Category Archives: News

world right now !!

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.

badrinath

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.

badri social

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.

480249-randeep-hooda

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.

Randeep Hooda 380

“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.

Salman Khan acquitted in Jodhpur for Arms Act case: The actor has paid his dues ‘deerly’ let it go now

It would have been dead of old age by now.

That Salman and company shot the deer 18 years ago is pretty much an accepted truism.

Salman Khan. Image courtesy News18

The Jodhpur court ruling that Khan be given the benefit of doubt makes one wonder where the doubt is? Unless the chinkara died of fear or was so overwhelmed by the star’s presence the bullet wound in his body would have wiped out any doubt that it was slain by gunfire. Bullets have a funny way of leaving the barrel of a weapon and striking the target they were meant for. The slug can also be traced back to the weapon and through its rifling and the groove marks be 100 percent identified as to which weapon it was chambered into.

It took eighteen years to get to this point and underscore the doubt. Says very little for our justice system but in a nation where ‘shikar’ not so long ago was an accepted practice of the royals, the zamindars, the nawabs, the armed forces and the landed gentry and sundry VIPs the harassment and mental agony of 18 years certainly serves as a severe and undeserved penalty and punishment for this actor. Just the pressure of never knowing if you are going to be locked up and being shunted from town to town makes the dues paid for his crime paid in full and with pernicious interest.

We go into depression if a bank calls about an overdue credit card payment by a day. A missed EMI sends us into a panic.

For 18 years we hounded this man just to let him off the hook with timid dispensation.

The hypocrisy is astounding. And widespread. On the way to Shimla you pass a town called Solan. On one of the U turns one used to get the finest venison and partridge pickle in the world. It probably still is available even though to the chosen few.

The armed forces regularly shot down sambhars and cheetals for a bara khana (feast) for the brigade commander and they often used semi-automatic weapons fired into the herd. Plump black or brown partridge may be officially banned but are probably trapped and still served on executive and government officials’ tables. If fish was on the menu the use of a 90 grenade in a pond would stun a few dozen freshwater fish in a balloon of water caused by the explosion and also destroy the eco-system of that pond which probably took years to form.

No one thought anything of these exercises. From Jhansi to Gwalior to Jabalpur to the forests of Rajasthan to the foothills of Kumaon, Jammu Tawi and Udhampur, from Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh’s lush forests hunting was a sport.

You did not have to like it but it was a sport.

Even the laws are archaic. Shooting deer may be illegal but the nilgai which is now classified as vermin for the crops it destroys is running riot because of the security in its name. it is not bovine cattle, but belongs to the antelope family. In 2016 Bihar ordered wild boar and nilgai to be culled because of their nuisance. Woe betide anyone who might shoot a nilgai especially if it becomes a caste thing. Try explaining that National Geographic calls it an antelope when the lynch mob is stringing you up.

Certainly, a law was broken in Salman Khan’s case but you have to be particularly vindictive to think he should be punished further.

Eighteen years of harassment for suspected killing of a deer.

In a country where the walls of every lodge, every ‘bara sahib’ club, every armed forces ‘koi hai’ mess are covered with the heads and skins of wildlife this robbery of a man’s peace of mind is an injustice in itself.

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.