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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.

Karan Johar on Ae Dil Hai Mushkil row: ‘Country comes first but ban is unfair to my crew’

Karan Johar has finally broken his silence on the Pakistani actors ban, with regard to Fawad Khan in his upcoming film Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. 

The director, in his defence that the film should be released, has claimed that from now on he will not cast Pakistani artistes.

“There’s been some talk about why I’ve been silent over the past few weeks. I need to say this. Nothing else matters to me but the country. The climate and circumstances were different when I shot Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, in September to December last year. There were efforts made by our government to make peace with our neighboring. I respected the sentiments then and I respect the sentiments of the country now,” he said.

karanJohar adds, “But it’s not fair to scrap the film now. I respect the country’s sentiment today. I condemn terror and have immense respect for the Army. But to ban the film is unfair to my crew.”

“I remained silent as I was hurt, and I had a deep sense of pain. I was hurt for being called anti-national. For me my country comes first. I have always felt the best way to spread patriotism is through love. And I try to do that with my cinema. I understand the current sentiment because I feel the same. With that same energy, I urge  you to understand that there are over 300 plus Indian people on my crew who have paid with blood, sweat and tears for my film. This is unfair to them. Of course, I condemn any form of terrorism, especially the kind the affects my people, my country. In the future, I will not cast Pakistani artistes,” he said.

Karan Johar’s video, in which he can be seen almost groveling, comes as a response to the veiled threats by MNS of vandalising the theatres that will screen Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. The Indian Motion Picture Producers Association (IMPPA) and the Cinema Owners and Exhibitors Association of India (COAEI) have also banned Pakistani artistes from appearing in Indian films, as a response to the Uri attacks that occured on 18 September.

Amitabh Bachchan pens a letter to granddaughters Navya, Aaradhya; imparts life advice

Mumbai: Megastar Amitabh Bachchan has penned a heartfelt letter to his granddaughters Navya and Aaradhya, telling them to be independent and strong women as they grow up.

Navya, 18, is the daughter of Bachchan’s daughter Shweta, while four-year-old Aaradhya is his son Abhishek’s child.

Bachchan wrote that the two girls enjoy the luxury of a rich legacy but being the fairer sex, they are bound to face judgments and opposition from the society. Nothing, however, should bog them down, said the actor.

Amitabh Bachchan with Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Aaradhya and Abhishek Bachchan

“You both carry a very valuable legacy on your tender shoulders — Aaradhya, the legacy of your great-grandfather, Dr Harivansh Rai Bachchan, and Navya, the legacy of your great-grandfather Shri H P Nanda,” Bachchan wrote.

“Both your great-grandfathers gave your present surnames celebrated fame, dignity and recognition. Both of you may be a Nanda or a Bachchan, but you are also girls, women! Because you are women people will force their thinking, their boundaries on you. They will tell you how to dress, how to behave, who you can meet and where you can go. Don’t live in the shadows of people’s judgement.”

The 73-year-old star further wrote that both of them should choose their own path, one which is dictated by their
choices not the world’s.

“Make your own choices in the light of your own wisdom. Don’t let anyone make you believe that the length of your
skirt is a measure of your character. Don’t let anyone’s opinion of who you should be friends with, dictate who you
will be friends with.”

Amitabh Bachchan with grand-daughter Navya Naveli Nanda

“Don’t get married for any other reason other than you want to get married. People will talk. They shall say some
terrible things. But that doesn’t mean you have to listen to everyone. Never ever worry about what will people say!” the veteran actor wrote in the letter.

Towards the end of his missive, Bachchan said being a woman is not easy in today’s times but he hopes the two girls will change the situation.

“At the end of the day, you are the only one who will face the consequences of your actions, so don’t let other
people make your decisions for you. Navya — the privilege your name, your surname offers you, will not protect you from the difficulties you will face because you’re a woman. Aaradhya, by the time you see and understand this, I may well not be around. But I think what I am saying today shall still be relevant. This may be a difficult, difficult world to be a woman. But I believe that it is women like you that will change that. It may not be easy, setting your own boundaries, making your own choices, rising above people’s judgement. But you can set an example for women everywhere,” he wrote.

The actor said he would take more pride in being known as their grandfather than by his own name.

“Do this and you would have done more than I have ever done, and it will be my honour to be known not as Amitabh
Bachchan, but as your grandfather!”

Ajay Devgn on clash with Karan Johar: ‘Don’t waste my time thinking about anybody else’s film’

This has been the season of clashes.

It all started last year in December with Bajirao Mastani and Dilwale clashing, which was followed by rumours of a big clash between Raees and Sultan. However, we are guessing Shah Rukh Khan decided to play it safe after Bajirao Mastani did better box office business, and Sultan had a solo release.

The clash between Mohenjo Daro and Rustom is still underway, with Rustom emerging as a winner .

ajayd140810

However, one of the biggest clashes of this year has to been between Karan Johar’s directorial venture Ae Dil Hai Mushkil and Ajay Devgn’s directorial venture Shivaay, both of which are releasing on Diwali this year.

While both Johar and Devgn have not spoken about the clash till now, Ajay has finally addressed the elephant in the room, in this DNA interview. Not known to mince his words, Devgn has been very straightforward about his stance.

“I don’t waste my time thinking about anybody else’s film. I want to concentrate on my film because, eventually, it’s the product that speaks. Why break my concentration? I’m only concerned about what I’m making,” said Ajay Devgn upon being asked if he is “prepared” for the clash with Karan Johar’s film.

He further said that when they announced the release date for Shivaay, nobody else was releasing a film at the time, and that it’s their [Dharma Productions] prerogative if they want to cash in on a good day. Devgn further informed that when he reached out to Fox Star India (who are co-producing Ae Dil Hai Mushkil) they refused to budge on the release.

This is especially a delicate clash because Devgn’s wife and actress Kajol, and Karan Johar have been thick since even before they started their careers. There have been reports of a fall out between the two since the clash.

Both these films, Shivaay and Ae Dil Hai Mushkil are very crucial to Ajay Devgn and Karan Johar respectively. This is Ajay Devgn’s second film as a director after 2008’s U Me Aur Hum and his last film was DrishyamShivaay has taken close to two years to script and make and therefore its stakes are very high.

Karan Johar, on the hand, directed his last film (Student of the Year) in 2012, and has been producing films since then. His lead actor in the film is Ranbir Kapoor, whose last few films have not been successful. Anushka Sharma is, for all practical purposes, the most “bankable” star in his film.

This must be something that plagues Johar since he was the one who conveniently “dropped” Imran Khan from his favourites list after he stopped delivering hits.

Given this background on the film, is it strange that Johar is making no sounds about his film. There are no hashtags, no first looks, no songs, not even Instagram posts about it. Just radio silence. Should we be expecting an announcement of a shift in release soon?

Gang-rape survivor seeks 10 cr in damages from Salman Khan for his comments

Chandigarh: A young woman who was gang-raped by 10 men in Haryana has sent a legal notice to actor Salman Khan asking him to apologize over his rape remark. She has sought Rs 10 crore in damages from Salman for belittling rape victims.

Salman Khan. AFP

The gang-rape victim, from Hisar district, sent the notice to the Bollywood superstar at his Galaxy Apartments address in Mumbai’s upscale Bandra area on Saturday. The notice was sent through her counsel.

The victim pointed out that Salman Khan had tried to joke about the plight of rape victims by comparing a tough action sequence to the status of a gang-raped woman.

The victim was kidnapped by 10 people and gang-raped in Hisar four years ago. The court sentenced the assaulters to life imprisonment. The victim is seeking death penalty for the accused.

The father of the rape victim committed suicide following the incident.

Asked how he felt doing the strenuous shooting of Sultan, where he plays a wrestler, Salman responded that he “felt like a raped woman… he could barely stand straight after the shoot”.

The statement invited sharp rebuke on social media. His father and writer Salim Khan apologized on behalf of his son and admitted the statement was in bad taste.

A case was registered in Kanpur and Lucknow courts on Thursday against the actor.

Tubelight': Kabir Khan’s next with Salman Khan is a comedy with political backdrop

Filmmaker Kabir Khan’s next Tubelight starring superstar Salman Khan will have elements of comedy and drama with politics as its backdrop.

“It is about a personal issue. Can’t talk about what exactly right now. Needless to say, my films always have a political backdrop to them because that’s what excites me and I find real. So Tubelight also has a little political backdrop,” Kabir told PTI.

kabir-khan-salman-khan

Right from his debut Kabul Express, to New York and his last, Phantom, the filmmaker has helmed movies that have a strong political background.

Tubelight will mark the third collaboration between Kabir and the 50-year-old Dabangg star after blockbusters Ek Tha Tiger and Bajrangi Bhaijaan.

When asked if their upcoming film will follow the lines of Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Kabir said, “In terms of its emotional space it is similar to Bajrangi Bhaijaan. But story is very different. It is more of humour and emotional space that we (Salman and I) haven’t delved into.”

t was reported that Salman will be undertaking a journey of enlightenment from India to China in the film. The director said Tubelight will have a ‘China element in the story’ but he will be shooting the film in Ladakh.

Tubelight is scheduled to release on Eid next year.

Why I admire Kangana Ranaut: She’s an example of new Indian womanhood

She is a three times National Award winner after all and she is not even 30 as yet. But I wouldn’t know. Fed on a diet of Satyajit Ray and Rittwik Ghatak from our childhood we were taught to sneer at Bollywood very early on. And Kangana Ranaut’s mega box-office triumphs with such cringe-worthy names as Tanu Weds Manu are, from all accounts, brazen money-making missions achieving their goal hand over fist.

Kangana Ranaut. Image from IBNlive

Yet, I am her fan, a zealous, devoted fan at that. For what she stands for in her person rather than what she enacts on screen. As was revealed in her spell-binding double act on television on 3 May, the day she was awarded her third National Award. I was glued to the idiot box all through, enthralled till the very last minute of her two interviews on two channels. She looked stunning of course and being the actress she is, making her presence felt must be second nature to her. But it was what she said that was so exhilarating, so electrifying.

Admittedly, told not very well. Without scripted lines, her words didn’t quite flow, without someone hollering “cut” she didn’t know when to stop. She kept repeating herself, going on and on saying the same thing in the same words over and over again. Yet, nothing could detract from the substance of what she said, so prettily, with such ease and with such quiet confidence.

To be able to declare so openly, knowing that the interviews were being beamed straight into people’s living rooms and bedrooms across the country, that there is “Nothing gross about our period blood, Why do we need to tell women that period blood is gross?”; to talk so freely about “bodily fluids” of men and women; to admit publicly about being “sexually active” without a hair or hide of a husband in sight; to be so unapologetic about her many flings (“It’s very hard for me to find any sort of shame or blame in my life); to dismiss the name-calling she’s been subjected to (‘whore’ and ‘witch’ being the more innocent ones) as “very old-fashioned, it won’t work” — who was this woman, Kangana or Madonna?

Precisely. If it was Madonna and Shakira in the West some years ago, it is Kangana and Sunny Leone in India in 2016. Sunny Leone, who burst onto our consciousness at the beginning of this year, refusing to beg mercy for her stint as a “porn star”, maintaining her poise and dignity despite the interviewer’s desperate efforts to name and shame her. Together they are busy breaking moulds, shattering images, sending out of court the cherished fantasy that the “ideal bharatiya nari” is one who values her chastity belt more than her life. A proud Sunny Leone not only acts in a film named One Night Stand but also unabashedly admits to such one-nighters during her days as a single woman.

What’s your favourite beverage? an interviewer had once asked Kangana. “Coffee!” she had promptly replied. “I can drink it any time. And red wine. Over the years, I have bought a whole load of fine red wines from Paris.” Even a few years ago, our most successful heroines would romp about half-naked on screen but when it came to their off-screen personas they wouldn’t be caught dead in any such attire or with a drink in their hands or a cigarette dangling from their fingers. Kangana received her third National Award from President Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday dressed not in the regulation Kanjeevaram but in an off-shoulder dress, very Western but very Indian too.

Evidently a new Indian womanhood is being scripted and Kangana and Sunny are the prime but not the only examples of this phenomenon. Just look at the enormous outpouring of support for both these women on the social media where the new India lives and plays. It is clear as daylight: More and more urban Indian woman are refusing to subscribe to the belief that you can’t be a true Indian woman unless you live by certain age-old norms. The sexual revolution is here to stay and for women too.

Ironically, the women are racing ahead but Indian men are unable to keep pace. In the Kangana-Hrittik Roshan kerfuffle it is Roshan who has gone out of his way to project a sati-saddhvi holier-than- thou image, not Kangana. As for one of her other exes, Adhyayan Suman, the mind boggles.Someone who by his own admission has studied in London and New York and got his dream car BMW7Series for one of this birthdays, turns to mummy’s pundit-ji with his girlfriend woes.

“My mother was very worried,” Suman told an interviewer, “and she called the family’s Panditji to come home and meet me. The first thing he asked me was: ‘Khana banati hai tumhare liye?’ When I said yes, he said, ‘Apna impure blood milati hai khaane mein black magic ke liye’… The same Pandit later on came on Salman Khan’s Dus Ka Dum also and he looked at Kangana in the middle of the show and said ‘Aap pisachini hai.’ She treated it as if it was a joke. It’s there on national TV.” In what century is he living in, I ask you.

Come on Indian men, grow up. Or be prepared to be left behind while women not only enter heretofore forbidden temples and mosques but dance on your foreheads too.