Watch: Sanjay Dutt reveals why he choose Omung Kumar’s Bhoomi as his comeback film

Ahead of the release of Bhoomi, Firstpost caught up with Sanjay Dutt, who was more than happy to answer our curious questions.

One of the most obvious ones, at the heels of his release, is — Why Bhoomi  and not Munnabhai 3, as the latter already has a trailer out?

Dutt reveals, “Munnabhai 3 is still on the scripting stage. Right now it’s on hold. Bhoomi is a film I really wanted to do as a comeback, especially because I believe in women empowerment. I wanted to talk about what a rape victim [sic] from a small family goes through living in a city like Agra”

Speaking about Omung Kumar, the director of the film, Dutt says, “Omung is a great director, he’s tried something different with Bhoomi. It’s totally a commercial film.”

Was politics ever an option for a comeback, we ask Dutt? He is quick to respond, “Not really. Two family members is enough. Cinema is a medium where I can reach out to many people, and send out a good message.”

Watch Firstpost’s interview with Sanjay Dutt.

Bhoomi director Omung Kumar on Sanjay Dutt: ‘The industry loves him for who he is’

Sanjay Dutt is all set to make yet another comeback to films with this week’s release Bhoomi, and even as director Omung Kumar says that it’s a huge responsibility on him, he appears quite confident and upbeat. That’s probably because Omung feels the film will be lapped up by Dutt’s fans, who’re eager to watch him on the big screen after such a long hiatus. For Omung, who previously helmed two biopics — Mary Kom and Sarbjit — Bhoomi is a different genre altogether, an out-and-out mainstream commercial potboiler.

Bhoomi is certainly a different genre for me but I have done it in my style. I have paid lot of attention to the performances. You won’t see the hero Sanjay Dutt, you will see him as the character, Arun Sachdeva,” Omung told Firstpost in the run-up to his film’s release. The director’s confidence also stems from the fact that Dutt has chosen him over other filmmaker friends to make his big screen return with. In fact, Dutt has expressed his confidence in Bhoomi being his perfect comeback vehicle.

Sanjay Dutt with Omung Kumar on the sets of Bhoomi. File Photo

Bhoomi is an entertainer, a commercial action film and this is the genre I want to be in,” Dutt told Firstpost in a recent interview. Omung seconds: “Bhoomi is a complete potboiler. It has the quintessential Bollywood score, whistle-worthy dialogues, raw action sequences. I’ve also shot in unusual locations like Chambal.”

Omung recounted how he got Sanjay to agree to do the film. “I went to meet Sanjay and showed him Sarbjit’s trailer which he loved. Then I narrated four scripts to him, out of which, Sanjay chose Bhoomi. Maybe the script touched his heart and it matched his sensibilities. I was just producing the film at that time but then he insisted that I direct it as well. At that time my psychological thriller Five was about to go on the floors but since I got busy with Bhoomi, I had to push that one (back).”

Dutt has had many ‘comebacks’ — like a cat’s nine lives, his career has received fresh impetus every time he’s returned from a (forced) break. Jaan Ki Baazi (1985) was his first movie after he came back from his drug treatment and rehabilitation in the US;  Daud (1997) was his first film after his 1993 arrest in the Mumbai serial bomb blast case, and having wrapped up his jail sentence, Dutt is now back with Bhoomi. His last two films before being sentenced to imprisonment in early 2013 were PK and Ungli (both released in 2014).

Omung looked back at how Dutt’s always managed a successful return and said, “(It’) probably because the industry loves him for whatever he is that the offers keep flowing in. He has had a long journey of about 186 films but few films touch you more like Vaastav, Naam, Saajan, Munnabhai… For us, he is a fabulous actor, he is known for his style, for his swag, his physique…but in my film, I didn’t want all of that. I wanted a new person. I have broken that mould and you will see his acting ability. His face speaks, each frame looks like a painting because his wrinkles talk, his beard talks, all that oozes emotion — and to me those were the high points.”

Omung revealed that Dutt and he were both nervous on the first day of the shoot as they tried to understand each other’s method of acting. “I realised that Sanjay would want me to okay the shot in the first take. He hates rehearsing!” said Omug, adding with a laugh: “There is a huge court room scene with dialogues running into 10 pages. He did that scene in one take — he had told me earlier that he won’t give a second take at all!”

Paresh Rawal on why he thinks Ranbir Kapoor is like Naseeruddin Shah, demonetisation and his latest film

The politician in Paresh Rawal is yet to be overshadowed by the actor. Clad in blue jeans and a loose shirt when I meet him at a five star hotel, it’s evident that Rawal is on familiar turf. So what’s his first love these days — films or the Parliament? “Basically I am an actor so it has to be film sets, but these days I am enjoying my stint in a different way. The experience inside the Parliament is enriching. It helps one learn tricks of the world which helps me polish my craft as an actor,” Rawal says, as we settle down for a chat.

People who have interacted with Paresh Rawal will vouch for his reserve. He hardly engages with people he does not know and intracting with the press seems to be anathema. The cumulative result is that he is perceived as a snob. Is the assessment true? “If I keep appearing in front of them (people and the press) on a regular basis, they themselves will get bored of me. Rest assured, I am not media shy. People who know me and are close to me know this well that I don’t even have an iota of snobbishness. As far as perception goes, it’s difficult to win over perceptions because that’s not tangible. You can’t please everybody,” Rawal explains.

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Paresh Rawal has never looked back after he shot into the limelight with his menacing act in Arjun. He was handpicked for the role by director Rahul Rawail after seeing him perform in a play. Rawal, a gifted actor, excelled in virtually every role that was offered to him. He believes that this could happen only because he did not receive formal training from any school. He cites his villainous acts in Dacait, Kabzaa and Sir, which were all inspired from people he knew. “It’s difficult for me to get into (the skin of) a villainous character who is an idiot. These days no one is scared of villains. Whatever make-up you apply or weapon you carry, people will never be scared of you. Behude lagte hai hum. If it’s all about portraying a behuda character, might as well make it amusing,” he reasons.

His upcoming film Patel Ki Punjabi Shaadi has been compared to 2 States, but Rawal denies any similarities. He maintains that the film is a laugh riot and the Gujarati character that he plays is neither stereotypical nor caricaturish. The film also reunites him with Rishi Kapoor after almost 25 years. The last time the two shared screen space together was for Rajkumar Santoshi’s Damini. So was there a moment when the passage of time hit home? “Never,” says Rawal. “Those from the Kapoor clan are such large-hearted people. I never got this feeling that I am acting with him after such a long period. He is a straightforward man.”

Currently he is also busy shooting for Sanjay Dutt’s biopic. The very mention of his co-actor Ranbir Kapoor brings a twinkle to Rawal’s eyes and it’s fair to conclude that the younger actor has the veteran in thrall with his acting prowess. In fact, Rawal believes that Ranbir is in the same league as Naseeruddin Shah. “An actor is known by his choices and just look at Ranbir’s choices. No one can dare stand in front of him.” He recalls: “When I was acting with Ranbir in the Dutt biopic, I got a feeling which I had experienced when I was acting with Naseer Bhai during Sir 25 years back. There is an actor in front of you to whom you reacting. The feeling was surreal and it happened after 25 years.”

Rawal is, of late, known for his acerbic tone on social media platforms. His Twitter account was in the eye of a storm when he mentioned Arundhati Roy in a tweets about Kashmir. Has his wife ever chided him to tone down his tweets? “She knows that there is no point chiding me but she also knows that I mean every word that I say or write on my social platform. I know that sometimes my style is acidic and harsh but during such cases it becomes impossible for me to keep things inside because of my anger.”

How Sara Ali Khan and Jhanvi Kapoor became Bollywood’s most hyped debutantes in recent history

After years of speculation, Amrita Singh and Saif Ali Khan’s eldest daughter Sara Ali Khan has started shooting for her first Bollywood film, Kedarnath. Directed by Abhishek Kapoor (Kai Po Che, Rock On!!), Kedarnath is described as a love story that unfolds during the course of a pilgrimage. Sara, along with her co-star Sushant Singh Rajput, visited the Kedarnath temple on the eve of the shoot.

Meanwhile, Sridevi and Boney Kapoor’s daughter Jhanvi Kapoor’s debut film, a remake of the Marathi blockbuster Sairat, will go on the floors this November. Her co-star, in this Dharma Productions film, is another star kid — Shahid Kapoor’s younger brother Ishaan. The Sairat-remake will be Ishaan’s second film. The 22-year-old will make his debut with Iranian filmmaker Majid Majidi’s Beyond The Clouds.

These two newbies are probably the most hyped debutantes Bollywood has seen in recent times. Even Alia Bhatt, who debuted in Karan Johar’s Student of the Year five years ago, didn’t have the kind of pre-launch hype these girls do.

Let’s take a look at how Sara and Jhanvi’s debuts compare.

Sara Ali Khan with Karan Johar. File Photo

The Beginning

Bollywood first took notice of Sara in early 2012 when she posed, with her mother Amrita Singh, for the cover of Hello magazine. The then-16-year-old Science student looked elegant in an ivory-and-gold Abu Jani-Sandeep Khosla creation. While it was obvious that the teen had her heart set on a career in Bollywood, her parents insisted that she complete her education. Weeks after the magazine hit stands, Amrita, in an interview, said, “Sara is good at academics. She even plans to go for further studies to Yale University. So we need to give her some time.”

Even while Sara was studying at Columbia University, speculations about the film she’d debut in continued to swirl. There was Dharma productions’ remake of the Hollywood film Fault in Our Stars opposite Shahid Kapoor’s brother Ishaan Khattar, a film opposite Hrithik Roshan which was to be directed by Karan Malhotra (Agneepath, Brothers) and the sequel to Student of the Year opposite Tiger Shroff. It was only earlier this summer that Kedarnath was confirmed by Amrita as Sara’s debut film.

Close on Sara’s heels, Jhanvi also first made her presence felt with a magazine cover. She was seen on the cover of People Magazine (Dec 2012), along with her mother Sridevi and young sister Khushi. Like Amrita, Sridevi also said that Jhanvi ‘was too young to sign a film’ but ‘she’s always wanted to act’. The 20-year-old finished her schooling at Dhirubhai Ambani School, Mumbai before completely focusing on getting Bollywood ready. While Amrita hesitated about Sara’s association with Dharma, Sridevi, it was said, didn’t even bother looking at any other opportunities for her daughter. After Karan Johar announced in 2015 that Dharma will launch Jhanvi, it was just a matter of finding the right film.

Jhanvi with her parents, Sridevi and Boney Kapoor, and younger sister Khushi on the IIFA green carpet a few years ago. File Photo

The Film

In June last year, Karan watched Sairat, the highest earning Marathi film of all-time, and he was bowled over. Directed by Nagraj Manjule, the film is a young love story juxtaposed against caste conflict. With Nagraj keen on focusing on his Hindi directorial debut (starring Amitabh Bachchan), the reins of the Hindi remake were handed to Shashank Khaitan whose previous two films — Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania and Badrinath Ki Dulhania — were megahits.

What made Parshya and Archie’s love relatable was that Sairat was soaked in realism. From the naturalistic acting to the brutal violence, the semi-rural landscape and even Archie’s inexpensive sartorial sense helped make the film real. It would be interesting to see how Shashank will find the balance between realism and the trademark Dharma sensibilities. After all, Manish Malhotra has been roped in to dress Jhanvi for the remake.

Details about Sara’s film Kedarnath, on the other hand, have been hard to come by. Even the film’s ‘first look’ that was launched to coincide with the beginning of the shoot, gives away almost nothing about the storyline, which is credited to its director. According to early buzz, the Uttarakhand floods of 2013 form the backdrop of this story of human spirit that persists in the face of tragedy. Sushant’s character in the film is a pitthu, who carries pilgrims on their shoulders. The film will mostly be shot in Uttarakhand.

The Mothers

Like the “heroine’s mummyjis” of yore, both Amrita and Sridevi have been working meticulously behind-the-scenes to make sure that their daughters make the right moves. The Mom actress has come a long way from when she wasn’t keen on a career in showbiz for either of her daughters. In the early days when Jhanvi first started making headlines for her Instagram posts, her superstar mom even ordered her to stay off any kind of social media. Sridevi was instrumental in getting Karan to launch Jhanvi and now that the film’s shoot is just months away, it’s all hands on deck. One hears that she is even closely monitoring all the looks Malhotra is creating for her daughter.

While Sridevi was instrumental in her daughter getting a launch as a ‘Dharma heroine’, the buzz is that Amrita is the reason why Sara lost out on the opportunity. Apparently, the actress wasn’t keen on the three-film caveat that a Dharma launch film came with. By debuting with Kedarnath, not only is Sara not tied down to any production house, she is also free to choose managers and staff that she’s comfortable with instead of those ‘recommended’ by Karan. What also tipped the scales in favour of Kedarnath, for Amrita, was that her friend Ekta Kapoor is one of the film’s producers.

Kedarnath is slated for a summer 2018 release and if the untitled Sairat-remake doesn’t get pushed, it should also hit theatres next year. While trade pundits feel that Jhanvi might have an edge over Sara because she has Karan Johar as a mentor, only time will tell how the audience will receive these star daughters.

Daddy: Arjun Rampal gives his heart, body and nose to the film, but is let down by Ashim Ahluwalia

The first time you see him, it’s through a glass wall. Light tinted, slightly oversized sunglasses  and a small, neat moustache embellish the face, carefully half hidden in profile. He hasn’t spoken and you don’t take much notice of him except as a big gangster, Maqsood (read Dawood). He is, apparently, a man of some importance. We know this because he has a sidekick who addresses him as “Bhai”.

The second time you see him, he is seated in a car. He is dressed in a printed silk shirt. His hair is long and thick and the camera is close enough to see his eyes through those light gold shades. And then he speaks. The unmistakable grainy voice belongs to Farhan Akhtar. The hitherto dull and dim lit screen, suddenly lights up. The rest of the long hour and a half, you wait for the next glimpse of Bhai.

Oh, but isn’t this film about Arun Gawli, the gangster who became known as Daddy?

Unfortunately, yes. It is also a film that attempts to walk the thin line between the real and commercial cinema. But how real can a movie be, without it being a documentary?

In the previous scene with Bhai, the men, sort of huddled outside, are being given an important assignment. One of them dares to enquire about the payment. He is Arun Gawli, a small time goon from Dagdi Chawl in Mumbai’s Byculla area.

If Farhan Akhtar is unrecognizable, with the perfect detailing of the underworld man from the eighties; Arjun Rampal as Arun Gawli fondly called Daddy, is equally nondescript behind the prosthetic big nose and long hair. Utmost care has been taken to recreate the real world of a man whose humble beginnings in the 70s and 80s are traced to a place called Dagdi Chawl.

The old staircases, the crowded, long balconies, the small rooms with faded, cracked paint and weak, wooden doors — are painstakingly lit with dim light to show a world as dark as Gawli is made to be. This is that Mumbai chawl  where he woos a Muslim girl across the balcony and eventually marries her. This is the unsafe place which he builds into a mini fortress, armed with his faithful men and guns. This is where crossfires are exchanged every time the cops come to get him. This is the hideout where he religiously prays to his God — Shiv Shambho.

This is the home where he holds his baby and a gun with one hand and a toy rattle with another.

The latter, particular image should ideally evoke some strong, mixed emotions.  But it doesn’t. In fact, the film, does not stir up any emotion, whatsoever.

Daddy has been positioned as a ‘real’ film with ‘commercial’ value given by Arjun Rampal’s name. But this faithfulness to the realistic feel, ends up overlooking the required drama and entertainment in films, which go beyond repeated shootouts. The silk shirts and the bell bottom pants also need some flesh, blood and soul, just like a simple Dagdi Chawl-made vada pau needs its dry garlic, and red, hot chutney.

Rampal’s Gawli says “ikde ye” quite comfortably but does not engage you with a real conversation after that.

The matter of fact tone is as dull as the Wikipedia page which informs you of as much as you see in the movie. The story had sufficient meat in the way three men — Baba (Anand), Ramu (Rajesh) and Arun (Arjun) — formed the BRA gang and their eventual journey. However, you never really get to know who they were as people or friends.

None of the fantastic detailing to recapture the ’80s matters. The flat dialogues make the pace  and the tone feel so stretched that the songs provide a welcome break. Particularly, an item number that reminds one of Parveen Babi in a gold, shimmery costume and of the popular disco beat.

Arjun Rampal seems to have given his heart, mind, body, soul and ‘nose’ to this film as actor, co-writer and producer. Hence, it’s disappointing to see it all ruined by director Ashim Ahulwalia who is obsessed with art direction and the costume department. The setting and sepia tones take precedence over the screenplay and the character.

This is not so surprising, considering his debut film — the Nawazuddin-starrer Miss Lovely — which drew some attention during film festivals but failed when released in theatres.

Rampal in Daddy, is like Aishwarya Rai in Sarbjit. Both are fighting their immense good looks and their image, with heartfelt sincerity. Rampal gives a satisfactory, restrained performance in Daddy but he needed better scenes, especially with the ineffective and badly miscast Nishikant Kamat who plays Inspector Vijaykar.

Daddy could have been like Ram Gopal Varma’s Satya but ends up as fake as Farhan’s character name, Maqsood, in its guise to be real. Was Dawood singing in their ears — “main hoon kaun…main hoon, main hoon… DON”?

Bobby Deol: ‘Yes the film industry has let me down, but I can’t keep sulking’

After a four year hiatus, Bobby Deol — the flamboyant star of the 90s — is back on the big screen.

He hopes to win back his audience and his fading stardom, and revive his career with the upcoming comedy, Poster Boys, which marks the directorial debut of actor Shreyas Talpade, and also features his older brother, Sunny Deol. “People ask me why was I so choosy and why I didn’t do any film in the last four years. I tell them that I wasn’t choosy but people had become choosy about me,” says the actor candidly.

After a successful debut with Rajkumar Santoshi’s Barsaat (opposite Twinkle Khanna) in 1995, he went on to appear in many hits and is best remembered for his thriller and action films like Gupt, Soldier, Hamraaz, Ajnabee among others. Bobby’s career slowed down with duds like Chor Machaaye Shor, Kismat, Bardaasht, Tango Charlie. Years later, his fading career got a new lease of life with Yamla Pagla Deewana (2011) but his success was short-lived as younger actors displaced the once blue-eyed boy of the 90s. To make it worse, his films like Thank You and Players tanked at the box office.

He’s back in his flashy avatar — donning trendy shades and leather boots — and Bobby has now decided to speak his heart out.

“This is me, there is no defense mechanism,” he reiterates, adding, “I have no idea what went wrong with my career. I haven’t worked for four years, and these four years of my life has gone so fast but it has made me a better and stronger person. I have been dying to work, I love being on the sets. Now I feel refreshed, more positive in life and it reflects in my attitude or else I wouldn’t have been able to talk so openly. This way I will attract people’s attention and get more work.”

“A good subject, a good script is hard to find, God doesn’t give you chances again and again,” he says, as he looks around at his fans waiting for selfie. “I hate these selfie pics, it is the worst photograph possible…you look so distorted and ugly. We look like mannequins,” laughs Bobby, and gets down to chatting with Firstpost.

The actor says that the perception that he’ll only do starry roles and central characters has caused a dent in his career. “People started carrying false news about me and maligning me. The industry and social media kept saying that I don’t want to work. That I was content and happy. That I was busy as my wife’s going through a legal battle, but nobody knows the reality. It was tough for me to come out of all that. I want to change their outlook. I am now meeting people and telling them that I want to do good characters. Nice and meaty roles in all genres,” he says.

Few months back, Bobby had opened up about how the industry let him down and as a result he missed chances of doing hits like Jab We Met and Highway with director Imtiaz Ali, but without holding any grudges, he says, “Yes, the industry let me down but I can’t keep sulking. If work comes my way and people don’t ditch me, I would love to work with dedicated people and with some of the contemporary directors. Abbas Mustan are the only directors I have worked the maximum with. But somehow we have not been able to work together because when you are not in circulation then it is very difficult to get the project on floor.”

He further adds, “I haven’t really seen too many films off-late but I will start watching now. But I like the way Akshay is picking up scripts these days.”

While in the past Bobby was often refused roles of a small town guy, he grabbed the opportunity with Poster Boys in which he plays a naive, sincere and honest school teacher. “That’s going to be my approach now — to break stereotypes and surprise people. Earlier, whenever I would ask for the role of a poor guy, I was refused because I didn’t look like one. I always played a rich guy in many of these thrillers and rom-coms. The only time I played a small town boy was probably in Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s Kareeb. I never looked at myself as good looking or bad looking. There are so many films made where actors don’t look the part but perform the part. That is what I am hoping for,” says Bobby.

But one thing that will never change with Bobby is ‘disappearing’ from the city on the eve of his film’s release. Laughing out loud, he says, “I really get stressed with these box office collections. This time I am leaving for Manali. I would always run away on the release day. I am too sensitive a person, I can’t handle all this. I won’t lie; I get nervous and scared.

Sunny Deol: ‘Because of my image, people have the wrong perception about me

Would you believe Sunny Deol is now a new person? Vocal and outspoken without a trace of the reticent and introverted superstar of the 80s and 90s.

The actor is now social media savvy, albeit he uses it only to reach his fans; he doesn’t shy away from speaking his mind, or cracking jokes on himself, or even taking on an unorthodox and unconventional subject like vasectomy in his upcoming comedy drama, Poster Boys.

The film, which hits the screens on 8 September, also marks the directorial debut of Shreyas Talpade and is a remake of his 2014 Marathi production of the same name. “I loved the idea of three people from different backgrounds falsely implicated for Nasbandi (vasectomy). The situations were quite interesting, and if I like something spontaneously then I always do it. I heard that Shreyas was already planning to make it in Hindi. I was aware of Shreyas’s talent since we had worked together in Bhaiyyaji Superhit and therefore asked him to direct the Hindi one.”

Poster Boys

But one wonders why Sunny himself didn’t direct, as he has already directed couple of films like Dillagi (1999) and Ghayal Once Again (2016).

“I was already working on my son Karan’s film, Pal Pal Dil Ke Paas, I can’t be doing so many things,” says Sunny, when we caught up with him in Juhu, Mumbai. Dressed in a military green shirt, light blue jeans and sneakers, the 60-year-old son of yesteryear actor Dharmendra, undoubtedly looks like he is at his healthiest best. He seems to be in a great mood and guffaws at various instances.

While talking about shedding his ‘image’, Sunny winks and says with tongue firmly in cheek, “I have gotten so used to these film promotions because that is part of your scripting (laughs out loud). One has understood it. We have to do all this otherwise people don’t notice you with there being so much noise all around you.”

Sunny has undoubtedly been more popular than some of his contemporaries, with quite a few huge blockbusters and highest-grossers like Gadar, Border, Ghayal, Tridev under his belt. Yet somehow, he has been much less visible while his contemporaries like Anil Kapoor, Sanjay Dutt, Jackie Shroff, Mithun Chakraborty are seen in a variety of projects on the silver screen and television.

Is it Sunny’s insistence on playing only the central character that is responsible for this?  The actor dismisses that he has been resisting character roles, saying, “No, nothing like that. Doing character roles is certainly not an issue for me. Damini was a character role but it turned out to be as important as the central character which people still talk about. I want to do characters that I enjoying playing and not just for the heck of it. Also, because of my image people have such a wrong perception about me (laughs out loud). But I don’t want to give them any explanation, I am not bothered about it. Why should I bother? They assume that I won’t do it and that I am very difficult. That doesn’t stop me from doing what I want to do.”

He continues, “I don’t do  television or ads, hence I am not seen at all if I am not seen in movies. Even in the 90s, I wouldn’t do other stuff. I wouldn’t go for parties or functions and that has been my nature. I joined the industry to be an actor and that is what I am doing. Once your films start doing well, you become a star and people want to see more of you but basically I want to do good acting and play good characters.”

Sunny Deol spotted at their upcoming movie " Bhaiyyaji Superhit '' at Borivali Sachin Gokhale/Firstpost

Our conversation now veers towards the launch of his elder son Karan in Pal Pal Dil Ke Paas. In one chance meeting with Karan, three years ago, this writer had asked him the genre he is best suited to. Karan responded, displaying amazing wit, “Besides films and acting, the Deols have carried on the lineage of short temper. All of us at home are short-tempered people. So, obviously, it has to be action roles.”

Sunny has a hearty laugh at this and says, “It is not true, we Deols are not only into action roles, but maybe because others can’t do action well and hence our name is leading in that genre,” he laughs. So what advice does he give Karan?  “I don’t give him any advice. He has to work hard, be honest to his profession and love and enjoy what he does,” says Sunny.

With the recent bunch of films with big stars proving to be duds at the box office, Sunny attributes it to the changing audience and lack of good writing and content. “I haven’t seen much of the current lot of films, I can’t comment, but I get a feeling that content wise, the depth of directors, and depth of characters is getting really frivolous. Hits and flops are part of the game and this is the correction period,” he says.

Though reviews and criticisms do matter to Sunny, he would still want to go by his own strong conviction. “If a review is nice, it matters; if it is bad, it matters. If you accept good, you accept bad as well. I know when I have done good or bad. You should know what you are doing. The day I come to that point and it happens to me then I don’t think I would want to act, I will quit acting,” he says.

Kumaraissance: Tracing Akshay Kumar’s reinvention from ‘Khiladi’ to India’s most bankable star

Just this year, Akshay Kumar has delivered two crackling performances in two very different films and won the National Award for his work in 2016’s Rustom.

He also launched Bharat Ke Veer, a website and app that enables donations to families of army personnel.

His social media feeds are peppered with videos that address social issues. Akshay’s public image is currently undergoing a multi-media reinvention.

And, then there were buzz-worthy moments when he sang Frank Sinatra’s ‘Strangers in the Night’ to his wife Twinkle Khanna on Koffee With Karan or when he thanked his ‘overpaid trainer and underpaid cook’ while accepting the award for ‘Most Beautiful Man of the Decade’ at the recent Vogue Beauty Awards 2017.

We’re in the throes of a full-blown Kumaraissance, and it’s been long overdue.

For about three decades, Akshay has been a Bollywood A-lister, which in itself is a genuine accomplishment. But his career spanning 124 movies has mostly banked more on ‘Akshay the Star’ rather than showcase his talents as an actor. His filmography has the odd Sangharsh or Dhadkan but action and comedy has always been his forte.

From being stuck in the doldrums of mindless films like Rowdy Rathore and the Housefull franchise, Akshay seems to have re-invented himself as an actor who is not just pushing boundaries but also consistently delivering hits.

In the last two years, he has picked films unlike anything he’s done before. Rustom was based on the Nanavati murder trial of 1959 that transformed the judicial process in India. His portrayal of Naval officer KM Nanavati earned him the National Award.

He essayed another real-life character in the hugely appreciated Airlift. Akshay delivered his first blockbuster of 2017 as the Lucknow-bred underdog lawyer Jagdishwar Mishra aka Jolly in Subhash Kapoor’s Jolly LLB 2. In Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, which released on the Independence Day weekend,

Continuing the trend, Akshay’s next release Padman will attempt to spread awareness about menstrual hygiene. Directed by R Balki, the film is based on the life and work of Arunachalam Muruganantham, a social entrepreneur who invented a low-cost sanitary pad making machine.

The actor is also filming director Reema Kagti’s Gold, a sports drama on the hockey team that won the first Olympic medal for India as a free nation in 1948.

What is common to Akshay’s recent films has been the focus on meaningful stories. He’s moved beyond generic masala crowd-pleasers to films that do more than just entertain.

Many credit Akshay’s association with filmmaker Neeraj Pandey for triggering the Kumaraissance. The duo first collaborated in the 2013 heist thriller Special 26 and, since then, Neeraj has directed Akshay in the spy film Baby and co-produced Rustom, Naam Shabana and Toilet: Ek Prem Katha.

After decades of being Khiladi Kumar, Akshay is going towards not having an image. While his contemporaries like Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan are struggling to reinvent themselves, Akshay has laid claim to being the ‘superstar everyman’.

(Clockwise from top left) Stills from Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, Padman, Jolly LLB 2

Whether he is Kuwait-based Indian businessman Ranjit Katyal spearheading the largest civilian evacuation in history or cycle store owner Keshav who would do anything to build a toilet for his wife, Akshay never stops being a Bollywood hero. There is also enough swagger, high-decibel dialoguebaazi and humour to keep the single-screen viewers happy. His directors seem to have found that elusive balance between realistic and revved up.

If we measure this shift in Akshay’s career in terms of financial success, it’s obvious that the audience loves it.

Raking in Rs 126.94 crores at the box-office, Toilet: Ek Prem Katha is this year’s highest grossing Hindi film as yet. Also in the 100-crore club are Jolly LLB 2 (Rs 117 cr), Rustom (Rs 124 cr) and Airlift (Rs 123 cr).

Akshay has been one of Bollywood’s most bankable actors but at a time when the industry is going through a slump, he is undoubtedly Bollywood’s biggest money-spinner right now.

In the past, Akshay has always managed to stand up to the draw of the Khans but this reinvention has given him a substantial edge over his contemporaries. It’s their move now.

Shraddha Kapoor’s next film Haseena Parkar will release on 22 September, says director Apoorva Lakhia

Haseena Parkar director Apoorva Lakhia on Tuesday cleared the air about the film’s release being postponed and said the film is releasing on September 22.

Originally the film was supposed to release on July 14 but it was pushed to August 18 to avoid the clutter at the box office.

Then according to a statement issued on behalf of the producers the film’s release date was finalized as September 22.

When media asked about the film’s release being postponed again, Lakhia said, “People can write what they want as long as we are coming in the news. We are coming to theaters on the 22nd of September and we never said anything otherwise. We are really looking forward to it and today we start the promotions for the film.”

He was present at the Twitter office for the song launch of the film.

Asked why the makers chose to release a romantic song first from the film, Apoorva said, “From the trailer it seems like a very violent and action oriented film but that is not the case, Haseena was married to her elder brother’s best friend Ibrahim who not only ran a restaurant but in his free time used to work as a stunt man in Bollywood.

“They were madly in love and she was married at a very young age. She had a beautiful marriage and she lost her husband at a young age. This song is by Sachin and Jigar and we thought this would be an ideal song to show the world a softer side of Haseena Parkar because when she was young she was very romantic but her circumstances were what got her where she reached.”

Shraddha Kapoor plays the title role along with her brother Siddhanth Kapoor as Dawood Ibrahim and Ankur Bhatia as Haseena’s husband. The film marks the time in Haseena’s life from 17 to 40 years old.

Shraddha, the lead actor in the film, said that she does not want to generalize their (Shraddha and Siddhanth Kapoor) characters as villains. She said, “I would not generalize our characters because that will be putting a judgment and a point of view, so we are completely portraying this as a character and it’s entirely up to the audience to decide. We are showing a wide perspective so that people can judge based on the film.”

The song Tere Bina is the first song released from the film. Composed by Sachin-Jigar and written by Priya Saraiya, Tere Bina is a duet sung by Arijit Singh and Priya Saraiya.

This film will also mark Shraddha Kapoor’s first female protagonist film. She was last seen in Half Girlfriend with Arjun Kapoor.

Sidharth Malhotra: ‘I never felt left out while working with the star kids’

There is a lot of hustle-bustle in Mumbai’s Mehboob Studio, with quite a few vanity vans parked in the compound. In this chaotic scenario, one man who is looking bright and sunny is Bollywood’s resident hunk Sidharth Malhotra. Dressed in a floral blue shirt and joggers, he steps out of his vanity van flashing a charismatic smile and does a quick photo shoot with his happy-go-lucky and glamorous co-star Jacqueline Fernandez as part of promotions of their upcoming film, A Gentleman – Sundar, Susheel, Risky.

He playfully strangles her with her jeans jacket, she utters a yelp and gives a light punch to her screen hero making for a perfect capture for a fun photo. Soon, Sidharth settles down in his colourful vanity van for an exclusive chat with Firstpost. He is playing a dual role in the movie that revolves around a mistaken identity; one is ‘susheel’ while the other is ‘risky’.

“We never shot for both the characters on the same day and hence I could separate them mentally. Gaurav loves his 9 to 5 job, he wants to learn to cook for his wife and take his family for a drive, whereas Rishi is a loner and does not mind taking risks. Lots of humour has come out of both the characters,” says Sidharth, who bonded big time with his first time heroine. “Jacqueline doesn’t carry stress, she is always happy. She loves the outdoors, just the way I do. We bonded even off-camera; we would go horse riding and have poker nights in my house. Today we are great friends and that shows,” he adds.

Sidharth Malhotra has so far had six releases in his five-year-old career. He is a huge fan of action comedies and a great admirer of director duo Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK’s (popularly known as Raj and DK) work. It’s essentially what made him give a nod to this project.

“I would love watching action comedies while growing up but so far we have seen only loud films in this genre, with elements of gags, slapstick. A Gentleman, however, is very stylised. It has deadpan humour and a lot of physical comedy. I love Raj and DK’s work, especially in the humour zone. Their debut film 99, and Go Goa Gone are my favourites. The film speaks a universal language and has got a good mix of what I have done in the past — romance, comedy, action,” says the actor.

Talking about the confusion surrounding the movie being a sequel to Bang Bang, Sidharth says, “We had to write it on the clapper board of the movie, ‘Not Bang Bang 2′. The cast, directors, story, characters, everything is different.”

Recognition for acting talent may not have come easy for this Delhi boy, with his good looks and modelling background coming in the way of him being taken seriously. But the 2016 release Kapoor & Sons kind of shifted this perception with the audience getting a glimpse of his acting chops.

“People have a perception that those who come from a modelling background can’t act. That is why I am here: to change the perception (laughs out loud). Nobody could tell 10 or 15 years ago that I would do a Karan Johar film. With a middle class upbringing in Delhi, I started from scratch but now I am a working actor. My next three films will change the perception that people have of the background that I come from, which is of an outsider or the modelling industry,” says Sidharth.

He has an interesting line-up of films like Ittefaq, a murder mystery, Neeraj Pandey’s thriller drama Aiyaary about a mentor-prodigy relationship, and Mohit Suri’s romance franchise Aashiqui 3. “Next six to seven months are very interesting for me. I have some amazing scripts coming up. People will get to see me in three different avatars in these credible, story-driven films. What else could an actor ask for?” he smiles.

Sidharth has had his share of ups and downs, and he believes nothing’s permanent in the industry. “It is all very temporary and seasonal, so you have to be on your toes. You can’t live off your previous hits or you can’t be low about your past flops. It is a matter of being relevant and reinventing yourself,” he says, adding, “But yes, there is a difference in how I choose my scripts now. There is definitely more instinct, more understanding of my craft, of my personality, my presence. With the audience getting more picky and choosy, they are pushing and nudging us to write better content.”

Work-wise, comparisons are often drawn between Sidharth and two of his first co-stars (and industry kids), Varun Dhawan and Alia Bhat; the trio debuted with Karan Johar’s Student Of The Year (2012). “In all honesty I am very consumed by the line-up of films and I mostly compete with my previous work. When Ek Villain did really well, I wished that (snaps fingers) Brothers worked better. Baar Baar Dekho was not accepted (snaps fingers again) so now I wish more aggressively that Gentleman becomes my biggest. It is all very personal, very internal. Nobody will help me in my journey, my journey is only mine,” he says.

One can’t resist asking this self-confessed ‘outsider’ about his take on the ‘N’ (Nepotism) word. Laughing uproariously, he queries, “Oh, so now it’s become the N word? Good thing is, majority of India and the youth now know the meaning of the word; we have become a bit more articulate.”

On a serious note, he adds, “Enough has been spoken about it but yes, nepotism exists. There are so many actors from film families who get chances again and again. There is no point denying it and I don’t know whether it is good or bad. The only advantage for them is that they have a sense of awareness and comfort because of the world they know, as opposed to people like us who come from outside. We take slightly longer to settle down. I never ever felt left out while working with the star kids but just that there was no awareness and I was absorbing the process until my second and third film, whereas the industry kids were comfortable right from their first film. But now that sense of awe is fading away and I’m genuinely enjoying the process of film-making.