Monthly Archives: September 2018

Kalpana Lajmi’s films highlighted varied aspects of womanhood — from Rudaali to Daman

Renowned filmmaker Kalpana Lajmi breathed her last at Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital in Mumbai early morning on 23 September. The writer-producer had been diagnosed with kidney cancer last year. Actors close to her tweeted their condolences, remembering her polemic against exploitation of women, which often formed the crux of her films.

After making her debut as an assistant director on one of Shyam Benegal’s films, she went on to make movies which had women and themes of womanhood at their very core. From starting a conversation about marital rape and the struggles of the LGBTQIA community, to exploring India’s urban landscape, here’s a look at some of her most noteworthy outings.

Rudaali

Probably the most acclaimed Kalpana Lajmi directorial, Rudaali was India’s pick for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 66th Academy Awards. However for some reason, the film was not accepted as a nominee. Starring Dimple Kapadia, Raakhee and Raj Babbar in lead roles, Rudaali borrowed its plot from Mahasweta Devi’s short story about Shanichari, a woman in a caste-conscious village in Rajasthan. Tears evade Shanichari even as the biggest tragedies strike her repeatedly.

Poster for Kalpana Lajmi's Rudaali; Raveena Tandon in Daman

Darmiyaan: In Between

Set in Bollywood in the 1940s, Darmiyaan: In Between tells the story of a famous actress who finds out her son is intersex. She refuses to accept the child as her own and addresses him as her younger brother till destiny reverses the roles. A poignant tale of love, loss, and acceptance, the film is considered way ahead of its time, by giving the LGBTQIA community a voice.

Daman: A Victim of Marital Violence

A chilling narrative capturing the horror of marital rape an violence, Daman got its leading lady, Raveena Tandon, the distinguished National Award. The story follows the life of Durga (Tandon), a young woman born into a poor family, who is married off to a man with a raging temper. Her life is turned upside down as her drunken husband beats her up and forces himself on her, forcing her to live a life of anonymity, only to be tracked down again.

Chingaari

Starring Sushmita Sen, Chingaari is an impassioned attack on using religion as a tool to subjugate women, especially those on the lowest rung of the socio-economic ladder. Chingaari exposed Indian society’s double standards which allow men to exploit women to fulfill their desires, but keep women from claiming agency. The film ends with Sen, who plays a prostitute, avenging the death of her lover by killing the main priest of her village.

Kyon?

Although different from the films in her repertoire, Kyon? made for an edge-of-the-seat thriller, directed by Lajmi. Set in urban India, the film aimed to shine a light on the problems faced by the privileged teenagers in the country. Sex, alcohol and drugs remained Lajmi’s focal points in Kyon? to show corrupt morals and lack of remorse in the younger generation.

Other lesser-known films in which Lajmi showed her directorial prowess include A Work Study in Tea Plucking, D.G. Movie Pioneer, Along the Brahmaputra, Lohit Kinare and Ek Pal.

Batti Gul Meter Chalu box office collection Day 1: Shahid Kapoor, Shraddha’s film opens with Rs 6.76 cr

Batti Gul Meter Chalu, despite featuring a prominent cast comprising Shahid Kapoor, Shraddha Kapoor and Yami Gautam, had a slow start at the box office, earning Rs 6.76 crores on its opening day.

Shraddha Kapoor and Shahid Kapoor in a still from Batti Gul Meter Chalu

The film released alongside Manto, Saamy Square and The Equalizer 2. Trade analyst Girish Johar had predicted that the film would be able to amass Rs 5.5 crores on its first day. “Desi stories always connect well with people. Also, a social issue relating to a common man’s fight against power distribution companies will pull audiences to cinema halls,” Johar had told The Indian Express in a statement, adding that a combination of good cast and director increases the possibility of a positive box office outcome. Meanwhile, Shraddha’s other release, Amar Kaushik’s Stree where the actress features alongside Rajkummar Rao, has been steady at the box office, even after three weeks of its release.

Alia Bhatt on being directed by father Mahesh in Sadak 2: ‘I think I may just end up being born again

Mahesh Bhatt will be once again donning the director’s cap for Sadak 2, the follow-up to his 1991 film Sadak, starring Sanjay Dutt and daughter Pooja. Alia Bhatt and Aditya Roy Kapur are also part of the sequel slated to release on 25 March, 2020. In an interaction with DNA, both sisters expressed their admiration for him

Pooja Bhatt, Aditya Roy Kapur, Alia Bhatt, Sanjay Dutt and Mahesh Bhatt. Image via Twitter/@TaranAdarsh

Alia told DNA that she had never thought that her father would step out of his retirement and work with her on a film. Pooja talked about Mahesh’s acumen as a director that very few possess. Alia also spoke about being narrated the film’s story which made her realise that no other filmmaker could direct Sadak 2 other than Mahesh.

“When I heard the story, I told him what Sanju had already said, that I cannot do this film if you are not directing it. I was not just in tears, but I was sobbing and shaking at the end of it. He put up the most creative narration that I have heard in my life with the music and the beats. It was so earnest that it broke my heart. Sanju recently told me, ‘Alia you don’t know what you are getting into. You have no idea what it is to be directed by your father’. At the shoot of the picture with the cast, I got a glimpse of it. And to tell you the truth, I am scared for my life because if that’s the kind of emotional journey that we are going to go on for I don’t know how many odd days, I think I may just end up being born again.

Anurag Kashyap’s Manmarziyan isn’t merely a ‘comeback’ for Abhishek Bachchan; it’s a reminder of his potential

The one thing that Abhishek Bachchan almost always brings to every role he plays, is a hint of gravitas – and this is irrespective of the commercial fate of his films.

Revisit some of his now-forgotten lead roles over the last decade and a half – Naach (2004),  Bluffmaster (2005), Delhi-6 (2009), Dum Maaro Dum (2011) – and you’ll see why brand Abhishek Bachchan continues to find takers among film creators and film consumers alike, despite the fact that he mostly relies on his own real life personality and charm to coast through performances.

Abhishek Bachchan. Image via Twitter/ @ErosNow

Heist leader Charlie in the disastrous Abbas-Mastan non-thriller Players (2012); suave NRI Rishi in Karan Johar’s Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (2006); or even the London-returned Robbie who’s sewn from husband material in his latest film, Anurag Kashyap’s Manmarziyan; Abhishek Bachchan has often done a fair job of playing himself on screen.

That, though, is the real tragedy of Junior Bachchan’s career – because his best, most impactful performances have been those where he actually manages to escape his own persona and dive deep into characters.

It’s when he’s stripped of his slick, urban skin – like Mani Ratnam did with him in Yuva (2004) and Guru (2006), or shorn off the stature and privilege associated with him (Happy New Year’s Nandu Bhide comes to mind) that Abhishek Bachchan the actor comes to the fore. (This might be an unpopular opinion, but irrespective of how Happy New Year was as a film, Abhishek’s Nandu Bhide was easily one of his best characters to date, one that was made impressive by how much of his inhibitions the actor was able to shed to play the part.)

In Manmarziyan, Abhishek seems to be reprising his role as the bland arranged marriage proposal for the feisty heroine in Sooraj Barjatya’s melodrama-on-crack, Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon (2003). Like his Prem Kumar (*not* Prem Kishen) in MPKDH, Manmarziyaan’s Robbie is stoic and polite, speaks softly, likes drifting off into long silences, and is generally the guy who the girl’s family backs in the love triangle.

Yet, his latest performance shows you how much Abhishek has grown as a screen performer, while also reminding you of how much more untapped potential he still has.

Abhishek Bachchan may have been the first in Bollywood to brood with his beard, but his Robbie is a little more nuanced than just that. It helps that there’s an attempt to set the character apart in the way it has been designed. Writer Kanika Dhillon makes Robbie a millennial upgrade to Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam’s selfless, benevolent husband Vanraj – a man who’s secure about his own masculinity as well as his wife’s right to make her own choice. He’s instantly smitten by the spunky woman of the story, but doesn’t try to force-fit his own beliefs and values upon her.

Abhishek on his part makes Robbie instantly likeable and trustworthy, but the character doesn’t really push him to dig deep and make him seem less like a Bachchan and more like a whole other person. Abhishek may have made his entry into Bollywood’s Aram Nagar club, but the film never seems to challenge him in the way some other films may have done in the past.

In Yuva, which is still arguably Abhishek’s best performance to date, you see an angst, a pain, a drive in his eyes that you’ve only ever seen sporadically in other films. He was fierce, battle-worn, street-smart and so real. Yet, even realism can be a hit-and-miss with Abhishek Bachchan. He tried a character in a similar zone in 2010’s Raavan, but that was a complex part that even Mani Ratnam didn’t seem to have a firm hold on. The result was a mangled mess of a man who never connected with the viewer.

Abhishek Bachchan also managed to flesh out an intriguing character in Rohan Sippy’s Bluffmaster – that thoroughly underrated ‘adaptation’ of John C. Reilly-starrer Criminal, which shows that it isn’t so much about which world his character is set in, as opposed to how much effort is made in pushing the actor towards completely unshackling himself from the tics and traits that come so naturally to him.

Abhishek Bachchan and Priyanka Chopra in a still from Dostana. YouTube

Abhishek Bachchan may have managed to remain relevant and keep his career on the rails with his portrayal of ACP Jai Dixit in the three Dhoom films over his career, but it’s his little obscure parts that reveal what’s otherwise hidden – talent that needs to be mined and honed. You can see glimpses of this in Robbie – when his eyes gently widen at the sight of his newly-wed wife guzzling neat whiskey without a flicker of discomfort, or when he merely stands next to his wife’s lover, calm and composed, as far away from insecurity as one could be.

Manmarziyan, thus, isn’t so much a return from a hiatus from Abhishek Bachchan, as it is a gentle reminder that the man is capable of so much more than what we’ve already seen. It’s him testing waters outside his comfort zone, which is the first step. Who knows – perhaps a truly great Abhishek Bachchan performance isn’t too far away.

Radhika Apte says artistes need good support system for MeToo movement to work in Bollywood

Actor Radhika Apte says to bring #MeToo movement to Indian entertainment industry the artistes need to have a good support system.

The 33-year-old actor said not only women but men also need to “come out of their fears” and share their stories of harassment and sexual abuse. “The main cause is power game. Be it religious, sexual or economical- it happens everywhere. Nobody wants to lose their power…

Radhika Apte. Image from Facebook

This is a grey area. We need to have a good support system and come out of our fears. Well, not just women but men too are harassed in our industry,” Apte said during a session at the India Today Mind Rocks 2018.

The Ghoul actor also shared her #MeToo moment at the event.

“I can share one incident that happened recently, I had actually hurt my back. We did the shoot and I was heading back to my room with another guy who was in the same lift. He was part of the film but we had not spoken much. He said that, ‘Let me know if you need me in the middle of the night for help, I can come and give your back a rub.’

“But the good part was that the atmosphere on the sets was so easy and comfortable, I told the filmmakers and they had a meeting with him in person.

Then I came to know that the culture that he comes from is such that he didn’t realise that he made me uncomfortable with that statement. However, later he never made me feel uncomfortable and apologised,” she revealed.

The #MeToo movement began with allegations of sexual harassment and rape against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein and triggered a global movement. It eventually led to structural changes in Hollywood and the launch of the Time’s Up campaign.

Aamir Khan reveals he will never become a politician: I am scared of politics, want to entertain people

He maybe vocal about social issues like water conservation, but Aamir Khan said on 16 September that he has no plans to join politics. The 53-year-old Bollywood actor said he is “scared” of the idea and believes he can be a better influence through his films.

“I don’t want to be a politician. I am not meant for that. I am a communicator. I am not interested in politics… I am also scared of politics. Who isn’t? So, I stay away. I am a creative person. Politics is not my thing. I want to entertain people. I feel I will be able to do more as a creative person than as a politician,” Aamir said during a session at NDTV’s special youth conclave ‘YUVA’.

aamir

The actor has been extensively working towards water crisis for the past three years in Maharashtra through his Paani Foundation, which aims at imparting knowledge at the grassroots level in the state about water conservation and watershed management. Aamir said the issue of water scarcity can be countered only when the “people own the problem”.

“They have to be the solution. It has to be a people’s movement… Our approach has always been very inclusive. We want more and more people to join the cause,” he added. The actor believes it is the lifestyle of the people which is responsible for the degradation of the environment.

“We need to give up cellphones, TV sets, give up watching movies, computers etc… the lifestyle is such that we are using so many resources. To survive we need to re-devise our lifestyle.” Aamir said it is easy for the public to blame the government for its woes, but things cannot get better without the participation of the citizens.

“It’s easy for us to blame the government. Maharashtra government has made a lot of efforts to hit back the problem… As citizens, we should question our government. They are answerable to us. But change only happens when we become part of the solution,” he added. Aamir will next be seen in Thugs of Hindostan, which also features Amitabh Bachchan, Katrina Kaif and Fatima Sana Shaikh.

Jalebi trailer hints at the heart-wrenching love story of Rhea Chakraborty, Varun Sobti

The official trailer of Mahesh and Mukesh Bhatt’s Vishesh Films venture Jalebi was released on 9 September. Rhea Chakraborty plays a career-oriented woman who falls in love with a Delhi tour guide played by debutant Varun Sobti.

Varun Sobti and Rhea Chakraborty in a still from Jalebi. YouTube

Pushpdeep Bhardwaj has directed the upcoming romantic drama and co-written it with Kausar Munir. Jalebi will release in cinemas on 12 October.

They eventually marry but have a falling out due to a conflict in priorities. While Sobti’s character wants to live with his family and the ancestral house, she wants to move out and pursue her career goals. She meets him years later, on a train, only to find that he has another wife, played by Digangana Suryavanshi who has starred in TV shows like Qubool Hai, Veera and reality show Bigg Boss.

The trailer progresses to a mellow romantic track. It was previously reported that Jalebi will feature prominent musicians like Jeet Ganguly, Tanishk Bagchi, KK, Arijit Singh, Shreya Ghoshal, and Shilpa Rao. Vishesh Films has been known for creating movies with successful soundtracks like Aashiqui 2, Raaz, Murder, and Jannat. Lyrics of the songs have been penned by Rashmi Virag, Prashant Ingole, Manoj Kumarnath, Arafat Mehmood and  Kunal Verma.

Pushpdeep Bhardwaj has directed the upcoming romantic drama and co-written it with Kausar Munir. Jalebi will release in cinemas on 12 October.

Abhishek Bachchan on Manmarziyaan: Done being comfortable, want to do films that scare me

Abhishek Bachchan has a spring in his step. He can’t stop talking about his upcoming release, Anurag Kashyap-directed Manmarziyaan alongside Taapsee Pannu and Vicky KaushalReleasing 14 September, it marks Bachchan’s return after a two-year hiatus. Housefull 3 was Abhishek’s last outing in 2016. Armed with his wit, panache and an awareness, he seems to have stepped out of his comfort zone and wants to be with the times when it comes to content. “Why justify my love for Taapsee’s character in the film? He just loves her. I may have been part of some good films in the past but this is a very exciting time for the industry,” he says. Dressed in a T-shirt, blue jeans and blue jacket, he’s raring to go with about five films in his kitty, one of which he plans to start sometime end of this month.

Abhishek Bachchan. Image via Twitter/ @ErosNow

“What attracted me to Manmarziyaan was that it’s Anurag’s first love story. I was very keen to know what this guy would do with it. A lot of people might think that it’s a deterrent but that is what attracted me to it,” says Abhishek in an exclusive chat with Firstpost. And as his voice drowns in the din of loud music, he doesn’t care, he continues, “That dark, gritty tone that we usually see in Anurag’s films is missing in Manmarziyaan. Isn’t that fun? Anurag and love story are not the two things we see together very often. It’s interesting to see how he has interpreted the story.”

Karan (Johar) was very excited for me when I told him I was doing this film. He told me that Anurag gives the best notes in between takes and the way he briefs. I asked Karan that how did he know, and he said because he has acted for him (laughs out loud). After the first day of the shoot I called Karan and told him that he was absolutely right. Because Anurag is also an actor himself, because he is such a good writer and director he understands an actor’s approach, so the kind of pointers he gives you are just fantastic. I was so pleasantly surprised working with him,” says Abhishek.

For Abhishek, calling Manmarziyaan his comeback film is a trivial matter. “I have been around for too long to think about it. I took that decision of going on a sabbatical because I wanted to change things. I felt I was becoming very complacent towards my approach towards work. And now I am back to work. Now whether you want to call it as a comeback or not is your choice. I am just happy to be making movies again. More than refreshed, I feel re-focussed. I was becoming very complacent. It wasn’t the kind of work that I was doing, it was the way I was doing it. Today, if I feel comfortable in any particular film or genre, I will never do it. I am done being comfortable. That was one of the main problems I was having. When you are too comfortable then you start switching off. It doesn’t matter to you anymore. I don’t want to do something I can do with my eyes closed. I want to do films that really scare me, I want to do work that challenges me and makes me uncomfortable,” he says.

“The prep and preamble to getting back on the set was terrifying. But once I was on set it was back to business. That something fortunately didn’t throw me off. And the credit for that goes to Anurag. He made me just so comfortable. Somewhere he also understood what I was going through and the expectations I had of myself,” he adds.

Abhishek plays Robbie, an investment banker from London, who comes to Amritsar to get married. He falls in love with Taapsee’s character, Rumy, to discover that she is in love with somebody else. “I play a very quiet, introverted, strong character and that is what I like. He doesn’t have the usual tropes of what you would probably expect in a love triangle. There is subtlety to him, there is dignity to him,” says the actor, further adding, “I have worked very deeply with Anurag in Yuva. And when he told me my character arc in the film, I have never felt so excited. It’s a very unique love story and it isn’t easy to classify it. It is just beautiful to work with Anurag. He is so wonderful, such a generous and loving director that will come through when you see the film. You will feel that he just loves his actors. Both, Vicky and Taapsee are great actors. This film is written for these two to be cast.”

Abhishek says that his dad, Amitabh Bachchan was his biggest critic and further reveals that it was his dad and Kashyap, who had not liked his performance in Mani Ratnam’s Yuva (2004). “With my dad you get pure honesty. If you do good work he will tell you that. If you haven’t done good work he will tell you what you have done wrong. My dad felt my performance in Yuva was very efforted. That time I didn’t understand but today when I see the film I agree with him. But he liked my performance in Guru,” says Abhishek, who never seemed to mind being compared to his dad. “Even if they are comparing, they are doing it with the greatest. So it is fine. I accepted that long back,” says the actor, who now seems to be more prepared for the industry’s ruthless behaviour. “People’s reactions change. Tomorrow if 10 films of mine are hit, then they are all over you, wanting to sign you. But if three films flop then they won’t even take your calls anymore. I have seen it happen to the biggest of the stars. But you can’t take that personally. It is business,” he says.

J P Dutta’s Paltan that released last week was supposed to be a comeback for Abhishek but the actor pulled out of the film two days before the shooting commenced. It was with Dutta that Abhishek made his debut opposite Kareena Kapoor in the veteran director’s Refugee back in 2000. He later collaborated with the director again on the films LOC Kargil and Umrao Jaan.Without delving into the matter much, the actor merely said, “I was doing Paltan but there were certain situations and personal reasons that I couldn’t end up doing the film. But it was heartbreaking for me because he launched me, he is family for me and it was very difficult for me to not be on this journey with him. But certain relations go beyond work.”

Last seen together in Mani Ratnam’s Raavan (2010), Abhishek and Aishwarya Rai will soon be seen sharing screen space, after eight long years in Sarvesh Mewara’s Gulab Jamun (produced by Anurag Kashyap). “I love working with Aishwarya. She is an unbelievable professional and a wonderful actor. I have enjoyed every film done with her. I also want our home production to start making films again. But I will take about a year-and-a-half to do that,” said Abhishek.

Lastly, we move on to the topic of nepotism, the debate that doesn’t seem to die down and Abhishek says, “Let’s call a spade a spade, let’s be honest. Is it an advantage? Yes. Is that something I am aware of, Yes. Is that something that I have respect for, absolutely, and I don’t undervalue it ever.” “But”, he continues, “I will never forget something that Yash (Chopra) uncle told me at the premiere of Refugee. He said, ‘Child, your father has brought you till the premiere. Tomorrow is your first show but after that it is going to be you because after that if they don’t like your work they will not go to the second show.’ In fact, this industry has far many more examples of industry kids who have not made it than outsiders who have.”

However, Abhishek also points out that how the media was also responsible for “making it exciting for people to go to see somebody’s child”. “For example, the talking point when I was being launched, it was Mr and Mrs Amitabh Bachchan’s son who is coming. You all end up taking pictures of actors’ children. I wish that wouldn’t happen but that is the way it is. But again, that interest in movie star kids is going to last till the first show,” signs off Abhishek.