Tag Archives: bollywood

After Saaho, Telugu superstar Prabhas to be seen in a Bollywood romantic film

Telugu superstar Prabhas is riding high after the path-breaking success of Baahubali sagas — Baahubali: The Beginning and Baahubali 2: The Conclusion. He is all set to be seen in an action hero avatar in the upcoming trilingual film (Hindi, Telugu and Tamil) Saaho that also stars a bevy of Bollywood actors, starting from Shraddha Kapoor as the female lead; actors Jacky Shroff, Chunky Pandey, Neil Nitin Mukesh and Mandira Bedi — all in negative roles.

Prabhas in Bahubali 2/Baahubali 2: The Conclusion

While the speculations of the Baahubali star’s Bollywood debut has been doing the rounds for quite some time now, Prabhas, in a recent  interview revealed that he will be seen in a Bollywood romance drama, Reports India Today.

India Today‘s report suggest that the actor spoke to The Times of India and said, “I watch a lot of Hindi films. I live in Hyderabad, where 60 per cent of the people speak Hindi. I am getting good offers from Bollywood. I had okay-ed a script three years ago. It is a love story that I will do post Saaho.”

Prabhas, further speaking about his love for Bollywood, also spoke about the cordial relationship he shares with Karan Johar. “I made a good association with Karan Johar. If I want anything, I think I can ask him. He has helped us a lot. In fact, I met some actors (from Bollywood) in Karan’s house. They were all very chilled out.”

Speaking about fitting in different genres, he said that it is the script that matters at the end. If the script is good, an action star can pull of a romantic film and vice versa, reports Indian Express.

Prabhas is reportedly shooting for Saaho in Los Angeles. The film is expected to hit the screens later this year.

Virushka, Baahubali, Dangal, Padmavati: A complete A-Z glossary for everything Bollywood got up to in 2017

Ah, 2017! A year that kept us Bollywood watchers on our toes, busy as bees. If only it would slow down some! While that shows no signs of happening, here’s a quick recap of all the particularly attention-grabbing things Bollywood said or did over the past 12 months, arranged here as an A to Z glossary for your reading convenience. Don’t stop till you get to the end!

A

Azaan

Awoken from his slumber by the sounds of the azaan from a nearby mosque, a disgruntled Sonu Nigam shot off a tweet that had TV channels buzzing, talking heads talking, and debaters debating. Matters reached a ‘head’ (ahem) when a fatwa was issued against Sonu by a cleric, who promised a princely sum to anyone who’d shave the singer’s hair and parade him around the country. Sonu shaved his hair off himself and demanded the bounty. Last heard, he still tosses and turns in bed, bemoaning the azaan and the loss of his silken tresses.

B

Baahubali 2: The Conclusion

It came, it saw — and it conquered the box office. Long before it petered to a stop with its handsome earnings of Rs 1,700 crore, Baahubali 2: The Conclusion was already a sensation. That was due, in no small part, to the success of the original film. But SS Rajamouli, Prabhas, Anushka Shetty, Prabhas and Ramya Krishnan created magic yet again in the franchise’s concluding part — a few controversies notwithstanding in the run-up to its release. Not only did Baahubali 2 go on to become (for a while, until Dangal‘s China release) the highest-earning Indian film, it also had a slew of other records to its credit: first film to cross Rs 1,000 crore, fastest Rs 100 crore earner, only Hindi film to cross Rs 500 crore in domestic collections and so on.

For Bollywood watchers, 2017 marked the best of time,s the worst of times

C

Central Board of Film Certification

After a highly controversial tenure, CBFC chief Pahlaj Nihalani was replaced with adman-lyricist Prasoon Joshi. The film industry heaved a sigh of relief, Nihalani went on to produce the skinfest Julie 2, and Joshi settled down to the task of balancing creative freedom with censorship laws.

D

Dangal

Dangal should have been 2016’s biggest news. And it was. Then, it opened in China over May 2017, and became the talking pint for this year as well. From its original earnings of Rs 700+ crore, Dangal‘s dream run in China (it would collect over Rs 1,200 crore from that territory alone) helped catapult it past PK and Baahubali 2 to become the highest earning Indian film of all time. Odes were written to Aamir Khan’s genius, and Bollywood had the shining figure of Rs 2,000 crore to aspire to.

E

Ed Sheeran

Also, eugenics

First, there were the million variants of ‘Shape Of You‘. Then, there were the hysterical fans that greeted him when he performed in Mumbai. Just when Ed Sheeran began to think that India (and Indians) had treated him pretty damn well, he was subjected to a Bollywood party (thrown by Farah Khan) that made him the butt of all memes. As photos of a somewhat dazed-looking Sheeran began to do the rounds of social media, Twitterati (who hadn’t been invited to the party) wondered if he’d been held hostage by the celeb crowd, or if he made do with wearing trick glasses that had eyes painted onto them (to cover up the fat that he was snoozing behind them).

As regards, ‘euegenics’, see N for Nepotism.

F

Fairness creams

In a year that saw rampant attacks on Africans living in India, Abhay Deol chose to highlight the casual racism of Indians by taking aim at fairness creams. He ‘named and shamed’ celebrities who did endorse these creams on his social media account — and got into a minor tiff of sorts with Sonam Kapoor, who pointed out that Abhay’s cousin Esha Deol had also appeared in a commercial for said unguents.

G

Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Insaan

Perhaps the self-proclaimed godman had an inkling that his luck would soon run out. And s, before he received his 20-year jail sentence in the latter half of 2017,  MSG (the ‘Messenger of God’) squeezed in not one, but two films that had a theatrical release. Hind Ka Napak Ko Jawab — MSG Lionheart 2 and Jattu Engineer were works of such inspired creativity, that we do not have words to describe them. We’ll just leave you with this little gem instead, and let MSG do the talking:

H

Hrithik Roshan

After it dominated the entertainment industry discourse in 2016, the Hrithik Roshan-Kangana Ranaut feud was back in the spotlight. This time, because of a long and impassioned social media post written by Hrithik Roshan, in which we asked why there was no trace of an alleged seven-year-long passionate affair, except for a series of one-sided emails that had already been sent to the Cyber Crime Cell? Kangana responded, and the slugfest continued.

I

IFFI

The International Film Festival of India (or IFFI as it’s known to one and all) found itself talked about less for its heavy star presence and programming than it did for what was seen as an attempt at heavy-handed censorship. First, the films S Durga and Nude were dropped from the festival line-up, prompting IFFI jury members Sujoy Ghosh and Apurva Asrani to resign. Then, despite a Kerala High Court order directing the IFFI officials to screen S Durga, director Sanal Kumar Sasidharan was kept on tenterhooks until the eleventh hour of the fest as to the fate of the screening. Amid a notice issued by the regional office of the CBFC in Thiruvananthapuram, S Durga was not screened after all.

J

Justin Bieber 

Also, jauhar and Johar

Jagga Jasoos

The ‘Sorry‘ singer’s much-hyped concert in Mumbai came down to a mostly lip-synced performance. But apart from his lacklustre onstage act, Justin Bieber did manage to set off some fireworks between Sonakshi Sinha and Armaan Malik, who had a nasty Twitter feud over whether or not Bollywood actors should sing professionally.

For jauhar, see P for Padmavati; check N for Nepotism for Johar; and U for under-performers for Jagga Jasoos

K

Kangana Ranaut-Karan Johar

When Rangoon stars Saif Ali Khan and Kangana Ranaut (joined later by Shahid Kapoor) appeared on Koffee With Karan, the episode began normally enough. But then Kangana got into her groove, calling Karan out for having made fun of her when she first became part of the industry, and labelling him the ‘flag-bearer for nepotism’. And thus was triggered an exchange that kept Bollywood watchers engaged for several more months to come.

Johar had some good news to celebrate as well this year: see under M for memoirs and Y for young ‘uns.

L

Lipstick under my Burkha

Also, legs

The film deemed too ‘lady-oriented’ by the CBFC finally released to much acclaim across India this year. Lipstick Under My Burkha triggered much-needed conversations about women and sexuality, while its triumphant path to the theatres was an inspiration on its own.

Legs — specifically Priyanka Chopra’s, when she met Narendra Modi. When PeeCee and the Prime Minister happened to be in Berlin at the same time, the actress dropped by for a meeting. The off-white dress she chose to wear was demure enough, but for some ‘patriotic’-minded Twitterati, Priyanka’s bare legs were too much to bear, and they launched a vicious attack against the actress. Her reply? Another image of herself, with her mother Madhu Chopra, both of them showing off their shapely legs. Scoreboard — PeeCee: 1; Sanskaari Trolls: 0.

M

Mahira Khan

Manushi Chhillar

Also, M for Memoirs – Karan Johar, Rishi Kapoor’s

Mahira Khan’s Raees released in India in January. The actress, however, could neither participate in the film’s promotions, not celebrate her cross-border release, because of the boycott on Pakistani artistes issued in 2016 after the Uri attacks. Later in the year, photos of Mahira — sharing a smoke with Ranbir Kapoor while on holiday in New York — went viral, causing a further backlash against the actress. Twitterati picked over everything from the act of her smoking, to her choice of clothing (a casual, white halter-neck dress) and companion (a Bollywood actor).

Manushi Chhillar brought home the Miss World crown after a gap of 17 years and quickly became India’s favourite ‘daughter’.

The memoirs of Rishi Kapoor (Khullam Khulla) and Karan Johar (An Unsuitable Boy) had readers and Bollywood fans talking for a long, long time with their mix of style and unabashed truth-telling.

N

Nepotism

Also, National Awards; North-eastern cinema

Triggered by the Kangana-Karan spat, ‘nepotism’ became the word most commonly brought up in discussions about Bollywood (for a while at least). At IIFA, Saif, Karan and Varun Dhawan put up a skit which took jabs at Kangana and ended with the trio proclaiming: “Nepotism rocks!” Varun issued an apology after the incident, Saif got into discussions of eugenics, and Karan put up Instagram pics of his babies. Many thinkpieces were written, some soul-searching may have been engaged in — what all of it resulted in remains to be seen.

The National Awards witnessed some high drama after Akshay Kumar was named the Best Actor winner for Rustom this year. That filmmaker Priyadarshan — who has been a longtime collaborator of the actor’s — was the head of the jury that awarded Akshay the honour drew much comment.

And the cinema of the North East got some inadvertent (but not unwelcome) attention when Priyanka Chopra called her home production Pahuna the first film to emerge from the region and referred to Sikkim as a state ‘troubled by insurgency’. PeeCee was subjected to a social media backlash and a swift lesson on the North East. Amid calls for her to be removed as the tourism ambassador for Assam, Priyanka issued an apology and the matter was resolved.

O

Om Puri

Om Puri’s demise was among the first celebrity deaths of 2017. The 66-year-old actor was found collapsed at his Mumbai home.

P

Padmavati

A controversy that came to define Bollywood in 2017, the Padmavati row began with director Sanjay Leela Bhansali being roughed up by Karni Sena members while shooting in Rajasthan. The trigger: a rumour that there would be a dream romantic sequence depicted between Rani Padmini (Deepika Padukone) and Allaudin Khilji (Ranveer Singh). From that incident, a major conflagration ensued, which saw death threats being issued to Deepika and SLB, much discussion over Rajput pride and Rajput history, and an indefinite postponement of Padmavati‘s release.

Q

Quarrels

We wish it had been on a Qantas flight just so this entry could have been more alliterative, but even without the aid of such literary devices, the quarrel between Sunil Grover and Kapil Sharma was dramatic enough. On a flight from Australia to India, mid-air, the two collaborators had an argument that led to an inebriated Sharma attacking Grover. Grover walked out of Kapil’s show, leading to a phase that saw its TRPs plummet, the show being taken off air for a while, and Kapil himself entering treatment for stress-related issues.

Another not-so-saucy spat: the one over writing credit for Simran, that ufolded between Apurva Asrani, Kangana Ranaut and Hansal Mehta.

R

Raees vs Kaabil

Also, Rajkummar Rao; Reema Lagoo

Raees vs Kaabil was the big box office clash of 2017 for Bollywood. The Shah Rukh Khan and Hrithik Roshan starrers went head-to-head (or toe-to-toe if that’s the phrase you prefer) at the theatres; the Roshans cried foul, the Raees team (Excel Entertainment + Red Chillies) pleaded helplessness (their film had already been delayed because of the Uri aftermath), and amid furious reportage of the box office numbers, the SRK-starrer pulled ahead.

With starring roles in Behen Hogi Teri, Shaadi Mein Zaroor Aana, Bareilly Ki Barfi, and the Bose web series by ALTBalaji, it was a good year for Rajkummar Rao. Along came Newton, which not only cemented Rao’s position as one of Bollywood’s finest actors today, but also became India’s entry to the Oscars — and 2017 can indeed be considered a year full of high points for Rajkummar.

Tu Tu Main Main and Hum Aapke Hain Koun…! star Reema Lagoo passed away this year, aged 58.

S

Shashi Kapoor

Also, small-town India

Shashi Kapoor, Bollywood’s handsomest leading hero of all time, passed away aged 79. Tears were shed, hearts were broken, and the end of an era was noted.

Small-town India had its moment in the spotlight as Bollywood celebrated stories set outside the metros and tier-I towns. From Toilet: Ek Prem Katha to Babumoshai Bandookbaaz, small-town India provided great characters, settings and stories to Bollywood in 2017.

T

Tubelight

The Salman Khan-starrer was supposed to shine bright, but instead flickered and died out at the box office. Why this deserves an entry of its own? Because when was the last time you remembered a Salman Khan release not being accompanied by a wave of juggernaut-like euphoria that swept everything in its path? Of course, Tiger Zinda Hai has brought some balance back into the world of shell-shocked Salman fans in the time since.

U

Under-performers

Tubelight, Jagga Jasoos, Jab Harry Met Sejal, Rangoon, Raabta, A Gentleman, Chef — 2017 seemed like a graveyard where big-budget/banner/highly-anticipated films went to die. While some received a critical drubbing, others couldn’t bring in the box office megabucks they were expected to. Will 2018 be any better? Such at least, is the hope.

V

Vinod Khanna

Also, Varun Dhawan; Vidya Balan; Virushka

Bollywood bid adieu to Vinod Khanna, who passed away aged 70 after a battle (reportedly) with cancer.

Meanwhile, Vidya Balan and Varun Dhawan had a good year — Vidya for what was widely hailed as a return to form in Tumhari Sulu, and Varun for his moneyspinners (Badrinath Ki Dulhaniya and Judwaa 2) in a year that saw few films cross the Rs 100 crore mark.

For Virushka, see W for weddings.

W

Weddings!

Or rather, *the* wedding. We’re talking about Virat Kohli and Anushka Sharma nuptials of course. Airport sighting, Tuscan getaway, Delhi-Mumbai reception, it seemed like there was no end to the couple’s shaadi-related updates. Not that we’re complaining — rarely have we seen a pair more photogenic than these two. And we’re sure wedding planners are going to see a stream of requests for Virushka inspired events.

X

xXx: The Return of Xander Cage

Following close on the heels of Priyanka Chopra, Deepika Padukone too made her Hollywood debut this year with the Vin Diesel film. Making a fair impression as she did the rounds of late-night chat shows and red carpets, Deepika also got Vin to come down to India where he charmed fans.

Y

Young ‘uns

Ishan Khatter. Jahnvi Kapoor. Sara Ali Khan. Young Bollywood was ready for its moment in the spotlight, preparing for their debuts, all that nepotism talk be damned. Meanwhile, the youngest of the lot — Taimur Ali Khan — continued to rule social media, chubby cheeks, green eyes et al.

Z

Zaira Wasim

The Dangal actress had a mixed year: She was viciously cyber-bullied for a meeting with Mehbooba Mufti, then got into a war of words over Twitter with politician Vijay Goel, before speaking out against an alleged harassment incident, and being praised for her role in one of the year’s best films, Secret Superstar.

Manoj Bajpayee thinks Bollywood is in a healthy space: ‘If Golmaal Again has done well, so has Newton’

From his breakthrough role in Ram Gopal Varma’s Satya (1998) through Anurag Kashyap’s Gangs of Wasseypur (2012), two time National Award winning actor Manoj Bajpayee, who won a standing ovation in Busan for his searing portrayal of a persecuted gay professor in Hansal Mehta’s Aligarh, has consistently forged an independent path.

Strangely enough, there was a time when he wanted to pack his bags and go back to his hometown in Bihar due to lack of offers, whereas today, Bajpayee is among one of the busiest actors, with his upcoming film Rukh being his seventh feature film since 2016. He plays father to an 18-year-old boy in debutant directorAtanu Mukherjees film.

“It’s a complicated character and we have shown a very unique way of exploring the relationship between father and son. When the father is not there, the son’s relationship and the bond with his father keeps growing as he wants to find the reasons behind his father’s death. Also, there is a hint of suspense and intrigue and the viewers will keep guessing the reason behind the father’s death. I felt like I was reading a fantastic novel while reading the script. It mesmerised me completely in the manner it was written — simple yet without losing the beauty of telling the story,” says Bajpayee.

And he’s is all praise for the director, “Atanu has treated his film like a novel. He is a brave storyteller. He is not somebody who will welcome anything you give him, without hurting or offending anybody. It is always a great experience when you work with a director whose clarity is absolutely high. There was no moment of confusion and he pushed his actors to achieve what he wanted from them.”

Off-late, Bajpayee has been quite successfully balancing between commercial and alternate cinema. If on one hand he is doing films like Rukh and international projects like In The Shadows (psychological drama), on the other hand he’s also part of an out and out commercial ventureTiger Shroff-starrer Baaghi 2. He also just wrapped up Neeraj Pandey’s Aiyaary, which has Sidharth Malhotra in a significant role

“I am very clear about the commercial films I take up. I do only those in which I have a good role. I accepted Baaghi 2 because I share a good relationship with Ahmed Khan (director). Then, I’m really excited about Aiyaary. Neeraj Pandey is a fantastic director. This will be my fifth film under his production. And after that I have Devashish Makhija’s Bhosle,” reveals Bajpayee.

He furthers, “Now I have too many options and choices to make, which is such a great sign. I am getting all kinds of offers, from all genres. I don’t mind even entering the digital space if something interesting comes up. After Satya (in which he played the iconic Bhiku Mhatre), I sat at home for eight to nine months. I finally chose Ram Gopal Varma’s Shool because I wasn’t getting work outside. Today, I don’t have time for my family and my family can never complain because all these years I was very much with them but now I am absent. I’m compensating for the free time I had in the past (laughs).”

“Rajkummar Rao, Nawazuddin, and actors who are really good will get their due now. If these actors are getting a chance to showcase their talent, it is a good sign for a very healthy industry. This is the time when so much varied content is being produced on so many different platforms – digital, television or cinema. People are ready to put their money where there is experiment happening,” adds Bajpayee.

“Earlier, when I started my career, the industry was ruled by commercial, formula films. I didn’t have any option. I used to run from one studio to another, one director to another thinking I will get some good roles but I would land with small itsy-bitsy roles. I was living in frustration. Private television channels had just started coming in. Survival had become difficult and many times I felt that I should just pack my bags and go home but I was destined to be here. The success of Satya gave me the strength to carve a path for myself,” he says.

Whatever be his choice and experience, that hasn’t stopped Bajpayee from appreciating mainstream films. “I have always enjoyed watching masala films. In fact, I was the one who was chasing David Dhawan after Satya released and I would plead with him to make a film with me. I would tell him, ‘Please do one film with me as well’ and David would reply, ‘You’re a very serious actor. Your image of a serious actor is far too strong. You will ruin my film’,” Bajpayee recalls and laughs out loud.

The other reason that makes Bajpayee positive about the industry is the happy co-existence between commercial and off-beat cinema.

“Look, as long as cinema is there, stars will always be there. Our efforts should be to make films with great content so that they can also co-exist with the commercial, star-oriented films. If one genre has a monopoly, it will never help the audience as they will be devoid of choices,” said the actor. He furthers, “ If Golmaal Again and Judwaa 2 have done well, so has Newton. Films like Lipstick Under My Burkha, and last year Aligarh, managed to create a lot of buzz. I am in favour of all genres running parallel and doing well, to have a healthy industry,” he explains.

Phillauri actress Mehreen Pirzada on Anushka Sharma, her Bollywood debut and Telugu films

Five years ago, when Mehreen Pirzada was working in New York, little did she know that, one fine day, she would pursue an acting career in films.

In 2013, when she took part in the Miss South Asia Canada beauty pageant in Toronto, Mehreen was supposed to dance in one of the rounds at the beauty pageant. She had to pick a chit which had a celebrity’s name and it turned out to be, well, Anushka Sharma herself.

“I danced on the song ‘Jiya Re‘ from Jab Tak Hai Jaan,” Mehreen laughs recounting the story. “Ever since, I was hoping that I would get a chance to work with Anushka. I believe in fairy tales. I’m living one right now. Three years later, after six rounds of auditions in early 2016, I finally got a call. It was while I was watching Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight. I had to come to Mumbai and meet Anushka Sharma, who’s one of the producers of Phillauri. Suddenly, I felt like I was under a spotlight.”

phillauri-official-trailer-anushka-sharma-diljit-dosanjh-1

Ask her if Anushka knows this story, Mehreen beams with joy saying, “Yes. When I shared my story with her, she was surprised. And then, she told me that a long time ago, her mother had written a chit where she wished that her daughter should act in a Yash Raj film when she grows up. Finally, when she bagged Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, her mother showed her the chit. I couldn’t help but blush when she told me this story.”

In Phillauri, Mehreen plays Anu, a young woman who is about to get married to her childhood sweetheart Kanan, played by Suraj Sharma. When he’s told that he’s mangalik and has to get married to a tree to ward off evil, he ends up meeting a friendly spirit Shashi (Anushka Sharma). The film is, in a way, a study on how love is the same no matter what the time frame is. “The story constantly keeps going back and forth. Anshai Lal and writer Anvita Dutt have weaved an interesting story about how love doesn’t change even though time changes,” the actress adds.

Being the youngest member of the cast, she admits to being quite pampered on the sets of Phillauri.

“I was the youngest and newest member of the team. All my co-stars – Anushka, Diljit Dosanjh and Suraj Sharma are well-established, but never made me feel out of place. I’m very critical of my own work and want to deliver my best. One time, when I was quite upset that I didn’t get a shot right, and Anushka got to know that I cried the whole night. The next day she came and hugged me and said, ‘Arey pagli…kya hua tujhe? Why were you crying? We’re all there for you.’

“I didn’t expect such a sweet gesture from her. She treated me like her own sister. The best thing about her is that she is quite straight forward as a person” said Mehreen.

Having grown up in Punjab, before her family moved to Canada, Mehreen is well-versed with the nuances of the Punjabi culture; however, she disagrees that it was a major factor behind why she bagged the role. “We are actors and the only thing that matters is how much we soak in the characters and make them our own. I act in Telugu films and when I’m shooting there, I’m a Telugu girl,” she avers.

So, does she have plans to go back to Canada in near future? “Only if I have to shoot there,” she laughs, adding, “I’m really glad that I spent the formative years of my life in USA and Canada. It has helped shape my personality. Back there, you are on your own and you do things to make yourself happy, not others.”

The actress made her debut in Telugu cinema in early 2016 with Krishna Gaadi Veera Prema Gadha in which she played Nani’s romantic interest. Despite the success of the film, she had to wait for nearly 10 months to bag her next project and currently, she’s on a roll with as many as five Telugu and Tamil films to her credit.

Says Mehreen, “I was going through a low phase after making my acting debut. I knew the film had done well, but I wasn’t getting any offers. I can’t sit idle at home because it makes me feel restless. However, I didn’t let this negativity get the better of me. Thankfully, things are looking good at the moment with plenty of work. Right now, I’m as excited as a school kid about my debut in Bollywood. I had a similar feeling when I was awaiting the release of Krishna Gaadi Veera Prema Gaadha and now, I’m going through the same thing again.

It’s not just Akshay Kumar, but the female characters in the satirical dark comedy drama, Jolly LLB 2, were also applauded.

It’s not just Akshay Kumar, but the female characters in the satirical dark comedy drama, Jolly LLB 2, were also applauded.

One such character was the wonderfully-nuanced cameo by SayaniGupta, who played Hina Siddiqui, a young Muslim woman driven to despair.  It’s a small but pivotal and deeply impactful role, so much so that Sayani was lauded for her performance by some of the veterans from the industry. Twitterati in large numbers also poured their love for her.

Gupta has so far been doing a balancing act between commercial and art cinema. She has received critical acclaim for her offbeat and distinctive roles in films like her debut Margarita With A Straw (played the role of Kalki’s love interest)and most recently Fan (as Shah Rukh Khan’s secretary), however, Sayani doesn’t take compliments or criticism seriously.

“I have never sat down to ponder over what others have to say because ultimately you know what you have done. Piyush Mishra (theatre and film actor, NSD alumni) called me few days back when I was shooting for Jagga Jasoos, and said while referring to Jolly LLB 2, ‘I didn’t know you acted so well.’  Lot of people are complimenting me on social media as well. Somebody told me that they went to watch the film thrice because of me. There are lot of people who said I made them feel for the part and I made them cry,” says Sayani.

sayani

She continues, “My performance really moved my mother, and she is far too detached about the industry and not at all excited about the film world or what I am doing. She is not in favour of me acting and it was quite a struggle to convince her when I went to FTII (Film and Television Institute of India). Little by little, she is coming to terms with it but she would have rather seen me as an IAS officer or in a regular job.”

“We are from middle class family and they didn’t want their only daughter to get into films. Obviously there are certain perceptions about the film industry. My close friends never say nice things, they are always critiquing my work, but finally they felt that I was brilliant in Jolly LLB 2.”

Strangely enough, Sayani has been getting offers for horror movies for last few years and she, too, fails to understand the reason for it. “Maybe they think I am a Bengali, I have big eyes…” she laughs.

While Sayani so far has rejected two offers post Jolly LLB 2 (as  she is “choosy”, “instinctive”, “and not ready for it”), she is certainly excited about her first international project, The Hungry, which is an Indo-British production starring Naseeruddin Shah and Tisca Chopra. The film, for which the actors were very selectively chosen, is directed by debutante filmmaker Bornila Chatterjee, who is an alumnus from New York’s Tisch School of the Arts. The Hungry is an adaptation of William Shakespeare tragedy Titus Androcinus, which is believed to have been written between 1588 and 1593.

“This year marks the 400th death anniversary of Shakespeare. His stories could seem a tad hyper-real for this era, but this film is a realistic take. The script won at a collaborative cine-lab,” says Sayani, further adding, “The film has a bunch of deadly actors. We shot for it in Delhi and Agra. The ambience on set was stimulating and since we all got along so well, it turned out to be a great shoot.”

Recently, Sayani earned an honourable mention for the Best Actress award for her short film, Leeches, at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles  (IFFLA). In just two years of her career, she’s also bagged one of the lead roles opposite Naseeruddin Shah with The Hungry. The actress considers it her privilege to act alongside ‘Naseer’, who was her teacher at the FTII.

“Naseer was very excited about his role after decades. He plays my father. He has been my teacher and lot of my understanding about acting and the craft is because of him. It was almost like reassurance of sorts when he would come to take our class. I adore him as a human being. He is fun to be around. He has always taught us how acting is all about reacting. He is a keen listener, which adds to the performance,” she says, adding:

“There are two of the coolest men I have worked with – Shah Rukh Khan and Naseeruddin Shah. They are sensitive, they are aware, they don’t take themselves too seriously. They are normal dudes.”

So did Sayani take any advice from the two “coolest” men?

“Some of the things Naseer told me is: ‘Learn your lines till you bump into a furniture. Know your lines backwards. Study the script well. Be relaxed and don’t take things too seriously. Make it fun and light.’ On the other hand, there’s much to learn just by the way Shah Rukh carries himself. He is the most technically sound actor, I feel. His understanding, the cleanliness with which he does everything, his craft is solid. He doesn’t show it. He is persistently hardworking and also the humility. He doesn’t take his stardom seriously,” she reveals.

Two of Sayani’s “friends” from the industry are the erstwhile directors – Rajkumar Hirani and Vishal Bhardwaj. She may not have offers from them yet but she certainly takes their advice. “I don’t talk work with them. Hirani often tells me that I should give people time after they have seen my film. I did audition for a part in Rangoon but Vishal told me that it won’t be good enough for me. I would never ask them to cast me because that could hamper our relationship. Whenever they want to cast me, they will.”

Sayani is currently shooting for Ranbir Kapoor-Katrina Kaif- starrer Jagga Jasoos which has been in the making for a long time. “When I signed the film I was playing the only narrator in the film. I had a separate track of my own. But since there is no script — Dada (Director Anurag Basu) doesn’t work with scripts, he writes as he goes along — my role has changed. I will know what my part is only after I see the film. Also, it is a very difficult film when it comes to format. It is musical, it’s a children’s film, and it is not a normal narrative. I play a 14-year-old girl and that is all I know (laughs),” she says.

Don’t expect Bollywood stars to pull a Meryl Streep: Honesty’s never a virtue in the film industry

On the contrary, more often than not they succumb to political and ideological bullying – never standing up for their beleaguered colleagues or fellow citizens. That these stars, despite their hefty celebrity statuses, have ever so often failed to defend fellow actors who are hounded by fundamentalists and government alike, is indeed a sad commentary on the culture of the Bombay film industry.

Mercifully, not all celebrities across the world, are cut from the same cloth. When confronted with bullies, not all of them genuflect or become tongue–tied. Nor do they fear to take the powerful head on.

Meryl Streep poses in the press room with the Cecil B. DeMille award at the 74th annual Golden Globe Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Sunday, Jan. 8, 2017, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

This Sunday night, the celebrated actor Meryl Streep, presented an inspiring template for the kind of outrage celebrities can put on display.

While accepting her lifetime achievement award at the Golden Globes, Streep turned the occasion into one which addressed many of the anxieties that have been racking America since the Presidential election this November. Speaking out against the dangerous and discriminatory politics practised by US president–elect Donald Trump, she said:

“Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners. And if we kick them all out you’ll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts which are not the arts. An actor’s only job is to enter the lives of people who are different from us, and let you feel what that feels like. And there were many, many, many powerful performances this year that did exactly that. Breathtaking, compassionate work.”

In a grand, eloquent sweep, the veteran actor gestured towards the challenges awaiting the acting fraternity, and many other diverse sections of the American public. She told the gathering how Trump’s imitation of a disabled reporter “broke her heart. … I still can’t get it out of my head, because it wasn’t in a movie. It was real life. And this instinct to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life, because it kinda gives permission for other people to do the same thing,” she said.

Faced with Meryl Streep’s speech, one cannot but consider how strikingly different the conduct of Bollywood stars has been when it comes to dealing with similar challenges; how abjectly they have failed in not just defending their own rights as a collective community of actors – but also thereby ending up backing retrogressive fiats by default.

Very recently we were witness to the manner in which Raj Thackeray’s Navnirman Chitrapat Karmachari Sena (MNS) bullied top Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan, and director Karan Johar, into giving an assurance that they would not work with Pakistani actors in future. The orchestrated uproar over the release of Khan’s film Raees this September, which had Mahira Khan, a Pakistani actress in a lead role, pushed Shah Rukh Khan into offering Thackeray an assurance that “they will not hire any Pakistani actor till the situation between the two countries (India and Pakistan) improved.”

Shalini Thackeray, general secretary of MNS Chitrapat Karamchari Sena, went to the extent of saying: “It is not a veiled threat. It’s a direct threat to producers like SRK and Karan Johar who take Pakistani actors in their movies.” Even in the face of such unabashed bullying, Bollywood kept totally silent.

The same way it kept mum when the Modi government attacked actor Aamir Khan last year for his comments on the prevailing culture of intolerance in the country.

The discomfiting truth is that in almost all such cases of covert and overt persecution, actors are left to fight lonely battles (that is if they themselves do not rush to placate the bullies,) while the industry heavyweight lapse into silence as a means of self–preservation and self–advancement.

In stark contrast to such servility, Meryl Streep spoke out not on just on behalf of her own fraternity – but also defended the interests of the larger fraternity of others who are feeling ever more alienated and threatened by Trump’s politics.

Her speech, in its wide scope, was political in content. “Disrespect invites disrespect, violence incites violence. And when the powerful use their position to bully others we all lose,” she said. Addressing the media, the actor called on the press to hold the government accountable and for the public to support independent reporting. She urged the “famously well-heeled Hollywood Foreign Press” to support the Committee to Protect Journalists. Saying “we’re going to need them, and they’ll need us to safeguard the truth.”

In a strangely fitting way, Streep’s speech comes days after the death of Indian actor Om Puri who, not only championed progressive causes throughout his career but was mercilessly hounded by the powers that be last year for his remarks on the controversy on hiring Pakistani actors.

Unsurprisingly, he found little vocal support within his own community. All too often, only the Anupam Khers of Bollywood are heard speaking out aloud – and that speaks volumes for the culture that seems to dominate the film industry in India.

Dear Zindagi an unusual Bollywood movie that explores the inner life of a troubled woman

There are several lines of dialogue in Dear Zindagi that you are unlikely to have heard before in Hindi cinema. A woman telling a man to pull up his (unsightly low-slung) pants before he goes in front of the camera; a woman telling a man, “I need to pee.” (In Bunty Aur Babli, Rani Mukherjee implies it when she asks Bunty to come guard the railway station. And in Raj Kumar Santoshi’s Lajja, Manisha Koirala learns to pee on the side of the road while drunkenly cavorting with Madhuri Dixit.) Dear Zindagi also features a woman announcing that she failed Class II, and a man saying his former lover would never have achieved success if they had stayed together.

Dear Zindagi stars Shah Rukh Khan and Alia Bhatt

I was looking forward to Dear Zindagi in a vague way, aided by the memory of watching Sridevi’skabuki mask-like, but still absorbing face in Gauri Shinde’s first film, English Vinglish. In Dear Zindagi, Alia Bhatt is also often expressionless-yet-not, prickly and grouchy to hide her wealth of feelings. At one point, when Kaira (Bhatt) hears from her friend Fatima (Ira Dubey) that her lover has gotten engaged to someone else, she bites into a green chilli and eats it with steady viciousness. You want to look away from her tiny red lips, but you can’t. She sniffs, and when her friend asks her if she is okay, she blames the chilli. Then she goes back to the editing studio to edit the music video she’s directing.

English-Vinglish was the journey of a well-adjusted, middle-aged woman who thinks well of herself. She only has to understand why the world doesn’t think well of her — just because she doesn’t speak English. In Dear Zindagi, Kaira doesn’t think well of herself, but others do. She veers between fragility and irritability, and we don’t know why. We don’t quite know why she’s so mean to her parents and relatives. (That’s a lie; the relatives are so well-calibrated in their smugness that I was ready to slap them on Kaira’s behalf.) We find out what has created her brittle unhappiness, as she finds out, through her therapy sessions with cool shrink Jahangir Khan (Shah Rukh Khan).

This explicit exploration of the inner life of a young woman is fairly unprecedented in Bollywood. In Tanu Weds Manu 2, we do get a chance to see Tanu’s emotional struggles with her self-destructiveness. But the black comedy of that movie and that heroine didn’t permit the earnest pursuit of mental health. Instead, in the opening scene, Tanu manages to turn marriage counselling into an opportunity to get her husband locked up in an asylum. In Queen, Rani needs the trip to Paris to recover from heartbreak and gain confidence in her own ability to navigate the world.

It’s soothing, therefore, to hear Khan tell Kiara that she doesn’t have to forgive her parents or confront them for abandoning her. To hear Khan tell Kiara that she is not “cheap” but “superfine” to not settle for the first man who comes down the pike. Kiara has literal-minded nightmares about society judging her for being unmarried and unloved (troublingly, Shinde visualises this as working-class men mocking married middle-class women). It’s even more soothing when Khan tells Kiara that no society — no matter how judgmental — doesn’t have to think well of her, as long as she thinks well of herself. It’s so soothing that you are tempted to ignore the outrageous wish-fulfilment that is the tailpiece of the movie.

A friend who went to Dear Zindagi with me began with pessimism, saying warily that the scenes of Kaira zooming above her sets in a cinematographer’s crane are likely to be the most empowering things about the movie. (He changed his mind). For me, the wish-fulfilment moment was when Kaira tells the newly engaged ex-lover Raghuvendra (Kunal Kapoor) that she has decided to not work with him on his next project. Raghuvendra, dejected but trying to be a good guy, begins some spiel about what he thinks. This sets off Kaira like a bomb. She yells at him because she has already announced her decision, he wasn’t going to get a chance to now pretend it was his decision. Ah, the ridiculous, petty, total satisfaction.

Shinde’s story stays true despite any temptations that may have come along. Kaira doesn’t find herself in a romance with her ex-lover, a new lover or even in her crush on Khan. The climax is a classic emotional breakthrough about her childhood. If you have any doubts that Bhatt can act, this is the scene for you. She cries hard enough to melt a rock. This is also a scene of unintentional comedy. SRK, who should be a proud therapist, has never looked more uncomfortable than he does at this stage. He looks like he wants to say, “I hate tears, Kaira.”

My formerly pessimistic friend explained, “No one told him he has to do anything but smoulder. Or may be it’s those pants.” It’s true that the pants seem very tight, Aki Narula. It’s also that SRK is frequently a smouldering shoulder, but he is more. Shinde’s several on-the-nose pitches and Khan’s sussegad style makes an attractive case for therapy.

Kaira has her breakthrough and slowly makes her peace with her family. Which brings us to that fantasy tailpiece. Her long-stuck short film about a cross-dressing Portuguese soldier is finally made. It is screened on the beach to an audience of her whole life. All her friends, her whole family, the man she broke up with (Angad Bedi), the man who broke up with her (Kunal Kapoor), the man who wasn’t quite right for her (a shockingly muscular Ali Zafar). They are all there, flushed with admiration, applause and goodwill for Kaira. There’s also a new man who has solid potential of being the next love interest (Aditya Roy Kapoor).

Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge to Ae Dil Hai Mushkil: Bollywood loves naming films after hit songs

Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge still runs successfully at Maratha Mandir today. What runs along with it in the film industry, are all the DDLJ clichés that the film gave birth to, in 1995. The train sequence, lovers running and uniting in the fields and the girl’s furious father letting go of his daughter in the climax – all these scenes became historic and, in turn, the formula for all commercial entertainers.

Ae Dil Hai Mushkil borrows its title from the Johnny Walker's iconic song from the 1956 film CID.

An unnoticed trend or formula that Aditya Chopra’s film injected into the veins of the industry was that of dedicating the title of the film to the name of a famous song. Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge was the name of a song from Yash Raj Films’ 1974 movie Chor Machaye Shor starring Mumtaz and Shashi Kapoor.

Chopra, who was just four years old at the time of the release of the film, is likely to have imbibed the dialogues, scenes and songs of his legendary father Yash Chopra’s films. Thus, while selecting a title of his directorial debut, he chose one of the famous songs that he grew up listening to. The title fit into the context of the film aptly as well.

What followed was a trend of naming films after famous songs as a formula, on the director’s part, to replicate DDLJ’s momentous success. One of the first attempts at executing the formula was in the 1998 Sohail Khan directorial Pyar Kiya Toh Darna Kya starring Salman Khan and Kajol.

The film could have been named anything else but Khan chose to bank on the popularity of the legendary song from K Asif’s 1960 historical drama Mughal-e-Aazam. The film emerged successful and the trend of naming films after famous songs continued.

While intertextuality was not a new phenomenon in Hindi cinema, these allusions to popular songs gained traction as a mere market trend. There were several instances when the title of the film had little to do with the story but was used nonetheless as the song it was named after had immense recall value among its target group.

For example, Samir Karnik’s 2011 comedy Yamla Pagla Deewana was named so to attract the fans of Dharmendra to cinema halls. The film was nothing more than an ode to the revered actor and the fact that he was sharing the screen space with his sons Sunny and Bobby Deol for the first time. The right packaging, in which the title played a crucial role, ensured the film was a huge success at the box office, though it was panned by the film critics.

Similarly, after Ranbir Kapoor had a flawed launch vehicle in Saawariya, Yash Raj Films decided to capitalise on their own formula when they re-launched Kapoor through the film Bachna Ae Haseeno, named after his father Rishi Kapoor’s iconic song from the 1977 action film Hum Kisi Se Kum Naheen. The film worked and launched the fourth generation star in the process. Incidentally, another film of Ranbir, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani was named after the title song of his uncle Randhir Kapoor’s 1972 film Jawani Diwani. The titles of the two films were in tune with Ranbir’s characters but at the same time, they indicated the fact that Ranbir is carrying forward his family legacy.

There were a few films which took their titles from popular songs but presented it in an entirely new light. The most recent example is Karan Johar’s Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. The title is inspired from Johnny Walker’s historic song from the 1956 film CID. Though the context of that song was the trials that one faces while making his ends meet in Mumbai, Johar’s version turned into an anthem for unrequited lovers.

Another good example is Farah Khan’s Om Shanti Om, which was a complete detour from Rishi Kapoor’s song from the 1980 thriller Karz. Though both the films were based on the theme of reincarnation, the title had little to do with the coincidence. It alluded to the characters of the film, Shantipriya and the two incarnations of Om.

Another interesting example is Rakesh Roshan’s Koi Mil Gaya. The title referred to a dance number in Johar’s Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. Since the song was a children’s favourite, Roshan decided to name the film after the song to please his target group. However, the rationale behind the title was not superficial as unlike the song it was named after, the ‘koi’ in the song did not refer to first love but to an extra-terrestrial creature.

Roshan’s 2003 fantasy film came just six years after Johar’s film so the song had good recall value by then. Similarly, films like Guzaarish and Jai Ho also followed the same path as they banked on the popularity of recent hit songs from Ghajini and Slumdog Millionaire. Though Sanjay Leela Bhansali added depth to the title of Guzaarish by addressing the issue of euthanasia, Sohail Khan changed the name of his film from Mental to Jai Ho after AR Rahman won an Academy Award for composing the renowned song sung by Sukhwinder Singh.

As the trend continues with upcoming films like Meri Pyari Bindu and Raabta, we are yet to see whether these films hold any titular relevance or are merely spin offs of popular songs with good recall value.

IPL 2016 Opening ceremony: Bollywood stars set the stage alight ahead of new season

Mumbai: A glitzy mix of Bollywood razzmatazz and high-octane performances, including that of West Indian cricketer Dwayne Bravo’s smash-hit rap ‘Champion dance’, marked a glittering opening ceremony which set the ball rolling for the ninth edition of the IPL on Friday night.

The two hour and 15 minute long event was less spectacular as compared to the previous editions but the cine stars still managed to put up an entertaining show, enthralling the gathering at the Sardar Vallabhbhai Stadium at the National Sports Club of India in Mumbai.

Ranveer Singh performs during the opening ceremony of IPL. PTI

Bollywood actors Ranveer Singh, Katrina Kaif, Jacqueline Fernandez and Punjabi rapper Yo Yo Honey Singh kept the audience glued to their seats during the opening gala attended by the BCCI top brass, franchise team owners, players and support staff of all the eight participating teams.

The crowd at the indoor stadium enjoyed every bit of Bravo’s much-anticipated ‘champions dance’. In white blazer and black trousers, Bravo, a part of the West Indies World Twenty20 winning team, swayed to his ‘Champion dance’ as the fellow cricketers and crowd cheered him.

Bravo also danced to another number ‘Chalo Chalo’ and was joined on the stage by Bollywood playback singer Ankit Tewari who sang an Indian version of ‘Champion’ — ‘Hindustan Mein Bade Bade Champion.

Like earlier opening ceremonies, the cricket segment was short and limited to only the oath taking ceremony by the skippers of the eight teams. Indian team Director Ravi Shastri ushered the eight captains to sign the MCC Spirit of Cricket pledge for fair play.

Hollywood and Bollywood choreographers shake a leg for ‘Rhythm’

(L-R) Rinil Routh, Glenn Douglas Packard, Ganesh Acharya and Adeel Chaudhry in RhythmRouth, Glenn Douglas Packard, Ganesh Acharya and Adeel Chaudhry in Rhythm
The lead actors of ‘Rhythm’, Adeel Chaudhry and Rinil Routh, are lucky debutants who matched their steps with not one, but two renowned choreographers in the same song. Writer-director Vivek Kumar roped in Glenn Douglas Packard, an internationally acclaimed choreographer, and B-Town’s very own Ganesh Acharya to groove to ‘Fatey Chuck’, which was shot in one of the swankiest and biggest clubs in Krakow, Poland, with 200 dancers.

Having worked with Ganesh in films like ‘Kranti’ and ‘Zor’, Vivek convinced him to make a special appearance in the song. He says, “Glenn, who has choreographed the other tracks in the film, happened to visit our shoot that day. That’s when I thought of getting them to shake a leg together for the peppy number. Both of them happily obliged. While Glenn sported an Indian ensemble, Ganesh wore a Western outfit.

 They performed each other’s trademark steps and the result was a fantastic fusion of Hollywood and Bollywood.”

‘Rhythm’, produced by Vicky Films Pvt Ltd and presented by RN Kumar, releases on February 19.