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Meena Kumari biopic: Not Vidya Balan or Madhuri Dixit, Sunny Leone may be cast as veteran actress

For a long time now, there have been rumours doing the rounds about an upcoming biopic based on Bollywood’s “tragedy queen” and veteran actress Meena Kumari.

First, it was reported that Vidya Balan might play the Pakeezah star in the film. Then there were speculations that Madhuri Dixit has been approached for the role. Now, according to a report by The Bombay Times, actress Sunny Leone might play the legendary actress in the biopic.

Meena Kumari (left); Sunny Leone (right). Images via Facebook

Director of the film, Karan Razdan — known for films like Diljale (1995) and Deewane (2000) — told Bombay Times that of all the actresses that he has approached, Leone was the most enthusiastic about doing the film.

“I think the only one who is courageous enough and said, ‘When can we start this film?’ has been Sunny Leone. I have narrated it to Madhuri and Vidya but it didn’t work out for one reason or the other. Sunny came along, she said she had heard about this film and wanted me to narrate it. I met her at her house, had a long narration. I don’t know… She is not the ideal choice, I would say. But she was the most enthusiastic about doing the role. I guess, she also saw this as her big chance,” says Razdan.

According to Razdan, when he had approached Balan for the role, she declined saying she wants to do a less-serious role. Balan’s latest release Tumhari Sulu has earned her numerous accolades along with commercial and critical acclaim.

Monsoon Shootout: Priyanka Chopra launches gritty trailer of Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s next

An axe-wielding murderer is on the run. On a rainy night, a police officer comes face-to-face with the suspect. What happens next? Will the police officer pull the trigger? That’s the choice viewers have to make in the trailer for Amit Kumar’s Monsoon Shootout, released on Monday.

The movie will hit the screens on December 15.

A poster for Monsoon Shootout. Image from Facebook/@MonsoonShootout

The trailer is already being tipped as India’s first interactive movie trailer. It gives the viewers a chance to decide whether the police man Adi (Vijay Varma), a young cop in training, should shoot the murder suspect Shiva (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), a dreaded and infamous mob enforcer. The stage is set for a moral dilemma and each choice to be made will come with a consequence.

Should the officer gun down a possibly innocent person? Or should he let go a murderer?

Actress Priyanka Chopra launched the interactive trailer via her twitter account. She wrote, “Shoot or not to shoot? YOU get to decide what happens next in the trailer for #MonsoonShootout what a cool idea! So glad to see filmmakers innovate & push boundaries of the filmmaking process.”

Qarib Qarib Singlle movie review: Parvathy, Irrfan click individually but not as a couple

A conservative young woman, widowed early in life and hanging on to the memory of her late husband, spends years allowing life to revolve around work and married friends who take her for granted. On a whim one day, she puts up her profile on a dating website. Jaya Shashidharan (played by Parvathy) is a successful insurance professional staying alone in her Mumbai flat while her younger brother — the only person she seems truly close to — studies abroad. She meets poet cum inventor Yogendra Kumar Dhirendranath Prajapati a.k.a. Yogi (Irrfan) via the site. On another whim, she decides to go on a cross-country trip with him to meet his ex-girlfriends and check if they still carry a torch for him as he claims they do.

(Possible spoilers ahead)

No one is more surprised by her uncharacteristic impetuousness than she herself. Dating is not her scene. It is clear that at some sub-conscious level she wants to break free of her own sobriety, but it is an old habit that is hard to shake off. Her confusion over her life-long sedateness can be the only explanation for why she takes off on a journey with a virtual stranger and takes other risks in this story that even the average adventurous Indian woman would not. It also explains why she spends so much of this expedition regretting being on it. Yogi is everything she is not — unguarded, sure of what he wants, speaking his mind, constantly laughing at his own poor jokes, so sociable that even a ride on the wrong train turns into a fun diversion. She has the appearance of knowing her mind, but does not. She says one thing, while her heart wants something else.

Poster for Qarib Qarib Singlle

Most of what I have told you is already contained in the trailer of Qarib Qarib Singlle (Almost Single). Despite the sense of humour in some of the couple’s initial interactions, and the undoubted charisma of the lead stars, the film does not have much more to offer beyond the pleasures of that trailer. There is a kernel of an idea in there that could have been taken somewhere, but it does not come together as a cohesive, credible whole.

Froth and frolic notwithstanding, writer-director Tanuja Chandra makes a point here, although it is unclear whether that was her intention. In one scene, Yogi half-mockingly expresses admiration for Jaya’s feminism. Yet, the song and dance that is made about her lack of clarity regarding what she wants from him, treads the well-worn path of suggesting that behind all their bluster, there is nothing more that female feminists want than the comfort of tradition and a man. This silly stereotypical belief is implied and stated routinely in real life by those whose superficial understanding is that men and relationships with men are, theoretically, anathema to women feminists.

It is possible that Chandra did not intend to insinuate any of this, but the clichéd characterisation of Jaya and Yogi, no different from a standard Mills & Boon romance, ends up doing precisely that — not spelt out in black and white, but by implication.

Besides, Qarib Qarib Singlle’s lead actors Parvathy and Irrfan do not click as a couple on screen. It does not help that this supposedly off-mainstream film from a seemingly thinking filmmaker displays the same ageist sexism that we see in hard-core commercial Hindi cinema, in which 50-something male stars routinely play younger men and star with women half their age. The Net tells me that Irrfan is 50 and that baby-faced, chubby-cheeked Parvathy is 29, but in the film, Yogi is 40 (really?) while Jaya is 35 — an adjustment that has obviously been made to justify the casting. I guess it would be too much to ask this gender-prejudiced industry to pick a 40 to 50-year-old woman for a 50-year-old man, but Qarib Qarib Singlle would have been another film, and very likely a far more interesting one, if Chandra had gone down that path.

After Queen, Kangana Ranaut and Rajkummar Rao may reunite for upcoming thriller

After the 2014 blockbuster hit Queen, Kangana Ranaut and Rajkummar Rao may be joining forces once again to star in an upcoming thriller together.

Rajkummar Rao-Kangana Ranaut on the Queen sets. Image from Twitter/@BollywoodQing.

“It’s also highly likely that Rajkummar Rao, who was Kangana’s co-star in Queen, will be sharing screen

space with her in this film too. Rajkummar has also been on a high with his last few films either doing well at the box office, or gaining critical acclaim,” said an unverified source, according to a Deccan Chronicle report.

Shailesh Singh, one of the co-producer’s of Ranaut’s 2016 release Simran and her 2011 release Tanu Weds Manu has reportedly invested in the actor once again — this time in the form of a thriller which will apparently be helmed by a director from the South film industry. Ranaut is currently shooting for Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi which is directed by Krish, and Singh is reportedly keen on getting another director from down south to helm the project.

The movie will reportedly go on floors by the second quarter of 2018.

Whereas 2017 saw one movie starring Ranaut in the titular role (Simran), it is Rajkummar Rao who has been setting the box-office ablaze with critically acclaimed performances in movies like Trapped, Behen Hogi Teri, Bareilly Ki Barfi and Newton.

Priyanka Chopra finds spot on Forbes list of 100 Most Powerful Women; ranks 97 globally

After having tasted immense success in Bollywood and then later in Hollywood — with her show Quantico and film projects like Baywatch — actress and former Miss World Priyanka Chopra has added another feather to her cap. In the recently-released list of 100 Most Powerful Women by Forbes magazine, Chopra is ranked 97th along with the likes of Beyonce Knowles (#50), Taylor Swift (#85), JK Rowling (#88) etc.

In the list of 15 Most Powerful Women in Media and Entertainment by Forbes, Chopra is placed at rank 15.

Many Indian women including Chanda Kochhar (who also happens to be the most powerful Indian woman on the list at #32), Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw (#71), Roshni Nadar Malhotra (#57) have been featured on the list.

Image courtesy: news18

Chopra’s bio on the Forbes website reads: “Chopra is arguably the most successful Bollywood actor to cross over to Hollywood. She began her acting career in 2003, and has since appeared in more than 40 Bollywood films, making her US big-screen debut in 2017’s Baywatch. As the star of ABC’s Quantico, she’s one of TV’s highest-earning actresses and the first Indian actor to lead a drama series on American television. As a producer, Chopra founded Mumbai-based Purple Pebble Pictures, which strives to promote regional filmmakers and up-and-coming Indian talent. Passionate about protecting children’s rights, she’s a global UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and United Nations Foundation Girl Up Champion, and her nonprofit The Priyanka Chopra Foundation for Health and Education provides schooling and medical care.”

Dabangg 3: Salman Khan starrer to kick off by middle of 2018, says Arbaaz Khan

Mumbai: National Award-winning filmmaker Arbaaz Khan, who produced the Salman Khan-starring, commercially successful Dabangg series, says that he has started scripting the new sequel of the franchise that will go on the floor in the middle of 2018.

“Yes, we have started scripting the film and I think we will start shooting Dabangg 3 by the middle of the next year,” the actor-filmmaker told the media at the trailer launch of his upcoming film Tera Intezaar.

As Sunny Leone, who is the co-star in the film, was also present, Arbaaz, asked if he is planning to cast her to do an item number like ‘Munni Badnaam’, said, “Yes, why not? And why would she be a Munni, we can cast her for something different, but for that, we have to finalize something.”

Salman Khan in Dabangg (left); Arbaaz Khan (right). Image courtesy: Facebook

Arbaaz has shared his screen space with Sunny for the first time Tera Intezaar and according to him, “one of the reasons I did the film, was to spend some time with Sunny. She is wonderful and we had a great time shooting in abroad”.

Asked about if he is planning to promote the film in Bigg Boss 11, which is hosted by his brother, Bollywood superstar Salman Khan, Arbaaz said, “Well, I think that is the producer to decide. If we have the opportunity, and the Colors channel allows us to do so, why not.”

He added, “Though I do not watch Bigg Boss every day but I like watching the show. Earlier, few seasons, I followed; I watched all episodes when Sunny (Leone) was in the show.”

Secret Superstar: Aamir Khan’s character in the film inspired by Anil Kapoor, Jeetendra

Mumbai: Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan’s quirky character Shakti Kumaarr from his forthcoming movie Secret Superstar has been inspired by Jeetendra and Anil Kapoor.

Anil Kapoor (left); Aamir Khan in Secret Superstar (centre); and Jeetendra. Image courtesy: Facebook

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.

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.

BHTposter820

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.