Mulk: Anubhav Sinha is among the growing breed of filmmakers who do not want to whitewash reality

In the first twenty minutes of Mulk, director Anubhav Sinha takes a dig at the Swachh Bharat campaign and the government’s demonetisation move. Blink for even a second and chances are, you might just miss the director’s disenchantment with the Centre’s policies and schemes. He goes a step further and attacks the issue of islamophobia. Mulk also ventures into a territory which many filmmakers shudder to think about – the perils of neo-nationalism. In other words, the film does not hesitate to call a spade a spade and shreds to pieces the government’s many theories. It’s a film that breaks stereotypes and conventions which hitherto had not been seen in Bollywood. Judging by the past record of such films, it is astonishing to see that it did not have to face the ire of the censor board. Mulk is a fine example of a growing breed of filmmakers who are determined not to whitewash reality.

Taapsee Pannu in a still from Mulk. Screenshot from YouTube.

Fanney Khan, another recent release, has a song very much in tune with the current government’s slogan for the 2014 Lok Sabha election campaign. Again, despite the hue and cry, the song ‘Mere Achhe Din Kab Aayenge’ featured in the final cut of the film. Netflix’s Sacred Games, helmed by Vikramaditya Motwane and Anurag Kashyap created ripples amongst the cadres of a certain political party when it mentioned Bofors. Congress took objection to the Netflix series for allegedly showing former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in poor light but Congress chief himself put a lid on the entire controversy when he came up with his own statement. Kashyap himself lauded Rahul Gandhi’s act and hailed his views. Despite the brouhaha, the objectionable scenes and the dialogue can still be seen on the streaming platform. The fact that here is a director who mentioned things about the Bofors scam and did not shy away from stating facts reflects subversive courage, one that is rare in the times of playing it safe territory.

Not so long ago, the superhit Tamil film Mersal criticised the government by raising questions on implementation of the GST. The government countered by declaring that the film portrayed ‘untruths’ about the central taxation scheme. Despite being cleared by the censor board, though the two and half minute sequence was later trimmed from the film, but not before it made everyone aware of the government’s attempt to thwart freedom of expression.

This change needs to be lauded and filmmakers should be given due credit for not kowtowing to the establishment. The change today is a far cry from the days when policies and the government itself were considered to be sacrosanct and their reflection on the screen required them to be in sync with the stated policies. If at all someone dared to swim against the tide, they were forcibly calmed down by just muttering the dreaded ‘censor’ word. One reason why filmmakers are embracing muted reality from the past and the current could be attributed to the influx of global content that an average viewer has now access to.

Showtime in the US can air an animated series called Our Cartoon President and The Looming Tower on Amazon can denounce the administrative decisions that led to the 9/11 attacks. No one blinks an eye and no furore is created. In other words, the mature level of content that the world is being exposed to is now seeping into India’s viewing appetites. The need to make Mulk arose from the fact that Anubhav was sick and tired hearing different interpretations of nationalism. “The definition of nationalism has become jingoistic, if you can shout louder then you are a nation lover. I wanted to change this notion.”

Last year, it was Madhur Bhandarkar’s Indu Sarkar that dug out an old chapter from Indian history – The Emergency, and did not hesitate in putting forth facts which were either omitted or conveniently altered to suit the vested interests of a certain group of people. Rajinikanth’s Kaala too touched upon a sensitive subject when it talked about caste politics. Udta Punjab had an ugly brush with the censor board but the fact that the film eventually saw the light of day in theatres despite revolving around the drug menace in Punjab – the very theme government and censor board objected to — can only be termed as a short-lived struggle by the makers who were associated with the film. Newton too took a dig at the way elections are conducted in remote areas. None of these films were stopped from getting screened in theatres.

Things which till now were swept under the carpet are now coming out in the open. The change is slow but it’s happening nonetheless. Apart from giving voice to filmmakers, social media too has made the world a smaller place. The very concept of living in isolation now exists no more. Filmmakers have now comprehended that stating facts is the way ahead and any attempt to dilute the truth will lead to the fear of getting exposed. A change is here and it should be commended and kudos to the authorities that have allowed this change to take place.

Ayushmann Khurrana’s wife Tahira Kashyap to debut as director with slice-of-life drama

Ayushmann Khurrana’s wife Tahira Kashyap will soon debut as a director with a slice-of-life drama set in Mumbai. Kashyap has previously helmed a short film Toffee, produced by Khurrana and casting director Mukesh Chhabra, according to Hindustan Times.

Ayushmann Khurrana with Tahira Kashyap. Twitter @Ayushmann_Team

The yet-to-be-titled film will be produced by T Series’ Bhushan Kumar and Ellipsis Entertainment’s Tanuj Garg and Atul Kasbekar. This project will mark the third collaboration between the production houses, after Suresh Triveni’s debut with Tumhari Sulu starring Vidya Balan and more recently, Soumik Sen’s second feature Cheat India with Emraan Hashmi in the lead.

A statement from the producers read: “Tahira has worn several hats…. from being the programming head of a radio station in the North to a theatre writer-director, author, teacher of mass communication and journalism, and short film-maker. Her incredible stories are rooted in realism and heart. We are delighted to back her debut journey and look forward to making many more movies with her.”

The casting for the upcoming film is ongoing and will be announced soon. The makers expect it to go into production in early 2019.

Meanwhile, Khurrana will be seen next as a visually impaired pianist in Sriram Raghavan’s (of Badlapur fame) neo-noir thriller Andhadhun. The film also stars Radhika Apte and Tabu in pivotal roles.

From Maachis to Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster 3, charting Jimmy Sheirgill’s eventful cinematic journey

After watching Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster 3, a friend remarked that she thought Jimmy Sheirgill, who plays the sahib Raja Aditya Pratap Singh, seemed to be “reverse ageing”. Costumed in sculpted bandhagalas and jodhpurs, glowering behind a handlebar mustache, the 47-year-old actor indeed made for a striking royal. It’s interesting that an actor who started of as a “chocolate boy hero” now makes an indelible impact whether as a Rajasthani royal or as a jilted lover in a pathani suit.

Often playing the jilted lover (he lost Preity Zinta to Arjun Rampal in Dil Hai Tumhara, Kangana Ranaut to Madhavan in Tanu Weds Manu and Happy ran away from Bagga in Haapy Bhag Jayegi), or the patriarchal, chauvinistic relative who stands in the way of love, or the role of the rough-and-tough goon of small-town India — characters that merit their own spin-off feature — Sheirgill has come a long way from the shiny, urban romantic hero image of his early films.

“I have been taking risks from very early in my career. I did a lot of romantic films, like Mohabbatein and Dil Vil Pyar Vyar, early on, but I wanted to go beyond the chocolate hero/lover boy image,” says Sheirgill. “I realized that if I stuck to that slot then my story would not go beyond four years. I had to pick up interesting films like Haasil and Munnnabhai. Although I was a little insecure to begin with, I am so glad I experimented,” says the actor.

Jimmy Sheirgill/Image from Twitter.

A growth study of his career would begin with his debut film Maachis (1996) followed by Mohabbatein, Mere Yaar Ki Shaadi Hai, Haasil, Munnabhai MBBS, Yahaan, A Wednesday, both parts of Tanu Weds Manu, Special 26, the Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster trilogy and Mukkabaaz. Add a couple of Punjabi language films into the mix, such as Dharti and Daana Paani and you will agree that it’s not easy to place Sheirgill, who was born Jasjit Singh Gill, into a single box.

Equally, though, there are films that are almost forgotten — Kehta Hai Dil Baar Baar, Silsilay, Victoria No. 203, Fugly and Shorgul among others. The 47-year-old actor has consciously kept things varied to keep alive his own interest and ensure longevity. Twenty-two years later, in 2018 alone, he has a list of releases that traverse various genres.

This experimentation and hunger for challenging roles landed him a part in Anurag Kashyap’s Mukkabaaz in which he played the unscrupulous head of the state boxing federation. Sheirgill endured what Kashyap has described as “inconveniences” like piling on the kilos, ageing up, staying awake all night before the shoot to ensure he had bloodshot eyes, etc. to portray the menacing Bhagwandas Mishra effectively.

Bharat: Katrina Kaif replaces Priyanka Chopra; Jackie Shroff to play Salman Khan’s father

After Priyanka Chopra walked out of Salman Khan’s Bharat owing to personal reasons, DNA has reported that Katrina Kaif, who was the makers’ original choice, has joined the cast. A source told the publication that producers Atul and Alvira Agnihotri share a warm relationship with Kaif and when Chopra’s departure from the film was announced, they called Kaif and sorted out her dates. Kaif, who will play the female lead opposite Khan, is expected to join the team in September.

Salman Khan and Katrina Kaif on Bigg Boss 11's Weekend Ka Vaar

DNA also found that Jackie Shroff, who has previously played on-screen dad to Akshay Kumar and Sidharth Malhotra in Brothers, will star as Khan’s father. “It’s essentially a beautiful story of a father and son, so when Jackie was offered the film, he liked the script and gave his nod.” The team is reportedly currently shooting in Mumbai and Shroff will join the crew around the end of September.

However, there has not been an official announcement regarding this development. While Priyanka has opted out of the Salman Khan starrer, she is also shooting for Shonali Bose’s The Sky is Pink alongside Farhan Akhtar and Zaira Wasim.

Bharat also has Tabu, Disha Patani, Sunil Grover in pivotal roles. It is a remake of the 2014 Korean film, Ode to My Father and will release in cinemas on Eid 2019.

Priyanka Chopra, Farhan Akhtar to reportedly begin shoot for Shonali Bose’s The Sky Is Pink in August

After opting out of Salman Khan’s Bharat, Priyanka Chopra is reportedly set to begin shoot for Margarita With A Straw director Shonali Bose’s The Sky Is Pink. While her impending wedding to Nick Jonas seems like the reason for her exit from the Ali Abbas Zafar-directed film, she has not opted out of other commitments.

Priyanka Chopra at the OScars 2016. Image from Facebook/Fashion Designing India

A source close to the team of The Sky Is Pink told Deccan Chronicle, “Priyanka Chopra starts shooting for our film from August 8 onwards, in Mumbai. If she were planning to get married soon, she would have informed us by now. She was supposed to join Salman Khan’s Bharat shoot in the second week of August. The plan was to shoot for both films simultaneously.” Another source revealed that her reported wedding to Jonas is not the reason for quitting Bharat, the shoot for which is already underway.

The Sky Is Pink stars Farhan Akhtar and Dangal actress Zaira Wasim in leading roles. Although there is no official word of confirmation, reports in the media suggest that Chopra and Akhtar will play parents to Wasim, who will essay the role of Aisha Chaudhary, a motivational speaker born with immune deficiency disorder.

Veere Di Wedding, Lust Stories puts women’s desires first, but female sexuality in Hindi cinema has been a slow, long journey

The year 2018 has brought in a definite change in Hindi cinema and its portrayal of a woman’s sexuality. It’s now parked firmly in the mainstream, the choice of a woman to pleasure herself. Karan Johar’s story in the anthology Lust Stories, Anurag Kashyap’s confused married woman in the same film, do not have morality driving them in essence. As remarks and counter remarks around Veere Di Wedding continue to stoke discussions online, it’s worth remembering that a woman’s sexuality has not always been a repressed matter in mainstream Hindi or Indian cinema. Films have explored this aspect in the past, and it has been a slow process of evolution that has equipped filmmakers today to show masturbation without compromise. Each time, such films have sparked conversations.

Posters of Veere Di Wedding, Lust Stories (Facebook)

Utsav, by Girish Karnad, might have sunk Shashi Kapoor financially as a producer, but the film stands apart for its aesthetic and forward-thinking depiction of a courtesan’s beauty and sexuality. True to form to an ancient Indian text, Utsav doesn’t paint the central character of Vasant Sena, played by Rekha, as an evil temptress. Made in 1984, Utsav is a breakthrough film.

As Veere Di Wedding and Lust Stories set a benchmark of sorts in putting women’s desires first, the journey of female sexuality has been gradual. It has also been slow to catch up, not in sync with India’s growing liberal, independent women. It’s easy to miss those films that sought to address female desire in the general categorization of mainstream Hindi cinema, which is reductionist. But the change has always been happening.

On the fringes of mainstream cinema, a few more have explored facets of female sexuality. Pink argued for a woman’s right to say no to sexual advances. Deepa Mehta’s Fire and Water directly addressed the conflict of social mores, family limitations against a woman’s physical desire. Fire took up lesbian love and Water touched upon love and desire that young widows, sequestered from society, experience. Both films were considered controversial, whereas they just addressed realities that prevail. Anarkali of Aarah and Parched deal with sexual desire and its role in shaping women’s lives in small towns and villages. In the former, a showgirl refuses sexual advances of a powerful local politician and has to face consequences; in the latter, four women in a rural setting have to travel different paths of sexual experience to solve their problems.

Since the onset of the new millennium, a woman’s sexual voice has begun to find expression subtly and slowly. Films that have put the woman’s sexuality out there and made it central to a story have made an impact in the past too. In these films, women were not suffering courtesans or nautch girls; they aren’t victims, seeking to be validated as good women by society, making them stand out.

Poster of Pink (left); still from Margarita With A Straw (centre); still from Astitva. Facebook

Utsav, by Girish Karnad, might have sunk Shashi Kapoor financially as a producer, but the film stands apart for its aesthetic and forward-thinking depiction of a courtesan’s beauty and sexuality. True to form to an ancient Indian text, Utsav doesn’t paint the central character of Vasant Sena, played by Rekha, as an evil temptress. Made in 1984, Utsav is a breakthrough film.

As Veere Di Wedding and Lust Stories set a benchmark of sorts in putting women’s desires first, the journey of female sexuality has been gradual. It has also been slow to catch up, not in sync with India’s growing liberal, independent women. It’s easy to miss those films that sought to address female desire in the general categorization of mainstream Hindi cinema, which is reductionist. But the change has always been happening.