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Raveena Tandon on Maatr row with CBFC: ‘An ‘A’ certificate should mean no cuts

Actress Raveena Tandon whose upcoming film Maatr has landed in trouble with the censor board says it is bound by ancient guidelines.

“CBFC is bound by certain laws that were made several years ago … Time has come for a change as we talk about progressive India. So there is a need for amendment in laws,” she told reporters.

Maatr Logo (4)

“If we get ‘A’ certificate for the film then why there are so many cuts? It’s like the audience would not understand what we are trying to show. It’s time that we change the laws as per today’s time,” she said.

“The plus-point is CBFC believes in (the film’s) message as statistically crime against women is on the rise. Maatr has a strong message and CBFC believes a film like this should be shown to people, but their hands are tied,” she said. At the same time the National Award-winning actress said she failed to understand why Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) raised objections.

“I can count films whose sense of humour was vulgar but there was no objection made. Now with Maatr, when we are showing the reality, objections are being raised and it is surprising,” she said.

The film, which deals with the issue of rape, is reportedly refused certification owing to some gruesome scenes. “As far as I know there was no objection for this
(the scenes), the objection was to the language. There is a strong language in the film. We have tried to show reality in this film as we feel till the time you don’t show the reality to people they will remain indifferent and the message will get lost,” Raveena said.

Maatr is directed by Ashtar Sayed and features Raveena as a single mother. It is due for April 21 release, but the actress said she wasn’t aware about the next move of its makers now.

“Amol Palekar sir has approached the Supreme Court (over censorship) and even Shyam Benegal has submitted his report so we are hoping change will come,” she said.

Meanwhile, an official from the CBFC told PTI, “They are yet to give certification to the film and they will come out with their decision soon.

Half Girlfriend: Arjun Kapoor may play ‘Bihari boy’ Madhav Jha, but doesn’t sound like one

Somewhere along the line, Bihar has become Bollywood’s shorthand for colorful thuggery or rustic idiocy. If Hindi films are anything to go by, the only stories about Bihar worth telling highlight its lawlessness and penury.

In Apaharan, director Prakash Jha attempted to expose the thriving kidnapping industry in Bihar while his Gangajaal was spun around the infamous Bhagalpur blinding case. The badlands of Bihar were the backdrop of the blood-soaked rivalry between generations of gangsters in Anurag Kashyap’s two-part Gangs of Wasseypur. And then there was the extremely cringe-inducing Padmashree Laloo Prasad Yadav that ends with the politician addressing the lead characters.

Biharis have been living with this stereotype, for better and for worse, for a few decades now. So, it’s a relief to see a basketball-playing Stephenian from Patna in Mohit Suri’s Half Girlfriend. In case you haven’t read the Chetan Bhagat novel the film is based on, Half Girlfriend is about Madhav Jha, a bumbling Bihari boy (Arjun Kapoor) who falls in love with a rich Delhi girl Riya Somani (Shraddha Kapoor).

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Thankfully, Madhav will not join the long list of gun toting, gaali giving Bihari characters the Bollywood audience has come to know. While there might not be a crime in the film, if the promos are anything to go by, the collective Bhojpuri accent in the film could qualify as an assault (Arjun’s “Ee haph girlphriend hota kya hai?” in the teaser was enough to make my ears bleed).

Peppering dialogues with chiradiya and kahe; replacing ‘z’ with ‘jh’ so ‘zindagi’ becomes ‘jindagi’; or, saying ‘hum’ instead of ‘main’ and kijiyega and lijiyega instead of karo/lo is not enough to sound Bihari. The ‘kaa’ in ‘kaa ho’ isn’t just a ‘ka’ or a ‘kaa’ but a sonorous ‘kaa’ with unique glottal articulation. Even after all these decades of Bihari characters, Bollywood mostly seems unable to decipher the nuances of intonation that go with getting the accent right. It’s not easy to put a finger on it but it’s probably the correct pitch levels while handling vowels that let most of our actors down.

A recent offender was Alia Bhatt in Udta Punjab. As the nameless Bihari hockey-player-turned-migrant-labourer, the actress was in top form. Subjected to rape and drugs, she brought out the vulnerability and resilience that had me rooting for her. But only after I made a conscious effort to not hear her accent. Though Alia had actor Pankaj Tripathi (Gangs of Wasseypur, Nil Bateye Sannata and more recently, Anarkali of Aarah) as a dialect coach for the film, her accent rang false. Aside from Alia, everyone else in the film sounded 100 percent real. “She sounds like a Juhu girl trying to talk like her Bihari maid. It’s all wrong,” scoffed a fellow Bihari who I watched the film with.

There’s a thin line between sounding like a caricature and realistic. On the other end of the spectrum is director Avinash Das’s debut film Anarkali of Aarah. Swara Bhaskar’s Anarkali sounds so authentic; I could close my eyes and be instantly transported to Gopali Chowk in the heart of Aarah. A half Bihari in real life, Swara might have never lived in the state, but she knows how to lean-in just so on the last word of a sentence.

What actors and directors don’t understand is that there isn’t one Bihari accent but hundreds of them, dialect-by-dialect, town-by-town. I am told the only time my Bhojpuri accent surfaces is when I speak with my parents. During those conversations, to some non-Bihari friends I sounded like Amitabh Bachchan (from Namak Halal and Don). He spoke Hindi with an Awadhi accent in those films and not Bhojpuri but I am nitpicking. After the release of Gangs of Wasseypur, I got a lot of “but you don’t sound like a Faisal, sorry Phaijhal”.

With accents that are as tuneful as Bihari, if you get the pitch wrong people really notice. Dialects and accents have very rarely been the focus of a performance in Bollywood. In the last few years, actors like Kangana Ranaut and Aamir Khan have successfully sounded like their Haryanvi characters in Tanu Weds Manu Returns and Dangal with the help of diction coaches. It’s not very tough to sound Bihari if you really want to.

IPL 2017: Delhi Daredevils must shed underachievers tag to deliver on their pending promise

Every summer, when Premier League football gets underway, there is one certainty. Arsenal FC begin every season with renewed vigour, which dissipates by the end of the year, and at the turn of February-March, they are struggling to stay afloat, hoping to finish fourth again. Arsenal fans, the world over may not agree with this, but regardless of whatever their argument, this yearly routine is a fact.

Now, starting from its very genesis, the Indian Premier League has forever been drawing parallels with the Premier League. Never mind the fixing saga and ensuing ban, Chennai Super Kings were seen as Manchester United, as they won everything they came across – multiple IPL trophies and the now-defunct Champions League T20. ‘Perennial winners’ is the phrase that comes to mind.

File picture of the Delhi Daredevils team . AFP

Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore are the rich clubs, like Manchester City and Chelsea, throwing out large cheques at player auctions. Kolkata Knight Riders have the most passionate supporters, like Liverpool. Obviously, when it comes to ‘perennial underachievement’ then, Delhi Daredevils find themselves in the same classification as Arsenal.

2012 was the last time this franchise had anything to cheer about. They finished top of the league table, but failed to get going in the play-offs, finishing third. They qualified for the Champions League too, and finished top of their group therein, but failed in the semis again. With the likes of Virender Sehwag, Kevin Pietersen, Mahela Jayawardene, Aaron Finch, David Warner, Ross Taylor, Glenn Maxwell, Andre Russell, Morne Morkel and Umesh Yadav, this season didn’t seem like a total loss though.

Instead, it seemed the dawn of a new hurrah, with these names laying the foundation of a new era of success. It didn’t happen, thanks partly to downturn in the form of some of the oldies, and the rest down to poor decision making on part of the team management as they sold off (or failed to retain the other players) who could have made an impact in the years to come.

Again, it is similar to the Arsenal story. They won the 2003-04 Premier League title, and every time they win a side-trophy like the FA or League Cup, it seems there is dawn of a false new era. It has been eons since Arsenal provided a firm challenge, and no, finishing second to Leicester City doesn’t count (Arsene Wenger should have been fired for losing out last year when City, Chelsea and United were all in doldrums, but that is a different debate).

In that sense, 2012 is Delhi Daredevils’ 2004. Five years is a long, long time in T20 cricket and their current squad isn’t a patch on the one they had all those years ago. Finishing eighth (2013), seventh (2014) and eighth (2015) subsequently, they have become more than under-achievers now. It is a pity there is no relegation system herein, for the Daredevils needed to be put out of their misery. Perhaps, it was the rude jolt their team management needed in order to buck up and make intelligent decisions.

2016 had seemed a little different then. Their squad was heavily inspired by the banned Rajasthan Royals’ outfit, bringing in the Rahul Dravid and Paddy Upton combination to manage, and the much-celebrated Gary Kirsten was let go. The message was clear – the Daredevils had bought into the youth-first policy and heavy invested by putting their eggs in one basket. The result was okay – finishing sixth – but stayed in the hunt for a play-off spot for long, only running out of steam at the very end. Almost like Wenger had been fired from Arsenal, and the new manager had hit the reset button, overseeing a period of transition at the club.

This is where the analogy ends, for Wenger is still there and on the verge of signing a new contract. More pertinently, in the context of this upcoming 2017 IPL season, the Daredevils are in a familiar territory. It is a make or break season for them, for next year all players go back in the auction pool, and the teams will be reshuffled. Maybe there will be an option to retain or buyback by matching the highest bid, it is undecided. Even so, it puts firm onus on this season’s performance, to gauge if this ‘youth’ blueprint even works.

So how are the Daredevils shaping up this season? Two of their important imports are out of this season – Quinton de Kock and JP Duminy. Both players are mercurial in their own definitive way; de Kock can blow hot and cold, it is all a bit moody time for him. If he gets going, like in 2016 (445 runs in 13 matches), he can be a firecracker both in front and behind the stumps.

Duminy is a bigger miss. Zaheer Khan, now 38, will never play every single match of the IPL season. The South African was the obvious choice to step in as skipper in his stead, and his experience in the lower-middle order will be sorely missed.

All is not lost though. For once, the Daredevils’ management spent good money (read judiciously) in the player auctions and their purchase list this year is pretty impressive. Take a look – pacers Pat Cummins and Kagiso Rabada, all-rounders Angelo Mathews and Corey Anderson, plus keeper-batsman Aditya Tare and spinner Murugan Ashwin. They released Nathan Coulter-Nile, Imran Tahir and Pawan Negi, freeing up important spots in their first-choice line-up.

Mathews, who has played for Daredevils before, can step up as captain when Zaheer needs a rest. Additionally, the injuries could be a stroke of inadvertent luck. Players like Carlos Brathwaite, Sam Billings and Anderson can get a long run of games, and these are impact players, in the Chris Morris-mould. Cummins is coming off the back of a fantastic two Tests in Ranchi and Dharamsala, while Rabada is already a rising star in every format of the game.

They can be used alternatively with Zaheer, in bolstering the pace attack, whilst the return of Mohammed Shami is always a good thing. Tare covers up for de Kock adequately, while the evergreen Amit Mishra, Jayant Yadav and Shahbaz Nadeem have the spin department covered between them.

And so, the focus once again will squarely be on the young guns. Shreyas Iyer and Karun Nair have a lot to prove given the lofty standards they have set themselves. Sanju Samson is in search of a fresh start to his promising-but-faltering career graph.

There is Rishabh Pant who has a hard-hitting reputation to live up to. This batting foursome will sew up the top order, along with Tare, and together they boast of enough firepower with the T20 experience of Brathwaite, Anderson and Morris/Billings to boost up the run-rate as needed later.

On paper, much like Arsenal every season, this squad promises a lot once again. Delivering on the field of play, however, is a different prospect altogether.

DD squad: Zaheer Khan (c), Shashank Singh, Mohammed Shami, Shahbaz Nadeem, Jayant Yadav, Amit Mishra, Sreyas Iyer, Sam Billings, Sanju Samson, Chris Morris, Carlos Brathwaite, Angelo Mathews, Corey Anderson, Kagiso Rabada, Pat Cummins, Ankit Bawne, Aditya Tare, Murugan Ashwin, Navdeep Saini, Karun Nair, Rishabh Pant, CV Milind, Syed Ahmed, Pratyush Singh.

Karan Johar and Kangana Ranaut agree on the definition of nepotism, as this old interview shows

When Kangana Ranaut called him “the flag bearer of nepotism” in the Hindi film industry, Karan Johar didn’t take it very kindly.

Alluding to the now infamous Koffee With Karan show where those now famous words were uttered , Karan told film critic Anupama Chopra during a (later) Q and A session at a London university:

“When she says ‘flag-bearer of nepotism’, I just want to say her, I am glad she knows what it all means. I don’t think she has understood the entire meaning of the term.”

Guilty as charged: Karan Johar, Kangana Ranaut, and their now infamour nepotism row has got a fresh boost

Apart from not knowing the meaning of nepotism, Karan also accused Kangana of playing the “woman card, and the victim card”.

His remarks earned him and Kangana several brownie points, especially when she responded with .

But an old interview clip of Karan’s — with, once again, Anupama Chopra — from 2014 shows that whether or not Kangana understands the meaning of “nepotism”, Karan does understand it. And what’s more, he believes that he’s been guilty of it as well.

While we take a moment to appreciate that, here’s a look at those relevant portions from his 2014 interview:

“[Referring to casting Alia Bhatt in Student of The Year] I picked up a chubby girl… I saw something… And I can’t lie. Maybe the fact that she is Mahesh Bhatt’s daughter also excited me. Right now, I’d like to say no, but maybe back then, it was a really strong sub-layer [sic]. And that is nepotism and we’re guilty. I’m guilty.

Would I have cast Varun Dhawan if he was not David Dhawan’s son? Because he is David Dhawan’s son, he was on my sets as an AD, and that’s why I spent enough time with him and got to know that he can be a movie star.

There are too many factors in this country that contribute to movie stardom, true talent is the least of them.”

[Anupama and Karan’s fellow guests on the show, Deepika Padukone and Tisca Chopra say at this point: “That’s so sad.” Karan then continues:]

“It is truly tragic.

Would I have been a filmmaker? I’m a producer’s son. I had no experience. I was an assistant on one film. My father had the platform to give me and that’s why I’m a filmmaker. And so if I go through any struggle in my career, I deserve it.”

From 2014, when he had a perfectly lucid understanding of what comprises nepotism to 2017, when he did an about-turn on the subject, Karan’s beliefs sure have undergone quite the sea-change.

In defense of Badrinath Ki Dulhania: Varun’s character is problematic but also learns his lesson

Some critics have already hailed Badrinath Ki Dulhania as a great new statement for feminism in Hindi cinema while on the other hand, some have argued that it in fact, only adheres to the Bollywood’s skewed perspective when it comes to gender and feminism.

The film’s plot revolves around a boy Badrinath (Varun Dhawan) and his love for a girl, Vaidehi (Alia Bhatt), and how he tries to ‘win’ her by any and every means available. The film’s narrative checks every single box when it comes Bollywood clichés but intriguingly enough tries, and to a great degree also manages to leave the viewer with a simplistic message – one cannot and ought not force someone to fall in love.

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The rather banal manner in which this Shashank Khaitan directed film plays out makes it a highly unlikely contender to make any kind of social statement and yet it seems to have managed to achieve just that. In the midst of all the noise surrounding Badrinath Ki Dulhania a small but rather significant detail, which has the capacity to change the perspective the film, is being overlooked.

The fact that Badrinath Ki Dulhania in more ways than one is an unabashed celebration of Raja Babu (1994) — the Govinda-Karishma Kapoor starrer from the 1990s that relegated gender stereotyping and misogyny in popular Hindi films to a new low — suddenly makes you look at the Varun Dhawan-Alia Bhatt film in a new light.

The similarities between Badrinath Ki Dulhania and Raja Babu are glaring enough for the film to be considered a remake in the true sense of the word.

In both the films, the plot revolves around a slacker rich kid (Govinda/ Varun Dhawan) who falls for a well-educated girl (Karishma Kapoor/ Alia Bhatt) with a mind of her own and believes that everyone irrespective of their gender ought to be given an equal chance to do what they want. In both films, the element of arranged marriage becomes a meet-cute for the lead pair and in both the films the girl rejects the boy for being a mismatch in every conceivable way.

While in Raja Babu, Raja initially brushes rejection off and later tries to ‘sing and win’ over Madhubala (Karishma Kapoor) — remember ‘Aa aa ee mera dil na todo’? — he simply moves on when Madhu insults his parents (Kader Khan, Aruna Irani) for not educating their son. Later Madhu is shown feeling bad about the way she expressed herself and forgives Raja for, well, being himself and the two then hatch a plot to win over the heartbroken parents to get them married.

In Badrinath Ki Dulhania things play out differently. Badri’s ego is far too big to give up once Vaidehi ditches him at the altar. Badri’s father (Rituraj), too, eggs him on as the patriarch would love to hang Vaidehi by the door to make an example of her for other girls who would dare to run away. On the pretext of getting some answers on why Vaidehi rejected this uncouth but dil ka heera ladka, who even helps her family tide over the trouble of arranging the dowry money for her elder sister’s marriage, Badri tracks Vaidehi down to Singapore.

He and his buddy, Somdev, kidnap her, dump her in the boot of a car and drive off. They have a conversation and she tries to reiterate that she does not see herself with a guy like him but like any Hindi film hero, Badri tells her that she could have told him a few times more instead of running off. He then fights with her hostel guards and almost endangers her job prospects but Vaidehi refuses to give up on him because she believes that she is also to be blamed for his behaviour for she bolted from the boondocks for a better life.

There is enough in Badrinath Ki Dulhania that fans age-old Bollywood traits like stalking is love, when a woman says no it means yes, and that a man must win over the woman at all costs.

Moreover, the worrying factor, and rightly so, is that young actors like Dhawan and Bhatt are fanning this mindset that somewhere could inspire the young viewer in believing that how it plays out on the screen must be replicated. However, it is important to note that the inclusion of a stereotypical scene where the hero is doing something out rightly wrong does not necessarily mean that it is being promoted.

The film is set in Uttar Pradesh and this is what happens there in real life.  In Badrinath Ki Dulhania and perhaps even in Raja Babu the male protagonists are shown undergoing a certain degree of transformation; needlessly to say that it comes at a great cost and after much wrong has been committed but there can be no confusion about the transition. The manner in which the first half of the imagery is highlighted across films right from Deewana Mujh Sa Nahin (1990) to Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (1995) to Tere Naam (2002) and in more recently Raanjhanaa (2013) many times pales the second part, as in the case of Badrinath Ki Dulhania where Badri says an emphatic ‘no’ to this father’s and, up until then, his own ways of doing things.

The reason why Badrinath Ki Dulhania has somehow managed to convince many that, its flaws and shortcomings notwithstanding, it is a feminist film is because of the lead characters and the actors who play them.

Both Dhawan and Bhatt are very credible and more than strike a chord. Dhawan might not be in the same league as a Bhatt in both stature as well as talent (more on that in a bit) but he has managed to place himself in a unique position. He does not seem to be competing with a Ranbir Kapoor or Ranveer Singh and is more than leagues ahead of his contemporaries such as Aditya Roy Kapur, Siddharth Malhotra, and Tiger Shroff.

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This makes Dhawan the most amiable face of his generation and is reason enough for the audience to lap him up. Bhatt is perhaps the second most fascinating talent after Kangana Ranaut in Hindi cinema today and although she might not have had her Kajol moment with a Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge or a Raveena Tandon like cult post-Mohra, she is the only one out there with the same verve that defined divas like Hema Malini, Sridevi, Madhuri Dixit or Juhi Chawla.

In Badrinath Ki Dulhania she has one of her toughest roles: to be a typical Hindi film heroine (read: be willing to come second to whoever be the hero) and at the same time be someone real.

Badrinath Ki Dulhania is a deftly crafted film, and even though it suffers from the curse of the third-act, it is enjoyable. Had the film been constructed better, it had what it takes to become a milestone. In saying this, this writer is certainly not making a case for what the lead character of the film does on-screen. There is no disagreement that the film in some way glorifies stalking but at the same time it also more than ensures that the lead learns his lesson.

Is that enough? Probably not when it comes to messaging about gender equality and feminism.

But within the realm of popular Hindi cinema, Badrinath Ki Dulhania, in a narrow manner, does suggest that Bollywood knows it cannot remain insulated from the real world anymore. Even in 2017, both onscreen and off it, Bollywood is grappling with the concept of choice – in the real world Karan Johar does not like Kangana Ranaut exercising her choice and in the reel world, Badrinath does not get that he ain’t Vaidehi’s choice no matter how many times he spins the wheel.

Badrinath Ki Dulhania would have managed to strike gold with the audience had Vaidehi remained true to her own self and had she continued to be Badri’s friend rather than making a choice of marrying him. It would be a far greater and more organic statement. But this is Bollywood, people!

Randeep Hooda on Gurmehar Kaur row: ‘How did it get so big if it was not already on the agenda?

Few days back, Randeep Hooda was on the receiving end of much hate on social media platforms, for allegedly ‘bullying’ Gurmehar Kaur — the daughter of an Indian Army martyr.

The actor found himself being dragged into a controversy after applauding a tweet by Virender Sehwag, which saw the cricketer taking a jibe at Kaur for her post that had her holding a placard that said, “Pakistan did not kill my father. War did!”

The Indian cricketer later shared a picture of himself posing in a manner similar to Kaur’s, with a message on a placard that read, “I didn’t score two triple centuries, my bat did.”

The post, which tickled Hooda’s funnybone, earned applause from the actor. Within no time Hooda and Sehwag were referred to as ‘bullies’ by social media users and were bashed for being insensitive towards the martyr’s daughter. Soon Hooda took to Facebook to clarify his stance saying that he wasn’t being insensitive to the daughter of a soldier, who gave his life for the country.

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Hooda made himself unavailable during the controversy and instead told us to refer to his Facebook post.

However, he now opens up about the row to Firstpost, saying, “The issue was blown out of proportion. But I realised that I should have been careful because of the environment that exists in our country vis-a-vis women. I saw Sehwag’s tweet… I often laugh on his jokes.  I laughed at the joke in isolation, it wasn’t connected or directed at Gurmehar. I didn’t know who she was in first place. I didn’t know the connotation of it. I started getting messages and some prominent journalists were commenting on it. I quickly went back on Twitter and saw what’s happening.”

“I very precisely said that do not politicise this poor girl’s point of view and those two words were taken – poor and girl – then they said you are a misogynist and sexist. I realised where it was headed, what were the political ideologies and I know from experience what was going to happen. If you go through my tweets — actually most people are reacting to the headlines that people have put up. Nobody has read the tweets, there was nothing abusive in them. It was merely conversation between me and those journalists, which turned this into a whole fiasco. And how did it turn into such a big thing if it was not already on the agenda?”

Hooda further went on to say that he has always been targeted whenever he has put out his opinion on social media.

The Sarbjit actor said, “I have been labelled before. When I spoke up about Gurgaon being changed to Gurugram, they labeled me with all kind of things and I got a lecture on Sanskriti in not such polite terms. I spoke about Sanjay Leela Bhansali and the violence against him, I said hinsa galat hai, we can discuss the issue, haath nahi utha sakte. Again, another set of people trolled me.”

Hooda also stated that trolling has now become a major issue. He added, “It seems to me that we are not having a conversation anymore. We tend to get abusive while trolling. You can have your point of view and you can disagree. It’s a democracy.” He continued, “Remove me and Sehwag from the situation. We are not affected by the kind of abuses we get. Put us aside even if we have worked hard to reach here after 20 years. The same threats were given to my mother and sister as well as to Sehwag’s family members. Even Babita, Geeta Phogat and my colleagues Richa Chadha and Pooja Bhatt were not spared.”

“Whether it’s a man or a woman, it’s wrong to troll. It’s a crime and you can not threaten a woman on social media or anywhere else. It has to be addressed. The social media head of India should look into it as it’s becoming a major issue,” he added.

Incidentally, Randeep also slammed those trolling Karan Johar and Kangana Ranaut, who recently had a fall-out over the latter calling Johar the ‘flag bearer of nepotism’ on his chat show, Koffee With Karan.

“Both, Karan and Kangana are entitled to their opinion. Both are quite similar actually. Both of them can fight it out, we don’t have to be part of their conversation. At least I don’t want to be part of their conversation. Again there is trolling happening. If there is conversation happening between Karan and Kangana, why is everybody jumping into it and calling them names? Am sure they are calling them names and it is getting abusive. That is what we need to control. We have stopped being a nation which has conversation. If we don’t have a conversation, if we don’t listen to the other person’s point of view then how can we run a democracy? Unless we respond with our reasoning it is not going to work. It is going to be partisan.”

This brings us to the debate of nepotism as Randeep, like Kangana, is also considered to be an ‘outsider’ with no industry connections. Both have made it big in Bollywood without any backing or support.

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“There is nepotism and there is also not. If you are talented, nobody can pull you down. That is for sure. And Kangana is a great talent; she has really done well for herself,” said Hooda.

Talking about his upcoming project, Hooda, who is known for going that extra mile for his films, will be seen playing the role of Havildar Ishar Singh, the military commander of the 36th Sikhs in the movie, Battle of Saragarhi that took place in 1897 between British Indian Army and Afghan Orakzai tribesmen in the North-West Frontier Province.

This Raj Kumar Santoshi-helmed period drama will depict the true story of the 19th century battle when around 12,000 Afghans attacked a British Indian contingent, which also comprised 21 Sikhs who went on to become the heroes of the mission. As part of his preparation, the actor, who is already a master of horse-riding, studied Sikh history, learnt sword-fighting and vintage-rifle shooting.

Last year, Hooda had shocked everyone with his emaciated look in Sarbjit, and it may be recalled that Twitterati had bashed certain prominent Awards’ organisers for him not getting a single nomination for the film.

“My approach towards my work has always been to enjoy the process. Even when I was doing theatre, I used to enjoy the rehearsals more than the actual staging of the play. The kind of work and exploration I do, that for me is the biggest reward. If I don’t get an award, it doesn’t change the credibility of my performance and if I get an award it doesn’t make it better. So both ways, it is of no consequence to me. It is people’s opinion. It is more like the game of golf where you have to better yourself. It is not a boxing match where you have to compete against other people,” said Hooda.

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.

Running-shaadi.com5_

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.

The Ghazi Attack: The Indian war film has changed, even if the enemy has stayed the same

The war film is a genre with obvious attractions since it allows for spectacle, action and suspense, and Sankalp Reddy’s bilingual film The Ghazi Attack (Telugu and Hindi) must be counted among the few Indian war films to harness these advantages to the full.

The war film is nominally a historical genre but few national cinemas have been able to turn the merciless gaze of history upon their own nations’ doings/experiences in war. Indian cinema is no exception and the war film in India has, generally speaking, only been an occasion for patriotic fervour; the wars with Pakistan have been especially pictured since India accredited itself well in them.

But the Indian war film dealing with Pakistan has gone through several avatars — although the historical circumstances examined remain the same — and this is due to war patriotism meaning different things at different times. The Ghazi Attack for instance, is notably different from JP Dutta’s Border (1997), which must still count as the best Indian war film hitherto.

JP Dutta's Border

The first Indian film to deal with war against Pakistan was Manoj Kumar’s Upkar (1967) although war only took up part of the film. Upkar came two years after the 1965 war and allegorised the relationship between India and Pakistan as that between two brothers, the younger one (played by Prem Chopra) significantly wanting partitioning of the ancestral land. Upkar had a long and convoluted story which included other elements — like agriculture and the progressive farmer, and the conflict between the farmer and the trader. Only Russian war films — like Mikhail Kalatozov’s The Cranes are Flying (1957) — habitually bring in family drama alongside the battles but I interpret this as an acknowledgement that war affects everyone — even those not fighting at the front.

American World War II films like Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan (1998), by sticking only to combat, also suggest that war is too far away for the average citizen, that the experiences of fighting men are not emotionally shared at home. This distant view could hardly have been held during WWII but, with the US increasingly involved in wars with no participation from its citizens, warfare has become of consequence only for a few.

It would seem that the war film faded from Indian screens after the 1960s though Dev Anand’s Prem Pujari (1970) made a half-hearted attempt to revive it in 1970. The resounding victory in 1971 left virtually no mark and this can be attributed to Pakistan having been so weakened by it that it ceased to be threatening to India for over two decades for its activities to ruffle the feathers of Indian patriots. But by the 1990s, Pakistan had regained much of its lost strength and became a threat once again. But fervent patriotism in cinema was also made possible in 1990s by an indirect development. This was the economic liberalisation and the end of Nehruvian socialism in 1991, which ended the representation of social conflict in Hindi cinema. If films like Hum Aaapke Hain Koun…! (1994) denied conflict altogether by placing all classes, castes and religions within a mythical, harmonious ‘Ramrajya’, other films like 1942: A Love Story (1994) and Border responded by pushing conflict to the boundaries — i.e. with external foes. Where Vidhu Vindod Chopra turned the British into primary adversaries, JP Dutta did the same with Pakistan.

Kay Kay Menon and Rana Daggubati in The Ghazi Attack

Border was made in the same format as traditionally adopted by Hindi cinema, i.e. as family drama, and this contrasted with some of its action sequences — like the killing of spies near the border — being more cinematic than anything witnessed in Hindi popular cinema.  The epic structure of the film — using the families of the soldiers as well as both the army and the air force to enlarge its canvas — was also in keeping with Hindi cinema of the times, still engaged in the project of helping an undifferentiated Indian public imagine a unified nation in which different social segments played their parts. The fact that The Ghazi Attack abandons this format has been seen as an achievement by reviewers, but what this means politically is worth investigating.

The first thing about The Ghazi Attack that one notices is its conspicuous use of the English language. The extensive use of English in Hindi cinema can be traced to the segmentation of audiences in the new millennium by the multiplex revolution — when admission differentials increased considerably. It became viable for Hindi films to confine their address to Anglophone Indians, whose spending power had also increased due to the new economy boom. Many Hindi films which use English conspicuously, and may be taken to largely address Anglophone audiences, are ‘patriotic’ — like Rang De Basanti (2006) — but their attitudes cast doubt on the inclusivity of the Nation they are imagining, on whether their patriotism is directed towards an undifferentiated India – or one dominated by the upwardly mobile classes. RDB’s antipathy towards politicians is, for instance, the attitude of a middle-class which has a small use for electoral politics, since it hardly has a say in the outcome of elections.

The Ghazi Attack is about an incident just before the 1971 war when the Pakistani submarine Ghazi was prowling in the Bay of Bengal with the intention of sinking the INS Vikranth, India’s only aircraft carrier, which might have tilted the military balance since it was expected to present an obstacle to the Pakistani navy in the country’s efforts to quell the rebellion in East Pakistan. In actual fact, the PNS Ghazi was destroyed mysteriously – either from the mines it was laying or by an Indian frigate – but the film fictionalises the episode by having an Indian submarine S21 track the better-equipped Ghazi down against all odds and destroy it. Kay Kay Mennon plays Captain Ranvijay Singh while Rana Daggubati the officer who takes over when the captain is killed. The film is tightly made and technically proficient. Rarely have Indian films generated so much suspense and excitement. My interest in the film is, however, elsewhere.

War films are normally adventure films and The Ghazi Attack is no exception. But what is ultimately a problem is that, rather than be content with this, it emphasises its patriotic side by having demonstrations of fervour from its protagonists, the most obvious scene being the sailors singing ‘Saare Jahan Se Accha…’ and  the National Anthem before they destroy the PNS Ghazi.

This brings us to a contentious issue in the present day around the singing of the National Anthem. Traditionally, the National Anthem was sung to remind us of the Independent Nation in the midst of our everyday preoccupations since it was instituted by our founding fathers. It was natural that it should be sung only at chosen moments (like a flag hosting) and the understanding was that Indians would, while singing it, be reminded that they were part of an inclusive national community. Singing the National Anthem was not a demonstration of patriotism – perhaps not needed since we were Indians as a matter of fact – but a reminder that we were together. If this view is allowed, the National Anthem sung by the sailors on S21 emerges as people remindingthemselves that they are part of a national community, i.e. that their act is in itself not ‘for the nation’ — when the fact that they are risking much to attack an enemy vessel should have been reminder enough that they are acting for it. Military men in combat perhaps do not need to be reminded of the Nation just as a fish does not need to be reminded of water.

Where Upkar and Border, by extending their canvases to epic proportions, implied that every citizen is wittingly or unwittingly involved in the Nation at war, The Ghazi Attack deliberately confines its scope to military men. This, I suggest, should be regarded as a significant development by Indians. In order to see its true implications, one should compare it to sports patriotism (as in Dangal). In the sports film one sees the sportsperson only from a distance, i.e. one knows that one can never truly be affected, personally, by the sportsperson’s success or failure. When The Ghazi Attack follows the same strategy the question is whether it is not placing war at the same distance from the audience as sport. Is it not implying that war (to the audience) is as distant as sport and not something which might actually affect them?

Given the nature of their appeal it can be argued that both Dangal and The Ghazi Attack target/address the same Anglophone segment as their primary constituency. Both films are patriotic and demonstrate their patriotism through fervent singing of the National Anthem at moments of victory. Apart from standing at attention at the commencement of any film, the singing of the National Anthem, when it is made part of the fiction has the audience standing up again, and this response is sought by both Dangal and The Ghazi Attack when the Anthem is deliberately sung (in its entirety) in their narratives. In The Ghazi Attack the National Anthem is sung once and played by an orchestra the second time and it may be anticipated that audiences will stand up three times in all. The Supreme Court has made only the first time mandatory but with anthem-vigilantes at large, one must be prudent if one wishes to get home without injury.

To conclude, it would appear from today’s patriotic cinema that we are beset by a deeply paradoxical situation. On the one hand, we (of the  educated classes) have little faith in the inclusive Nation in which everyone plays a part and have replaced it with an Anglophone nation, which claims, falsely, to include everyone. Secondly, we are not confident of the durability of the imagined Nation since we wish to be reminded of it as frequently as possible through the singing of the National Anthem. The central irony is perhaps that it is when the national spirit is weakest and least inclusive that we are most strident in our demand for nationalist fervour.

Mahira Khan on working in Raees: ‘I used to wish I wasn’t such a big Shah Rukh Khan fan

Mumbai: Mahira Khana’s Bollywood debut film, Raees, which has not yet released in Pakistan, is being eagerly awaited by film buffs there, the actress said at a press conference.

Along with Shah Rukh Khan, Mahira the film’s leading lady, who couldn’t promote the film due to the ban imposed on Pakistani artists in India, joined in via video call on Friday .

Mahira Khan with Shah Rukh Khan in 'Raees'

The actress said: “Raees is releasing soon in Pakistan and believe me, everybody is waiting for the film just like people had waited all over the world and I believe that it is going to do amazing business here.”

The Humsafar actress shared how her family reacted to the film. “The big fear was people will come to watch the movie and hoot for Shah Rukh, not for me. When my family watched the movie, they were also screaming for him.”

“But the kind of response I received has been completely fantastic and I am very grateful,” she added.

Sharing the experience of working with Shah Rukh, Mahira, 32, said, “I was nervous as hell. Sometimes I used to wish I wasn’t a big Shah Rukh fan. It was scary but it got better, especially after we shot ‘Zaalima‘. Working with him is a dream come true. Nothing short of that.”

The actress who was seen grooving in the songs “Udi Udi Jaye” and “Zaalima” in the film, stated, “I’ve to rehearse a lot for the songs. The choreographers used to give me examples of the other great Bollywood actresses.”

Post release of the film, the Raees team is soon going to release another song of the movie which was edited to make short the length of the running time.

Kaabil box office collection: Hrithik starrer earns Rs 10.43 cr on Day 1

The stakes were high for Hrithik Roshan starrer Kaabil, when it opened in theatres across the world on Wednesday, 25 January.

Hrithik Roshan in 'Kaabil'

Not only is this a home production for the Roshans, it was also a chance for both director Sanjay Gupta (whose last film Jazbaa was not a success) and Hrithik (who had a box office debacle in Mohenjo Daro on his hands in 2016) to redeem themselves.

To complicate matters further, there was the high-profile clash with Shah Rukh Khan’s mass entertainer Raees that was bound to eat into the business Kaabil expected to do.

On opening day, Raees raced ahead  with a Rs 21 crore opening — as expected for the SRK starrer.

On the other hand, Kaabil scored a Rs 10.43 crore box office collection on Day 1.

An official statement released by the Kaabil team read: “Kaabil opened to 40 percent theatre share in multiplexes as well as a smaller share of the single screens yesterday. It collected Rs 10.43 crore on Day One… The film is expected to grow exponentially over the Republic Day weekend on the strength of the positive audience reactions.”

Trade website Bollywood Hungama reported that Kaabil‘s Rs 10+ crore opening has made it among Hrithik’s top-five day one earners, providing these figures for his films and their respective day 1 box office collections:

Bang Bang: Rs 27.54 crore

Agneepath: Rs 23 crore

Krrish 3: Rs 19 crore

Kaabil: Rs 10.43 crore

Kites: Rs 10 crore

Mohenjo Daro: Rs. 8.87 crore

As with Raees, the Republic Day public holiday and subsequent weekend will prove to be crucial for Kaabil‘s business as well.