It’s no longer a secret that the makers of the Dhamaal franchise are all set to launch the third installment titled Total Dhamaal.
After raking in moolah at the box-office with his film Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, director Shree Narayan Singh is all set to awaken the moral/social/civic conscience of his audience with the upcoming film Batti Gul Meter Chalu.
Themed around rising electricity charges and escalated billing in many parts of India, Batti Gul Meter Chalu stars Shahid Kapoor in the lead role; he plays the role of a lawyer in the film. There has been persistent speculation around the casting of the actress opposite Kapoor. But the Padmavati actor refuted it all, stating no actress had been roped in yet.
But, now, according to a report by Mumbai Mirror, Ileana D’Cruz is being considered for the role.
Confirming the development (of approaching D’Cruz), one of the co-producers of the film, Prernaa Arora of KriArj Entertainment told Mirror, “We have only spoken to Ileana so far. It is a strong role of a lawyer with intense scenes and we are casting now.”
The film’s teaser was released during Diwali this year. Singh, in a statement, revealed why the festival of lights was chosen for the teaser launch. “Diwali makes it just the right occasion for us to shed light on a subject that needs to be discussed. We look forward to making a film that is both commercially entertaining and encourages a social conversation,” reports PTI.
The Mirror report also adds that the film will go on the floors on 19 January next year and will be extensively shot in places like Haridwar, Rishikesh, Tehri, Mussoorie and Nainital. Batti Gul Meter Chalu is slated to release on 31 August, 2018.
All-time rom-com favourite Jab We Met has created quite the cult following over the years — it’s our go-to flick to restore the idea of love.
Now, after 10 long years, the director Imtiaz Ali and the protagonist of the film Shahid Kapoor are all set to make another romantic flick, reports have claimed. And backing the director with his new project is old favourite Sajid Nadiadwala, who will be producing the film, reports DNA.
Sources in the report have further revealed that Sajid Nadiadwala is quite happy and hopeful about the upcoming film.
Sajid and Imtiaz’s last film together was Tamasha, which, inspite of much love from critics, could not do fair business at the box office. Ranbir, Deepika’s performances were, however, lauded by all.
Shahid-Imtiaz and the team of Jab We Met had celebrated 10 years of the film recently and this was when the news of the two coming back together was revealed. As per various reports, the film will go on the floors in April next year. The film will be extensively shot in Mumbai. However, the female lead is yet to be finalised by the director, and the hunt is on.
Shahid Kapoor has always been nostalgic about Jab We Met. As PTI reports, he earlier made a remark saying, “I feel for Aditya Kashyap, both in the movie and after its release, because he didn’t get the recognition he deserved. Instinctively, I knew that 10 years later people would get this guy but at that time, to make Jab We Met work, one character had to anchor the story so the other one could jump around.”
Mumbai: Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan’s quirky character Shakti Kumaarr from his forthcoming movie Secret Superstar has been inspired by Jeetendra and Anil Kapoor.
Aamir said in a statement: “One of the secrets from Secret Superstar is that in this film, I have used some lines that film actors usually use in their personal life and whenever I meet them. I tend to remember some lines from it, and I have used those lines while playing my character in the film.
“For example, when I met Jeetuji (Jeetendra) for the very first time, I found him as a very humorous person. He had come to visit Nasir (filmmaker Nasir Hussain) sahab once and I was sitting with them that time. I was an assistant to Nasir sahab then. Jeetuji said, ‘Nasir sahab, I have been offered a film which has a double role’. Jeetuji laughed and said I can’t do one role properly and I have been offered two roles.
“Further, he said that it’s perfectly fine, I’ll do it well and said ‘Buck up India’… The way he said ‘Buck Up India’, I found it so charming that time that it remained in my mind, and now also if we meet somewhere, he says, ‘Son, you have a release now… Buck Up India! It will do very good’. The way Jeetuji uses that phrase ‘Buck up India’ is something I like and I have used that in Secret Superstar.”
What about Anil?
“One thing about Anil Kapoor I have noticed is that whenever he is done talking on call, he doesn’t say bye once, he says bye about 15-20 times on call. So while speaking with him on call when I say, ‘Anil, see you bye’, he says ‘Bye, bye, bye, bye, bye’ in series. My character uses this trait also.”
Secret Superstar is a film which brings out the inner superstar of a teenage girl who is dreaming to become a singer and how she fulfils her dreams by keeping her identity hidden.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Editor’s note: With Shah Rukh Khan’s Fan and Salman Khan’s Tubelight not quite hitting the mark in terms of box office success, there are some crucial question we found ourselves thinking about. Is Bollywood’s male movie-star bound by his ‘image’? What happens when stars experiment, and give their fans something ‘new’? What happens when their experiments fail and how do the stars themselves react to this failure? This is part two of a three part analysis on this very idea — what is bigger, the star or the image of the star?
In the just-released Jagga Jasoos, Ranbir Kapoor plays a Tintin-esque detective. The film itself is cast in the mould of a Broadway musical, not seen before in Bollywood, and includes 21 songs.
Ranbir’s played varied roles before — be it the coming-of-age Wake Up Sid or the everyman in Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year, and even Tamasha. Still, Jagga Jasoos is an ‘experiment’ for the actor.
What’s interesting that this ‘experimentation’ is being engaged in by actors across the spectrum in the Hindi film industry. Just a few weeks ago, we had Salman Khan playing a man with developmental difficulties in Tubelight. While that film flickered out at the box office, it was an attempt on Salman’s part to do a role different from his usual larger-than-life onscreen image. Meanwhile, his contemporary Shah Rukh Khan is also trying something different with Aanand L Rai’s next, in which he plays a dwarf; while Aamir Khan has — yet again — transformed himself entirely for his role in Thugs of Hindostan. Images of Aamir sporting long hair and a nosepin are already doing the rounds on social media.
A mere four years in the industry, and a Varun Dhawan can pull off a Badlapur, while a Sidharth Malhotra an work on an experimental thriller like Ittefaq.
Meanwhile, Ranveer Singh can charm viewers in an offbeat Lootera and play a rapper from the streets in Zoya Akhtar’s Gully Boys. And an ‘outsider’ like Sushant Singh rajput can break into the Bollywood big league with unconventional films like Kai Po Che, Shuddh Desi Romance and Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!
Forty years ago, this would have been unimaginable. One could hardly conceive of an Amitabh Bachchan or Dharmendra — at the height of their superstardom — playing differently-abled characters in a film that had no romantic angle. There would always be a song-and-dance routine with a Rekha in Ghazab, or the metamorphosis of dim-witted Kallu into dashing Kaalia. They would, undoubtedly, give the greatest of performances, but in conventional vehicles like Deewar, Pratigyaa and Chupke Chupke.
But playing a differently-abled character in a realistic drama… well, that kind of experimentation was best left to a Sanjeev Kumar, as in the 1970 release Khilona. It was up to a Balraj Sahni to play a landless labourer in a stark drama like Do Bigha Zameen, while a Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor — as great as they were — displayed their histrionics in larger-than-life films like Mughal-E-Azam and Awara. Or Naseeruddin Shah, who played a visually impaired man in Sparsh, while Vinod Khanna or Jeetendra bashed up baddies and romanced heroines in their films. But today, if Randeep Hooda or Nawazuddin Siddiqui are experimenting with their roles, so are the big stars like Salman, Shah Rukh.
It is not at all a coincidence that Aamir’s Lagaan, a film where a major Bollywood star experimented with both form as well as content, came within a decade of economic liberalisation, exposure to satellite television and invasion of the internet, followed by the multiplex revolution. The audience was changing and the stars were quick to realise it. Aamir tried to follow the same experimental route with Mangal Pandey — and though it proved less successful, he continued down that route.
Shah Rukh made the attempt with Swades, although it was Chak De India that proved to be his first major ‘experimental’ success. He continued walking off the beaten path with Karan Johar’s My Name is Khan and more recently, Yash Raj Films’ Fan. Salman may have started late, but he seems to be making up for lost time with Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Sultan and Tubelight. And if an Ajay Devgn has a Drishyam in his kitty, then Bollywood’s ultimate khiladi, Akshay Kumar has made it a point to pick unique subjects with films like Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, Padman and Gold.
These are definitely good times to be a Bollywood (film) viewer. We are fortunate to watch our favourite actors in unusual and experimental roles in an image-obsessed industry. As horizons have expanded, and tastes have evolved, it’s no longer a stretch for viewers to see their favourite stars go from playing the typical romantic/action hero to ageing wrestlers — or dwarves.
Actor-politician Paresh Rawal rarely sits down with the media for a chat but when he does, it is a no-holds barred interaction.
Ahead of the release of his upcoming flick Guest Iin London, Firstpost meets up with the actor in a suburban hotel and he answers every query ranging from movies to politics in his inimitable style, expressions and quirks.
The first part of the film – Atithi Tum Kab Jaoge was quite hilarious and funny. Now, in the second part, Ajay Devgn and Konkana Sen have been replaced by Kartik Aaryan and Kriti Kharbanda. Did you miss Ajay and Konkana especially since you might need senior actors with perfect timing to match your comic timing?
I never missed Konkana or Ajay in this story as it is a completely different film. Secondly, in terms of give and take, Kartik is equally competent, and even Kriti Kharbanda is a good actress. And I mean it, I’m not saying just to sound polite.
In the film, you reprise your role of a ‘bin bulaye mehman’, so what kind of a guest are you in real life? And how do you tackle unwanted guests?
As a guest, I never disturb the host or any of their belongings and I don’t like people tampering with my stuff as well. I like few people and I like them for not more than three to four days. I am pretty much upfront and straight-forward. I ask them right in the beginning about when they plan to leave, and when their tickets are booked. They know me well so they don’t mind me asking. But I don’t have guests who pester me.
You don’t seem to socialise much…
My job is to do good work. I am not here to maintain relationships. I am from theatre; you can call it arrogance, confidence or over confidence, but I never felt the need to network or party.
What kind of roles excite you? Which have been your most challenging roles so far?
Roles have to be well-written. It should scare me; it is fright that motivates me. Sir, Sardar, Tamanna, Mumbai Meri Jaan, Oye Lucky Lucky Oye — these are some of the better films I’ve done.
How’s your experience portraying Sunil Dutt in Sanjay Dutt’s biopic?
Oh, it’s so amazing. It’s all because of my director Rajkumar Hirani, because of Abhijat Joshi’s writing and because of Ranbir Kapoor’s acting that the movie is looking amazing. Ranbir is terrific, he is a unique talent.
What kind of preparation went into it?
Fortunately, I am portraying a character that doesn’t have any kind of set mannerisms or idiosyncrasies. Sunil Dutt was very human. He never had any vibes of stardom around him. The film is essentially a story about father and son.
Days before the release of a film, the idiosyncrasies of Ranbir Kapoor start resembling Aamir Khan: somewhat jittery, uneasy, impatient and restless.
The break slots between his various TV interviews are punctuated with mandatory cigarette breaks. The current persona of Ranbir Kapoor is a far cry from Ranbir Kapoor of last year or the year before that. Confidence, and a perpetual smile, have seeped into his body language, something that was missing till the time Ae Dil Hai Mushkil was declared a hit.
So does that mean that success is the be all and end all? “Not at all. If you see any changes in me then it’s because of my failures. When I taste success, then my reaction is phew! This time got saved. Usually when failure hits you, it sort of sets your life in motion. You start thinking about your career, you get insecure. To be honest I don’t’ know what my existence is and as of now it is to be an actor,” says a pepped up Ranbir.
When it comes to adjectives for this actor, it’s always a dilemma. The man often comes across as the whole package, an amalgamation of all that’s best. So should we be calling him Ranbir Kapoor, the actor, the producer or the superstar?
“Of course I would like to be called an actor. I don’t think I am superstar but yes I am star. I get to work with directors like Anurag Basu. People are interested in my films, my life and my personal life so there is an interest in me but I would definitely like to be known as Ranbir Kapoor, the actor before anything else,” he says.
His polished upbringing, and impeccable manners reflect in his soft voice. The usual tantrums one witnesses when stars are around are missing and instead one gets to meet a bundle of talent whose head and heart are in the right place. Once its revealed to him that this interview will involve no camera, like a typical college goer, Ranbir decides to shift the venue to the fourth floor smoking lounge of Disney’s swanky office.
Though a non-smoker, his favourite ‘Dada’ is there to give him company. And the two in sight together brings me to my next question — if the jodi of Ranbir Kapoor and Anurag Basu is akin to the jodi of Martin Scorcese and Robert De Niro?
“That’s a long shot and it’s better to take one film at a time. We have done only one film and the second is due next month. To compare with a jodi of such a stature, you need to make at least four to five films.”
The last time the two came together; the end result was Barfi, a film that was all heart and carried no false notes. The camaraderie that Ranbir Kapoor and Anurag Basu shared during the Barfi phase looked genuine, and was smeared with the right amount of mutual respect of each other’s craft.
And now they both are back with Jagga Jasoos. So is Anurag Basu addictive?
“When you are working with him, he is not addictive but the result he brings is amazing. To be honest, people loved me in Barfi probably more than they liked me in say Rockstar or any other film of mine. I worked 200 per cent more in a film like Bombay Velvet but in Barfi whatever I did, was channelised by him. He takes too much of responsibility on his shoulders be it music, acting, cinematography, make up, choreography, he takes care of just about everything. We only have to support him and he will do the work for you.”
Ranbir furthers, “He is a pain in the ass to work with because he works under extreme chaos. There is nothing called a schedule or a first assistant director on his sets. There is nothing like bound screenplay, which you normally get at your house on the first day of the shoot. Everything is full of chaos and everything is all heart too. I have no memory of anything that did on the sets of Jagga Jasoos or Barfi.”
Jagga Jasoos also marks the debut of Ranbir Kapoor as a producer. If the very first film takes more than three years in making, it’s bound to make any producer jittery and nervous. When asked if the unexpected delay was heartbreaking, he has a different take on it. If one were to take a close look at the poster, it’s apparent that under the producer credit, Ranbir’s name is mentioned before Anurag. Did he discuss this issue with Anurag? “Absolutely, I pointed this out to him and he said No. He said it would be Siddharth, Ranbir and then him. We had this conversation earlier and he was very clear about this.
The actress with the girl next door image, is thrilled to have bagged the ace badminton player Saina Nehwal biopic while she is in the midst of completing the other one, Haseena: The Queen of Mumbai, based on Dawood Ibrahim’s sister Haseena Parkar.
Gearing up for the release of Half Girlfriend (12 May), adapted from Chetan Bhagat’s novel, Shraddha talks to Firstpost on the exciting phase of her career her love for cinema, and her closest rival, Alia Bhatt. Excerpts from the interview:
You have upped the glamour quotient for Half Girlfriend.
My character, Riya Somani comes from an affluent background from Delhi. She’s one of those girls who blow dries her hair, wears designer clothes and travels in big cars to college. She is the most popular girl in college with every guy wanting to date her. While everybody thinks that she is happy and has everything in life, she is not. She gets happiness with simple things like getting wet in the rains, for example. She meets Arjun’s character Madhav Jha and likes that simplicity in him.
Your character is a basketball player, and you are seen shooting hoops in the film. Was it fun?
It was both, fun as well as challenging. In school, I used to play basketball but I was a substitute player so I was called only if someone was injured or tired or unwell. That was the fun part in the movie, and now I can say that I have become a decent basket ball player. Training for that was really hard, I trained for almost a month.
And what about badminton since you will be soon doing a biopic on Saina Nehwal?
I loved badminton. I am sure most of us have played the sport in our residential complex, in our building compound. However good or bad, and I have some amazing memories of playing the sport in my building compound.
It is really very strange how I will be playing the former world number one badminton champion.
So what kind of prep you will be doing to play Saina Nehwal?
Basketball is just part of Half Girlfriend, but here the entire film will revolve around badminton as that is the crux of Saina’s biopic. I will have to train for a while. It is not going to be just for a month but for at least few months. The preparation for this film is going to be very, very challenging. It’s probably going to be my most difficult film till date. I can’t wait to learn from Saina herself. She is going to teach me the sport.
Have you met her?
I have spoken to her, we have exchanged messages but I am looking forward to spending time with her.
With films like Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Mary Kom, MS Dhoni…the standards for sports biopics has been rising. Do expectations make you anxious?
Absolutely. That’s why it is so important for me to give good time before the shoot of the film so that I can prepare well. I will have to train a lot. I am scared and excited at the same time.
Some time back you were juggling between the two characters – Haseena Parkar and Riya Somani. How difficult was that?
That was quite tough. While I was shooting for the Haseena biopic I had to do the dubbing and promotions of Half Girlfriend. Haseena and Riya Somani are two very different characters. It was definitely challenging in its own way to juggle back and forth from both the characters and to get in and out of two worlds, especially since it is for the first time that I am playing a grey character (in Haseena).
The reaction to the first poster was quite overwhelming and I hope people react to the teaser the same way. When you watch the film, you will know what Haseena went through in her life: losing her loved ones, her son, her brother dying right in front of her. It was quite difficult for me to feel those emotions.
It must have been tough shooting with those prosthetics for Haseena?
Yes, it was, but eventually it became a part of Haseena. But I had tried to gain weight for this film, and I did gain but everything went to one area (points towards her stomach). I have to get rid of it now for the Saina biopic. I was trying to gain weight on my arms but it didn’t happen. I was hoping that I gain weight on my face little more but I couldn’t get the desired results. Prosthetics helped and it gradually became part of my character. It was needed when my character is in her late 30s and 40s.
Do you believe in half girlfriend relationship?
Yes, I do feel that it exists. Now there is a movie been made on it, but my friends and I have experienced the situation when something is holding us back to commit to a relationship; I like this guy but I have to focus on my career; I want to be with him but I can’t. It is something halfway. But in certain situations, it is really sad that two people who like each other are not able to spend their lives together.
What is more challenging for you, fictional or real life characters like Haseena and Saina?
With Saina, because she is a living legend and youth icon, I will have to speak exactly like her, my body language will have to match hers and I will have to try to look like her. To be true to the real life person is challenging in its own way. While playing a fictional character, you can interpret it in your own way and add your imagination and thoughts.
Have you read Chetan Bhagat’s book?
I had started reading the book and I told Mohit (Suri, director) but he stopped me from reading any further and told me to read and connect with the script instead because he had made some changes. I have read just about 50 pages.
This is your third film with Mohit. Both of you have given big hits like Aashiqui 2 and Ek Villain. How was your experience this time round?
Mohit knows me a little too well but it was his wife Udita who pointed out few things that set us thinking. One day when I went to his house, Udita said that we have done two films together in which I had played the girl next door coming from a middle class family, from humble beginnings, so how will I play Riya Somani? How will the audience accept me?
He told me to incorporate the body language of high society girls from Delhi and made me meet some of those girls.
I was supposed to observe them and adopt their style and mannerisms, how they speak and stuff. And while I was talking to them, slowly my body language changed and I was sitting cross-legged, lady-like just like those girls. I found that whole process very interesting.
You began your career with films like Teen Patti and Luv Ka The End which were complete failures at the box office. How do you look at your journey and career now?
Fridays can change an actor’s life and similarly Aashiqui 2 changed my life overnight.
From Aashiqui 2 till now I have had back- to- back releases. I feel grateful that I started off with failures because it teaches you, whereas with success everything moves smoothly and then we don’t strive hard to make efforts. You learn the most when something is not going right. I went through a tough time but it taught me a lot.
Saina had once said that she would want Deepika Padukone to do her biopic if it’s ever made. She had said that Deepika’s father has been a badminton player, that she had seen her playing badminton, and she played well. She would do justice to the role. What would you say to that?
I am not aware of that. But I think Saina is quite happy with me too (laughs). I hope not to disappoint her. When I was offered Saina, I was very scared and I had asked the makers if they were sure about casting me. It is a massive effort to put and huge expectations to live up to. I will do my best. I hope people like my interpretation and effort as Saina.
You are one of those actors who have created a space in singing as well. Off late there’s been a debate with certain singers having a problem with actors turning to singing. As someone who has been on the other side as well, what do you think?
Whether it is singers, actors, directors, lyricists, or the media…we are all interconnected. We are all part of a creative medium. We have a large responsibility to support each other and help each other grow. If an artist has a dream to become singer, actor or dancer, then nobody has the right to object. It is better to be in a supportive environment
Your contemporary, Alia Bhatt is a big draw, and she has a huge fan following. Is she a threat to you?
I get inspired from her because she is doing such good work. It is very important to not only support each other but it is also important to celebrate the other person’s success.
Tomorrow, if I am offered a film with Alia, I would love to do.
How is Arjun Kapoor as a co-star?
He is very eloquent and an expressive guy. He’s got this inherent innocence which is heart-warming.
So where do you see yourself five years from now?
I don’t know beyond Saina. I’m going with the flow. But at present I am really excited about the Saina biopic.
Somewhere along the line, Bihar has become Bollywood’s shorthand for colorful thuggery or rustic idiocy. If Hindi films are anything to go by, the only stories about Bihar worth telling highlight its lawlessness and penury.
In Apaharan, director Prakash Jha attempted to expose the thriving kidnapping industry in Bihar while his Gangajaal was spun around the infamous Bhagalpur blinding case. The badlands of Bihar were the backdrop of the blood-soaked rivalry between generations of gangsters in Anurag Kashyap’s two-part Gangs of Wasseypur. And then there was the extremely cringe-inducing Padmashree Laloo Prasad Yadav that ends with the politician addressing the lead characters.
Biharis have been living with this stereotype, for better and for worse, for a few decades now. So, it’s a relief to see a basketball-playing Stephenian from Patna in Mohit Suri’s Half Girlfriend. In case you haven’t read the Chetan Bhagat novel the film is based on, Half Girlfriend is about Madhav Jha, a bumbling Bihari boy (Arjun Kapoor) who falls in love with a rich Delhi girl Riya Somani (Shraddha Kapoor).
Thankfully, Madhav will not join the long list of gun toting, gaali giving Bihari characters the Bollywood audience has come to know. While there might not be a crime in the film, if the promos are anything to go by, the collective Bhojpuri accent in the film could qualify as an assault (Arjun’s “Ee haph girlphriend hota kya hai?” in the teaser was enough to make my ears bleed).
Peppering dialogues with chiradiya and kahe; replacing ‘z’ with ‘jh’ so ‘zindagi’ becomes ‘jindagi’; or, saying ‘hum’ instead of ‘main’ and kijiyega and lijiyega instead of karo/lo is not enough to sound Bihari. The ‘kaa’ in ‘kaa ho’ isn’t just a ‘ka’ or a ‘kaa’ but a sonorous ‘kaa’ with unique glottal articulation. Even after all these decades of Bihari characters, Bollywood mostly seems unable to decipher the nuances of intonation that go with getting the accent right. It’s not easy to put a finger on it but it’s probably the correct pitch levels while handling vowels that let most of our actors down.
A recent offender was Alia Bhatt in Udta Punjab. As the nameless Bihari hockey-player-turned-migrant-labourer, the actress was in top form. Subjected to rape and drugs, she brought out the vulnerability and resilience that had me rooting for her. But only after I made a conscious effort to not hear her accent. Though Alia had actor Pankaj Tripathi (Gangs of Wasseypur, Nil Bateye Sannata and more recently, Anarkali of Aarah) as a dialect coach for the film, her accent rang false. Aside from Alia, everyone else in the film sounded 100 percent real. “She sounds like a Juhu girl trying to talk like her Bihari maid. It’s all wrong,” scoffed a fellow Bihari who I watched the film with.
There’s a thin line between sounding like a caricature and realistic. On the other end of the spectrum is director Avinash Das’s debut film Anarkali of Aarah. Swara Bhaskar’s Anarkali sounds so authentic; I could close my eyes and be instantly transported to Gopali Chowk in the heart of Aarah. A half Bihari in real life, Swara might have never lived in the state, but she knows how to lean-in just so on the last word of a sentence.
What actors and directors don’t understand is that there isn’t one Bihari accent but hundreds of them, dialect-by-dialect, town-by-town. I am told the only time my Bhojpuri accent surfaces is when I speak with my parents. During those conversations, to some non-Bihari friends I sounded like Amitabh Bachchan (from Namak Halal and Don). He spoke Hindi with an Awadhi accent in those films and not Bhojpuri but I am nitpicking. After the release of Gangs of Wasseypur, I got a lot of “but you don’t sound like a Faisal, sorry Phaijhal”.
With accents that are as tuneful as Bihari, if you get the pitch wrong people really notice. Dialects and accents have very rarely been the focus of a performance in Bollywood. In the last few years, actors like Kangana Ranaut and Aamir Khan have successfully sounded like their Haryanvi characters in Tanu Weds Manu Returns and Dangal with the help of diction coaches. It’s not very tough to sound Bihari if you really want to.