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Om Puri: His life, dreams, struggles and accomplishments in his own words

I used to work as a clerk at a government office in Punjab. I was paid a salary of Rs 600 per month. I decided to leave the job, and pursue a career in acting. I knew that irrespective of how I fared, I would do better than making six hundred rupees. So I quit the job. At the time, it was unheard of. Everybody wanted government jobs. I studied acting for five years, including a course at the National School of Drama (NSD) in Delhi, and only after I was certain that I had the requisite skill, I moved to Mumbai. But it took not less than thirteen years after I decided on pursuing a career in the film industry that stability finally found me.”

These are Om Puri’s words in an interview to me.

Om Puri had earlier sought bail after being accused of domestic violence. PTI

An internationally acclaimed actor, a Padma Shri recipient, one of the pioneers of the world of parallel cinema, a stellar performer whose versatility transcended borders – Om Puri, who breathed his last in his Mumbai home on Friday, bagged several credits during his celebrated career spanning over four decades. But behind the tales of glory was a man who, as per his own admission, had trained hard to acquire the skill he was distinguished for.

He had struggled hard to survive in Mumbai before the film industry let him carve his space.

My interaction with Mr Om Puri was on a morning in August, 2015. I was busy with research for my recently published book, ‘The Front Page Murders: Inside the Serial Killings that Shocked India.’ The book, which is the true story of a serial killer who would murder and hack Bollywood strugglers for wealth in Mumbai, 2012, required me to speak to film industry insiders about the Bollywood struggler life in Mumbai, their passion and its pitfalls.

My study took me to actor Om Puri, recipient of two national awards then, but a man of long-standing perseverance, his story barely told. Since I had been a senior crime correspondent with a leading national daily, availing Mr Puri’s mobile number through an entertainment journalist in the city was not a difficult task. But I knew that getting him to talk would be tricky. He was a Bollywoodwallah after all, and to journalists, no one has more dolled up egos than this breed of artists. I, however, was in for a surprise.

‘Haan ji,’ Mr Puri answered his phone.

After I introduced myself, inquiring if it was a good time to talk, Mr Puri informed that he was on his way somewhere, and would be happy to spare a few minutes. Pleasantly surprised, I rolled out my questions, and he gladly detailed.

Recollecting the time when he first moved to the city of slums and skyscrapers to chase his Bollywood dream, Puri said:

“I was 26 years old when I first came to Mumbai. I did not know anyone here except for actor Naseeruddin Shah. He was my senior at NSD. So upon reaching here, I went straight to him. He was living in a rented room then, and allowed me to stay with him for two weeks. We were sharing the room, but the landlady did not approve of it. I was staying as a guest, and wasn’t paying rent. So she took me out. Through a friend, Naseer then found a paying guest accommodation for me off Hill Road in Bandra. It was a bungalow, and I was given one room with only a cot, one almirah, a table, and a chair. That was 1976. I paid a rent of Rs 175 per month. One and a half years later, the landlady’s son got married. They wanted the room, and I had to move out.”

The veteran artist recollected that after leaving the bungalow, he approached a hostel in Bandra. However, the authorities were skeptical about letting him stay because they had a bad experience with an actor before, and didn’t allow accommodation to Bollywood aspirants anymore. Puri tried to convince them, saying that he wasn’t any other run-away in the city, whiling his time away, that he was extremely serious about his Bollywood dream, and was working hard towards it. But the hostel authorities wouldn’t budge.

I did not give up hope, and landed at the hostel every other week. I had to have a roof. Eventually, they agreed, and I stayed there for two years, sharing my room with another boy. Aakrosh released in 1981. The film was very well received by art producers, but it didn’t impress the film industry. I moved to several other places before Manmohan Shetty’s Ardh Satya was released in 1983. (Om Puri’s career took off with this film; he also won the National Film Award for Best Actor for this role.) Mr Shetty told me that he had a one-BHK flat lying vacant in Chembur, and that I should move there until I get my own place. Things were good thereafter – eight years after I moved to Mumbai, and thirteen years after I chose to pursue a career in acting.

During our conversation, Puri spoke extensively about how difficult the life of a Bollywood struggler is in Mumbai, how these men and women flock to the city with dreams of the silver screen, hopes of that one celluloid break, and how they end up getting exploited by men who have set up businesses only to cash on their innocent dreams.

Bollywood aspirants need to be careful about falling prey to criminal elements in Mumbai. They should only visit established offices, and not believe any random person who boasts of connections in the film industry. The struggler’s life is very difficult here.  When you come to the city with dreams of the film industry, the biggest problem is survival. Mumbai is an expensive city. When youngsters approach me for roles, the first thing I ask them is if they can afford staying in the city for at least a year without a stable income, if their families can afford it. If yes, they can go ahead and try their luck.

Talking about his own luck, Puri said that he had worked hard to turn fate in his favour.

“Bollywood aspirants usually come to this city, looking at people like us. And when they see someone like me, particularly, it gives them hope. They think ke yaar, Om Puri jaisa aadmi, jiske face pe daag hai, naak bada mota sa hai, Irfan Khan bhi koi aisa good-looking nahi lagta, agar yeh log kar sakte hai, toh hum toh inse better dikhte hai. (They think that if a man like Om Puri, who has spots all over his face, a fat nose, Irfan Khan is also not very good-looking, if they can make it, we are better looking than them.) But they don’t realise that we have worked hard to study acting before coming to Mumbai. I came here after training for five years.”

Although I haven’t spoken to the actor since this conversation, I know that he was proud of his eccentric looks, and his achievements in the face-obsessed film industry despite them.

“I have no regrets at all. I have done quite well for myself. I didn’t have a conventional face, but I have done well, and I am proud of it,” Puri wrote on Twitter a fortnight ago.

Masaan actress Shweta Tripathi is back in Haraamkhor: Why she stays away from ‘mindless’ films

Mumbai: Her maiden feature film Masaan made critics take note of her performance and actress Shweta Tripathi says she wants to stay away from “mindless” cinema where she is reduced to being looked upon as an object.

Shweta garnered rave reviews for the 2015 Neeraj Ghaywan film where she played the upper-caste lover of Vicky Kaushal’s Dalit character.

Shweta Tripathi. Image from News 18

The actress finds the cinema of Zoya Akhtar “commercial, yet not insulting your intelligence”, but does not understand mindless films.

“I dont watch the kind of cinema where people say leave your brain at home and watch. What is even that? I would never want to be treated as a prop, to be looked on as an object just because of my gender. That I am very sure about,” Shweta told PTI.

“If I am doing something which is making a difference in the story then Ill do it. But not because I am wearing certain clothes and doing nothing,” she added.

Though the National Award-winning Masaan became her first big release, Shweta had previously worked in the short film Sujata, part of Shorts — an anthology of five short films.

It was directed by Shlok Sharma, with whom she is now back with the latest Haraamkhor.

The film chronicles a relationship between a 14-year-old girl, played by Shweta and her tuition teacher, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, in a small town.

For the actress, the subject was never an issue and she insists she found out many cases like these once she started talking to people about this.

“It never worried me at all. But this happens everywhere. When I got out of my cocoon, I realised these are the stories which need to be told. I didn’t think it will run into any controversy, or it’ll have any problem with the Censor Board.”

The film, however, did run into trouble with the Examining Committee of Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), which declined to pass the movie as the theme was “unacceptable.”

“When that happened, I used to call Shlok every now and then. More than frustrating, it was heartbreaking. When there was a meeting with the board, I went there even though I wasn’t needed.”

“When you are trying to do something right, tell an important story to the society without the intention of titillating, then you do ask ‘why us’? That moment came when the film was stuck.

Jolly LLB 2, Toilet, 2.0 and Pad Man: What Akshay Kumar’s slate of films looks like in 2017

Mumbai: On New Year’s Day on Sunday, Bollywood star Akshay Kumar shared with his fans his line-up of films for the calendar year, asking them for love and luck.

Akshay Kumar. File photo

He tweeted: “Busy summing up the year gone by? It’s time to not look back, but look ahead. Here’s what my 2017 looks like. Your thoughts, love and luck needed.”

The actor then went on to share the names of the films along with their photographs.

The first one is his upcoming courtroom comedy drama film Jolly LLB 2. Directed by Subhash Kapoor, the film also features Huma Qureshi and Annu Kapoor.

In the trailer, Akshay looks promising as a lawyer while he tackles the corrupt with some comical elements.

Toilet — Ek Prem Katha is the second. Directed by Shree Narayan Singh, it also stars Bhumi Pednekar and Anupam Kher, and is slated to release on June 2.

Then Akshay will be seen in Tamil science-fiction action thriller 2.o along with superstar Rajinikanth.

In the film, which is being directed by Shankar, Rajinikanth plays a scientist, and he will also be seen as Chitti robot. Akshay plays the prime antagonist in the film, which will hit the screens worldwide during Diwali 2017.

The fourth project that Akshay has in his kitty for 2017 is Pad Man. It is said to be a biopic on Arunachalam Muruganantham, and will chronicle his journey of finding a way to make cheap, affordable sanitary napkins for women in his village.

Jagga Jasoos trailer: Ranbir, Katrina rock a goofy avatar in this dreamy Anurag Basu film

Ranbir Kapoor says literally one line in the entire trailer of Anurag Basu’s Jagga Jasoos (and Katrina Kaif says nothing at all) and yet the trailer speaks volumes about the film.

Before we spill our judgment of the trailer, here’s something one must acknowledge.

It’s a well made trailer, especially at a time when trailers have started to present the entire film on a platter. It’s one that doesn’t reveal too much, but much like a kaleidoscope, through fast moving images and moments, reveals the tone of the film, and what we can expect.

We are told from the official synopsis of Jagga Jasoos that a young detective sets out to find his missing father, and an unusual series of events unfold.

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The trailer begins with an introduction to Ranbir and Katrina’s characters and while the film seems to be shot all over India, they first meet in Manipur. Ranbir is a quirky guy, and in essense, so is Katrina, and we are taken through a dreamy, whirlwind journey — with ostrich rides, bike rides through the dessert, races with elephants, and much more adventure.

The look and feel of the film gives you a whiff of Basu’s earlier movie with Ranbir, Barfi! mostly because Ranbir is seen in school clothes and as a hosteler. But then we see him in multiple avatars. Not much is revealed about ages, or any other character details.

However, with Disney producing the film, you definitely get a sense of watching a children’s film. Whether that is a pro or con for Jagga Jasoos, only time will tell.

Amid all the visuals, the last 30 seconds of the trailer *finally* reveal something about Katrina and Ranbir’s chemistry.

From Rajneeti to Ajab Prem Ki Gajab Kahaani, this is the first time they looked relaxed as two goofy but affable lead protagonists. Maybe the hype around their personal life has helped them on-screen much like Jab We Met worked for Shahid, and Kareena Kapoor.

Kahaani 2 quick review: Vidya Balan is riveting in thriller that’s let down by its second half

Except for carrying forward the name of a character — ‘Vidya’ — for the first half of the movie, Sujoy Ghosh’s Kahaani 2 (also known as Kahaani 2: Durga Rani Singh) starring Vidya Balan and Arjun Rampal, is an entirely different movie from its predecessor in the franchise. The plot is new, so are the characters.

Vidya Balan in 'Kahaani 2: Durga Rani Singh'

Kahaani 2 is set in Kolkata and is the story of Durga Rani Singh, played by Vidya Balan, who has been accused of kidnapping a 6-year-old called Mili, and murdering her grandmother. There is a also a parallel life she leads as Vidya Sinha, who has a daughter named Mili. Confusing enough? You will have to watch the movie to find out how this plot plays out.

The movie revolves around child sexual abuse. The first half of the movie gives you all the possible thrills and chills as Durga Rani Singh sets out in a mission to rescue a child from a possible abuser.

This is one of those movies for which the trailer is a curse. Two of the most startling moments in the film lose all their shock factor if you’ve already watched the trailer, and that’s sad.

The movie also has Inspector Inderjit, played by Arjun Rampal. ‘Hot’, I’m sure is the correct terminology here. He is entirely convincing as an inspector who has been transferred to a small town and is waiting for a promotion so that he along with his family could shift back to the city.

The first half is gripping, and 100 percent entertaining. But the second half turns out to be slightly off track. While Sujoy Ghosh with his magical attention to detail has scripted out what was meant to be an amazing narrative, the second half drags, and is not as entertaining. The director also flavours the second half with subtle humour in the midst of intense moments. While I was with a theatreful of people laughing along at those subtleties, I felt like it might be taking the seriousness away from the issue of child sexual abuse. And the way CSA is dealt with in the movie is good, but not moving enough perhaps.

Powerful, strong and riveting, Vidya Balan gives a performance which is definitely worth watching multiple times. Arjun Rampal puts up a great show as well. The two childactors who play the character Mili are spot on. While the performances take Kahaani 2 a notch higher, a not-so-thoroughly thought out second half pulls it down.

Dear Zindagi an unusual Bollywood movie that explores the inner life of a troubled woman

There are several lines of dialogue in Dear Zindagi that you are unlikely to have heard before in Hindi cinema. A woman telling a man to pull up his (unsightly low-slung) pants before he goes in front of the camera; a woman telling a man, “I need to pee.” (In Bunty Aur Babli, Rani Mukherjee implies it when she asks Bunty to come guard the railway station. And in Raj Kumar Santoshi’s Lajja, Manisha Koirala learns to pee on the side of the road while drunkenly cavorting with Madhuri Dixit.) Dear Zindagi also features a woman announcing that she failed Class II, and a man saying his former lover would never have achieved success if they had stayed together.

Dear Zindagi stars Shah Rukh Khan and Alia Bhatt

I was looking forward to Dear Zindagi in a vague way, aided by the memory of watching Sridevi’skabuki mask-like, but still absorbing face in Gauri Shinde’s first film, English Vinglish. In Dear Zindagi, Alia Bhatt is also often expressionless-yet-not, prickly and grouchy to hide her wealth of feelings. At one point, when Kaira (Bhatt) hears from her friend Fatima (Ira Dubey) that her lover has gotten engaged to someone else, she bites into a green chilli and eats it with steady viciousness. You want to look away from her tiny red lips, but you can’t. She sniffs, and when her friend asks her if she is okay, she blames the chilli. Then she goes back to the editing studio to edit the music video she’s directing.

English-Vinglish was the journey of a well-adjusted, middle-aged woman who thinks well of herself. She only has to understand why the world doesn’t think well of her — just because she doesn’t speak English. In Dear Zindagi, Kaira doesn’t think well of herself, but others do. She veers between fragility and irritability, and we don’t know why. We don’t quite know why she’s so mean to her parents and relatives. (That’s a lie; the relatives are so well-calibrated in their smugness that I was ready to slap them on Kaira’s behalf.) We find out what has created her brittle unhappiness, as she finds out, through her therapy sessions with cool shrink Jahangir Khan (Shah Rukh Khan).

This explicit exploration of the inner life of a young woman is fairly unprecedented in Bollywood. In Tanu Weds Manu 2, we do get a chance to see Tanu’s emotional struggles with her self-destructiveness. But the black comedy of that movie and that heroine didn’t permit the earnest pursuit of mental health. Instead, in the opening scene, Tanu manages to turn marriage counselling into an opportunity to get her husband locked up in an asylum. In Queen, Rani needs the trip to Paris to recover from heartbreak and gain confidence in her own ability to navigate the world.

It’s soothing, therefore, to hear Khan tell Kiara that she doesn’t have to forgive her parents or confront them for abandoning her. To hear Khan tell Kiara that she is not “cheap” but “superfine” to not settle for the first man who comes down the pike. Kiara has literal-minded nightmares about society judging her for being unmarried and unloved (troublingly, Shinde visualises this as working-class men mocking married middle-class women). It’s even more soothing when Khan tells Kiara that no society — no matter how judgmental — doesn’t have to think well of her, as long as she thinks well of herself. It’s so soothing that you are tempted to ignore the outrageous wish-fulfilment that is the tailpiece of the movie.

A friend who went to Dear Zindagi with me began with pessimism, saying warily that the scenes of Kaira zooming above her sets in a cinematographer’s crane are likely to be the most empowering things about the movie. (He changed his mind). For me, the wish-fulfilment moment was when Kaira tells the newly engaged ex-lover Raghuvendra (Kunal Kapoor) that she has decided to not work with him on his next project. Raghuvendra, dejected but trying to be a good guy, begins some spiel about what he thinks. This sets off Kaira like a bomb. She yells at him because she has already announced her decision, he wasn’t going to get a chance to now pretend it was his decision. Ah, the ridiculous, petty, total satisfaction.

Shinde’s story stays true despite any temptations that may have come along. Kaira doesn’t find herself in a romance with her ex-lover, a new lover or even in her crush on Khan. The climax is a classic emotional breakthrough about her childhood. If you have any doubts that Bhatt can act, this is the scene for you. She cries hard enough to melt a rock. This is also a scene of unintentional comedy. SRK, who should be a proud therapist, has never looked more uncomfortable than he does at this stage. He looks like he wants to say, “I hate tears, Kaira.”

My formerly pessimistic friend explained, “No one told him he has to do anything but smoulder. Or may be it’s those pants.” It’s true that the pants seem very tight, Aki Narula. It’s also that SRK is frequently a smouldering shoulder, but he is more. Shinde’s several on-the-nose pitches and Khan’s sussegad style makes an attractive case for therapy.

Kaira has her breakthrough and slowly makes her peace with her family. Which brings us to that fantasy tailpiece. Her long-stuck short film about a cross-dressing Portuguese soldier is finally made. It is screened on the beach to an audience of her whole life. All her friends, her whole family, the man she broke up with (Angad Bedi), the man who broke up with her (Kunal Kapoor), the man who wasn’t quite right for her (a shockingly muscular Ali Zafar). They are all there, flushed with admiration, applause and goodwill for Kaira. There’s also a new man who has solid potential of being the next love interest (Aditya Roy Kapoor).

Dangal’s first song ‘Haanikaarak Bapu’ champions everything that’s right with Aamir’s film

Comparison is the fuel of Bollywood at the moment, what with the many clashes (read: Mohenjo Daro and Rustom; ADHM and Shivaay) we have seen in 2016. However — and we never thought we would say this before its release — Aamir Khan’s  Dangal seems to be doing everything right, where Salman Khan’s Sultan went wrong.

Allow us to elucidate.

After its intriguing trailer, Dangal‘s first song, ‘Haanikarak Baapu‘ revolves around Aamir Khan coaching his daughters to become competent wrestlers. The song is shot and sung from the girls’ point of view, where they seen working out really hard, training their bodies to be wrestlers, and facing the wrath of Aamir, who is shown to be brutal with them in their training.

You don’t need us to tell you that Aamir can really act. He plays the stern father part with complete conviction, and it works well for a song that laments about this very fact.

dangal 1

‘Haanikarak Baapu’ is peppered with dialogues; Sakshi Tanwar, who plays Aamir’s wife and mother to the girls, has her Haryanvi accent bang on. Aamir rocks a dad bod (an elderly man with a paunch and a flawed, yet desirable body, for the uninitiated) in this film, much like Salman in Sultan. However, he is a lot more nonchalant about it.

The song itself is catchy, and we’re sure kids will love it, but the real champion of ‘Haanikarak Baapu’, and by extension Dangal, is its nuanced and unbiased portrayal of the fact that it is actually two girls who Aamir trains; his daughters.

Koffee with Karan episode three: Varun, Arjun say it best when they say nothing at all

Koffee with Karan season five is most certainly all about busting secrets. Or atleast, you’ll see Karan Johar trying really hard. Episode three saw childhood buddies Varun Dhawan and Arjun Kapoor share the Koffee couch and Johar wasted no time in addressing the (multiple) elephants in the room.

The first question that was asked to the two chaddi-buddies was whether there was a girl that ever came between them. For those of you who were hoping that Kapoor and Dhawan would address the rumours of either of them dating Alia Bhatt, you will be disappointed. Neither confirmed anything of the sort, infact they both denied having any sort of romantic involvement with Alia.

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However, much more was revealed about Varun Dhawan and Arjun Kapoor’s long-standing friendship. We found out that both are nudists, ie, both roam around their homes with minimal clothing (thank us later for the image).

In typical Koffee with Karan style, both actors were grilled about their love lives and even asked about their penis size. (this seems to be a recurring theme, and also found a mention in Twinkle and Akshay Kumar’s episode).

The highlight of this episode was that a lot of secrets were ousted without really saying anything. Arjun choosing any other actress whenever given the option of Sonakshi Sinha, and Varun always slotting Sidharth Malhotra in the last rank of any choice question, gave us a little inkling of the fact that where Bollywood and gossip are concerned, there’s no smoke without fire.

Also both Varun and Arjun chose to marry Ranbir Kapoor and kill Ranveer Singh in their rapid fire answers. Also neither wanted to hook up with Katrina Kaif, for reasons best known to them.

We were also shown snippets from a short film that both Varun Dhawan and Arjun Kapoor were a part of, back in their struggling phase. The film, which shows a much younger Dhawan and Kapoor, was shot during Barry John’s acting classes, that the two were a part of. It was shot in 24 hours and with a budget of Rs 5000.

However, the moment of Episode 3 was Arjun Kapoor reacting to Karan Johar’s innocuous question with the most brazen answer.

Hrithik Roshan, Kangana Ranaut’s legal spat might have reached an official conclusion

March 2016 marked the beginning of one of the biggest controversies in Bollywood for the year.

Kangana Ranaut and Hrithik Roshan had slapped each other with legal notices through their respective attorneys, Rizwan Siddiquee and Deepesh Mehta.

kangana hrithik_380

After Kangana made a comment about a ‘silly ex’ of hers, Hrithik Firstpost slapped a defamation notice against her that seemed to indicate that (he believed) the comment was directed at him. The fight got murky, and allegations were thrown from both the parties.

As had reported earlier, the crux is that an email ID, from which Kangana claimed to have received messages from Hrithik, seem to indicate that they were in a relationship. Hrithik, on the other hand, said he never had an email account with that ID, and that it was an impostor who had been communicating with Kangana
all along.

He even tweeted that he would rather have an affair with the Pope. Ouch.

An officer connected with the Cyber Crime Cell has been quoted by various news outlets as saying the emails came from a US server, and in the absence of data from there, no user could be identified, which for Kangana’s team was a win-win situation.

Ae Dil Hai Mushkil courts fresh trouble: Now, row over ‘insult’ to Mohammad Rafi

Enraged over a dialogue about his father and iconic singer Mohammad Rafi in Karan Johar’s latest Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, Shahid Rafi has demanded a public apology from the filmmaker and has asked him to delete the sequence.

Ae Dil Hai Mushkil

In the recently released romantic-drama, Ranbir Kapoor’s character, aspiring singer Ayan, tells Anushka Sharma (playing Alizeh), that many people have said his voice is like Rafi, to which, Sharma says, “Mohammad Rafi? Woh gaate kam, rote zyada the na?”

Shahid says he did not expect a filmmaker like Johar to pass such a line under his watch and feels the damage has already been done.

“Karan Johar is a great filmmaker, I don’t know how he used this line. He should have thought about it as he is the director. I did not expect this from Karan. I am ashamed of him, he is supposed to be a good director,” Shahid told PTI.

“I saw the clipping. I haven’t seen the film, so let me see the film first then I will think what to do. But a public apology (from Johar) is appreciated, and also removal of the scene. Although the damage is done. Let’s see what he (Karan) can do from his side,” he added.

Shahid says he got to know about the dialogue through Rafi’s fans and was deeply saddened by it.

“I am deeply hurt about the dialogue. I came to know that the dialogue doesn’t take the story backward or forward. People have often mentioned or spoken about my father in films or in general in good way, then why all of a sudden this dialogue and this controversy.”

Shahid has also lashed out at Ae Dil Hai Mushkil dialogue writer Niranjan Iyengar.

“It (the dialogue) is not good. My father is a versatile singer, he has sung love songs, sad songs, bhajan etc. Niranjan wrote the dialogue and it seems he doesn’t know anything about my father. What image (of Rafi) is he trying to put in front of the youth?

“Even after more than 36 years, people still remember my father, he is a legend. So many shows take place in his memory.. he has huge fan following. He (Niranjan) doesn’t know what he is doing.”

Shahid said he is yet to talk to Johar regarding the issue.