Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.

Behen Hogi Teri gets UA certificate, Rajkummar Rao’s Shiva avatar kept despite controversy

Behen Hogi Teri has been granted a U/A certificate by the Central Board of Film Certification according to an Indian Express report. Firstpost had earlier reported that the film, which has Rajkummar Rao and Shruti Haasan in leading roles, was stuck in a controversy over Rao’s Shiva avatar. The scene has not been cut out of the film either, as per the same IE report.

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In one of the posters of the film, Rao could be seen in Lord Shiva’s avatar sitting on a silver bike. Soon after the release of the poster, the director of the film Ajay Pannalal and producer Tony D’Souza were arrested for hurting the sentiments of certain religious groups. Both of them are currently out on bail.

The producer of the film said, in a statement given to Indian Express, that the CBFC has been completely fair with the film and that they had nothing against the body. He added that the people who were earlier protesting against the poster should respect the decision of the government-appointed body.

There are rumours of the CBFC recommending certain scenes to be cut in the film, however, the producer dismissed the rumours in the same Indian Express report. He maintained that the rumours were baseless and no scenes were cut from the film.

50 Films That Changed Bollywood’ book review: Full of hits, misses and nostalgia

If 20 people in a room are asked to list down the 50 films that changed Hindi cinema, there are bound to be differences or even heated debates. Even if the time bracket is reduced to 1995-2015, the debates would be as heated, or perhaps even more, given the fact that Hindi cinema possibly churns out more films in a year than the film industry of any other country.

When I read the title of Shubhra Gupta’s book 50 Films That Changed Bollywood 1995-2015 (Harper-Collins), I wondered what the criteria of her selection would be. There are multiple yardsticks to which we assess the quality of a film, such as the box office record, its influence on pop culture, critical acclaim and in my mind, the most effective yet the most subjective, how it made me feel.

50 Films That Changed Bollywood, by Shubhra Gupta, published by Harper-Collins

While Gupta’s title clearly suggests that her yardstick is majorly the second one, i.e., how the films influence pop culture (or Bollywood in particular), she often deviates to other criteria and ends up accommodating a film in her exclusive list merely because of its roaring box office success, unanimous critical acclaim or her personal fondness for the film.

It is there that this otherwise well-researched and comprehensive book falters. It does not stick to its purpose which can be clearly seen in how she has tried to justify her inclusion of certain films in the list, but failed to put forth a convincing argument. While some films are obvious picks, others are worth considering. But there are a few amongst them that just do not go down well with you.

Since the lower limit is 1995, Aditya Chopra’s classic romantic drama Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge had to be there. It has qualified itself as a competent film in all criteria and continue to be a template for a large number of family-oriented romantic dramas.

Rangeela is yet another obvious pick but Gupta doesn’t explain why. All she ends up doing, after spelling out the plot of the film, is to draw a ‘Then and Now’ of the director Ram Gopal Varma, actors Aamir Khan, Urmila Matondkar and Jackie Shroff, along with tracing their working relationship over the years. Thankfully, she realises she could bite off more than she could chew and steers clear of such diversions in the other chapters, or at least attempts to do so.

In my mind, why Rangeela proved to be a trendsetter was because of its music, choreography and costumes. It is sad that Gupta gives no mention or short shrift to the technical aspects and only talks about the plot and characters, just like a majority of Indian film critics.

It was AR Rahman’s breakthrough in Hindi cinema and he went on to change the cinematic landscape of Bollywood by adorning it with his musical notes. Similarly, this was arguably the first film where we got introduced to the gymnastics-style choreography that still dominates commercial potboilers today. Gupta does delve on costumes when she explains how this film changed the way a Hindi film heroine looked.

Shekhar Gupta’s Bandit Queen is a film that I am glad Gupta was able to pinpoint. She does full justice to the film when she elaborates why it made it to her list. The rustic setting, the no-holds-barred dialogue delivery and the lack of cosmetic touch-ups of the actors ensured that there was score for cinema that felt ‘real’.

Hero No. 1 gave us a lead actor who could give all the comedians a run for their money. It also established a genre that was synonymous with the lead actor’s name. Govinda’s brand of comedies, though short lived, constituted a phase that saw thorough entertainers spruced up by signature Bollywood song and dance. While the genre faded away with Govinda’s age, there are the occasional Housefuls and Golmaals that still mint money at the box office.

While Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge was an NRI film catering to nostalgia, Karan Johar’s directorial debut Kuch Kuch Hota Hai spoke the language of the GenNext. It was the first uber-cool film of Hindi cinema that fully embraced liberalistaion and globalisation. This film would establish Johar’s frivolous image that he still finds extremely tough to shake off.

Hindi cinema had been obsessed with the underworld ever since Adam. Case in point, Amitabh Bachchan’s character of Don. But what Varma’s Satya did was to get rid of the stylised way of storytelling and treatment and give us access to notorious criminals. They were not caricatures but immensely real beings which hinted at how worrisome the state of affairs in our country was.

Sarfarosh is remembered best for its soft patriotism. That film showed you do not need to wage war between India and Pakistan to display your nationalism, or jingoism for that matter. Sarfarosh was hard hitting not in terms of its decibel but its craft. Aamir Khan and Naseeruddin Shah immotralised their characters and made for a righteous cop and an assured terrorist – templates that filmmakers still swear by.

The most significant contribution of Kaho Naa… Pyar Hai was Hrithik Roshan. More than its hackneyed plot and obsolete treatment, Rakesh Roshan’s romantic drama defined what a 21st century Hindi film hero would look like. Hrithik fit the bill completely and with his acting chops, dancing skills and drop dead gorgeous looks, he set the bar for the holistic personality development that an aspiring lead actor has to undergo.

2001 saw three landmark films. Dil Chahta Hai changed the grammar of film making forever. Its colloquial dialogue, with a liberal use of English words, became a trick that every filmmaker had to employ for them to make their film sound cool. The other aspect was its cinematography. While stalwarts like Mani Ratnam and Sanjay Leela Bhansali had already stepped forward and mesmerised us with their larger than life long shots, Farhan Akhtar’s film did not orchestrate the grandness. It was just there even in the tiniest of moments. (Gupta misses this point.)

Another film, that broke all box office records, was Anil Sharma’s Gadar: Ek Prem Katha. Besides setting the trend of unconventional pairing (which Gupta missed too), the film humanised the other side of the border. That school of thought has trickled down to many hits including Kabir Khan’s 2015 drama Bajrangi Bhaijaan, which in my opinion, did not change Bollywood in any way but has made it to Gupta’s list of top 50.

Ashutosh Gowariker’s Lagaan went back to the hinterland, as setting that had got lost in the midst of all the urban comedies. Also, Gupta points out an interesting insight into how it changed the behind-the-scenes working style of top actors. They started following in the footsteps of Aamir and chose to stick to one film throughout its shooting schedule rather than juggling between four or five films at a time.

With Jism came the entire brand of Vishesh films romantic dramas with a high quotient of oomph, sex and lust. John Abraham and Bipasha Basu sizzled it to such soaring levels that the audience embraced them despite knowing that they would burn with them. It paved the way for Murder, and in turn, Emraan Hashmi and Mallika Sherawat – the two sex sirens that took the industry by storm.

Gupta mentions Hum Tum as the first true blue romantic comedy of Bollywood. While I think Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai were rom-coms in their own right, what Kunal Kohli’s film did was to bring forth the insecurities that the GenNext had begun harbouring. It also introduced us to a metrosexual character, played by Saif Ali Khan, a formula for many such urban rom-coms today. Also, as Gupta points out, this was the first time that having sex before marriage was considered okay in family entertainers.

Another obvious pick, Munna Bhai MBBS introduced us to Rajkumar Hirani who could manage to impress the audience and critics alike with his lighthearted well packaged films with social messages and stories borrowed from the next door. Nobody has managed to make films like he does till date.

Bunty Aur Babli was not an urban rom-com but it did not explore the hinterland either. It found that middle path that lakhs of Indians relate to. The tier-2 cities were brimming with aspirations when this film came and addressed them. It was also a trendsetter in terms of fashion, as it brought back the good ol’ sasta sundar tikau non-branded outfits.

Sudhir Mishra’s film Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi addressed yet another burning issue – education. The colleges were not depicted as the fantasy Riverdale or High School Musical stuff. They were real and addressed real life issues of students frustrated with the education system of the country. It was way ahead of its times as the dissent among students has started making headlines more often now.

Gupta justifies picking Dhoom 2 over Dhoom because it was the better film. While I agree with that assessment, it shows how disoriented she was while cherry picking the 50 films that changed Bollywood. Dhoom 2 only accelerated the change that was brought by Dhoom. In that respect, Dhoom deserves the credit for being a game changer and not its sequel.

Countless parallel or arthouse films had preceded Bheja Fry but what this Rajat Kapoor-Vinay Pathak film did was to demonstrate how they could also make money at the box office. From Shyam Benegal’s to Anand Gandhi’s, arthouse cinema has also undergone a considerable change. But Bheja Fry’s success proved that there was an audience, even though a niche one, for every kind of film.

Chak De! India was arguably the first true blue sports film of India. Other movies like Mansoor Khan’s Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar and Lagaan also consisted of sports as crucial plot points but those were merely to increase the tension in the narrative. If there was a film that made an attempt to address the issues plaguing sports in the country, Chak De! India was the first one to do so. Other sports dramas like Mary Kom, Dhan Dhana Dhan Goal! and Dangal followed suit.

With Ghajini, Aamir introduced the industry to two business terms that the trade pundits swear by till date. Firstly, the wide pre-promotion of the film which almost ensured a certain opening at the box office. Since then, production houses started signing up with PR agencies to promote their film creatively. Secondly, the coveted Rs 100 crore club which devised a new yardstick to measure the success and reach of a film.

Anurag Kashyap’s Dev D was also arthouse in terms of its atmosphere but its treatment was commercial in many ways, given that it boasted of close to a dozen songs, composed by Amit Trivedi. But what this film did was to bring darkness to the forefront, though in a cool self-deprecating way instead of something intense and melancholic.

Shoojit Sircar’s Vicky Donor was a path-breaker in many ways. It revolved around a taboo but its lighthearted comedy did not make the audience cringe. It made them smile and ponder. This film was also a hybrid of art and commercial cinema, though poles apart from how Kashyap approached the same.

Finally, Vikas Bahl’s Queen led to the boom of women-oriented or female-centric cinema. It was entirely a woman’s story with very little space for men. It also proved that a female actor could carry the film on her shoulders and command certain numbers at the box office.

Thus, these are the 21 films out of Gupta’s 50 that I think truly changed Bollywood, in terms of narrative, themes, plots, technique and the way the industry functioned. There are many on my mind, such as The Dirty Picture which started the trend of biopics, but I’ll save those for another day.

The other films mentioned in Gupta’s list mainly adhere to the template of their predecessors or break through to a very minor extent. Some are hybrid of the genres introduced by two of their predecessors while the others seem to have found a place only because it changed the way the author looked at the films that she had already listed.

Rajkummar Rao on Trapped: ‘One of my most challenging works to date

Rajkummar Rao may be trapped in a high rise in his latest movie, but he is definitely not going to get trapped in the stereotypes of Bollywood.

From an experimental urban thriller, Trapped to light comedies – Behen Hogi Teri and Bareilly Ki Barfi — to political satire, Newton, Rajkummar has his plate full this year with four back to back releases. Excerpts from an interview with the National award-winning actor who caught the acting bug quite young.

This seems to be an exciting year for you with four back-to-back releases coming up.

I was shooting non-stop last year. Aligarh was the only film that released in 2015. It was mere coincidence that all these films are coming together. I would finish one film, take two months break and start preparing and shooting for the next one. Behen Hogi Teri is a fun, small town film, while Bareilly Ki Barfi is a romantic comedy but with very stark characters. Hansal Mehta’s Omerta that releases probably next year, is quite explosive, very sensitive and very universal. It is something we have never seen before on the Indian screen. Next I will start shooting for Ekta Kapoor’s new digital series, in which I will play Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose.

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With just one character in Trapped,  it must have been quite challenging keeping audience interest in mind?

The director (Vikramaditya Motwane) can answer that question well because when I am performing I don’t think about those aspects. That moment when I am living as an actor is mine. I am trying to live that moment truthfully, so I can’t be thinking about other reasons. But yes, Vikram has done that beautifully and our editor has cut the film in a brilliant way. The use of music and sound design is all very engaging. That is the reason we are calling it an urban thriller. It is a very unique, very different, one of its kind film. It is one of my most challenging works till date.

What was your reaction when you were approached for Trapped?

I was thrilled because I was getting the chance to work with Vikram. I have been a big fan of his work, I loved both his films — Udaan, Lootera. A story and film like Trapped is so rare for an actor. There is so much that you can do. I was more than happy.

Do you consider playing a solo character in a film as an opportunity or does it make you nervous?

It is definitely an opportunity, it doesn’t happen with every actor. I feel privileged to do this survival drama and I think any sensible and good actor would jump on to a film like Trapped.

90 per cent of the film is shot in one flat; we had a limited crew but everybody’s energy was towards making this a special film. Also, I was going through such physical changes and was eating, drinking accordingly. It was needed for the part. I was just doing my job. Shaurya (Rajkummar’s character) is somebody who is stuck in this apartment without food and water, so as an actor it is my responsibility to go through that process. Everybody was there for me, they were pampering me, lot of love was showered on me, everybody’s energy was just focussed on Shaurya’s journey and how to make it interesting.

Would you consider this as the best phase of your career?

My best phase is yet to come but it is a great time. I feel there is definitely a growth in my performance. Now when I look back at my earlier films, I feel I could have done much better, which is natural to feel because you grow in life, you age. Performance comes from the experiences and exposure in your life. I feel more confident in the industry now from the time I began. But I still remember how I was in Gurgaon. I saw this whole filmy world as a parallel universe, and now when I am shooting and making a film, the feeling is the same. I still feel I am in this amazing, dreamy, fairy tale life that is so different from my mundane life.

We have read that movies deeply impacted you when you were growing up…

Yes, I remember when I saw Agneepath as a kid, I started howling on how Amitabh Bachchan could die. He cannot die, he is Amitabh Bachchan; he is not a human being, he was a super man for me. Of course, now I am part of the industry, part of film-making, and now that feeling is not there. But I still get very emotional when I see a good performance or a good film. I get moved easily.

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Your collaborations with director Hansal Mehta has resulted in award winning films…

Yes, and our forthcoming film Omerta is by far the most explosive work I have done with Hansal. I think he is one of the best directors we have. For me he is more like a family now because Omerta is our fourth film together. The kind of relationship we share, it’s going to last for life. We can keep working together. We share the same understanding, the kind of stories we believe is very common and the way we want to tell them is with similar understanding.

Was there a script while shooting for Trapped because a film like this would need lot of give and take between an actor and director?

We had a 35 page script/screenplay. But that was about it. Most of it was improvised. Actually for a film like Trapped you really can’t write, you can probably write pointers. Shaurya is stuck and his door gets locked…after which you can’t really say how an actor would react. One will have to go there and live that moment in order to find out how I will react. Then there was a pointer that it is Day 3, there is no water and he is searching for water. Now, as an actor it is my job to convey this pointer in as best way possible.

Did you convey your ideas and thoughts to the director while shooting?

I was already so excited that I was getting a chance to work with Vikram and I have my complete faith in him as a director. I knew I was in safe hands. There were times when I was confused, I wasn’t sure, but he was always there to take care. But he gave me total freedom to perform, to explore. He was very open with ideas. It is a mutual feeling and understanding between a director and an actor. They have to have that kind of trust in each other in order to make a film special and beautiful.

Trapped has a universal appeal to it…

Yes, it is a very universal film. It can happen to anyone, anywhere. Lot of people have seen the film and they are relating to it. They can connect to the character and be a part of Shaurya’s journey. Such is the response. I would give credit to Vikram in shaping  the character’s journey. It is so engaging, so universal, very believable and very human.

How much do critics and their reviews matter to you?

Of course, it does. I read most of my reviews. I want to see other people’s perspective. It is always good to know what other people are thinking about you because after a point of time you start losing your objectivity. You need third person’s perspective in order to know things with an open mind.

Most actors say that more than critics they would care for audience reaction…

I want both of those. I want the balance of a critic’s opinion and audience love as well.

Among the actors of this generation who do you like?

Ranveer Singh, Ranbir Kapoor, Sushant Singh Rajput, Shahid Kapoor, Amit Sadh, who is also a friend. There are so many, that is the beauty of this generation. Everybody is pushing their limits, everybody is doing such exciting work. Ayushmann and Varun are also very talented.

Do you guys connect?

We don’t meet often. We are busy with our own lives, shooting and promoting and then taking breaks, but whenever I meet Ranbir or Ranveer I very naturally tell them. I told Ranveer that I really loved his work in Bajirao Mastani.

We have always slotted actors in commercial mainstream and art cinema. Is the gap between them diminishing?

It is diminishing for sure and the credit goes to all these biggies, these superstars who I am fan of. Starting from Shah Rukh, Aamir, Salman, Hrithik, all of them are changing the definition of commercial cinema. The highest grosser today is Dangal, which is absolutely an unconventional commercial film. There is nobody dancing, there is no item song, it is the story of a 50-year-old guy, a father, and the film is set in a small village in Haryana.

Who would have thought this subject 15 years back? Who would have thought that a film like this would make Rs 400 crore? These superstars are pushing their limits and they have given us also a chance to experiment with our craft. I have always said that films or cinema is like a buffet, you serve everything to the audience and let them decide what they want to go for. Let them make their choice but you should give them the choice.

How important are these Rs 100, 200 crore clubs for you?

I definitely want all my films to make money, I want my producers to make money. For the industry to survive it is important that money should come. It is directly proportionate to how many people are watching your film. Rs 100, 200 crore actually means that those many people went to theatre and saw your film. I want both, critical acclaim as well as good box office returns.

Would you ever do a complete mindless film, the ‘leave your brains at home’ kind?

(Laughs heartily) I doubt I will ever do that. But never say never, maybe just for the kick of it.

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How do you go about choosing your script?

There is no fixed formula. I read lot of scripts, actually I read everything. I look for excitement. Something should happen inside me when I am reading a script and it is very impulsive. Either you feel it or you don’t. I go by my instinct.

Who are the directors on your wishlist?

There are so many of them. All these new generation of filmmakers. I don’t want to miss out on any name…Raju Hirani, Vishal Bhardwaj, Imtiaz Ali, Sanjay Leela Bhansali.

Do you fear failure?

More than failure I am nervous when I am shooting a film. I am constantly thinking about whether I am able to crack a character, or a scene, or not. What if I get stuck? What if I feel trapped? I am honestly scared about these things more than whether it will make money or not.

Do you feel scared of getting trapped into a stereotype?

Yes absolutely, but I am constantly making efforts to not to go through that process and to keep doing different films, keep playing different parts. That is why I want to constantly surprise my audience. I want to give them a Behen Hogi Teri or a Bareilly Ki Barfi, and Newton and a Trapped. It is an exciting time to be an actor.

You  have made it large without any backing or connection in the industry. What are your thoughts on the ongoing debate on nepotism?

There is favouritism, but that is okay. As an audience I want to see talent on screen. I don’t care where it is coming from. As long as an actor is talented, it is worth my money and time, I want to see them on screen. I would pay money to watch Ranbir Kapoor, I would pay money to watch Alia Bhatt, these are extremely talented actors. But the problem is when somebody is not talented and still we have to keep watching their films just because of this nepotism thing. I have a problem with that. But times are changing now. People are accepting only good talent.

Baahubali 2 trailer: Rajamouli’s film looks spectacular; Prabhas-Rana’s action is the highlight

If you, like most of the country, have been waiting with bated breath for the trailer of Baahubali 2: The Conclusion, then that day has finally come.

From the beginning seconds of the trailer, when you hear Amrendra Baahubali’s voice talking about his mother, Sivagami Devi, to being the guardian of all the people of Mahismati, expect severe goosebumps as you go back to the biggest cliffhanger of 2016.

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Why did Kattappa kill Baahubali?

Well, you’re not going to find out from this trailer, but you will get much closer to the truth.

The trailer begins with a quick montage of all that happened in the last film, Baahubali: The Beginning.

Prabhas is given a loud entry filled with swagger, slo-mo shots and death-metal music playing in the background. We finally get to see Anushka Shetty looking absolutely gorgeous as Baahubali’s wife Devasena. Their chemistry seems quite explosive, especially in the grand dance sequences.

We see Baahubali telling Katappa that nobody can kill him as long as Katappa is by his side. We then see Sivaghami Devi figuring out that a war is beginning within the kingdom, indicating that Baahubali and Bhallala Dev’s fights are going to dominate the film.

In order to see the dream-like landscape picturised in the film, the mind-blowing action sequences and all your favourite characters including Tamannaah, Rana Daggubati and Naseer, you need to watch the trailer below.

Everything is bigger, better, and grander in Baahubali 2: The Conclusion — a sure shot blockbuster.

Kangana Ranaut on the Hrithik Roshan controversy: Luckily, I was not answerable to anyone

While Rangoon hits theaters next week, the film’s lead actress Kangana Ranaut is on a promotion spree along with co-stars Shahid Kapoor and Saif Ali Khan. Expectedly, several of the statements she’s made while on her publicity rounds made headlines — be it on Hrithik Roshan, or her comments regarding nepotism while on Koffee With Karan.

Kangana Ranaut. File photo

Firstpost recently had a sit-down with Kangana for our latest episode of Gossip Guy, and boy did she have a lot to talk about with host Renil Abraham.

First off, Kangana laughed off the uproar over her nepotism remark on KWK, although she pointed out that what she had said was entirely true. “Of course I am going to say it to Karan (Johar)’s face, I believe that (it’s true),” Kangana told us, adding, “To his credit, even he (Karan) is laughing about it. We need to loosen up a bit and see the funnier side of things. We will be a great society if that happens.”

She was more serious on the subject of her fall-out with Hrithik Roshan, which dominated headlines in 2016. Kangana told us that not refraining from talking about it was a conscious decision she made. “If I kept it as a secret, it would have become bigger in everyone’s (minds),” she explained. “All my interviews in the past seven days have been about that. I have said whatever, in my capacity, I understand about the situation.

“The only thing you care about that point is your career. In a way, it directly affects your career,” Kangana said.

“This is something very personal, it is out in the open and it is completely damaging, it is ruining my hard work of 10 years. I am a great actress and I remain one… the media has been amazingly supportive, so have the people around,” she added.

As for whether or not she was concerned about being portrayed negatively, Kangana said “I was concerned, but at the same time I did not want to shut up. I did not want to take the easy way to get done with everything… Luckily I am not answerable to anyone — a husband or child, whom you care about. I wasn’t in any other relationship at that time. Your partner can put pressure on you to put an end (to such an issue). I was single and I did not have any emotional pressure, my parents were very supportive. I had to protect my career… did not know how to do it, so I just did what I did. Today, it seems like such a waste of time.”

Deepika Padukone starts promotional tour for Hollywood debut film xXx: Return of Xander Cage

Mumbai: Actress Deepika Padukone says she is nervous and excited about her Hollywood debut xXx: Return of Xander Cage that stars Vin Diesel.

Deepika with Vin Diesel

“I am really excited. This is my Hollywood debut. I am very nervous, but I am also very excited. And today is the beginning to that journey. Hopefully, we will be coming to India soon,” Deepika said on 1 January before leaving for the US to kick-start the film’s promotion.

“In terms of promotion, first we will head to Mexico. As far as the release is concerned, we will first release the movie in India. While shooting the film, I discussed this with my unit… that it would be great to first release it in India and I am happy that it is finally happening,” she added.

After her Hollywood debut later this month, Deepika will be known for being more than a Hindi film actress.

Talking about it, she said: “I think I’d like to be known as a good person and a good actor. But I also feel very proud that I get to represent my country, especially in this kind of action franchise of the film.”

“I am really excited. I am also very sure we will enjoy this film because of its content. There is a lot of action, adventure in the film, which we have not seen in Indian films before. So, I can’t wait to bring this movie to India and show it to everyone.”

xXx: Return of Xander Cage, helmed by DJ Caruso, also stars Donnie Yen and Samuel L Jackson.

Dear Zindagi and the call to end mandatory maata-pitaa worship: Bravo, Kaira and Gauri Shinde

The mind goes where it wills. And last week, as I watched writer-director Gauri Shinde’s Dear Zindagi, my mind – much to my amusement – wandered off in the direction of Asaram Bapu. The followers of the jailed religious guru have been trying for a while now to popularise Matru-Pitru Pujan Divas (Parents’ Worship Day) as an alternative to Valentine’s Day. They flashed through my head as I watched a particularly memorable scene from the film in which Alia Bhatt’s character Kaira slams her mother, father and their irritatingly opinionated guests with these words:

(Spoiler alert for those who have not yet seen Dear Zindagi)

Parents hone ka kaam?! Khatam kar do! Bachche paalna itna tough kaam hai toh end it na! Kisne kaha parents bane rehne ko? Ek toh theek se kaam shuru hi nahi kiya toh kyon continue kiye ja rahe hai? Put an end to it… Bachche paida karne ka idea kiska thha? Aapka. Correct? Aur phir jo chaaha unke saathh kiya, whatever you wanted. Aur blame bhi hum pe hi daalte ho. And then you say tough hai. Kya tough hai? My foot!” (Note: a translation of this monologue is provided at the end of the article)

(Spoiler alert ends)

Alia Bhatt in a still from 'Dear Zindagi'

Actually, never mind Asaram Bapu. Kaira’s verbal explosion must surely rank as a moment of monumental subversiveness in Bollywood history and across Indian society as a whole. From a film industry that has for decades now made maata-pitaa adulation a virtual obligation, in a society that pedestalises parenthood and requires children to compulsorily venerate their mothers and fathers, here is a fictional young woman belling the cat on this parents-are-gods nonsense. Parents, the film in its entirety reminds us, are people – mere humans, sometimes good, sometimes bad, horrible at worst, imperfect at best.

Yash Chopra will perhaps be turning in his grave or in his urn of ashes or wherever he is resting in the cosmos, at this speech from the heroine of the latest big-ticket Bollywood release. After all, Dear Zindagi has been made in a cinematic universe far removed from Chopra’s 1975 film Deewaar in which the crooked Vijay Verma famously taunted his honest brother Ravi with, “Aaj mere paas buildingey hai, property hai, bank balance hai, bangla hai, gaadi hai. Kya hai tumhare paas?” (Today I own buildings, property, I have a bank balance, a house, a car. What do you have?) to which dear treacly sweet Ravi replied: “Mere paas Maa hai” (I have Mother). No wealth could have been greater than a Nirupa Roy-like saintly Mommy in a hero’s life back then.

Hindi cinema may have travelled the distance from parent worship to Kaira in the four decades since Deewaar was released, but in the real India the notion of parents as noble beings if not near-divinity persists — and those who disagree are damned. Bollywood, for a change, is a step ahead of society rather than trailing behind. For the sad truth is that Kaira speaks a truth most Indians are still afraid to utter.

The practice of idolising parents in India goes back to ancient Hindu mythology. One of the most popular accounts of Lord Ganesh has him competing with his brother Karthikey for a prize that varies with the version of the tale. The winner would be the sibling who manages to circumambulate the world first. Karthikey takes off on his peacock to circle the Earth. While he is away, Ganesh folds his hands, quietly walks around Shiv and Parvathi, and on Karthikey’s return, claims victory. But you did not leave this place, Shiv points out. I did not need to, replies the son, to me my parents are my world.

Too many Indians miss a crucial point in this anecdote – that Ganesh may have revered his parents, but Shiv and Parvathi (as is widely acknowledged) were flawed. What distinguishes Hinduism from other present-day major world religions and gives it an element of relatability is that its deities are not portrayed as blemishless beings, but as gods with human failings.

Viewed in this context, it is ironic that Indian society – despite the prevalence of Hinduism – insists on seeing parents as universally selfless individuals who unconditionally love their children, views parenthood as a higher calling and a social duty, and decrees that children must forever be obliged to their parents, while condemning both singledom and childlessness within and outside marriage.

Singletons are considered footloose and fancy-free individuals fulfilling no social duties. The stereotype of the heavy-drinking, hard-partying (ergo noisy), immoral, sexually promiscuous bachelor and spinster (read: a likely bad influence on other youngsters) is so prevalent in urban India that housing complexes unapologetically announce a “dogs and unmarried people are not allowed” rule for tenancy and purchases. Married people who decide not to have children are openly labelled selfish.

Is becoming a parent an act of selflessness? Excuse my rudeness, but… Baah!

And seriously, selflessness is a choice, while the reality is that a majority of Indian women at least have no such agency. Providing an heir to the husband and his family line continues to be seen as one of a wife’s primary duties. Most women in India have limited access to birth control and safe abortions anyway, a situation that reproductive rights activists and scholars have chronicled and decried for decades. There is a stigma associated with being a “baanjh aurat” (sterile/barren woman). And if you are either uneducated or financially dependent or both, not bearing a child when your husband and in-laws want one is obviously not an option.

Among women who do have a choice, it goes without saying there are plenty who become mothers because they love babies, children and/or the traditional family set-up, genuinely want to experience another life growing within them and feel maternal love. There are just as many, if not more, though who have children because it is customary, or they had not thought beyond the norm when they first got pregnant, or because societal and familial pressure was too hard to withstand, or for some other reason unrelated to the joys of motherhood. The result is scores of women out there who became mothers despite being disinterested in the role or not ready for it.

Men do not escape social pressure either. Try being a couple even in supposedly liberal circles who have not had a child for over two years after marriage. The intrusive questions about when you will give “good news” to the world at large are interspersed with inquiries about your fertility, jokes about the man “firing blanks”, pity at what is vaguely assumed to be a sad, lonely, purposeless, empty existence and accusations of being self-centred, which imply that having a child is almost a sacrifice married folk make for the greater good.

This myth is debunked by the very people who propagate it when they coax singles to marry and married couples to have children. “Why don’t you want to get married? Don’t you love children?” they ask, as if potential spouses are nothing more than walking, talking sperm banks and fertile fields of ova. And that other question: “If you don’t marry and have children, who will take care of you in your old age?”

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.

With Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, it seems Ranbir is remaking Rockstar with different directors

Think about it for a bit, and you’ll recall a stock shot that Ranbir Kapoor seems to have in so many of his films. You’ll recognise it when you see him walking towards the camera, which linearly tracks away from him. In this shot, there’s usually emotion writ large on his face, as he leaves something behind. And then, as you think about it some more, you realise that Ranbir seems to have made *that* pain – of unrequited love – his pièce de résistance, so to speak.

In his films — while he may or may not have ended up with the person he loves in the end — when he’s pining for that person (or for whatever it is his character is seeking) Ranbir emotes like no one else. Imtiaz Ali’s Rockstar, of course, was the crowning glory in this regard.

Ranbir-Kapoor-ADHM

While the cult of Rockstar endures, it is still a film that seems to have more haters than (passionate) lovers, and that will always be one of the tragedies of Ranbir Kapoor’s career. He had famously gone into a depressive phase post the intense shoot of Rockstar, and somehow, he gives the impression that he isn’t done with Imtiaz Ali’s mystic ode to eternal unrequited love quite yet.

It seems, in fact, that since Rockstar, Ranbir’s choices have veered towards characters that need a desperate sense of validation from love. (Think Barfi, Bombay Velvet and Tamasha.)

And here’s the thing — no film suggests this more than Ae Dil Hai Mushkil does. In so many ways, ADHM is basically Rockstar made less cryptic and esoteric, more universal and accessible (and hence, more ‘commercial’). In fact, once you start counting them, the similarities between Rockstar and ADHM will astonish you.

There’s Ranbir playing the talented but devoid-of-success aspiring singer, who’s yet to grow up and come of age. He falls in love with a gutsy, full-blooded woman, but doesn’t get her because she marries someone else. Thus begins the saga of intense one-sided love, which causes him to channel his pain into his art, infusing his talent with that magic element it hitherto lacked. Success follows, but life isn’t done playing games with him yet. He’s destined to run into his love again, only to feel more pain, and then some. (I must stop there, because anything more and I’ll run into serious spoiler territory.)

So much about Ae Dil Hai Mushkil will make you feel that both films are actually the same story told in two different ways; and the difference between Rockstar and Ae Dil Hai Mushkil lies in the difference between the filmmakers whose vision the respective films are.

If Imtiaz Ali’s film was complex, nuanced, tinged with Sufism and left with you with a sense of crippling loss, Karan Johar’s film is frothy, contemporary, set in a significantly upper class milieu and eschews intensity in favour of breezy palatability. Rockstar versus ADHM is essentially grungy love versus glossy love. (ADHM, though, does give you a glimpse of how Rockstar could have been, if the character of Heer Kaul had a more accomplished actor – or just *an* actor – in place of Nargis Fakhri.)

In the commercial compromises, so to speak, that Johar makes with his film, he ends up missing out on some heft for sure. Rockstar was never meant to leave you with a happy feeling, while ADHM tries hard to make sure that no matter what, you don’t really walk away from the film primarily in pain.

Make no mistake, some of the sequences and character interactions in the film are loaded with life-changing advice about love and loss for the more ‘filmy’ folk among us; but the film firmly caters to an audience that comes for a Hindi film with only one expectation – ‘paisa vasool’.

Karan Johar’s efforts to make the film more universal, though, might just go in vain. Because it seems like those who liked Rockstar will probably like ADHM too, while those who hated the former may just dislike the latter as well.

Hence, ADHM will probably just end up being a fair one-time watch for most, unlike Rockstar which, for so many, keeps pulling you back to it again and again, as you discover more love and more pain hidden within it with each successive viewing. (Then again, who knows. Perhaps ADHM has more depth to it than is apparent in the first viewing? Only time will tell.)

It is Ranbir Kapoor, eventually, that deeply links the two films together. You get the impression that a piece of Rockstar is still stuck in Ranbir’s heart, and it’s going to make him go back over and over again to it, until he gets some closure. Perhaps there really is no escaping what Imtiaz Ali and Ranbir reminded us with Tamasha – that it’s always the same story.