Monthly Archives: February 2018

Diljit Dosanjh on picking projects in Hindi films: ‘Unlike in Punjab, I’m not in a position to choose roles in Bollywood’

A few years ago people would wonder whether a turbaned sikh guy could be a mainstream Bollywood hero but Diljit Dosanjh has put those doubts to rest. Not only is the singer-actor having back to back releases in Bollywood but is also being cast opposite A-list heroines. After making a promising debut and an earnest performance in Udta Punjab opposite Kareena Kapoor, he was seen with Anushka Sharma in Phillauri. In his upcoming release, Welcome To New York, he will be seen with Sonakshi Sinha and then with Taapsee Pannu in Soorma, a biopic on hockey player Sandeep Singh, which will hit the theatres in June. He is currently shooting with Kriti Sanon for Arjun Patiala.

Diljit Dosanjh. Image from Twitter/@diljitdosanjh

Naturally, Diljit’s confidence has taken a boost. In his initial days, he would have probably wondered in self doubt when asked if there was a limitation to the kind of roles offered to him, but today he confidently states in a mix of Hindi and Punjabi, “Isn’t there a turbanator in every field? Sikhs are there in Navy, Army, the police force…there is no profession left where there is no sikh. So how can I have any such limitations?”

He further adds, “In the beginning when I started with music in Punjab and was keen on acting as well, people would dismiss me saying it wasn’t possible as no sikh had ever been seen as a Punjabi film hero and that I should be restricted to music. My first Punjabi film didn’t but I slowly started delivering hits, some of which even became top grossers. (Diljit has been appreciated for his versatile performances in Punjabi films like the Jatt & Juliet series, Punjab 1984 and Ambarsariya). Later, people said that I won’t be successful in Bollywood because I wear a turban, but my turban helped me get films here.”

Not easily accessible and also considered media-shy, Firstpost tracks him down on the sets of the singing reality show, Rising Star, where the jovial and happy go lucky jatt is the centre of attention. He is in the midst of young singers and some big names from the music industry – Shankar Mahadevan and Monali Thakur. Sporting a shiny yellow jacket and black turban, Diljit seems to be enjoying every bit of it. “I am enjoying both, acting as well as singing, I just wanted to do some good work which I am doing, let’s see where my life takes me. I enjoy each day of my life. Sometimes I have my mood swings but I still try to maintain a balance,” says the singing star, who candidly talks about his upcoming stage-show reality film, Welcome To New York which is based on an award show. “There are so many actors in it, and I, too, have a small part. But if you ask me the experience of doing the film, I really didn’t understand anything. I don’t know how they shot the film in so much chaos. I have no idea. It was difficult to shoot but I kept taking orders from the director and went on doing what I was told,” he laughs.

Known for his rustic charm and simplicity, Diljit might have a lot in the pipeline, but he isn’t someone who would succumb to stereotypes. He wants to do roles that are integral to the story. “I won’t do as many films now. It is just that I had lesser commitments and hence I can be seen in so many films. Last year I refused three to four films. If I don’t like anything I say no to it. Even in Punjab, I did just one film a year and I will follow the same in Bollywood provided I am offered one. I am in no hurry, no greed, as I am getting more than what I am capable of. I would like to use the remaining time on my singing and churn out more Punjabi films for my fans. I also have fans in the US, UK, Canada and I would like to continue doing stage shows for them. Whatever I have to say from my heart, I do it through Punjabi music,” he says without displaying an ounce of stardom.

“I enjoy making music more because there are no limitations as compared to movies. You have a team with who you gel and make music. But the film is not under your control. You listen to the story and script but what finally comes on the canvas could be different, whereas in music you can reject your own composition if you don’t like it and try something different. But films are huge projects; a lot of money is invested and directors have their own point of view,” he adds.

Secondly, Diljit says, he finds more freedom in the choice of movies back home. “I am not in a position to choose roles right now in Bollywood but in Punjabi films I have that choice. Producers are friends there but in Bollywood whatever is being offered I am taking up. My upcoming Punjabi film, Rangroot is on World War I which was something I was passionate about,” he says.

Considering the fact that Diljit never played any sport earlier in his life, one would expect the Shaad Ali-directed Soorma to be one of his most challenging roles of that of a hockey champion. Diljit says jokingly, “When I was a kid, I didn’t get the opportunity to play much sports as my parents would tell me to study. And now when I am getting paid to play so why not? (laughs) But I didn’t face any difficulty while shooting for Soorma. I didn’t have to do much training in the sport, I just had to play the game. I am very happy that in the second year of my acting career in Bollywood I got to do a biopic. Actually, I don’t find my work difficult. Just that when I am acting, I try to feel for the character I’m portraying but every take of mine tends to be different. I don’t treat myself as an actor who has a process, I perform with instinct.”

And even as Bollywood is showering love on him, Diljit prefers to meet people only for work as he doesn’t like “bothering people unnecessarily”. “I don’t stay in touch with industry folks much. I am here only to work. I never got work because of networking or meeting producers in parties. I don’t believe in PR,” signs off the endearing star.

Kangana Ranaut, Bipasha Basu accuse Mehul Choksi’s Gitanjali Gems of non-payment of dues, breach of contract

Kangana Ranaut and Bipasha Basu have accused Gitanjali Gems, founded by Mehul Choksi (Nirav Modi’s — recently accused in the Punjab National Bank (PNB) scam — relative), of breach of contract and non-payment of dues.

Kangana Ranaut-Bipasha Basu. Images from Twitter.

Padmaavat: Delhi High Court rejects plea alleging glorification of Sati in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s film

The Delhi High Court today rejected a plea seeking penal action against the producers and director of Bollywood movie Padmaavat for alleged glorification of the practice of ‘sati (immolation)’. A bench of acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar dismissed the plea saying the petitioner should have approached the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) at an appropriate time.

Shahid Kapoor, Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh from Padmaavat poster. Facebook

“The film stands released without any complaints and it is already in the public domain. If the petitioner was having any complaint with regard to the issue raised in his writ petition, he should have made complaint before the CBFC at an appropriate time. We find no merit in the petition. The same is dismissed (sic).” the court said.

A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) by social activist Swami Agnivesh had sought deletion of the scenes that depict the practice of ‘sati‘. ‘Sati‘ is an obsolete funeral custom where a widow immolates herself on her husband’s pyre and the law prohibits it.

The court had earlier observed that according to one of the disclaimers in the film, it is a work of fiction and therefore, it does not show any intention or animus on the part of the producers or director, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, to propagate the practice.

The petition, filed through advocate Mehmood Pracha, had sought directions to the Delhi Police to lodge an FIR against Ajit Andhare, one of the producers, and Bhansali. Central government standing counsel Manish Mohan, who appeared for the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and the censor board, had opposed the plea, saying the movie was certified for public viewing after considering all the aspects.

The court had said that in the present day and age, it was “hesitant to accept” the petitioner’s claim that someone would follow such a practice just by seeing the movie. The high court on 25 January had rejected a Rajasthan-based group’s plea seeking quashing of the certification granted to the film, saying the Supreme Court had permitted its release.

The film, which hit the theatres on 25 January, is directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali and has Deepika Padukone, Ranveer Singh and Shahid Kapoor in the lead roles. It is based on the saga of a historic battle of 13th century between Maharaja Ratan Singh and his army of Mewar and Sultan Alauddin Khilji of Delhi.

The impending release of the movie had led to several incidents of vandalism, including an attack on a school bus in Gurugram and torching of a Haryana Roadways bus on 24 January. The set of the movie was vandalised twice — in Jaipur and Kolhapur, while its director Bhansali was roughed up by members of the Karni Sena last year. The apex court had paved the way for nationwide release of the movie by staying the ban on its screening in Gujarat and Rajasthan. It had also restrained other states from issuing any such notification or order banning the screening of the film.

Suriya’s Thaanaa Serndha Kootam reflects Tamil cinema’s fear of letting purely negative characters lead a film

One Mr MK Gandhi once said, “The enemy is fear. We think it is hate; but it is fear.”

Fear stops us from being who we could be and more importantly fear constitutes who we are. As Kamal Haasan elaborated in Thenali, fear can take a multitude of forms and probably the most common but with the most impact is the fear of failure. To further delve on this particular form of fear, let us start with the recent Suriya release, Thaanaa Serndha Kootam.

suriya 825

In most of the promotional interviews ahead of this Pongal release, Suriya kept on repeating this particular line that exhibited a sense of trepidation in the actor: “Idhu en career la oru miga mukkiyamaana padam (This is a very important movie in my career).”

Let’s roll back a few years to the time when he acted in the Bala-directed 2001 movie, Nandha. This ‘bold’ attempt at playing a henchman working for a kind-hearted gangster in the backdrop of the Sri Lankan refugee crisis gave his career a new lease of life. Since then, Suriya tried to reinvent himself as an actor and dabbled in genres unexpected of him. The audience accepted his roles ranging from a motormouth conman in Pithamagan to a hunchback in the comic caper Perazhagan. They even idolised the principled student politician in Aaidha Ezhuthu. They made him a star.

However, it could be the law of averages or just sheer bad luck that he met with one of the biggest pitfalls of an actor’s career — getting typecast. Being typecast might not just be in being relegated to a particular role but also being relegated to a particular style of and a specific level of comfort with a genre. Suriya’s movies since 2009, saw him sticking to either being an international/national thief, gangster and or someone in the international/national police. In between, there were a couple of movies where he saved India and even the world from the clutches of evil scientists.

It is not to say that these movies were not entertaining or commercially successful, but it was a case of Suriya just trying too hard to hold on to his audience who seemed to be slipping from his grasp, especially with the advent of other stars in the business. Then, the Vignesh Shivan directed TSK, an official remake of Hindi film Special 26 happened.

Both Special 26 and TSK deal with a bogus CBI gang helmed by the protagonist who swindles money from the haves and uses it for purposes he deems right. There were a lot of logical loopholes in the original and curiously enough, there are a lot more in the remake. The only major difference between both these movies is the fact that unlike in the Tamil version where the swindling and conning happens for a greater good (Mandatory Shankar and Murugadoss nods) instead of the Hindi version’s simplistic reasoning — he wants to. This brings us back to the topic of fear.

Why are Tamil film stars and directors afraid of letting go of the moral high ground?

They seem to have no such qualms when the hero plays a rowdy/gangster who goes on a killing spree to avenge his friend/mentor/family’s death. Suriya himself has acted in at least half a dozen films where he kills for no politically correct reason. When such digressions are not even remotely questioned, what stopped the makers of TSK from sticking to the original plot line. This could have done away with the illogical and more importantly nonsensical climax of the remake.

Even the other Pongal release, Vikram’s Sketch, shows no remorse in portraying gratuitous violence but slides in a message towards the end about how violence is bad. It was as effective as the no smoking disclaimers that pop up frequently. Basically, why can’t Tamil cinema’s superstars play a character with grey shades with purely negative intent? Is it to crack the famed MGR formula which every Tamil actor tries to emulate in order to stoke their chances of entering politics one fine day?

It’s not that Tamil cinema hasn’t successfully tried its hand at movies with remorseless leads who don’t harp on morality and righteousness. The most shining example is that of the 2011 Ajith-starrer Mankatha that stuck to a story of a bad person doing bad things without any sob story to justify the means to this end.

The 2014 sleeper hit, Sadhuranga Vettai and the 2015 film Rajathandhiram, were successful despite their protagonists stealing money for their own needs that didn’t involve any greater good. However, it is imperative to note that except Mankatha, other such movies were helmed by first-time directors and the star cast was led by relatively non-established stars.

In the neighbouring state of Kerala, the 2017 critically acclaimed Malayalam film, Thondimuthalum Drikshakshikalum — a feel-good movie about a doe-eyed thief and his loot — was a commercial success. But then, there is that constant reference to the size of the audience and how Tamil cinema caters to a larger market than Malayalam cinema and why such experimentation with the roles isn’t advised. But Hindi Cinema, which caters to a much wider market and audience, constantly does such movies.

The entire Dhoom series except the highly farcical and pretentious Dhoom 3, dealt with robbery and thieves stealing for the need for money and not to open a hospital for the needy. Hollywood regularly churns out enjoyable heist movies and has seen its biggest stars play negative characters without much consideration to their ‘image’. Whereas Tamil cinema’s major stars, who avoid playing characters that don’t adhere to the so-called social construct, don’t once flinch before making movies that continue to accommodate their machismo, comedy and love tracks?

Even the idea of accepting a bad guy’s role in a movie seems to be blasphemous to the actors who think they carry the humongous weight of shaping the future of the nation’s youth. The recent toast of Tamil cinema, Sivakarthikeyan, when asked in an interview if he’d do movies where he’d play a character with grey shades or a negative role, categorically refused it citing his ever-growing children audience. Despite being perched on that imaginary branch of the moral high ground, many of these stars have no problem in acting movies filled with bloodshed and violence. They find no excuses to not do roles that clearly handles the issue of stalking as an “art imitates life” scenario. These morally rich stars also feature in movies where humour in the name of body shaming or racism or ageism or even rape easily pass under the radar. This ambiguity is puzzling and more importantly, troubling.

Now let’s get back to the ‘morally upright’ heist movie, TSK. This is a movie that borrows the plot from Special 26 and appropriates the sensibilities of movies like Gentleman and Ramana. In Gentleman, the conman has a solid backstory to his nefarious ways but bears the brunt of his decisions by going to jail for his crimes. In Ramana, the teacher/executioner has a solid backstory to his society-cleansing ways but bears the brunt of his decisions by accepting the death penalty enforced by the judiciary of our country.

In TSK, if they actually wanted to propagate the right ideas and not wrongly influence the youth of our country, the conman should have accepted the legal justice he richly deserved. Since that doesn’t happen, we need to keep our peace with the fact that the only karmic payback for the conman is that he will have to spend his life with the character played by Keerthy Suresh.

Padmaavat box office collection: Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s magnum opus nears Rs 200 cr mark

Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s magnum opus Padmaavat is perhaps his most controversial and also his most successful film ever. At least the box-office figures suggest so; the film is all set to steer through the Rs 200 crore benchmark at the box office after nine days of its theatrical release.

Shahid Kapoor, Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh in Padmaavat. Images via YouTube screengrabs

According to film trade analyst Taran Adarsh, the film may cross the mark after today’s collections come into picture. He took to Twitter and posted:

He also suggests that the period drama  marks Ranveer Singh and Shahid Kapoor’s biggest box-office coup till date. While Deepika Padukone’s Chennai Express remains her highest grossing film ever, the way Padmaavat‘s collections are surging it may shatter those records soon.

Padmaavat, based on the epic ballad Padmavat written by the 16th century Sufi poet Malik Muhammad Jayasi chronicles the life and times of the 13th century Rajput queen Padmavati (played by Padukone) of Chittorgarh who chose self-immolation over falling prey to the hands of invader and ruler of Delhi Sultanate Alauddin Khilji (played by Singh) after her husband Maharawal Ratan Singh (played by Kapoor) is killed in the battle.

Padmaavat released on 25 January after being at the epicentre of nation-wide protests, violence and agitation captained by the fringe group Shri Rajput Karni Sena who claims that the film shows the Rajput queen and the Rajput traditions in a bad light.