Category Archives: Bak Bak

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.

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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.”

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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.

Baahubali 2 trailer: Rajamouli’s film looks spectacular; Prabhas-Rana’s action is the highlight

If you, like most of the country, have been waiting with bated breath for the trailer of Baahubali 2: The Conclusion, then that day has finally come.

From the beginning seconds of the trailer, when you hear Amrendra Baahubali’s voice talking about his mother, Sivagami Devi, to being the guardian of all the people of Mahismati, expect severe goosebumps as you go back to the biggest cliffhanger of 2016.

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Why did Kattappa kill Baahubali?

Well, you’re not going to find out from this trailer, but you will get much closer to the truth.

The trailer begins with a quick montage of all that happened in the last film, Baahubali: The Beginning.

Prabhas is given a loud entry filled with swagger, slo-mo shots and death-metal music playing in the background. We finally get to see Anushka Shetty looking absolutely gorgeous as Baahubali’s wife Devasena. Their chemistry seems quite explosive, especially in the grand dance sequences.

We see Baahubali telling Katappa that nobody can kill him as long as Katappa is by his side. We then see Sivaghami Devi figuring out that a war is beginning within the kingdom, indicating that Baahubali and Bhallala Dev’s fights are going to dominate the film.

In order to see the dream-like landscape picturised in the film, the mind-blowing action sequences and all your favourite characters including Tamannaah, Rana Daggubati and Naseer, you need to watch the trailer below.

Everything is bigger, better, and grander in Baahubali 2: The Conclusion — a sure shot blockbuster.

Vidya Balan: ‘There’s only one person whose empowerment I’m concerned with and that’s me

She is the earliest female star of her generation to fight her way to successive, substantial central roles in entertaining, commercially positioned films despite Hindi cinema’s continuing obsession with men.

Anyone who has observed the workings of the film industry will tell you that Vidya Balan’s has been a monumental achievement. It is fitting then that the first poster of her next film Begum Jaan was released just hours before International Women’s Day.

Srijit Mukherji’s remake of his own Bengali film Rajkahini, Begum Jaan features Balan as the madam of a brothel that ends up falling partly in India and partly in Pakistan at the time of Partition.

In this extended conversation, Balan discusses what it means to be a woman in a male-dominated society and profession. Excerpts from the exclusive interview: 

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In an article in The Hindustan Times for Women’s Day 2015, you wrote: “The Second Sex, a sort of bible of feminist literature, reads, ‘Humanity is male and man defines woman not in herself, but as relative to him. So, a man can think of himself without a woman, but she cannot think of herself without him.” You continued: “But that is changing now, and that is exactly why now is the best time to be a woman.” Would you say the past year has been the best year so far to be a woman in the Hindi film industry?

I can only speak for myself, Anna. More and more I realise, I am leading my life exactly the way I want to. I don’t want to make generic statements about the industry, though we’ll talk about changing cinema trends. I think more importantly it has to start at a personal level. For me, especially after marriage, for example, I had begun to question how things very subtly but surely change.

For instance?

For instance, how it becomes a Mrs Siddharth Roy Kapur as against a Vidya Balan and Siddharth Roy Kapur. These are subtle changes.

I don’t have to justify, but just in case someone doesn’t get it correctly, I love the man, I want to be with him, which is why we’re married, but that does not mean that I have to subsume my identity.

I’ve seen a change happen in these four years since my marriage. Now we just started saying Vidya Balan and Siddharth Roy Kapur on cards and invitations. (Laughs) It’s not just becoming a “Mrs”. What happens is, people are slowly goading you to lose your identity. We’re all finally products of our conditioning. It need not be conscious conditioning. Even if you come from a home like mine where we’ve not been brought up with any of those “a girl cannot do this” attitudes, yet somewhere, the way you begin to look at yourself after marriage changes.

And I realised that my fight was with myself really, because I kept questioning every little thing that happened. Like this example I gave you, someone who knows me as well or who’s worked with me even before having worked with Siddharth inviting me through Siddharth now. I couldn’t get my head around such things. And I’d tell myself, “Am I being any less a woman or any less a partner if I’m not accepting of this?”

So in the past four years I’ve seen my understanding of this become clearer, stronger, and that gets reflected in my choices. I’m not one person who’s going through this.

All around us, women are asserting themselves more and more. We are nurturers and givers, all that is fine, but we don’t want to give up our identities.

So whether it’s on a set in relation to a male actor, or in a marriage in relation to your partner, or while bringing up children, you’re seeing that change all around. And that’s the change we’re seeing in the industry. It will only become stronger as time goes by.

Soon after Madhuri Dixit got married (in 1999), I remember asking one of her directors why women get limited roles after marriage, and he for some reason thought I was asking whether he was mindful of her marital status while making the film. So he assured me, “Don’t worry Ma’am, I have kept in mind the dignity of married women while shooting this film”. That’s the mindset: that married women should do only a certain kind of role. Have you faced that attitude from the industry?

Mediapersons used to ask initially, “Does Siddharth have a say in your choice of films? Do you need his permission?” and I would have a shocked reaction to the word “permission”.

And the industry?

The industry has never asked me this because I’ve never allowed it and I don’t have that kind of attitude. It was never a concern in my head.

People keep asking, “Now that you are married, will you do another Dirty Picture?” And I keep saying, “Now that I’ve done The Dirty Picture maybe there’s no need for that, but if someone writes something as compelling or interesting, I’m most open to it.” I’m an actor. I’m not Vidya the person who is in the film. In my head that distinction between the actor and the person is clear. If I’m romancing someone on screen, it’s not Vidya Balan who is romancing the person. It’s that character. So how does my marital status make any difference there?

I will do whatever is required of me for a role. That can only change if… How do I say this? It’s a role, (laughs) it’s not like doing something with someone on the sly.

In the years since Madhuri’s marriage, do you think the industry has evolved, so that women like you or Aishwarya are less likely to get this kind of attitude from directors, “she can’t do this”, “we have to shoot her more carefully and present her in a more dignified fashion because she’s a married actress”?

Attitudes have changed but we are driving the change as women, Anna. Of course there are very supportive and understanding men who are trying, because finally, like I said, we’re all trapped in that conditioning, but at least they are aware of it so they’re trying in their own way.

Having said that, we are the drivers of change. So when we reflect that, that gives filmmakers, men or women, the courage to write roles for us that are not apologetic.

In the past year we have had some very successful films telling stories of women. Pink, for instance, was powerful and a reason to celebrate. But it still needed that poster of a protective patriarchal figure (Amitabh Bachchan) to promote itself. Some people, who I don’t agree with by the way, also felt the driver of change within the film was that man.  

To be very objective, Anna, we have to use the opportunities we have before us. For example with three relatively unknown girls – Taapsee is known – Pink may not have otherwise got the kind of viewing it got. The point is it did some 80 crore of business, that means that many people watched it. It doesn’t matter that the driver of change was a man there, as long as people watched. When people said, “Oh but sex brought people into theatres to watch Dirty Picture”, I said, “But once they come into the hall, they’ll see the larger picture. That’s my interest.”

Maybe in a few years that will change, that is changing anyway, but at this point, it was great they had a huge superstar like Bachchan who’s got a pull. It’s great he’s doing these kind of films. I personally of course felt that putting his name last in the credits was a bit of tokenism, but I’m nitpicking here. I’m still saying I’m just glad that a lot of people saw the film, a lot of people probably thought about their own attitudes, because sometimes even the most liberated and so-called evolved people end up making these judgements about women, maybe sometimes unconsciously. So you have to use what’s at your disposal to make the point you want to.

For example in Kahaani 2, the fact that we used the value of the Kahaani franchise to tell a story about child sexual abuse is what really excited me because if we’d made a film about child sexual abuse otherwise I’m not sure it would have got the kind of numbers watching it. This is not manipulation, these are just smart choices.

Are you optimistic about the possibility maybe a year or five years from now where a Pink can be made with a Madhuri, Sridevi, Rekha or Waheeda Rahman in Bachchan’s role?

Absolutely. Why not?

What gives you that hope? We are looking at the glass as being half full, but some things remain depressing even now. Even now, for instance, there are directors and producers who put rape jokes into films on a routine basis. What makes you so optimistic?

One, I am an eternal optimist. I choose to see the glass half full rather than half empty. I’ve seen the kind of scripts coming my way, especially since 2008 since I began to make certain choices that spoke to my sensibility, my belief, my sensitivity.

It could have been the end of the road for me post marriage for example, especially when my films didn’t work, but there is no dearth of opportunities coming my way. There are other actresses doing wonderful work, doing the regular stuff but also one film here, one film there, which is more woman-centric.

At my age (38), I’m playing the lead in a film, which five years ago wasn’t possible.

Earlier, if a woman-centric film flopped at the box office, people would attribute the failure to its woman-centricity. Are people now a little more open and not saying that?

More people are seeing our films as films, not just woman-centric films. Of course it irritates me when people say, “Acchha, for a woman-centric film it’s done good business.” But those are the industry types who want to tabulate and see trends, analyse and paralyse and all that, but the general public is changing.

I don’t think it’s about women-centric films having a limited scope of success. Some films work greatly, some don’t, that’s what it is. And I’m part of stories that I feel compelled to tell. So some of them work, some of them don’t, but I’m not here to champion the cause of women’s empowerment.

You mean, in your films?

Yes. If I’m here to champion anyone’s cause, that’s I, me, myself. (Laughs) If it ends up inspiring someone therefore to take up cudgels for themselves, great! Change has to happen at a very personal level for each one of us.

That statement can be misunderstood so could you elaborate on “I’m not here to champion the cause of women’s empowerment”?

Ya. There’s only one person whose empowerment as a woman I’m concerned with and that is me, therefore I make the choices I make. My choices are an extension of my beliefs. I’m here to tell stories, but I end up picking stories which empower me. It’s not shying away from feminism, or shying away from doing the kind of films I do. All I’m saying is that change has to happen at a very personal level.

Do you mean that you are happy if a point is made through your films, but your primary purpose is to entertain?

My primary purpose is to entertain, but just that the story through which I entertain invariably is an extension of my beliefs. So, can I entertain in a film where I have four songs and two scenes? I can’t. I’m incapable of it. It has to have substance.

People ask me, “Why do you keep choosing women-centric films?” Because, I say, I’m at the centre of my universe and I happen to be a woman. So I’m the most important person in my life. I’m telling stories where that importance, that value is shown to a woman, because I would choose only that. It comes naturally to me.

But am I doing it for the larger good of womankind? No. Yet, when someone comes up to me and says, “This film gave me the courage to do a so-and-so,” I feel humbled and gratified, but I’m not… (long pause)

You’re not?

I’m not (pauses again) I’m not jhanda gaadke jo kehte hai na championing the cause of women’s empowerment or anything like that through my films.

But are you not doing that when you speak on issues, write feminist articles and so on?

But I’m saying I’m championing the cause of women outside of that, not through my films. I’m telling stories, but stories which inspire me are stories where women take centrestage, where women are overcoming obstacles and hurdles, discovering themselves, leading lives on their own terms. But outside, as Vidya, I’m very opinionated. I don’t know if I’m able to communicate exactly. Like, everyone says that every film should give a message. I don’t think you should give a message with every film. I don’t believe in preaching, I believe in practice, that’s what I do.

That’s what it is. Thank you, you’ve helped me nail it. That’s what it is, when I say that I’m not here to champion the cause of women’s empowerment – I’m here to practise it.

Shaadi Ke Side Effects was promoted as a film that was equally about you and Farhan’s characters, but when I watched the film it seemed like the writer completely forgot your character at some point. You had a lot of screen time, but the story completely became the hero’s point of view. Do you still find it hard to get scripts where your character’s point of view is as important if not more than the male lead’s point of view?

Sometimes writers get waylaid, and again I can’t harp enough on the conditioning that we all are products of. Which is why sometimes with the best intent you end up getting muddled up and confused. It starts out as one thing, but somewhere there is compromise because you feel the need to toe the line, to align with the male perspective.

But even to recognise that takes a while. Today when you said this about Shaadi Ke Side Effects I actually began thinking, no one’s ever mentioned this to me.

You may have hit the nail on the head. Because it started out being about a couple and then it was about a man wanting to escape the routine or the responsibility of a marriage.

All this was part of my confusion also, which is why I’m saying I was probably choosing the films that gave voice to some confusion or a certain state of mind.

How did you not see the problem with Shaadi Ke Side Effects when you read the script?

That’s exactly what I’m telling you, because I was muddled in my head.

I was grappling with whether marriage really means that you subsume, so if my character gets lost in the second half maybe that’s how it’s meant to be and I’m not ashamed to say that I was going through these questions. Because one is what you believe you are, and the other is what you feel you should be.

Again I come back to conditioning. In my house there’s been no active conditioning of the sort at all, and yet somewhere I think as a woman in this country you’ve grown up believing that in marriage you become the last priority for yourself. Anyway women are not that much of a priority for themselves, then after a marriage you definitely are not a priority for yourself. That’s what’s been fed to us, which is why this entire question that really exasperates me is: how do you balance your work and household? I don’t balance it.

When I’m at work I’m at work, when I’m at home I do whatever is required for the house. I do more than Siddharth because I am more finnicky about things, but there’s been no issue between us in terms of, if I’m not there he’ll say, “No no, I’m not going to do this,” or some rubbish like that. And I’m completely disconnected when I’m at work. But when people are asking you those things, you’re wondering. Then for a while I started calling up the cook daily from shoot and saying, “Acchha toh aaj sabzi kya banaogi?” (What vegetable will you cook today?) That was not me.

Has anyone ever asked Siddharth how he balances work and home?

Not at all. And you know how many times I’ve gotten asked… Forget Siddharth, male actors never get asked, “When are you impregnating your wife?” Why the hell are you asking me, “When are you going to get pregnant? When are you going to expand your family?” How is it your concern? Am I asking for your salary slip? It’s as personal.

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Am I asking when you’re consummating with your partner? It’s actually akin to asking me that. And it used to anger me. Now I’m amused. I’ve started saying, “Agli baar jab hum saath honge toh aapko zaroor bataayenge (Next time we are together, I will definitely tell you).” Because, what are you expecting me to say?

On a related note, following the controversy over Aishwarya’s pregnancy and the film Heroine, there was talk in the industry of introducing a pregnancy clause in actresses’ contracts? Has that started happening?

Uh, not any of my contracts.

Would you be willing to sign such a contract? Would you be offended or do you think it’s practical and fair?

It’s practical and fair. Because the physical you changes, god knows what else will change. I’m accepting of all body types, that’s not the point. I’m saying suddenly for example after signing a film you’re going to change, that’s unprofessional, so I guess you have to plan these things.

Why, for me, more than anything else I don’t want the pressure of having to look a certain way even when I’m pregnant. If and when I do plan my baby, I want to enjoy it yaar, and I want to keep it safe at all costs. I don’t even want the negativity of people saying you’re being unprofessional and you didn’t tell us. And it’s only right, isn’t it?

A male actor may gain weight between the time he signs the contract and he comes on set. Would you say it’s fair for a contract to have clauses relating to weight gain and physical appearance of all the cast, not just a woman who might potentially get pregnant?

Uh, no. Because I as a woman have gone through various bodily changes during films. Forget male actors, I wouldn’t be okay with being subjected to something like that, because a lot of things, hormonal changes for instance, are outside my control.

If someone gets drunk and goes out of shape, that’s really unprofessional, but some things are beyond one’s control.

Pregnancy is also not just the physical appearance na. Maybe it will impair you from doing certain things, maybe in a delicate pregnancy you’re not allowed to. It is an investment of time, money, energy. So many people are invested in a film, so out of respect for that I would definitely tell people.

Let’s say an actor is looking trim when he signs the contract, then he starts getting drunk, over-eating and not gymming. Six months later when they shoot he’s looking different.

So male actor contracts should have that. (Laughs)

Or any actor’s contract. If you’re saying you’re okay with a pregnancy clause, then would you be okay with a clause about that also?

No. I take my work very seriously, so I for example won’t even stay up the night before a shoot because I treat it like an exam in that sense. (Laughs) Therefore I would think that people should be more responsible, but I have a problem with (pauses) with body image. Now I think we’re slowly going into the body image area. For me, uh, unless it’s a real requirement of a role that you be a certain way, if you’re playing a warrior and you have to have a certain kind of body and you just let loose, then that’s not okay, but otherwise, (pauses)

This is something that you are thinking about as we do this interview, am I right?

Ya, absolutely.

And you have not yet fully formed your opinion?

Ya, I’ve not yet.

Fair enough. There has been an increase in the number of women writers and directors in Hindi cinema in the past year or so: Gauri Shinde (Dear Zindagi), Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari (Nil Battey Sannata), Leena Yadav (Parched). Would life become easier for actresses like you when more women are in decision-making roles in the industry?

Ah, for sure. We need more of them for a balance of perspective. No one wants to do away with hero-centric films, but I hope there is a day when we don’t need the term “women-centric”. That will happen when there are an equal number of films made with men and women taking centrestage.

Similarly it will just be a healthier balance, one, from a larger perspective of equal opportunities for women writers. And do it on the basis of merit.

 

‘Dum Dum’ from Phillauri: Anushka looks great, but why isn’t Diljit Dosanjh singing for himself?

When the trailer for Anushka Sharma’s production Phillauri  released, apart from a strong buzz about the supernatural elements in the film, it also showcased Punjab in all its glory. Diljit Dosanjh plays Sharma’s long lost lover, and a singer who vows to prove himself before marrying Anushka’s character.

The first song from the film has now released, called ‘Dum Dum’ and it has a strong Punjab influence, replete with local stringed instruments, a vernacular flavour and thick vocals.

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It shows us how Dosanjh’s character uses his mellifluous voice to gain Anushka and the villagers’ attention, and we are also shown how the two fall in love.

The song is filled with slo-mo shots of the Punjab landscape, of both Anushka and Diljit’s characters and of the world they inhabit as the song slowly plays out.

However, while watching the video song, there was this nagging issue we had that refused to die down. Everybody knows Diljit Dosanjh is a singer, and popular one at that. He specialises in Punjabi music, and even started his career with it.

Why, then, was he not chosen to sing this song?

It is possible that as the male lead in the film, he may not have had time to record music as well, but this makes a larger case about authenticity in Hindi films. For a lot of us who have heard Dosanjh’s music, adding his voice to this number would have lent a far more personal touch.

Anushka Sharma’s next production Kaneda confirms Arjun Kapoor in the lead

The first thing to come to your mind when you think of Arjun Kapoor and Anushka Sharma pairing up for a film is that finally we have a pairing of equals (read: the Khans’ principle of romancing actresses half their age is so passé).

 

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And so it’s confirmed. Anushka Sharma will reportedly be seen romancing Ki & Ka actor Arjun Kapoor in her upcoming film Kaneda. It will be helmed by Navdeep Singh, who last directed the sleeper slasher hit NH 10. DNA reports that it will be a dark, gritty thriller and after NH10 we are pretty sure it will be dark.

There were several rumours that Arjun Kapoor had stepped down from the film, but it has no been confirmed that he will be a part of it.

Kaneda will be Anushka’s third production after NH 10 and Phillauri. The 28-year-old actress has finished the last schedule of Phillauri, where she will be seen sharing space with Diljit Dosanjh and Life of Pi actor Suraj Sharma. The trailer is said to be released next week sometime.

Arjun Kapoor has two films — Half Girlfriend with Shraddha Kapoor and Mubarakan co-starring uncle Anil Kapoor.

Anushka’s last film was Karan Johar’s Ae Dil Hai Mushkil where she played a girl from Lucknow, Alizeh. She is currently also working on Imtiaz Ali’s next with Shah Rukh Khan, tentatively titled Rehnuma.