Category Archives: Views on News

Begum Jaan’s message about rape and its survivors is deeply troubling: Here’s why

Last week, the singer and actor Janelle Monáe said something that, coming from her fabulous self, was a bit of a stinker. “Until every man is fighting for our rights, we should consider stopping having sex.” Fans and critics jumped to point out the with her sex strike idea — a similar theme was the crux of a inspired 2015 film, Spike Lee’s almost unwatchable — the most glaring one being expecting women to be more than game to sacrifice their sexuality for a larger cause.

The convenience with which you can offer up women’s bodies as points of resistance, without thinking twice about how such a resistance may work, is exactly the kind of shortsightedness that is so off-putting about Srijit Mukherji’s new film Begum Jaan. A remake of his Partition period film Rajkahini (2015), it was highly anticipated for its portrayal of women sex workers at a brothel in Punjab which is owned by the eponymous Begum Jaan — a ruthless madam with a heart of gold played by Vidya Balan. Everything is running smoothly at the kotha in 1947 until representatives from the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League inform Begum that she and her girls have a month to hot-foot it out of her home, since Radcliffe’s Line of Control to divide India from Pakistan will pass through it. The women instead decide to fight to the death.

Poster of Begum Jaan

But before you even get to how Mukherji ruins the plot’s potential by trying to do too much and ending up only skimming the surface of Partition upheavals, you have to rewind to the beginning of the movie.

It begins in the present day, with an interpretation of the December 16 gang-rape incident. Two men on a bus attack a woman. She runs for it, shielding herself from her assaulters by hiding behind an old woman who then strips slowly, to the incredulity and revulsion of the assaulters. Horrified, they flee the scene. Even if you try to ignore the massive tri-colour blowing in the background (it looks triumphant, I’m really not sure why), the scene doesn’t make sense because it relies on the grossly flawed premise that an old woman’s nudity is a terrifying deterrent for anyone intent on assault or rape.

Towards the end of the film, there’s a repetition of this incident, set in the past. A child called Laadli (Gracy Goswami), who grows up into the old woman of the present day scene (she’s wearing the same ribbons in her hair in case you miss all the other symbolism), tries to protect her mother from rape by undressing stoically. The policeman who seemed so keen on rape is horrified, humiliated and feels so repentant that he becomes a farmer. (Don’t go looking for logic, there isn’t any.) When the film ends circling back to the old-woman-as-saviour scene, you have to pause and wonder what Mukherji was thinking.

Adil Hussain: Films like Force 2 and Commando 2 subsidise my involvement in indie cinema

Adil Hussain, a renowned face in the world of theatre, art house cinema and Bollywood, has created quite a niche fan base for himself with his content-driven films like English Vinglish, Life of Pi and The Reluctant Fundamentalist.  He is now gearing up for the release of Mukti Bhawan, which received a standing ovation at the Venice International Film Festival and won him a special mention at the 64th National Film Awards 2017. It was also invited to reputed film festivals like the Busan International Film Festival, Dubai Film Festival, Swedish Film Festival, Berlinale Festival and Vesoul Film Festival.  Mukti Bhawan is the story of a reluctant son, played by Adil, who must take his father to Varanasi where the latter wants to die and attain salvation.  Firstpost met up for an exclusive interview with the acclaimed actor.

Adil Hussain. Image from News 18

Excerpts from the interview:

Tell us something more about your role. Initially, you were not recognised in the look you sport in the film.

(Laughs) That is the idea. Shubhi (director Shubhashish Bhutiani) wanted me to look absolutely different, so we added the stomach with an extra pad. We experimented with several moustaches and finally chose a thin one. Then, with the body posture, language and style of walking, slowly it happened. I am playing a small town guy who sits in an office the whole day. He is middle-aged, has a bit of paunch and doesn’t care a damn about how he looks. The film is about a father and son in a dreadful situation, where the father emotionally blackmails the son to go with him to Varanasi, where people go to die. Both have differences and grudges against each other, but as they spend time together in Varanasi, they introspect about their relationship and a bond grows. My character is full of conflicts. He doesn’t want to accompany his dad, but is dutiful towards him and also has a soft corner for him.

What was your reaction when you were offered the film? It must have sounded quite bizarre.

Absolutely. I didn’t know there was an institution like Mukti Bhavan; I thought people would individually go check in to some hotel by themselves. I have heard the phrase,”Kashi mein jaake marenge.” But I didn’t know about the existence of an established institution where one spends 15 days… A friend, who has also directed me, forwarded the text from the film’s producer telling me that this is the story, this is the director’s profile, that the director’s first film was in the Best Short Film category at Venice, that he is 24 and that he is making a film about death. I said, “Wow!” This was an amazing combination. Without reading the script, I said yes. And when I read the script, it was way more than I had expected. One doesn’t get to do such unusual stories. After stories written by great writers like Shakespeare, Kafka and Tolstoy, which I’m used to permorning in theatre, quite often the scripts I get are not what I’d like to be a part of.

When I met Shubhi, I asked him, “How old are you?” He said 24, and mentioned that he wrote the script when he was 23. “How old are you actually?” I asked him this several times even during the course of the shoot, because when I was 23-24, I was only thinking about girls, not about death (laughs). It is humbling to see someone talking about the philosophy of death at 24.  Shubhi has probably come to an understanding about relationships. Actually, his film is more about life than death. Death is there, it is inevitable, but the film tells us that we better get a grip on our lives.

The film is also quite light-hearted, despite dealing with a sombre issue.

I saw the fun, the wit, the humour and lightness of the film, which did not reduce the depth and gravity of the situation. All of us are senior actors, and the way Shubhi dealt with us was a lesson for me in humility. That quality is also reflected in the film. I consider myself very lucky to be cast in these kind of films, which I think are the future of Indian cinema in a sense. These films are away from the unnecessary gloss and glitter. I have nothing against that kind of cinema, just that there should be space for films that deal with in-depth issues which are sensitive, important and relevant. It need not give out a message; it can be pure entertainment as well.

But as an actor I would always want to act in films that challenge me, take me out of my comfort zone and take my sleep away. Otherwise, you don’t grow as an actor. If you always do what you know then you remain stagnant. These films challenge me to make something believable. I have never faced this kind of situation in my life, so to make it look convincing was challenging.  The film is also quite entertaining. I laughed the whole time when I watched it; I laugh loud. I have watched it eight to nine times across the globe.

What was your experience while shooting the film?

There is a scene where I walk through the pyres. It was the first time I went so close and saw several bodies being washed and stuff.  It sort of made me realise something that I knew intellectually but had not experienced yet, that I may have to be here tomorrow, so I should not take myself so seriously. I am a very insignificant entity in the face of universe, so I should behave accordingly. I had that feeling before, but now it was reaffirmed, reconfirmed and fortified that I will merged into the dirt of planet earth… so I should just relax and behave myself (Laughs).

Of late, you have been active in commercial cinema, and have been part of films like Force 2, Commando 2. Why don’t you take up more projects in Bollywood? Isn’t it tempting?

Commercial mainstream films are not tempting at all. What would be tempting for me is getting more money, doing less films and doing more theatre. So I act in two Bollywood films a year which will fund two years of theatre and family life. For that reason the box office matters, but otherwise, I am so happy where I am. Bollywood never inspired me before and it will not inspire me anymore. I did Robot 2, Force 2, Commando 2… these films subsidise my involvement in independent films and I am grateful to them. Otherwise, I keep refusing many films. They keep casting me in a cop’s role, but now I don’t want to play a cop for the next five years.

You are extremely choosy, so how do you decide to take up a Bollywood project?

My role should be inevitable to the script; it should make sense.  If the director is good enough and the script is convincing enough and the money is good, I pick the film. If I don’t get the creative satisfaction and money, then why should I do films in Bollywood? I would rather cook for my family, for my son and wife, or I could teach at the National School of Drama (NSD). I also have teaching offers from various universities. I am hoping that my market price goes up so that I don’t have to do many films (laughs). Otherwise I am very happy with small things in life.

Are you wary of getting typecast in the Hindi film industry?

Yes, that’s the whole issue. After graduating from NSD, I didn’t feel like coming to Mumbai because I knew the industry here will slot me into a set image on the basis of my skin colour and things like that. That typecasting in Bollywood, it kills the actor. Actors here play a certain image that has been created. It sells, you are successful and then you don’t want to change it because you are scared. Fame, money and box office figures are tempting. So if an actor is happy doing it, it is fine, but I am not. I realised this is not the place I want to go to. But I started getting offers even as I didn’t come looking for them. I did Abhishek Chaubey’s Ishqiya, I did few more and luckily there are independent films happening. I satisfy my thirst for acting in different roles by doing independent cinema.

Which are your upcoming projects?

A paranormal thriller film called Dobara which will be releasing soon. Lisa Ray and I play husband and wife in the film. It’s a remake of a Hollywood paranormal thriller called Oculus. I play an important role in Love Sonia, which is a very intense movie. There is also Manoj Bajpayee, Richa Chadha and Freida Pinto in it. Danny Denzongpa is making Rabindranath Tagore’s Kabuliwala in Hindi, where I play Mini’s father. I recently finished shooting for a Bengali movie Maati in Kolkata. I am also doing a Norwegian film called What Will People Say for director Iram Haq whose first feature film was an official entry in the Academy Awards from Norway. I play an Iranian intelligence officer in a Malayalam film which has been made with young international actors from the US. It is set in Iran and shot in Oman and Kerala. Not to forget, Robot 2 is coming this Diwali!

What about your first love – theatre?

I have many releases coming up, but I have taken a break from films till the end of this year to concentrate on theatre. Since 2010, I have worked non-stop. I have done 50 films including short ones, and I am a bit tired in spite of acting in good films because the demand of film acting is almost 10 per cent of what is demanded on stage. So I am going back to stage till about the end of this year. I want to revitalise myself, because I am getting tired and bored, to some extent. Even for a film like Mukti Bhawan, the demand from an actor is very little in comparison to theatre. I have done very serious and rigorous avant-garde and experimental theatre for which I travelled across the globe. I am preparing a piece for a solo performance which is a dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna, called Karam Nishtha. I have dreamed of doing this since 1994.  It is my dream to play Krishna and to start with that, I will slide into the theatre world. I will start training with Kutiyattam guru Venugopalan Nair from 14 May on the connection between breath and emotion. That is a very ancient technique. But before that, I will represent Mukti Bhawan in Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco.

Sachin Tendulkar releases song ‘Cricket Wali Beat’ on Indian Idol 9, makes singing debut with Sonu Nigam

Mumbai: Sachin Tendulkar has made many records on the cricket field in his 24-year international career, which ended in November 2013. But on Sunday night, the Master Blaster made another debut — this time with the mic.

Tendulkar collaborated with singer Sonu Nigam for the iconic cricketer’s debut track ‘Cricket Wali Beat‘. Sonu said that Tendulkar is a very good singer.

Sachin Tendulkar and Sonu Nigam. Image courtesy: YouTube

The song had its world TV premiere on the grand finale of singing TV reality show “Indian Idol 9″ on Sunday night on Sony Entertainment Television.

The lyrics of the ‘Nacho Nacho Nacho Sare Cricket Waali Beat Pe‘ are quirky and they go something like this: “Gend aayi, bala ghuma, mara chaka, Sachin, Sachin… nacho nacho sab cricket wali beat pe.”

Talking about the song, Sonu said here: “I am glad to be part of Sachin’s new innings. The song that he has sung with me is called ‘Cricket Wali Beat‘. I was very surprised to see the way he was pitching right. That’s why I believe that when God blesses someone with genius, it spills in other faculties too.”

Sonu can now vouch for Tendulkar’s singing skill.

“He is a very good singer. We did not use pitch corrector on his voice as he was singing in the right sur (tone) and (despite being) the shy person that he is, he got extremely comfortable the moment I kind of increased the masti (fun) quotient while we were shooting the video. It was wonderful and I am very happy that people are loving the song,” the singer said.

Sonu judges “Indian Idol 9″ with composer Annu Malik and choreographer-director Farah Khan. The finale saw three contestants — LV Revanth, Khuda Baksh and PVNS Rohit — competing with one another on stage.

About having Sachin on the show’s stage, Sonu said: “‘Indian Idol’ is my family, my house, my domain and Sachin coming in and releasing the song for its world TV premiere, is a matter of pride for all of us.”

“Sachin Tendulkar is a phenomenon not just for India, but for the world, especially for the world of cricket. When he is given the title of god, it’s not just by chance. His whole demeanour, whole career, entire reputation and the spotless career that he has had, is the reason why he is called the God of cricket,” Sonu added.

The Arjuna Award winner had earlier released his autobiography named “Playing It My Way”, and recently he launched his digital app 100MB.

Ranbir Kapoor won’t make public appearances until Sanjay Dutt biopic releases?

There’s immense buzz around Sanjay Dutt’s biopic being helmed by Rajkumar Hirani, especially since Ranbir Kapoor stars as the actor.

Ranbir Kapoor on the sets of the Sanjay Dutt biopic. Twitter

Ranbir Kapoor has been sporting different looks to portray to the life of the troubled star, and the film will apparently graph Sanjay Dutt’s life in the movies, his various relationships including one with his father. Ranbir has apparently and will also need to lose weight to shoot for the prison parts.

The first shooting schedule, that kicked off last month, focuses on Dutt’s contemporary phase. Ranbir will be sporting 6 different looks in the film.

However, despite multiple reports and so much buzz, there’s a sense of secrecy around Ranbir Kapoor’s portrayal of Dutt. The shoot happens in closed studios, and the makers are allegedly very strict about leaks. And now it being reported that Ranbir will not be making any more public appearances until the film is ready.

reports that Hirani has asked Ranbir to generally keep a low profile, and not be spotted around too much.

Further, that Ranbir and Hirani had gone to meet Aditya Chopra as the YRF film Tiger Zinda Hai has been slotted to released on Christmas 2017, when they had planned to release the Dutt biopic. The meeting was reportedly to discuss avoiding a clash with a Salman Khan film.

The Sanjay Dutt biopic, tentatively titled Dutt, is slated to release this Christmas. It is directed by Rajkumar Hirani and also stars Sonam Kapoor, Paresh Rawal, Vicky Kaushal, Jim Sarbh and Dia Mirza.

Phillauri, Anarkali of Aarah and Naam Shabana triple whammy: Women’s stories finally in vogue

Three months into 2017 and we finally have Bollywood films championing female actors.

On back-to-back Fridays, we have Anushka Sharma’s Phillauri, Swara Bhaskar’s Anaarkali of Aarah and Taapsee Pannu’s Naam Shabana. Each of these films differs in storyline, but what they have in common is that they are headlined by women.

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In the last few years, films with female leads aren’t as rare as they used to be in Bollywood.

Last year films like Neerja, Dangal, Pink and Phobia told women’s stories. They followed in the footsteps of widely acclaimed films like No One Killed Jessica, Kahaani, The Dirty Picture, Queen and Mary Kom that also made their mark at the box office.

Bollywood is slowly but surely recognising that making movies that allow women to take center stage is a good business decision.

Almost two years ago, Anushka Sharma made her debut as a producer with Navdeep Singh’s NH10. The actress leveraged her A-list status for a film that on the surface was about a couple’s nightmarish road trip but left the audience with a strong message about honour killing, patriarchy and violence.

Her sophomore production is Phillauri, a film that by Bollywood standards has a ‘quirky’ story line. Directed by Anshai Lal, the film tells the tale of a Manglik boy who has to marry a tree before he can marry a girl. Turns out the tree is inhabited by a friendly neighbourhood ghost (played by Anushka) and the Manglik boy has to help her return to ghost-land.

With notable exceptions like Ekta Kapoor, Guneet Monga and Rhea Kapoor, movie producing is largely a boys club. Actresses traditionally would step into production only to resurrect their dying careers but 28-year-old Anushka is at the top of her game. She is an exciting producer to watch-out for. Instead of backing large projects with bankable faces, she has chosen to work with actors, writers and filmmakers who want to tell fresh stories.

Anushka’s home productions have injected Bollywood with fresh talent. The success of NH10 bought the supremely talented Navdeep back into Bollywood 12 years after his first film Manorama Six Feet Under released. It also helped writer Sudip Sharma and actor Darshan Kumaar to make their mark in the industry. Phillauri marks the debut of its director and is, also, actor Suraj Sharma (Life of Pi) first Bollywood outing.

Anushka Sharma. Image from Phillauri - Facebook

Swara Bhaskar’s Anaarkali of Arrah bucks the trend of female stories that Bollywood has been telling. It is not a relatable character or setting. Anaarkali is an orchestra singer who sings lewd songs but defiantly unapologetic about her sexuality. The actress describes her character has being ‘very open about sex, her body and desires. Anaarkali starts the conversation with ‘I am character-less. This is what I do for a living. Now what?’’ Anaarkali’s overpowering sexuality is reminiscent of Vidya Balan’s portrayal of an ambitious junior artist Reshma who transforms into Silk, a sultry male magnet in The Dirty Picture.

Next week, Taapsee Pannu’s Naam Shabana is looking all set to start a brand new trend. The spy film is a spin-off from the hit Akshay Kumar starrer Baby. As Shabana, Taapsee Pannu had a role short enough to be a cameo in Baby, but it made a big enough impact for director-producer Neeraj Pandey to green light Naam Shabana. It’s very rare in Bollywood for a character to get its own spin-off film and even rarer for that film to have a female protagonist!

In April, Begum Jaan (Vidya Balan) and her sorority of sex workers will take on the might of two nations and Noor (Sonakshi Sinha), a journalist, will find herself in absurd, often implausible, situations. Later this year, Shraddha Kapoor will play Haseena Parker, Dawood Ibrahim’s sister in Haseena _ Queen of Mumbai and Kangana Ranaut will be seen as Simran in Hansal Mehta’s crime caper.

This promises to be a good year for women in Bollywood.

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There is school of thought that includes actresses like Anushka and Vidya Balan who hate the ‘women-centric’ tag. And, they have been very vocal about it. “By calling a film ‘female-centric’ we are putting it on a disadvantage. Films with male protagonists are just ‘films’ but if you are telling a woman’s story it becomes female-centric. I have an aversion to classifications like this,” Anushka says.

While Anushka does raise a pertinent point, it is important to remember that a films that tell women’s stories are still a very small percentage of the films Bollywood churns out. The industry continues to be predominately male-driven both on and off the screen.

Badrinath Ki Dulhania: Alia Bhatt, how could you laugh at a male molestation scene?

Happy Birthday Alia,

Today is the best day to tell you that you are one of the finest actors in our country. I put you in the same league as Kangana. Your glam-doll performance in Student Of The Year was an easy miss and I wouldn’t count that as one of your best performances, but I mean that as a compliment. You are not a doll, you are a person with impeccable ability to emote the toughest of  situations. You are young, but not brittle and shaky.

Courtesy: Facebook

You are barely a dozen films old yet you have proven your mettle. For the audience, you had the pressure of standing up for the performances of your mother Soni and sister Pooja. But you were a star in your own right. You probably got access to Karan Johar for your first film and that’s where the nepotism ends. Post that, you were on your own.

You developed your own wings and chartered your own route. No Mahesh Bhatt ever helped you get where you got. Anyone telling you otherwise, is just full of vile and has the sole intention of putting you down.

To me, your film Highway was the deal breaker. When I went to the theatre to see the film, I went with negative emotions. I thought it was a film that glorified love with the abuser.

However, when I watched Highway, I could relate to every scene of yours. You had dialogues in the film, but you could have done without any. Your eyes, your body language, even your shadow spoke a language that communicated the message like no other. I am a survivor of child sexual abuse. I could relate to you, Alia. The times when you spoke to yourself in the film, when you were out in gay abandon, was actually the inner-talk that most survivors have with themselves.

While the credit of writing the scene and directing it so well goes to Imtiaz Ali, I really can’t imagine anyone bringing both, innocence and effervescence to the character, the way you did.

You held a mirror to all survivors of childhood rape through your spectacular performance. Thank you, Alia.

I think every survivor wanted to scream and hug you when you were raped in Udta Punjab. Your dialogue delivery, your look and your on-screen persona was admirable. You were so seeped into the character, that you reportedly found it so difficult to get out of the character. You faced some real-life phobias like walking in familiar streets. That’s what it takes to be an actor. That’s what it means to get into the skin of your character.

And though I am not a huge fan of Dear Zindagi, I think you emerged as one of the finest characters in the film as you lived the life of a child in a family of domestic instability due to matrimonial discord. Thank you for that Alia.

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This brings me to Badrinath Ki Dulhania, your recent role that is being watched by millions across the world and thus is making a lot of money.

The film was fun. Even though the entire premise of the film was over the top and scatter-brained, I think it brought out the best performances from you and your co-star Varun Dhawan.

But I have one grouse with you, especially since I see you as the most empathetic and sensible in the group. You have played a rape survivor, and a child sex abuse survivor to absolute perfection. I believe, a good person who absorbs to the world can only be a good actor, hence I am shocked and appalled.

Why is it so difficult for you to fathom, Alia, that it is not okay to laugh at a man who has been molested?

What were you thinking when director Shashank Khaitan asked you to laugh at a man who was sexually assaulted? You really thought that was funny? What if you saw Veera of Highway or Mary Jane of Udta Punjab getting molested that way, and you saw Randeep Hooda or Varun Dhawan laughing? Would you have done the film without any revolt? Do you find male rape funny?

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I am asking, because I know that it is a reality. I am a man who has been raped by a man, as a boy of 7 and all through my teen age years. I have no expectation from Karan Johar, who produced a movie with an inconsequential scene on the “comic”ness of male rape despite belonging to my own tribe. I have no expectation from that bloke Khaitaan. Varun doesn’t give me the vibe of being socially conscious and seems to still bea kid.

But you? I had faith in you. You let me down.

Your laughter in that scene is a painful reminder of the challenges many male survivors of sexual assault face everyday.

It is not funny to be raped. Gender irrespective. In fact, men and boys who get sexually assaulted are unable to speak up only because of the kind of laughter in your film. You drowned several voices of self acceptance that could have emerged out of the closets of shame with the sound of your laughter.

This wound will take time to heal.

However, I do hope, you get better and more sensible. You inspire, Alia. Don’t fuck it up like this.

Karan Johar, Kangana Ranaut’s feud teaches us a lesson on how to tackle bullies

If there’s one thing we learnt about Kangana Ranaut last year during the Hrithik Roshan scandal, it was that she doesn’t back down. Just days after Karan Johar accused Kangana of playing the “woman” and “victim card” too often and suggested that she leave the industry, the actress has replied. And, how!

The prevailing sentiment among most people that I spoke with, after the video of Karan’s dissing Kangana at London School Of Economics surfaced, was that ‘she shouldn’t bother saying anything anymore. What’s the point of escalating things?’ After all, we were taught by our parents to take the high road in an altercation.

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But when you are being bullied, ignoring it reinforces a sense of powerlessness in the target. Karan belittled, humiliated and insulted Kangana on a public platform. Addressing that bullying on an equally public medium was the only option for the actress to push back.

“Why is Karan Johar trying to shame a woman for being a woman? What is this about the ‘woman card’ and the ‘victim card’? This kind of talk is demeaning to all women, particularly the vulnerable because they are the ones who really need to use them. The ‘woman card’ might not help you become a Wimbledon champ, or win you Olympic medals, or bag National awards. It might not even land you a job, but it can get a pregnant woman who feels her water is about to break a ‘ladies’ seat on a crowded bus. It can be used as a cry for help when you sense a threat. The same goes for the ‘victim card’, which women like my sister, Rangoli, who is a victim of an acid attack, can use while fighting for justice in court”

For someone who has been ridiculed for her fluency with English, Kangana’s reply is very articulate. More articulate than say the man who wondered if she knows what nepotism means. In her reply, Kangana talks about choice and power. It’s important to remember that a woman’s right to choose what she does with her body, her mind and her life is what equality is all about.

Kangana has the choice to play whatever card she chooses. Whatever weapon she has choice to use available in her arsenal to take down the bullies whose place of privilege accords them more protection than she has ever had.

Karan took potshots at Kangana when she wasn’t around to defend herself; her reply makes it very clear that her fight is not against an individual.

“I am not fighting Karan Johar, I am fighting male chauvinism,” she says. One of the most effective ways to stand up to a bully is to fight back with logic and clarity. Her response makes it clear that she didn’t need his platform to air her opinions; that they have in fact worked together in a film (Ungli) that his production house produced; that airing their exchange from Koffee with Karan was not a sign of his magnanimity but was done for TRP and, most importantly, that she is a self-made woman who is ‘definitely not going anywhere’.

Time and again, Kangana has proven that she is exactly the kind of badass that Bollywood needs.

Running Shaadi: Tapsee Pannu’s character runs like no one is watching (and that’s a good thing)

Running Shaadi begins with a teenage Nimmi (Taapsee Pannu) in school uniform and plaited hair in red ribbons, telling Bharose (Amit Sadh) that she needs to have an abortion. Bharose works at Nimmi’s father’s bridal clothes shop (and looks the same age throughout the movie even though the story skips many years). It’s a surprising moment, not just because it’s in a mainstream Bollywood film, but also because Nimmi is not apologetic or guilty.

She looks scared, as one might expect her to be, but the moment passes into the beginning of a kind of quiet half-love, with Bharose taking care of her and suitably lovey music in the background, as he cuts her an apple and makes her chai.

The idea behind Amit Roy’s Running Shaadi, a new “social service” website that helps couples run away and get married, sounds like a suitably complicated and fun place for a movie to begin. Nimmi, Bharose and his friend Cyberjeet (Arsh Bajwa) decide to start this website. Of course, one might also expect it to deal with at least some of the many different ways that families respond to couples who run away (other than with happy reconciliation), but Running Shaadi hardly ventures into this less safe ground.

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Instead, it keeps trying to be funny, showing a very clear divide between parents who hate the website and youngsters who love it. Even when this isn’t explicitly said, we see women looking sneakily and longingly at the website’s posters the first time they go up around Amritsar, where the movie is set. As the story progresses, lovers begin to state the most common reasons they want to run away — inter-caste marriage, inter-religion marriage, financial difficulties, family rivalry, and arranged marriage.

Running Shaadi’s trailer shows everyone, from a Muslim man wanting to run away with a Hindu woman, to a gay couple, to an old man, all asking for help to run away. Strangely and conspicuously though, the trailer never shows any women asking.

As much as the movie itself seems to go nowhere, I’m reminded every time Nimmi talks that the movie wouldn’t have managed to trundle as far as it does without its women. At the end of it, you continue to be surprised by that first abortion moment, just like you realise that the movie gives its women more space than the trailer suggests. Even though the trailer begins with Nimmi wearing the same wonderfully dismissive expression that she keeps for the most part of the movie — as though constantly cursing that nobody else is able to keep up with her — she never becomes like Geet from Jab We Met.

Where Geet, with her loud, I’ll-do-whatever-I-want attitude is only there for Aditya to have realisations about his life and then come and save her, Nimmi never really seems to stop being the colourful, crazy, demanding woman that she is. She’s described as Amritsar’s pataka queen – a woman riding a bike while the two men sit awkwardly behind her.

The truth is that Running Shaadi’s men are mostly forgettable. Bharose is a nice guy. He’s from Bihar and works at the bridal clothes shop and there’s nothing to really dislike him for, except moments when he’s so nice and predictable that he becomes easy to pay very little attention to. Cyberjeet is funny — the first time we see him, he’s doing an aarti to a photo of Mark Zuckerberg, and his red pagdi has a tiny Facebook like sign on it just above his forehead. Nimmi, on the other hand — except for in classist moments where she is calling Bharose gawar again and again — is not boring.

Here an amazing thing happens. I can’t remember the last time a Hindi movie devoted a scene to an abortion. (Did we see Meghana Mathur, played by Priyanka Chopra in Fashion, go through with the abortion?)

Before the abortion, we hear the doctor turn to Bharose (who has accompanied her) assuming he is the man Nimmi had sex with, and says, “What problem do you guys have with using a condom?” The rest of the abortion passes in song-mode, with Bharose looking into a room where Nimmi is sleeping and then helping her home.

Soon after the half-love moments of this song, the movie fast-forwards to Nimmi in college (she’s studying English honours). She gets a temporary butterfly tattoo on her shoulder, gets angry when Bharose keeps trying to call her while she is at a party, and is embarrassed by him – her boyfriend who hasn’t gone to school or college and doesn’t wear fancy clothes.

But Nimmi makes nice with Bharose again and asks him to help her run away from home, because her parents arrange her marriage when they hear about the abortion. She tells him there is an educated boy she loves. Bharose, heartbroken but sweet (and also engaged to a girl in Bihar), helps her run away only to find that she’s left a letter at home declaring her love for him. It’s a bit of a weird moment because even though we know Bharose loves her (and would never act on it), we’re not sure how to respond to Nimmi deciding for them both that they should run away without telling him what she’s doing.

When the movie shifts to Bihar — which means more stupid, classist jokes — it’s Bharose’s turn to escape his arranged marriage. Bharose’s fiancée is the only other woman in the movie (apart from Nimmi) whom we see making an effort to go after the love she wants, hiding from family who follows her around everywhere, wearing a burkha to a theatre and buying two tickets, one of which she leaves under a Thumbs Up bottle for the man she loves. (An Amitabh Bachchan movie is playing.)

If there’s anything to watch Running Shaadi for, it’s the realisation that nobody will ever be able to keep up with Nimmi. She wants everything. Even in the moment when she is telling Bharose what she has done, she isn’t apologetic in the least — the only time we hear her say sorry is when she tells him it was wrong of her to be embarrassed by him in college.

The apology never comes twice. Unlike Shyra in Befikre, who predictably begins to look back on the days when she slept with many men in Paris with guilt, Nimmi never shows any signs of guilt — about being with men, running away from home, or being rude to Bharose when she goes to college. She knows what she wants and goes at it with such determination that you’re not in the least worried that she won’t get it, in the way that we are always feeling fed up on behalf of Bollywood female leads. (Isn’t it depressing that the only thing the female lead is guaranteed to get is the guy, and it’s not clear that she – including Nimmi – wants him or needs him?)

Running Shaadi isn’t great. But considering how much care seems to have gone into writing Nimmi’s character, the movie might have been much better if it let its women chase after and demand love, rather than showing just men asking how to run away. The movie ends with Bharose and Nimmi going back to her house to reconcile with her parents.

Her father is cleaning his gun, and the moment they enter, there is a crashing of glass because Nimmi’s mother drops the tray she’s holding when she sees them. This time, too, Bharose and Nimmi run. But while Bharose looks scared, Nimmi looks extremely happy to be running again and you are left feeling like nobody has caught up with her yet, and will never be able to.

Kareena Kapoor Khan on Rangoon: ‘Some films are beyond box office collections

We don’t know Saif Ali Khan’s reaction to the box-office fate of Rangoon yet, but his wife and actress, Kareena Kapoor Khan is totally unfazed.

When asked what she feels about the dismal box office earnings of the period drama, Kareena said, “Vishal Bhardwaj’s films are art, it is like a painting. You either like his films or you don’t. It is not like a typical commercial film that is going to cater to everybody’s taste and sensibilities, he caters to a certain section of audience and that is why some critics have revered it and called it a piece of art. Vishal Bhardwaj is known for that. So when you do a film like that, with a lot of love for cinema, the actors get lot of appreciation. Some films are beyond box office collections.”

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She further added, “Saif has been in the industry for 25 long years. He is beyond success or failure of his movies.”

Earlier, during Rangoon’s special screening, Kareena was all praises for the film and went on to say that she was expecting it to be one of the best films of the year. Kareena had earlier been a part of Bhardwaj’s 2006 release Omkara, which also had Saif in his finest performance as Langda Tyagi, though the duo were not cast opposite each other in the movie.

New mommy on the block may be taking it easy after the arrival of baby Taimur, but come May, the actress will be back where she belongs – in front of the camera.

She will bounce back into action and kickstart the shoot of Veere Di Wedding in May. Veere Di Wedding is Rhea Kapoor’s ambitious chick flick, which also stars Sonam Kapoor, Swara Bhaskar and Shikha Talsania. Kareena said that she is currently utilizing the time for getting back into shape. “The preparation for the film is just hitting the gym, that is the only focus as of now,” laughs Kareena, who doesn’t regret losing out on the fourth instalment of the Golmaal series to Parineeti Chopra.

Kareena was part of the last two instalments of Rohit Shetty and Ajay Devgn’s comedy but had walked out of the film owing to her pregnancy. “I couldn’t have done Golmaal. I am at a stage when I am also not ready to start a film before May. It wouldn’t have worked out,” she says.

“But yes,” she continues, “I am definitely reading scripts. I have worked throughout my pregnancy but now Veere De Wedding is a priority. Once that finishes I will take up something else because I can’t do two films at one time. I need to balance things out. Priorities keep changing in life. First I was married and now I have a family, I have always done multi-tasking, something women understand that they have to do.” She further states, “Even after marriage, it was always one film at a time. I would always want to finish a film, take a break and then go for the next. Both, Saif and I am going to maintain that.”

Alongside her movie career, Kareena has for the first time entered the television space and a soon-to-be-launched factual entertainment channel has roped her as its ‘Feel Alive’ ambassador. The channel, among other things, will talk about saving earth, adventure sports, wild life and global warming.

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Further, talking about the “adventure” and “journey” of motherhood, Kareena says, “It has been just two months and adventure has just started, there is a lot to look forward to. I will experience as it comes because the journey of every mother is their own. It is such a personal experience. Tomorrow, even if my sister Karisma has to give me tips or advice, I will tell her, ‘Listen, this is your journey, it is like your relationship with your son. I am taking it as it comes.”

Does she have sleepless nights? “I would call them as more joyous nights than sleepless nights. It is so exciting. I won’t even want to think that I’m losing out on my sleep; it is a joy and pleasure to be up with him.”

While Kareena evaded the controversy surrounding her newborn’s name, she did touch upon the media focus on her pregnancy. So did it seem like an intrusion into her experience?

“Being a celebrity anything is an intrusion. Of course, pregnancy is something that I chose to share with everyone, I didn’t want to hide. Lot of women, when pregnant, probably wouldn’t want to go out or continue with normal things. The amount of advertisements I shot for, the brands or campaigns I shot for when I was pregnant was as much as I probably shot for when I was not. That is the way I chose to live my life,” says Kareena, further adding, “this is always the personality that people and my fans relate to and I am a happier person when I try not to hide things from them.

Running Shaadi quick review: Tapsee, Amit Sadh’s film falls prey to curse of the second half

Running Shaadi is one of those movies that you might want to give a try because of its actors.

The movie stars Tapsee Pannu and Amit Sadh who were last seen in Pink and Sultan respectively, and these two put on a great show. Ram (Amit Sadh) works in a textile shop in Punjab, whose owner is Nimmi’s (Tapsee Pannu) father. It’s a smooth playground till love hits; Ram and Nimmi fall in love while the latter is still in school. As she moves on to college and starts hanging with cooler friends who wears better clothes and speaks in English, love falls short. While Ram gets very annoyed with this, Nimmi tries to get the relationship back in track.

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One night when Ram has had enough, he calls his relatives back in Bihar and fixes his wedding with a stranger. That night is whena million dollar idea of making a website that would help lovers elope and get married legally strikes him. They name it runningshaadi.com and this is the first 30 minutes of the movie.

From this point, for a very long time, we only see montages of them helping 20-odd couples elope and get married. Beyond that, we eventually lead up to the main plot point in the film: how Raj and Nimmi get their love mojo back.

The performances in the movie are great. Tapsee Pannu and Amit Sadh are great to look at and have the north Indian twang bang on, which helps you understand the story better. Arsh Bajwa, who plays Ram’s side kick in the movie (a Sardar tech junkie named Cyber) does a great job, too.

Running Shaadi has an interesting plot; it’s new and fresh but not entertaining throughout. The movie is fun for the first 30 – 45 minutes when we just get to know the characters and understand what’s going on. Post that the movie falls flat. There is nothing more to it once they make the website.

The movie was earlier supposed to be called runningshaadi.com — which is also the name of the website, but due to legal reasons, they had to drop the .com from the name. Since this is was a last minute decision, the movie had many scenes where ‘.com’ was blurred and beeped, which makes it look shabby.