Monthly Archives: May 2017

Arjun Kapoor on Half Girlfriend: ‘Tried breaking preconceived notions about Bihar

Actor Arjun Kapoor, who plays the role of a Bihari boy named Madhav Jha in his latest release Half Girlfriend, says through this film the makers have tried to break all the preconceived notions about Bihar and its people.

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“Through this film, we have tried to break preconceived notion about Bihar. We always wanted to make sure that people should look at Bihar from real point of view because in many films, we see that gangster, politicians, IAS, IPS hail from Bihar, but we haven’t seen a solo romantic hero who hailed from Bihar in recent times.” Arjun said here on Friday.

“So, it was important that the character I am playing should speak and behave in same way. When we were shooting for the film people kindly supported us and it is always nice to see when people shower their love upon us,” Arjun added.

Directed by Mohit Suri, Half Girlfriend is an adaptation of author Chetan Bhagat’s novel of the same name.

This was the second time when Arjun and Bhagat collaborated for a project after 2 States.

“I am happy that after our successful collaboration in 2 States, we are again coming up with this film. It’s always nice when you get good material to work as an actor.

“I am very happy and delighted that it’s a book which is loved by so many people and now we have put it out on big screen for many people. It’s our effort to do justice with the material and create something with our imagination and visualisation,” Arjun said.

Talking about the preparations for his role, Arjun said: “There is an emotional scene in the film where I had to express myself, so to get the feel of the character, I had two tequila shots on an empty stomach in the morning because I wanted to feel and express that madness

Half Girlfriend: Chetan Bhagat’s book or Mohit Suri’s film, which one is worse?

Some questions are truly critical. For instance: “Why did Kattappa kill Bahubali?” Now that we have the answer to that particular question, there is another burning question for the pop-culture-obsessed mind, and that question is this: Does Mohit Suri’s Half Girlfriend retain that line, immortalised by Chetan Bhagat. Deti hai toh de, varna kat le. The answer? In a bit.

First, we must address the elephant in the room. Why are people casting Arjun Kapoor in roles that demand complexity, nuance, skill and an overall understanding of context and milieu? Say what you will about Chetan Bhagat and his writing, but his books are fodder for the kind of films that can strike gold at the box office, if they’re made and positioned smartly. 3 Idiots and 2 States have proven that.

Shraddha Kapoor as Riya Somani in 'Half Girlfriend'

In fact, Half Girlfriend — despite being a mostly-unimpressive and sometimes-revolting book — has the kind of story that would have been a smash hit as a film in the ’90s. And treated with the right amount of texture and sensitivity, it had the potential to make for an intriguing watch even for today’s audience. One of the key aspects of the story – the protagonist Madhav Jha’s struggle and conflict with the English language, can come through strongly only with a medium like cinema; because in the book, everything is in English, including the bits where the character is actually speaking in Hindi.

However, the film falls flat on its face, largely because rather than seeming like an under-confident but rugged, attractive, athletic and intelligent fellow — what Madhav is supposed to be like — Arjun’s Madhav comes across looking like an overgrown oaf (pardon my language, but it’s true). His supposed-Bihari accent is not only terrible, but also inconsistent. In one scene, he says ‘loojer’ and ‘loser’ within a few seconds of each other, without irony. (What’s surprising is that Arjun played country bumpkin so much better in his first film, Ishaqzaade.)

About the only not-bad thing one can say about Arjun Kapoor in Half Girlfriend is that the film version of Madhav Jha comes across as less of a sexist creep than the book version. But that’s because Arjun Kapoor completely lacks the chops to pull off the character the way it was written. The character in the book is your average horny Indian male bred on a staple diet of entitlement, who shows a semblance of evolution through the story. (Sample this: At one point, when the girl covers her exposed legs, Madhav in the book reacts with, ‘Damn, I just lost my view’.) The character in the film, though, is just a brawny bumbling buffoon, his facial hair standing in for actual expressions.

Mohit Suri also takes the best thing about the book — the character of Riya Somani — and makes her a brooding bore, with spurts of being a slightly improved version of the high-on-life-or-cocaine character Shraddha Kapoor played in his own Ek Villain. While she was insufferable there, she’s quite, well, sufferable here.

Riya was an enigma in the book, the reasons for her demeanour, stoic personality and her actions through the story being a mystery all through, revealed only in the third act. (Yes, the book is actually split into ‘acts’. Bhagat knew right then that he was writing a script, not a book.) Like the book, in the film the narration itself is forcibly non-linear. However, the story unfolds quite linearly, cutting to the present once in a while. The result is a dumbed-down film with virtually no peaks or hooks, preferring to spend its time wallowing in shallow emotions, accompanied by a thoroughly unmemorable soundtrack.

In fact, the ‘village area’ scene from the trailer, which has already become a mildly funny meme, actually has ‘rural area’ in the book. That’s how little the makers of the film think of or trust the audience, and that’s the level they decided they must stick to all through. In another scene, we see Shraddha Kapoor put a bottle of water to her mouth to take a sip, but clearly not sipping or even wetting her lips. That’s how little the director cares.

What we’re left with, then, is that burning question from the start of this column. (Spoiler ahead!) In the book, Madhav attempts to get intimate with Riya, is rebuffed and becomes violent, before he utters that most infamous and reviled line, which created a stir when the book came out. Deti hai toh de, varna kat le. (‘F**k me or f**k off’ is how Chetan Bhagat translates that line in the book.)

We’ll never quite know whose call it was, but the scene in the film ends up a cop-out, simply by virtue of one changed syllable. It could have played out exactly in the disgusting manner it appears in the book, after which Madhav could have gotten his comeuppance through the story. Instead, quite like the book and the film, its most (in)glorious moment is also a half-damp squib. Who would have thought that one day Chetan Bhagat will get to hear these golden words: The book was better.

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.

Irrfan Khan says Hindi cinema needs to raise its standards, present content-driven films

Mumbai: Actor Irrfan Khan, who has proved his mettle not just in Bollywood but in Hollywood as well, feels that Hindi cinema needs to raise its standards to survive among good Hollywood films and regional films.

“Cinema is changing and its audience is getting mature. If you can present content-driven film, then audience always gives result to the film.”

Irrfan Khan. Reuters

“But now I feel that Hindi cinema needs to raise its standard because from one side, good Hollywood films are dividing business of Hindi cinema and from the other side, regional films are getting better,” Irrfan told reporters.

He also feels that “southern films like Baahubali have the capacity to capture whole market of India. Therefore, Hindi cinema need to come up with really good subjects.”

“They should attract audience through that (good subjects), otherwise it will get difficult for them,” said Irrfan on Monday at the screening of film Hindi Medium organised by the makers for the teachers of Hindi Medium schools.

Hindi Medium has touched base upon one of the most important obsessions in our country, which is to speak impeccable English.

Talking about the same, Irrfan said: “English has become a necessity. We are not against that language in this film and I feel as an individual, we should learn as many languages as we can but we should be proud and have confidence in our own language. We should not feel backward as compared to anybody.”

Irrfan also spoke about the current scenario of education in India.

“Today, studies have become more competitive and it is not enough for kids to learn only at schools and for that they need extra time for studies in private classes. In our country, standard of government aided schools is not good and if it gets better then only our national language has some chances to hold its place,” he said.

Hindi Medium is directed by Saket Choudhary. It also stars Pakistani actress Saba Qamar, Deepak Dobriyal and Amrita Singh in pivotal roles.

It is all set to release on 19 May.

Dobaara’s real life siblings, Huma Qureshi-Saqib Saleem on their spooky Oculus remake

After making her debut in a supporting role in the two-part crime drama Gangs of Wasseypur (2102), followed by a raft of award nominations, Huma Qureshi went on to do films in several different genres. That same year, she played the lead female role in the romance Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana, and followed it with a role in the supernatural thriller, Ek Th Daayan.

Further, the actress was seen in the black comedy Dedh Ishqiya (2014), the revenge drama Badlapur (2015) and most recently, in a comic role opposite Akshay Kumar in Jolly LLB 2.  Huma — a history graduate, found herself in the international space with Gurinder Chadha’s British-Indian historical drama Viceroy’s House. 

Huma is now looking forward to the release of Dobaara: See Your Evil, which happens to be a remake of the supernatural/psychological horror Hollywood flick, Oculus — rated as one of the scariest of films ever. Besides Adil Hussain, Lisa Ray, Rhea Chakraborty and Madalina Bellariu Ion, the film also stars Huma’s brother, Saqib Saleem.

The brother-sister duo is working together for the first time, and while Huma says, that she couldn’t disconnect from being an actor and a sister, Saqib tried maintaining a balance between their “professional and personal relationship” on the sets.

Siblings on screen, and off: Saqib Saleem and Huma Qureshi. Photos via Facebook

“First of all, we never thought that we would do a film together, but it happened…then we started shooting together. I had to stay away from the fact that we are siblings or else it would have been difficult, and once we moved past that, it was a lot of fun. But we share an awkward sibling relationship in the film, totally different from how we are in real life.  In the film, our characters detest each other, even though there is a lot of love between the two,” says Saqib.

Says Huma, “It can get very irritating working with your brother. Just imagine, what you have to go through at home, the same follows at the work place [laughs]! Actually I was more irritating on the sets as compared to Saqib. I could never disconnect from being an actor and being a sister. I was always a sister on the sets, watching out for him, what is he doing, why is he doing it, who is he getting friendly with, why is he helping out so and so, whether or not he has eaten his food. Saqib wouldn’t like it, and he was like, ‘Back off man, give me my space’. So I was the more irritating (one) in this sibling equation. But there was definitely a comfort level. You can say anything, you can trust him, you know each other’s reactions. Saqeeb and I don’t look very similar but there is a kind of similarity in our reactions if you speak to both of us.”

Saqib further says, “It is because of the fact that we are family, sometimes the lines tend to get blurred while working together, but then you enjoy that also. At times, I would speak to Huma as an actor and at others, as a brother,” he said.  However, Saqib found the balance very interesting. “It made us understand each other as actors more. We got to know each other’s process of working. For that, I think this film was a great exercise and we had great fun shooting,” he says, adding, “We both wanted the film to become better, that was our endeavour, and I think both of us gelled on the set. I was surprised. We bonded really well. It was a very nice equation we shared. I thought we won’t gel on the set because we are two different kinds of people, but I think we somehow managed. I think we brought different energies. As actors, we have different energies and that kind of helped while shooting the film.”

Posters of Dobaara: See Your Evil

Oculus, which released in 2013, was a thriller mystery about the relationship of two adult siblings who lose their parents very early on. While the girl believes that an antique mirror is the reason for the death of her family, her brother is trying to rebuild their lives. The two of them together try to find the truth. So, how well did being real life siblings work out for Huma and Saqib in Dobaara? “I was really amazed at Huma’s performing skills. She did not have a very conventional debut and I have always admired her as an actress. She is very alive in this film and in every scene. She is extremely spontaneous and can be seen playing with the dialogues,” says Saqib about Huma.

He continues, “My character is very rational and practical person, whereas in real life I get swayed by emotions. I am the frivolous kind but I play an intense person in the film. I am not a trained actor. I take time to get into the character. My character here is sent to a juvenile home where I spend 12 years. I am a complete loner. I stationed myself in Delhi for some time to attend workshops to get into the skin of the character. I also visited juvenile homes in the city to bring authenticity to my performance. Then, I spent some time all alone in a room. I locked myself in a room with no access to the outside world…absolutely no communication…no phone, no television…nothing at all, and it was so very difficult. While in my character, my silence talks about my angst, I don’t verbalise emotions, but post-pack up I was a different person…”

50 Films That Changed Bollywood’ book review: Full of hits, misses and nostalgia

If 20 people in a room are asked to list down the 50 films that changed Hindi cinema, there are bound to be differences or even heated debates. Even if the time bracket is reduced to 1995-2015, the debates would be as heated, or perhaps even more, given the fact that Hindi cinema possibly churns out more films in a year than the film industry of any other country.

When I read the title of Shubhra Gupta’s book 50 Films That Changed Bollywood 1995-2015 (Harper-Collins), I wondered what the criteria of her selection would be. There are multiple yardsticks to which we assess the quality of a film, such as the box office record, its influence on pop culture, critical acclaim and in my mind, the most effective yet the most subjective, how it made me feel.

50 Films That Changed Bollywood, by Shubhra Gupta, published by Harper-Collins

While Gupta’s title clearly suggests that her yardstick is majorly the second one, i.e., how the films influence pop culture (or Bollywood in particular), she often deviates to other criteria and ends up accommodating a film in her exclusive list merely because of its roaring box office success, unanimous critical acclaim or her personal fondness for the film.

It is there that this otherwise well-researched and comprehensive book falters. It does not stick to its purpose which can be clearly seen in how she has tried to justify her inclusion of certain films in the list, but failed to put forth a convincing argument. While some films are obvious picks, others are worth considering. But there are a few amongst them that just do not go down well with you.

Since the lower limit is 1995, Aditya Chopra’s classic romantic drama Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge had to be there. It has qualified itself as a competent film in all criteria and continue to be a template for a large number of family-oriented romantic dramas.

Rangeela is yet another obvious pick but Gupta doesn’t explain why. All she ends up doing, after spelling out the plot of the film, is to draw a ‘Then and Now’ of the director Ram Gopal Varma, actors Aamir Khan, Urmila Matondkar and Jackie Shroff, along with tracing their working relationship over the years. Thankfully, she realises she could bite off more than she could chew and steers clear of such diversions in the other chapters, or at least attempts to do so.

In my mind, why Rangeela proved to be a trendsetter was because of its music, choreography and costumes. It is sad that Gupta gives no mention or short shrift to the technical aspects and only talks about the plot and characters, just like a majority of Indian film critics.

It was AR Rahman’s breakthrough in Hindi cinema and he went on to change the cinematic landscape of Bollywood by adorning it with his musical notes. Similarly, this was arguably the first film where we got introduced to the gymnastics-style choreography that still dominates commercial potboilers today. Gupta does delve on costumes when she explains how this film changed the way a Hindi film heroine looked.

Shekhar Gupta’s Bandit Queen is a film that I am glad Gupta was able to pinpoint. She does full justice to the film when she elaborates why it made it to her list. The rustic setting, the no-holds-barred dialogue delivery and the lack of cosmetic touch-ups of the actors ensured that there was score for cinema that felt ‘real’.

Hero No. 1 gave us a lead actor who could give all the comedians a run for their money. It also established a genre that was synonymous with the lead actor’s name. Govinda’s brand of comedies, though short lived, constituted a phase that saw thorough entertainers spruced up by signature Bollywood song and dance. While the genre faded away with Govinda’s age, there are the occasional Housefuls and Golmaals that still mint money at the box office.

While Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge was an NRI film catering to nostalgia, Karan Johar’s directorial debut Kuch Kuch Hota Hai spoke the language of the GenNext. It was the first uber-cool film of Hindi cinema that fully embraced liberalistaion and globalisation. This film would establish Johar’s frivolous image that he still finds extremely tough to shake off.

Hindi cinema had been obsessed with the underworld ever since Adam. Case in point, Amitabh Bachchan’s character of Don. But what Varma’s Satya did was to get rid of the stylised way of storytelling and treatment and give us access to notorious criminals. They were not caricatures but immensely real beings which hinted at how worrisome the state of affairs in our country was.

Sarfarosh is remembered best for its soft patriotism. That film showed you do not need to wage war between India and Pakistan to display your nationalism, or jingoism for that matter. Sarfarosh was hard hitting not in terms of its decibel but its craft. Aamir Khan and Naseeruddin Shah immotralised their characters and made for a righteous cop and an assured terrorist – templates that filmmakers still swear by.

The most significant contribution of Kaho Naa… Pyar Hai was Hrithik Roshan. More than its hackneyed plot and obsolete treatment, Rakesh Roshan’s romantic drama defined what a 21st century Hindi film hero would look like. Hrithik fit the bill completely and with his acting chops, dancing skills and drop dead gorgeous looks, he set the bar for the holistic personality development that an aspiring lead actor has to undergo.

2001 saw three landmark films. Dil Chahta Hai changed the grammar of film making forever. Its colloquial dialogue, with a liberal use of English words, became a trick that every filmmaker had to employ for them to make their film sound cool. The other aspect was its cinematography. While stalwarts like Mani Ratnam and Sanjay Leela Bhansali had already stepped forward and mesmerised us with their larger than life long shots, Farhan Akhtar’s film did not orchestrate the grandness. It was just there even in the tiniest of moments. (Gupta misses this point.)

Another film, that broke all box office records, was Anil Sharma’s Gadar: Ek Prem Katha. Besides setting the trend of unconventional pairing (which Gupta missed too), the film humanised the other side of the border. That school of thought has trickled down to many hits including Kabir Khan’s 2015 drama Bajrangi Bhaijaan, which in my opinion, did not change Bollywood in any way but has made it to Gupta’s list of top 50.

Ashutosh Gowariker’s Lagaan went back to the hinterland, as setting that had got lost in the midst of all the urban comedies. Also, Gupta points out an interesting insight into how it changed the behind-the-scenes working style of top actors. They started following in the footsteps of Aamir and chose to stick to one film throughout its shooting schedule rather than juggling between four or five films at a time.

With Jism came the entire brand of Vishesh films romantic dramas with a high quotient of oomph, sex and lust. John Abraham and Bipasha Basu sizzled it to such soaring levels that the audience embraced them despite knowing that they would burn with them. It paved the way for Murder, and in turn, Emraan Hashmi and Mallika Sherawat – the two sex sirens that took the industry by storm.

Gupta mentions Hum Tum as the first true blue romantic comedy of Bollywood. While I think Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai were rom-coms in their own right, what Kunal Kohli’s film did was to bring forth the insecurities that the GenNext had begun harbouring. It also introduced us to a metrosexual character, played by Saif Ali Khan, a formula for many such urban rom-coms today. Also, as Gupta points out, this was the first time that having sex before marriage was considered okay in family entertainers.

Another obvious pick, Munna Bhai MBBS introduced us to Rajkumar Hirani who could manage to impress the audience and critics alike with his lighthearted well packaged films with social messages and stories borrowed from the next door. Nobody has managed to make films like he does till date.

Bunty Aur Babli was not an urban rom-com but it did not explore the hinterland either. It found that middle path that lakhs of Indians relate to. The tier-2 cities were brimming with aspirations when this film came and addressed them. It was also a trendsetter in terms of fashion, as it brought back the good ol’ sasta sundar tikau non-branded outfits.

Sudhir Mishra’s film Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi addressed yet another burning issue – education. The colleges were not depicted as the fantasy Riverdale or High School Musical stuff. They were real and addressed real life issues of students frustrated with the education system of the country. It was way ahead of its times as the dissent among students has started making headlines more often now.

Gupta justifies picking Dhoom 2 over Dhoom because it was the better film. While I agree with that assessment, it shows how disoriented she was while cherry picking the 50 films that changed Bollywood. Dhoom 2 only accelerated the change that was brought by Dhoom. In that respect, Dhoom deserves the credit for being a game changer and not its sequel.

Countless parallel or arthouse films had preceded Bheja Fry but what this Rajat Kapoor-Vinay Pathak film did was to demonstrate how they could also make money at the box office. From Shyam Benegal’s to Anand Gandhi’s, arthouse cinema has also undergone a considerable change. But Bheja Fry’s success proved that there was an audience, even though a niche one, for every kind of film.

Chak De! India was arguably the first true blue sports film of India. Other movies like Mansoor Khan’s Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar and Lagaan also consisted of sports as crucial plot points but those were merely to increase the tension in the narrative. If there was a film that made an attempt to address the issues plaguing sports in the country, Chak De! India was the first one to do so. Other sports dramas like Mary Kom, Dhan Dhana Dhan Goal! and Dangal followed suit.

With Ghajini, Aamir introduced the industry to two business terms that the trade pundits swear by till date. Firstly, the wide pre-promotion of the film which almost ensured a certain opening at the box office. Since then, production houses started signing up with PR agencies to promote their film creatively. Secondly, the coveted Rs 100 crore club which devised a new yardstick to measure the success and reach of a film.

Anurag Kashyap’s Dev D was also arthouse in terms of its atmosphere but its treatment was commercial in many ways, given that it boasted of close to a dozen songs, composed by Amit Trivedi. But what this film did was to bring darkness to the forefront, though in a cool self-deprecating way instead of something intense and melancholic.

Shoojit Sircar’s Vicky Donor was a path-breaker in many ways. It revolved around a taboo but its lighthearted comedy did not make the audience cringe. It made them smile and ponder. This film was also a hybrid of art and commercial cinema, though poles apart from how Kashyap approached the same.

Finally, Vikas Bahl’s Queen led to the boom of women-oriented or female-centric cinema. It was entirely a woman’s story with very little space for men. It also proved that a female actor could carry the film on her shoulders and command certain numbers at the box office.

Thus, these are the 21 films out of Gupta’s 50 that I think truly changed Bollywood, in terms of narrative, themes, plots, technique and the way the industry functioned. There are many on my mind, such as The Dirty Picture which started the trend of biopics, but I’ll save those for another day.

The other films mentioned in Gupta’s list mainly adhere to the template of their predecessors or break through to a very minor extent. Some are hybrid of the genres introduced by two of their predecessors while the others seem to have found a place only because it changed the way the author looked at the films that she had already listed.

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,

Shraddha Kapoor on Saina Nehwal biopic: ‘I can’t wait to learn (badminton) from her

The actress with the girl next door image, is thrilled to have bagged the ace badminton player Saina Nehwal biopic while she is in the midst of completing the other one, Haseena: The Queen of Mumbai, based on Dawood Ibrahim’s sister Haseena Parkar.

Gearing up for the release of Half Girlfriend (12 May), adapted from Chetan Bhagat’s novel, Shraddha talks to Firstpost on the exciting phase of her career her love for cinema, and her closest rival, Alia Bhatt. Excerpts from the interview:

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You have upped the glamour quotient for Half Girlfriend.

My character, Riya Somani comes from an affluent background from Delhi. She’s one of those girls who blow dries her hair, wears designer clothes and travels in big cars to college. She is the most popular girl in college with every guy wanting to date her. While everybody thinks that she is happy and has everything in life, she is not. She gets happiness with simple things like getting wet in the rains, for example. She meets Arjun’s character Madhav Jha and likes that simplicity in him.

Your character is a basketball player, and you are seen shooting hoops in the film. Was it fun?

It was both, fun as well as challenging. In school, I used to play basketball but I was a substitute player so I was called only if someone was injured or tired or unwell. That was the fun part in the movie, and now I can say that I have become a decent basket ball player. Training for that was really hard, I trained for almost a month.

And what about badminton since you will be soon doing a biopic on Saina Nehwal?

I loved badminton. I am sure most of us have played the sport in our residential complex, in our building compound. However good or bad, and I have some amazing memories of playing the sport in my building compound.

It is really very strange how I will be playing the former world number one badminton champion.

So what kind of prep you will be doing to play Saina Nehwal?

Basketball is just part of Half Girlfriend, but here the entire film will revolve around badminton as that is the crux of Saina’s biopic. I will have to train for a while. It is not going to be just for a month but for at least few months. The preparation for this film is going to be very, very challenging. It’s probably going to be my most difficult film till date. I can’t wait to learn from Saina herself. She is going to teach me the sport.

Have you met her?

I have spoken to her, we have exchanged messages but I am looking forward to spending time with her.

With films like Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Mary Kom, MS Dhoni…the standards for sports biopics has been rising.  Do expectations make you anxious?

Absolutely. That’s why it is so important for me to give good time before the shoot of the film so that I can prepare well. I will have to train a lot. I am scared and excited at the same time.

Shraddha Kapoor, not Deepika Padukone, has been confirmed to play Saina Nehwal in a biopic based on the badminton ace

Some time back you were juggling between the two characters  – Haseena Parkar and Riya Somani. How difficult was that?

That was quite tough. While I was shooting for the Haseena biopic I had to do the dubbing and promotions of Half Girlfriend. Haseena and Riya Somani are two very different characters. It was definitely challenging in its own way to juggle back and forth from both the characters and to get in and out of two worlds, especially since it is for the first time that I am playing a grey character (in Haseena).

The reaction to the first poster was quite overwhelming and I hope people react to the teaser the same way. When you watch the film, you will know what Haseena went through in her life: losing her loved ones, her son, her brother dying right in front of her. It was quite difficult for me to feel those emotions.

It must have been tough shooting with those prosthetics for Haseena?

Yes, it was, but eventually it became a part of Haseena. But I had tried to gain weight for this film, and I did gain but everything went to one area (points towards her stomach). I have to get rid of it now for the Saina biopic. I was trying to gain weight on my arms but it didn’t happen. I was hoping that I gain weight on my face little more but I couldn’t get the desired results. Prosthetics helped and it gradually became part of my character.  It was needed when my character is in her late 30s and 40s.

Shraddha Kapoor in the first look of 'Haseena'

Do you believe in half girlfriend relationship?

Yes, I do feel that it exists. Now there is a movie been made on it, but my friends and I have experienced the situation when something is holding us back to commit to a relationship; I like this guy but I have to focus on my career; I want to be with him but I can’t. It is something halfway. But in certain situations, it is really sad that two people who like each other are not able to spend their lives together.

What is more challenging for you, fictional or real life characters like Haseena and Saina?

With Saina, because she is a living legend and youth icon, I will have to speak exactly like her, my body language will have to match hers and I will have to try to look like her. To be true to the real life person is challenging in its own way. While playing a fictional character, you can interpret it in your own way and add your imagination and thoughts.

Have you read Chetan Bhagat’s book?

I had started reading the book and I told Mohit (Suri, director) but he stopped me from reading any further and told me to read and connect with the script instead because he had made some changes. I have read just about 50 pages.

This is your third film with Mohit. Both of you have given big hits like Aashiqui 2 and Ek Villain. How was your experience this time round?

Mohit knows me a little too well but it was his wife Udita who pointed out few things that set us thinking. One day when I went to his house, Udita said that we have done two films together in which I had played the girl next door coming from a middle class family, from humble beginnings, so how will I play Riya Somani? How will the audience accept me?

He told me to incorporate the body language of high society girls from Delhi and made me meet some of those girls.

A still from the song. Image via Youtube.

I was supposed to observe them and adopt their style and mannerisms, how they speak and stuff.  And while I was talking to them, slowly my body language changed and I was sitting cross-legged, lady-like just like those girls. I found that whole process very interesting.

You began your career with films like Teen Patti and Luv Ka The End which were complete failures at the box office.  How do you look at your journey and career now?

Fridays can change an actor’s life and similarly Aashiqui 2 changed my life overnight.

From Aashiqui 2 till now I have had back- to- back releases. I feel grateful that I started off with failures because it teaches you, whereas with success everything moves smoothly and then we don’t strive hard to make efforts. You learn the most when something is not going right. I went through a tough time but it taught me a lot.

Saina had once said that she would want Deepika Padukone to do her biopic if it’s ever made. She had said that Deepika’s father has been a badminton player, that she had seen her playing badminton, and she played well. She would do justice to the role. What would you say to that?

I am not aware of that.  But I think Saina is quite happy with me too (laughs). I hope not to disappoint her. When I was offered Saina, I was very scared and I had asked the makers if they were sure about casting me. It is a massive effort to put and huge expectations to live up to. I will do my best. I hope people like my interpretation and effort as Saina.

 

You are one of those actors who have created a space in singing as well. Off late there’s been a debate with certain singers having a problem with actors turning to singing. As someone who has been on the other side as well, what do you think?

Whether it is singers, actors, directors, lyricists, or the media…we are all interconnected. We are all part of a creative medium. We have a large responsibility to support each other and help each other grow. If an artist has a dream to become singer, actor or dancer, then nobody has the right to object. It is better to be in a supportive environment

Your contemporary, Alia Bhatt is a big draw, and she has a huge fan following. Is she a threat to you?

I get inspired from her because she is doing such good work. It is very important to not only support each other but it is also important to celebrate the other person’s success.

Tomorrow, if I am offered a film with Alia, I would love to do.

 

How is Arjun Kapoor as a co-star?

He is very eloquent and an expressive guy. He’s got this inherent innocence which is heart-warming.

So where do you see yourself five years from now?

I don’t know beyond Saina. I’m going with the flow. But at present I am really excited about the Saina biopic.

Bahubali 2’s success shows up the north’s ignorance of south Indian cinema

Baahubali 2: The Conclusion (also spelt as Bahubali 2) to a match result of “South Indian filmmaker defeats Bollywood” narrative. The indignation is over how a Telugu filmmaker could pull off a Bahubali 2 when ideally it should be Bollywood with deeper pockets that should have created this Rs 450 crore worth project.

In fact, in its ignorance, or perhaps the callous notion that South India is one homogenous entity, a channel and another channel’s anchor credited Bahubali 2 as a Tamil movie that has been dubbed into Telugu. Enough — and justifiably so — for members of Tollywood’s film fraternity to go into a collective sulk. And why not, the industry produces India’s biggest film project and (everyone) north of the Vindhyas assumes SS Rajamouli must be from Rajinikanth-land.

It betrays a terrible condescending attitude that it should surprise Delhi-based journalists that the south has delivered this lavish visual spectacle. If nothing else, it only perhaps exposes their ignorance of Indian cinema and the fare that comes out of the south.

Still from Bahubali 2/Baahubali 2: The Conclusion

A bit of history would have helped. South Indian cinema based in Chennai (then called Madras) has traditionally been at the forefront of high-end cinema technology. From the 1950s, Madras has been home to several studios like AVM, Gemini, Vijayvahini, that ensured the city was the first to embrace the newest movie tool — from 70mm to Dolby to special effects — to hit the market.

K Hariharan, an author and professor of Film Studies, points out that Chennai has always been the National Film City which “also made Tamil films”. “Mumbai in contrast, is essentially only a regional Hindi centre, that never diversified into any other language except Marathi, which in any case is the city’s default language,” says Hariharan. The only reason why Mumbai has acquired a larger profile is because of the size of its audience.

If you ask a south Indian film buff, it is quite possible he or she will refer to the epic fantasy film Mayabazar, starring NT Rama Rao, as the baap of Bahubali. Rajamouli himself has acknowledged that the 1957 classic was an inspiration for Bahubali. The movie — considered “true cutting edge” in terms of use of technology in that time — has been acknowledged even by Kamal Haasan as a fine example of “visual appeal going hand in hand with content”. In fact, Rajamouli tweeted about the film in May 2013, writing : “About 20 of us watched Mayabazar in Blu-ray. Kids of age 7-17 enjoyed it as much as we enjoyed it in our childhood. Timeless classic!”

In fact, in the ’60s, even Bengali and Sinhalese remakes of hit Tamil films would be produced in Madras at the studios. In the ’80s and early ’90s, the likes of Jeetendra, Rajesh Khanna, Anil Kapoor worked mostly in Hindi remakes of successful south films.

For the Khan-obsessed non-south India, a reading of Salman’s filmography too would have provided a clue to why the south could do a Bahubali. A majority of Salman’s superhits — from Wanted to Judwaa to Biwi No. 1 to Tere Naam to Ready to Kick to Bodyguard — are remakes of Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam prototypes. Ditto with the other big Bollywood success story, Akshay Kumar. Proof, that in terms of both story telling and using technology to translate ideas on to the big screen, the Peninsula has been many steps ahead.

The problem with most of the north audience is that it consumes south films through badly dubbed movies telecast on SET MAX. That sets the bar really low. Which is perhaps why it thinks the best movie to have come out of south cinema must have been Sooryavansham — given the number of times its Hindi remake, starring Amitabh Bachchan, is telecast on telly.

Malayalam cinema with its brilliant storywriters, directors and actors have always stood out in their choice of subjects and treatment. Yet you have self-proclaimed “number one film critic” called Kamaal R Khan, an uncultured boast, taking a dig at National Award winning actor Mohanlal, calling him Chotta Bheem-like. When taken to the cleaners by Lal fans, he apologises saying he did not know of the thespian’s body of work. The problem is with Bollywood’s unintelligent assumption that it represents Indian cinema and that one can call oneself a student of Indian cinema without studying the likes of Lal, Mammootty, Kamal Haasan, Ilaiyaraaja and Mani Ratnam.

So what do we do? We look for reasons why Bahubali clicked pan-India. And we zero in on Rajamouli’s decision to partner with Karan Johar. The takeaway is that if not for Johar, Rajamouli would not have managed to have ‘Koffee’ with India. This is not to say that Johar’s presence did not add value. If nothing else, it brought to the table a certain level of acceptance that here is a product with which a discerning producer-director who knows his craft is associating. I do not think Johar would have put his money if the movie was trash material. So the value-add was limited to handing over a certificate.

It is more to do with the attitude. AR Rahman, despite what he has achieved for India including the Oscar, is reduced to being called ‘Mozart of Madras’. We never call Salman Khan, the Galaxy Apartments Hero, do we? Vinod Khanna, God bless his soul, is referred to as an Indian actor but Raghuvaran when he passed away in 2008, did not even manage ticker space on TV channels. I remember a news editor asking me if he can push for the news to make it to the rundown by telling higher-ups that he is the Amrish Puri of the south.

This is not to say south cinema comes out smelling of roses every time. Far from it… the industry in the four language states produce a lot of nonsense as well. But the scale of Bahubali, Rajamouli’s audacity to dream big and the success of the movie will have a domino effect on filmmakers from this part of India. That their products could fly if treated the right way creatively, aided by the right technological tools. And then you can even dare to release the film on an ordinary day in April, and not wait for Eid, Diwali or Sankranti.

P.S. His name is Rajamouli. There is a ‘U’ in the name, that is not silent. TV journalists would do well not to hyphenate the name and make it Raaja Moli.

Bahubali 2: Will Telugu cinema capitalise on crossover success of Rajamouli’s epic?

Baahubali 2: The Conclusion (also spelt as Bahubali 2) is a game changer. Bahubali 2 is India’s Star Wars. Bahubali 2 has brought in a paradigm shift in Indian cinema. Bahubali 2 has changed the way we understand Indian movies. All this, and a lot more has been said by many while talking about the success of Bahubali 2 across India. More than anything, the film has brought back crowd in droves to theatres and when you hear reports that people, some of whom haven’t watched films on a big screen for over 20 years, are flocking to theatres, you know why distributors and theatre owners in particular are so thrilled with the Baahubali phenomenon.

In the past few days leading up to Bahubali 2‘s release, there’s been a lot of buzz about how filmmakers in Hyderabad and Chennai are pushing the envelope, and that the real action is happening down South. While the excitement about an epic drama like Bahubali 2 is quite evident, the buzz surrounding the film has put the spotlight on Telugu cinema.

Still from Bahubali 2/Baahubali 2: The Conclusion

Bahubali 2 was Tollywood’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon moment. In 2000, when Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon released in theatres, it renewed Hollywood’s interest in Asian cinema and propelled Ang Lee’s career to new heights. Something similar could happen with Bahubali 2‘s success for Telugu cinema.

Until Baahubali: The Beginning released, there were reasonable doubts about the reach for dubbed films in North India, even though TV channels like SET MAX had been making the most out of dubbed content for a while now. Most of the Telugu and Tamil actors are quite familiar in the hinterlands of North India, thanks to these dubbed films, but nobody knew the extent to which a Telugu film dubbed in Hindi might work at the box-office. Now that all those doubts have been vanquished without a shadow of doubt, several Telugu filmmakers would want to leapfrog into new territories, just like Bahubali 2 did, with renewed interest.

Already, rumours are abuzz that Mahesh Babu starrer Spyder, directed by AR Murugadoss, has got a good price for the theatrical rights in North India, and it’s said to be one of the best deals in recent times. Then, there’s Prabhas’ next film Saaho, a spy drama to be directed by Sujeeth, which will be released in Hindi in 2018. This could be just tip of the iceberg, if this interest in Telugu films sustains for a while.

Language has always been one of the biggest barriers for filmmakers in South India and despite several attempts in the past, the reach for dubbed content in Hindi market has been limited. A case in point being Shankar-Rajinikanth’s heavyweight Robo (Enthiran) which released in 2010. The film earned Rs 22 crores nett at the box-office and that was a record for nearly five years, until Baahubali: The Beginning landed in theatres.

So far, SS Rajamouli has been an exception among Telugu filmmakers, who have found universal acceptance across the country. But there are plenty of lessons to be learnt from the success of the epic drama. Rajamouli’s success lies in his ability to deliver an engaging film, irrespective of the genre, and the universal appeal of his films is the icing on the cake.

Perhaps, there might not be another Telugu film which will reach the bar, at the box-office, set by Bahubali 2 in near future, but it has already shattered the myth that dubbed film won’t give Hindi films a run for their money. By bridging the North-South divide, the film has cleared the way for other directors and top stars to venture into the Hindi market, which has been a mystery for a long time now. Although Tollywood’s recent attempts to crack the Hindi market with films like Sardaar Gabbar Singh and Ghazi, which collected Rs 16 crores nett in Hindi, haven’t been fruitful, there’s no reason why Telugu filmmakers should give up. “Every filmmaker dreams of reaching out to a wider audience through his films and I’m no different,” SS Rajamouli said recently.

While actors like Salman Khan and Akshay Kumar have been part of remakes, which were originally made in Telugu and Tamil, the recent success of South Indian films, with subtitles, in key cities like Mumbai, Pune and Delhi has come as a ray of hope that a good film will reach out to a wider audience. On top of it, the demand for the remake rights of Telugu films has been steady with films like Kshanam and Pellichoopulu hogging the limelight last year.
The influx of new talent, especially actresses, musicians and other technicians, from Bollywood to Telugu cinema has become a norm. Perhaps, it’s time to look at the other side and take Telugu cinema to Bollywood. You might fail few times, but it doesn’t hurt to dream big.