselves. That when an entire country is unified in wanting something, action is taken. This awakening, this unified voice to stop such brutal and demonical crimes, as our Supreme Court said, is what we must never let go onto mute mode,

Anarkali of Aarah movie review: Swara Bhaskar champions this fiesty film with a message

Writer-director Avinash Das’s film Anarkali of Aarah is not a comfortable watch. It starts with the bawdy song and dance numbers associated with the fame, (or infamy) and adoring fan following, for Anaarkali Aarahwali, and expands to the themes explored in this drama.

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Das takes us deep into small town Bihar and works hard to deliver a kind of authenticity that makes you almost feel the dust under your feet. Sure you are often distracted by the over-dependence on songs, which do not move the narrative along, but you make concessions there since this is a film about a live singer.

Swara Bhaskar breathes life and soul and defines chutzpah as the feisty singer who remains scarred by memories of her childhood but wears her trade proudly on her blingy blouse sleeves.

Her over-made up Anaarkali walks the streets of Aarah with a swagger that comes from knowing you are queen bee. This is a town of double standards where the men revel in Anaarkali’s songs replete with double innuendos. But for all Anaarkali’s strength and determination, the men around her let her down, showing neither spine nor any real purpose.

An enamoured young man Anwar, for example, follows her around like a lost puppy but shows no bite, while the head of the music troupe Rangeela (Pankaj Tripathi), pathetically flip-flops. Indeed most of the men who encounter Anaarkali become enamoured by her but Das gives none of them a complete graph.

The privilege is reserved for Anaarkali only, and fortunately Bhaskar’s energetic and whole-hearted performance fills in several of those blanks space with equally commendable support from Tripathi, Mishra and Vijay Kumar, who plays the local head cop.

Anaarkali’s peaceful existence is shaken when the powerful university Vice Chancellor (VC), played by Sanjay Mishra, outrages her modesty publicly. Her equally public reaction is humiliating for the VC and as the local forces begin to close in around Anaarkali, she’s forced to run away from Aarah.

She doesn’t go far and she doesn’t hide much. The climax ties everything up too tidily including delivering a social message on women’s rights (there’s even a placard-waving NGO group protesting these troupes). But it’s not preachy in the least. To Das’s credit, he works in the right balance in Anaarkali’s character of someone who exactly knows her position in society, is not ashamed of her profession but is confident and strong enough to know that there are boundaries and it’s as much her right to draw those, even if it is in the dusty streets of the chauvinistic hinterland.

Swara Bhaskar has you rooting for Anaarkali with all her strengths, weaknesses, loneliness, talent and flaws.

Phillauri actress Mehreen Pirzada on Anushka Sharma, her Bollywood debut and Telugu films

Five years ago, when Mehreen Pirzada was working in New York, little did she know that, one fine day, she would pursue an acting career in films.

In 2013, when she took part in the Miss South Asia Canada beauty pageant in Toronto, Mehreen was supposed to dance in one of the rounds at the beauty pageant. She had to pick a chit which had a celebrity’s name and it turned out to be, well, Anushka Sharma herself.

“I danced on the song ‘Jiya Re‘ from Jab Tak Hai Jaan,” Mehreen laughs recounting the story. “Ever since, I was hoping that I would get a chance to work with Anushka. I believe in fairy tales. I’m living one right now. Three years later, after six rounds of auditions in early 2016, I finally got a call. It was while I was watching Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight. I had to come to Mumbai and meet Anushka Sharma, who’s one of the producers of Phillauri. Suddenly, I felt like I was under a spotlight.”

phillauri-official-trailer-anushka-sharma-diljit-dosanjh-1

Ask her if Anushka knows this story, Mehreen beams with joy saying, “Yes. When I shared my story with her, she was surprised. And then, she told me that a long time ago, her mother had written a chit where she wished that her daughter should act in a Yash Raj film when she grows up. Finally, when she bagged Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, her mother showed her the chit. I couldn’t help but blush when she told me this story.”

In Phillauri, Mehreen plays Anu, a young woman who is about to get married to her childhood sweetheart Kanan, played by Suraj Sharma. When he’s told that he’s mangalik and has to get married to a tree to ward off evil, he ends up meeting a friendly spirit Shashi (Anushka Sharma). The film is, in a way, a study on how love is the same no matter what the time frame is. “The story constantly keeps going back and forth. Anshai Lal and writer Anvita Dutt have weaved an interesting story about how love doesn’t change even though time changes,” the actress adds.

Being the youngest member of the cast, she admits to being quite pampered on the sets of Phillauri.

“I was the youngest and newest member of the team. All my co-stars – Anushka, Diljit Dosanjh and Suraj Sharma are well-established, but never made me feel out of place. I’m very critical of my own work and want to deliver my best. One time, when I was quite upset that I didn’t get a shot right, and Anushka got to know that I cried the whole night. The next day she came and hugged me and said, ‘Arey pagli…kya hua tujhe? Why were you crying? We’re all there for you.’

“I didn’t expect such a sweet gesture from her. She treated me like her own sister. The best thing about her is that she is quite straight forward as a person” said Mehreen.

Having grown up in Punjab, before her family moved to Canada, Mehreen is well-versed with the nuances of the Punjabi culture; however, she disagrees that it was a major factor behind why she bagged the role. “We are actors and the only thing that matters is how much we soak in the characters and make them our own. I act in Telugu films and when I’m shooting there, I’m a Telugu girl,” she avers.

So, does she have plans to go back to Canada in near future? “Only if I have to shoot there,” she laughs, adding, “I’m really glad that I spent the formative years of my life in USA and Canada. It has helped shape my personality. Back there, you are on your own and you do things to make yourself happy, not others.”

The actress made her debut in Telugu cinema in early 2016 with Krishna Gaadi Veera Prema Gadha in which she played Nani’s romantic interest. Despite the success of the film, she had to wait for nearly 10 months to bag her next project and currently, she’s on a roll with as many as five Telugu and Tamil films to her credit.

Says Mehreen, “I was going through a low phase after making my acting debut. I knew the film had done well, but I wasn’t getting any offers. I can’t sit idle at home because it makes me feel restless. However, I didn’t let this negativity get the better of me. Thankfully, things are looking good at the moment with plenty of work. Right now, I’m as excited as a school kid about my debut in Bollywood. I had a similar feeling when I was awaiting the release of Krishna Gaadi Veera Prema Gaadha and now, I’m going through the same thing again.