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Saif Ali Khan to be roped in by Netflix for upcoming web series based on The Secret Game book?

Saif Ali Khan, who was earlier approached by director Kabir Khan for a web series titled The Forgotten Army based on Subhash Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army, has now been approached by Netflix for yet another web series, reports DNA.

Courtesy: Facebook

Saif Ali Khan. Image from Facebook.

As per another DNA. report, the Netflix web series will be based on ‘The Secret Game: A Wartime Story of Courage, Change, and Basketball’s Lost Triumph’, a sports novel by Scott Ellsworth. For the uninitiated, the novel is a written account of a secret game that was played between teams from the North Carolina College for Negros and Duke University, in 1943. The book recounts the one game that changed basketball for America and also helped usher in a new nation altogether.

The same report suggests that Khan is being considered to play coach McClendon, who originally trained the North Carolina College for Negroes’s basketball team. There is no confirmation from the streaming service or the actor yet.

However, once the finances and dates are worked out between both the parties, the director of the web series will make a formal announcement, states the same report.

Since sport will be the dominant aspect in the film, Khan will undergo strenuous physical training for the part. Khan is currently shooting for Chef, which is a remake of the much-loved Hollywood film by the same name. Chef will be in theaters on 6 October, 2017.

India vs Pakistan fanspeak: Sarfraz Ahmed and Co’s outdated approach leaves little hope for Champions Trophy clash

One of the unfortunate realities of growing up is that at a certain stage in life, people start re-evaluating friendships and relationships they have nurtured over a lifetime. It takes perhaps a succession of endured disappointments or heartbreaks for the flame of unconditional loyalty to get extinguished. For a lot of Pakistani cricket fans, we are at the crossroads of our relationship with ODI cricket.

How did we get here then? How is it that a team, once the darlings of modern cricket now resemble the sad, ailing grandparents of a new generation? It would be pertinent perhaps to retrace our steps.

Drawing from a Back to the Future reference, somewhere in the space time continuum of cricket, the timeline skewed into a tangent, creating this alternate reality. Putting our Doc Brown glasses on, it is conceivable that year for Pakistan cricket was 1999. We were an ODI team at the peak of its powers, gifted with quality all-rounders, aggressive batsmen, wily spinners, spunky wicket-keepers and pace bowlers with both extreme pace and nous. And then something terrible happened. On a sleepy London afternoon, a Pakistani team abjectly relinquished its claim to the throne. A World Cup final was lost, but more importantly a swagger was surrendered.

File image of an India vs Pakistan match. Getty images

Since 1999, much like Doc Brown and Marty McFly, we have since witnessed the cricketing world alter radically around us, with the new world order now real to everyone else, but abnormal for us. The last 18 years of the ODI game have seen thicker bats, smaller boundaries, lesser reverse swing, bulkier batsmen, more power play restrictions, and often outrageous stroke-play. In a tragic sort of way, a lot of the modern rules have conspired against the style of cricket Pakistan was so adept at playing in the 1990s, leaving it a mere shadow of the fun-filled, aggressive team it once used to be.

To continue to explore Pakistan’s unfortunate version of Back to the Future, the role of the villain Biff Tannen would have to be played by the Indian cricket team. Sometime between 1999 and 2003, when Pakistan lost its ODI mojo, India discovered fire in cricketers like Yuvraj Singh, Zaheer Khan and Virender Sehwag. Barring a blip in 2007 where our fates were shared, India has made a semi-final, a final and won a World Cup. They have shed the conservatism of the 1990s and embraced the modern game. They even hold the current Champions trophy title, a trophy won on the back of attacking bowling and solid batting.

This brings us to the upcoming Champions trophy encounter between Pakistan and India on 4 June, a mismatch now so depressingly stark, it almost feels like the 1990s but with the boot decisively on the other foot. Just the sheer disparity in rankings promises a damp squib; India are number 3 in the world, Pakistan a miserable number 8. Pakistan are stuck playing a brand of cricket that will get them 250 runs on a good day, India are currently making 290 runs on a bad day. Pakistan’s batting order is depressing enough to suck the life out of even the most optimistic cricket fan; Ahmed Shehzad, Mohammad Hafeez and Azhar Ali are the very anti-thesis to a modern batsman. It is almost as if Pakistan cricket is stubbornly fighting a lone cause for old-fashioned cricket. This is perhaps the only logical explanation for building a top-order around three batsmen, who carry strike rates of 72, 75 and 75 respectively.

Putting aside the wizened pessimist in me, my only glimmer of hope from our batting is provided by Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik and Sarfraz Ahmed, three cricketers who in the very least have a lower dot-ball percentage and a greater degree of consistency than their companions. It is inexplicable why Safraz Ahmed refuses to bat in the top order that cries out for his style of aggression. It was only two years ago during the 2015 World Cup, when many of us were baying for Waqar Younis’s blood after he so stubbornly refused to bat Safraz at the top of the order and continued experimenting with the disastrous Nasir Jamshed. When Sarfraz was finally inducted into the opening slot, he responded with match winning knocks of 49 and 101. Logic though does not seem to prevail in Pakistan cricket. Even as captain, Sarfraz continues to hide at number 6, where his lack of big hitting ability has been exposed. Most disappointingly perhaps, it has also revealed a lack of the courage and initiative that Pakistani cricket so desperately needed from Sarfraz.

It is in bowling as usual that Pakistan will place most of its hopes. The fast improving Hasan Ali has emerged as a real wicket-taker in the bowling lineup. Mohammad Amir has been solid, albeit unspectacular, since his return to ODI cricket. Imad Wasim’s accuracy will be challenged by an Indian batting lineup that can feast on his style of non-spinning darts. If selected, the irresistible Shadab Khan will be the real wild card in this bowling lineup. His performances in the ODIs and Test matches in the Caribbean showed that he still has some learning to do in the longer formats of the game. His undeniable talent though, provides a rare reason to continue sitting through the mundane extremes of our ODI cricket.

Pakistan’s real challenge in ODI bowling has been that in the absence of reverse swing, its fast bowlers are rendered completely ineffective, especially during the death overs. As was seen during the Australia tour, even if Junaid Khan and Amir picked up early wickets, Australia’s long batting lineups were still able to effectively counter-attack during the later stages of the innings. It does not help that the Pakistani attack is returning to the country of its biggest-ever meltdown — conceding 444 in an ODI innings to England.

So on 4 June, we approach the game with a sense of foreboding and depressing inevitability. The optimism and swagger of the 1990s has faded. It seems into a different lifetime. There are few logical reasons for us to expect anything other than a resounding thrashing and a continued walk along this path of indifference. It is time perhaps for the space time continuum to explode one more time, taking us away from this alternate reality and back to the comforts of a glorious past.

Arjun Kapoor on Half Girlfriend: ‘Tried breaking preconceived notions about Bihar

Actor Arjun Kapoor, who plays the role of a Bihari boy named Madhav Jha in his latest release Half Girlfriend, says through this film the makers have tried to break all the preconceived notions about Bihar and its people.

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“Through this film, we have tried to break preconceived notion about Bihar. We always wanted to make sure that people should look at Bihar from real point of view because in many films, we see that gangster, politicians, IAS, IPS hail from Bihar, but we haven’t seen a solo romantic hero who hailed from Bihar in recent times.” Arjun said here on Friday.

“So, it was important that the character I am playing should speak and behave in same way. When we were shooting for the film people kindly supported us and it is always nice to see when people shower their love upon us,” Arjun added.

Directed by Mohit Suri, Half Girlfriend is an adaptation of author Chetan Bhagat’s novel of the same name.

This was the second time when Arjun and Bhagat collaborated for a project after 2 States.

“I am happy that after our successful collaboration in 2 States, we are again coming up with this film. It’s always nice when you get good material to work as an actor.

“I am very happy and delighted that it’s a book which is loved by so many people and now we have put it out on big screen for many people. It’s our effort to do justice with the material and create something with our imagination and visualisation,” Arjun said.

Talking about the preparations for his role, Arjun said: “There is an emotional scene in the film where I had to express myself, so to get the feel of the character, I had two tequila shots on an empty stomach in the morning because I wanted to feel and express that madness

Irrfan Khan says Hindi cinema needs to raise its standards, present content-driven films

Mumbai: Actor Irrfan Khan, who has proved his mettle not just in Bollywood but in Hollywood as well, feels that Hindi cinema needs to raise its standards to survive among good Hollywood films and regional films.

“Cinema is changing and its audience is getting mature. If you can present content-driven film, then audience always gives result to the film.”

Irrfan Khan. Reuters

“But now I feel that Hindi cinema needs to raise its standard because from one side, good Hollywood films are dividing business of Hindi cinema and from the other side, regional films are getting better,” Irrfan told reporters.

He also feels that “southern films like Baahubali have the capacity to capture whole market of India. Therefore, Hindi cinema need to come up with really good subjects.”

“They should attract audience through that (good subjects), otherwise it will get difficult for them,” said Irrfan on Monday at the screening of film Hindi Medium organised by the makers for the teachers of Hindi Medium schools.

Hindi Medium has touched base upon one of the most important obsessions in our country, which is to speak impeccable English.

Talking about the same, Irrfan said: “English has become a necessity. We are not against that language in this film and I feel as an individual, we should learn as many languages as we can but we should be proud and have confidence in our own language. We should not feel backward as compared to anybody.”

Irrfan also spoke about the current scenario of education in India.

“Today, studies have become more competitive and it is not enough for kids to learn only at schools and for that they need extra time for studies in private classes. In our country, standard of government aided schools is not good and if it gets better then only our national language has some chances to hold its place,” he said.

Hindi Medium is directed by Saket Choudhary. It also stars Pakistani actress Saba Qamar, Deepak Dobriyal and Amrita Singh in pivotal roles.

It is all set to release on 19 May.

50 Films That Changed Bollywood’ book review: Full of hits, misses and nostalgia

If 20 people in a room are asked to list down the 50 films that changed Hindi cinema, there are bound to be differences or even heated debates. Even if the time bracket is reduced to 1995-2015, the debates would be as heated, or perhaps even more, given the fact that Hindi cinema possibly churns out more films in a year than the film industry of any other country.

When I read the title of Shubhra Gupta’s book 50 Films That Changed Bollywood 1995-2015 (Harper-Collins), I wondered what the criteria of her selection would be. There are multiple yardsticks to which we assess the quality of a film, such as the box office record, its influence on pop culture, critical acclaim and in my mind, the most effective yet the most subjective, how it made me feel.

50 Films That Changed Bollywood, by Shubhra Gupta, published by Harper-Collins

While Gupta’s title clearly suggests that her yardstick is majorly the second one, i.e., how the films influence pop culture (or Bollywood in particular), she often deviates to other criteria and ends up accommodating a film in her exclusive list merely because of its roaring box office success, unanimous critical acclaim or her personal fondness for the film.

It is there that this otherwise well-researched and comprehensive book falters. It does not stick to its purpose which can be clearly seen in how she has tried to justify her inclusion of certain films in the list, but failed to put forth a convincing argument. While some films are obvious picks, others are worth considering. But there are a few amongst them that just do not go down well with you.

Since the lower limit is 1995, Aditya Chopra’s classic romantic drama Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge had to be there. It has qualified itself as a competent film in all criteria and continue to be a template for a large number of family-oriented romantic dramas.

Rangeela is yet another obvious pick but Gupta doesn’t explain why. All she ends up doing, after spelling out the plot of the film, is to draw a ‘Then and Now’ of the director Ram Gopal Varma, actors Aamir Khan, Urmila Matondkar and Jackie Shroff, along with tracing their working relationship over the years. Thankfully, she realises she could bite off more than she could chew and steers clear of such diversions in the other chapters, or at least attempts to do so.

In my mind, why Rangeela proved to be a trendsetter was because of its music, choreography and costumes. It is sad that Gupta gives no mention or short shrift to the technical aspects and only talks about the plot and characters, just like a majority of Indian film critics.

It was AR Rahman’s breakthrough in Hindi cinema and he went on to change the cinematic landscape of Bollywood by adorning it with his musical notes. Similarly, this was arguably the first film where we got introduced to the gymnastics-style choreography that still dominates commercial potboilers today. Gupta does delve on costumes when she explains how this film changed the way a Hindi film heroine looked.

Shekhar Gupta’s Bandit Queen is a film that I am glad Gupta was able to pinpoint. She does full justice to the film when she elaborates why it made it to her list. The rustic setting, the no-holds-barred dialogue delivery and the lack of cosmetic touch-ups of the actors ensured that there was score for cinema that felt ‘real’.

Hero No. 1 gave us a lead actor who could give all the comedians a run for their money. It also established a genre that was synonymous with the lead actor’s name. Govinda’s brand of comedies, though short lived, constituted a phase that saw thorough entertainers spruced up by signature Bollywood song and dance. While the genre faded away with Govinda’s age, there are the occasional Housefuls and Golmaals that still mint money at the box office.

While Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge was an NRI film catering to nostalgia, Karan Johar’s directorial debut Kuch Kuch Hota Hai spoke the language of the GenNext. It was the first uber-cool film of Hindi cinema that fully embraced liberalistaion and globalisation. This film would establish Johar’s frivolous image that he still finds extremely tough to shake off.

Hindi cinema had been obsessed with the underworld ever since Adam. Case in point, Amitabh Bachchan’s character of Don. But what Varma’s Satya did was to get rid of the stylised way of storytelling and treatment and give us access to notorious criminals. They were not caricatures but immensely real beings which hinted at how worrisome the state of affairs in our country was.

Sarfarosh is remembered best for its soft patriotism. That film showed you do not need to wage war between India and Pakistan to display your nationalism, or jingoism for that matter. Sarfarosh was hard hitting not in terms of its decibel but its craft. Aamir Khan and Naseeruddin Shah immotralised their characters and made for a righteous cop and an assured terrorist – templates that filmmakers still swear by.

The most significant contribution of Kaho Naa… Pyar Hai was Hrithik Roshan. More than its hackneyed plot and obsolete treatment, Rakesh Roshan’s romantic drama defined what a 21st century Hindi film hero would look like. Hrithik fit the bill completely and with his acting chops, dancing skills and drop dead gorgeous looks, he set the bar for the holistic personality development that an aspiring lead actor has to undergo.

2001 saw three landmark films. Dil Chahta Hai changed the grammar of film making forever. Its colloquial dialogue, with a liberal use of English words, became a trick that every filmmaker had to employ for them to make their film sound cool. The other aspect was its cinematography. While stalwarts like Mani Ratnam and Sanjay Leela Bhansali had already stepped forward and mesmerised us with their larger than life long shots, Farhan Akhtar’s film did not orchestrate the grandness. It was just there even in the tiniest of moments. (Gupta misses this point.)

Another film, that broke all box office records, was Anil Sharma’s Gadar: Ek Prem Katha. Besides setting the trend of unconventional pairing (which Gupta missed too), the film humanised the other side of the border. That school of thought has trickled down to many hits including Kabir Khan’s 2015 drama Bajrangi Bhaijaan, which in my opinion, did not change Bollywood in any way but has made it to Gupta’s list of top 50.

Ashutosh Gowariker’s Lagaan went back to the hinterland, as setting that had got lost in the midst of all the urban comedies. Also, Gupta points out an interesting insight into how it changed the behind-the-scenes working style of top actors. They started following in the footsteps of Aamir and chose to stick to one film throughout its shooting schedule rather than juggling between four or five films at a time.

With Jism came the entire brand of Vishesh films romantic dramas with a high quotient of oomph, sex and lust. John Abraham and Bipasha Basu sizzled it to such soaring levels that the audience embraced them despite knowing that they would burn with them. It paved the way for Murder, and in turn, Emraan Hashmi and Mallika Sherawat – the two sex sirens that took the industry by storm.

Gupta mentions Hum Tum as the first true blue romantic comedy of Bollywood. While I think Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai were rom-coms in their own right, what Kunal Kohli’s film did was to bring forth the insecurities that the GenNext had begun harbouring. It also introduced us to a metrosexual character, played by Saif Ali Khan, a formula for many such urban rom-coms today. Also, as Gupta points out, this was the first time that having sex before marriage was considered okay in family entertainers.

Another obvious pick, Munna Bhai MBBS introduced us to Rajkumar Hirani who could manage to impress the audience and critics alike with his lighthearted well packaged films with social messages and stories borrowed from the next door. Nobody has managed to make films like he does till date.

Bunty Aur Babli was not an urban rom-com but it did not explore the hinterland either. It found that middle path that lakhs of Indians relate to. The tier-2 cities were brimming with aspirations when this film came and addressed them. It was also a trendsetter in terms of fashion, as it brought back the good ol’ sasta sundar tikau non-branded outfits.

Sudhir Mishra’s film Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi addressed yet another burning issue – education. The colleges were not depicted as the fantasy Riverdale or High School Musical stuff. They were real and addressed real life issues of students frustrated with the education system of the country. It was way ahead of its times as the dissent among students has started making headlines more often now.

Gupta justifies picking Dhoom 2 over Dhoom because it was the better film. While I agree with that assessment, it shows how disoriented she was while cherry picking the 50 films that changed Bollywood. Dhoom 2 only accelerated the change that was brought by Dhoom. In that respect, Dhoom deserves the credit for being a game changer and not its sequel.

Countless parallel or arthouse films had preceded Bheja Fry but what this Rajat Kapoor-Vinay Pathak film did was to demonstrate how they could also make money at the box office. From Shyam Benegal’s to Anand Gandhi’s, arthouse cinema has also undergone a considerable change. But Bheja Fry’s success proved that there was an audience, even though a niche one, for every kind of film.

Chak De! India was arguably the first true blue sports film of India. Other movies like Mansoor Khan’s Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar and Lagaan also consisted of sports as crucial plot points but those were merely to increase the tension in the narrative. If there was a film that made an attempt to address the issues plaguing sports in the country, Chak De! India was the first one to do so. Other sports dramas like Mary Kom, Dhan Dhana Dhan Goal! and Dangal followed suit.

With Ghajini, Aamir introduced the industry to two business terms that the trade pundits swear by till date. Firstly, the wide pre-promotion of the film which almost ensured a certain opening at the box office. Since then, production houses started signing up with PR agencies to promote their film creatively. Secondly, the coveted Rs 100 crore club which devised a new yardstick to measure the success and reach of a film.

Anurag Kashyap’s Dev D was also arthouse in terms of its atmosphere but its treatment was commercial in many ways, given that it boasted of close to a dozen songs, composed by Amit Trivedi. But what this film did was to bring darkness to the forefront, though in a cool self-deprecating way instead of something intense and melancholic.

Shoojit Sircar’s Vicky Donor was a path-breaker in many ways. It revolved around a taboo but its lighthearted comedy did not make the audience cringe. It made them smile and ponder. This film was also a hybrid of art and commercial cinema, though poles apart from how Kashyap approached the same.

Finally, Vikas Bahl’s Queen led to the boom of women-oriented or female-centric cinema. It was entirely a woman’s story with very little space for men. It also proved that a female actor could carry the film on her shoulders and command certain numbers at the box office.

Thus, these are the 21 films out of Gupta’s 50 that I think truly changed Bollywood, in terms of narrative, themes, plots, technique and the way the industry functioned. There are many on my mind, such as The Dirty Picture which started the trend of biopics, but I’ll save those for another day.

The other films mentioned in Gupta’s list mainly adhere to the template of their predecessors or break through to a very minor extent. Some are hybrid of the genres introduced by two of their predecessors while the others seem to have found a place only because it changed the way the author looked at the films that she had already listed.

Bahubali 2’s success shows up the north’s ignorance of south Indian cinema

Baahubali 2: The Conclusion (also spelt as Bahubali 2) to a match result of “South Indian filmmaker defeats Bollywood” narrative. The indignation is over how a Telugu filmmaker could pull off a Bahubali 2 when ideally it should be Bollywood with deeper pockets that should have created this Rs 450 crore worth project.

In fact, in its ignorance, or perhaps the callous notion that South India is one homogenous entity, a channel and another channel’s anchor credited Bahubali 2 as a Tamil movie that has been dubbed into Telugu. Enough — and justifiably so — for members of Tollywood’s film fraternity to go into a collective sulk. And why not, the industry produces India’s biggest film project and (everyone) north of the Vindhyas assumes SS Rajamouli must be from Rajinikanth-land.

It betrays a terrible condescending attitude that it should surprise Delhi-based journalists that the south has delivered this lavish visual spectacle. If nothing else, it only perhaps exposes their ignorance of Indian cinema and the fare that comes out of the south.

Still from Bahubali 2/Baahubali 2: The Conclusion

A bit of history would have helped. South Indian cinema based in Chennai (then called Madras) has traditionally been at the forefront of high-end cinema technology. From the 1950s, Madras has been home to several studios like AVM, Gemini, Vijayvahini, that ensured the city was the first to embrace the newest movie tool — from 70mm to Dolby to special effects — to hit the market.

K Hariharan, an author and professor of Film Studies, points out that Chennai has always been the National Film City which “also made Tamil films”. “Mumbai in contrast, is essentially only a regional Hindi centre, that never diversified into any other language except Marathi, which in any case is the city’s default language,” says Hariharan. The only reason why Mumbai has acquired a larger profile is because of the size of its audience.

If you ask a south Indian film buff, it is quite possible he or she will refer to the epic fantasy film Mayabazar, starring NT Rama Rao, as the baap of Bahubali. Rajamouli himself has acknowledged that the 1957 classic was an inspiration for Bahubali. The movie — considered “true cutting edge” in terms of use of technology in that time — has been acknowledged even by Kamal Haasan as a fine example of “visual appeal going hand in hand with content”. In fact, Rajamouli tweeted about the film in May 2013, writing : “About 20 of us watched Mayabazar in Blu-ray. Kids of age 7-17 enjoyed it as much as we enjoyed it in our childhood. Timeless classic!”

In fact, in the ’60s, even Bengali and Sinhalese remakes of hit Tamil films would be produced in Madras at the studios. In the ’80s and early ’90s, the likes of Jeetendra, Rajesh Khanna, Anil Kapoor worked mostly in Hindi remakes of successful south films.

For the Khan-obsessed non-south India, a reading of Salman’s filmography too would have provided a clue to why the south could do a Bahubali. A majority of Salman’s superhits — from Wanted to Judwaa to Biwi No. 1 to Tere Naam to Ready to Kick to Bodyguard — are remakes of Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam prototypes. Ditto with the other big Bollywood success story, Akshay Kumar. Proof, that in terms of both story telling and using technology to translate ideas on to the big screen, the Peninsula has been many steps ahead.

The problem with most of the north audience is that it consumes south films through badly dubbed movies telecast on SET MAX. That sets the bar really low. Which is perhaps why it thinks the best movie to have come out of south cinema must have been Sooryavansham — given the number of times its Hindi remake, starring Amitabh Bachchan, is telecast on telly.

Malayalam cinema with its brilliant storywriters, directors and actors have always stood out in their choice of subjects and treatment. Yet you have self-proclaimed “number one film critic” called Kamaal R Khan, an uncultured boast, taking a dig at National Award winning actor Mohanlal, calling him Chotta Bheem-like. When taken to the cleaners by Lal fans, he apologises saying he did not know of the thespian’s body of work. The problem is with Bollywood’s unintelligent assumption that it represents Indian cinema and that one can call oneself a student of Indian cinema without studying the likes of Lal, Mammootty, Kamal Haasan, Ilaiyaraaja and Mani Ratnam.

So what do we do? We look for reasons why Bahubali clicked pan-India. And we zero in on Rajamouli’s decision to partner with Karan Johar. The takeaway is that if not for Johar, Rajamouli would not have managed to have ‘Koffee’ with India. This is not to say that Johar’s presence did not add value. If nothing else, it brought to the table a certain level of acceptance that here is a product with which a discerning producer-director who knows his craft is associating. I do not think Johar would have put his money if the movie was trash material. So the value-add was limited to handing over a certificate.

It is more to do with the attitude. AR Rahman, despite what he has achieved for India including the Oscar, is reduced to being called ‘Mozart of Madras’. We never call Salman Khan, the Galaxy Apartments Hero, do we? Vinod Khanna, God bless his soul, is referred to as an Indian actor but Raghuvaran when he passed away in 2008, did not even manage ticker space on TV channels. I remember a news editor asking me if he can push for the news to make it to the rundown by telling higher-ups that he is the Amrish Puri of the south.

This is not to say south cinema comes out smelling of roses every time. Far from it… the industry in the four language states produce a lot of nonsense as well. But the scale of Bahubali, Rajamouli’s audacity to dream big and the success of the movie will have a domino effect on filmmakers from this part of India. That their products could fly if treated the right way creatively, aided by the right technological tools. And then you can even dare to release the film on an ordinary day in April, and not wait for Eid, Diwali or Sankranti.

P.S. His name is Rajamouli. There is a ‘U’ in the name, that is not silent. TV journalists would do well not to hyphenate the name and make it Raaja Moli.

Ranbir Kapoor and Imtiaz Ali to team up for a third film together?

 

This is not a drill.

Imtiaz Ali and Ranbir Kapoor may be reuniting for a film after Ali’s latest film with Shah Rukh Khan and Anushka Sharma.

This will be their third film together, if confirmed, after Rockstar and Tamasha. This update comes after news of Ranbir Kapoor doing a cameo in Imtiaz’s next, reportedly titled Rahnuma.

According to Times of India, the film is an edgy relationship driven project which will start as soon as he finished Rahnuma.

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“Ranbir and Imtiaz have a great working relationship. They have been talking about teaming up for some time now. Discreetly, they even travel together when they have some time off work. So, after working with SRK and Anushka, Imtiaz is now keen on returning to his buddy for his next,” reads the TOI report.

What is most heartwarming about this collaboration is that both the previous films with this pairing have been intense dramas with a very limited audience appreciating the films. For the duo to come together for another such film, regardless of audience reaction, is good, nay, great news.

Currently Imtiaz Ali is wrapping up the last leg of his film with Shah Rukh Khan and Anushka Sharma, which is all set to release on 11 August, clashing with Akshay Kumar’s Toilet Ek Prem Katha. 

Ranbir Kapoor, on the other hand, has a lot on his plate. He is currently shooting Rajkumar Hirani’s biopic on Sanjay Dutt, for which he has gone underground in order to hide his various looks from the film. He also has the impending (and slightly cursed?) Jagga Jassoos, with Katrina Kaif, which is directed by Anurag Basu. The film was supposed to release in April this year but now it has been indefinitely postponed.

He also has Ayan Mukherji’s next Dragon with Alia Bhatt in the pipeline. We’re now desperately waiting for either Ranbir or Imtiaz to confirm their next project, so we can celebrate. Who’s with us?

 

Why Noor doesn’t live up to its source material, ‘Karachi You’re Killing Me!’, or its protagonist Ayesha

One of my favourite scenes in Saba Imtiaz’s novel Karachi, You’re Killing Me! is when 28-year-old journalist Ayesha is on a flight. She is heading back to Karachi from Dubai, and has just heard from an overjoyed UK-based editor who desperately wants to publish her interview with a former Guantanamo Bay prisoner.

It’s the biggest interview Ayesha has ever done (potentially award-winning, she writes), and she refuses free alcohol on the flight and begins to write. She uses the empty seat next to her to spread her notebooks, props one against the window, and types away frantically on her laptop. She tries to recall exactly how she felt in the interview — the trick, Ayesha says, is to be able to write from memory.

I like this part in the book, because it reminds me that the story Imtiaz is telling us is about Ayesha, a journalist who works crazy hours, from covering a fashion show to interviewing a gangster. So it becomes incredibly frustrating that Sunhil Sippy’s Noor, which we were looking forward to eagerly because it’s meant to be based on Imtiaz’s novel, never has such moments.

Sonakshi Sinha in and as Noor

In the beginning, Noor remains firmly in the comfortable rom-com territory. During the first hour of the film, all you want to do is to block Noor (Sonakshi Sinha) out. Imtiaz’s Ayesha is bitter and drinks illegally procured alcohol, incessantly smokes cigarettes, and makes biting statements about Pakistan’s elite, but Sinha as Noor appears all over the place while trying to be endearing at the same time.

The story is essentially this: Noor is stuck in a job she hates, doing stories she doesn’t like until she uncovers a scam, and the journalist she’s dating steals her story, telling her, “it happens in journalism”. The story then has a terrible impact on the people involved, and a guilty Noor tries to fix everything that has gone wrong.

If you’ve read Karachi, You’re Killing Me! Noor will make you desperately wonder why she cannot be like Ayesha, who obviously loves writing and her work intensely. This never comes across with Noor, because apart from cribbing that her weight is more than her Twitter followers, she takes herself too seriously. By the time the interval arrives, Noor seems unable to decide what tone it wants to use, or the story it wants to tell. Karachi, You’re Killing Me! had a lightness to it that the movie loses out on, particularly in its second half, when it becomes a story with a moral.

In the book, Ayesha’s interview with the former Guantanamo prisoner — where she fills up notebook after notebook with his story as she takes down notes — is her big break as a journalist. Noor replaces this part with Sinha finding her story in her maid Malti’s (Smita Tambe) brother. It’s when the movie makes us feel most uncomfortable. Sinha as Noor is sitting in Malti’s house and Malti is crying because her brother has lost his kidney in an organ scam. Noor never stops capturing (through video) the conversation even when Malti tells her she doesn’t want to do this because she is scared that both she and her brother will be killed. For Noor, this is about her big break, and not the people who are living the horrifying story she wants to tell — a discomfort we never feel with Ayesha throughout Imtiaz’s book.

Noor tries hard to make broad statements about journalism and ethics but keeps falling short, because it doesn’t allow Noor to be a journalist in the way that Ayesha obviously is. There is too little about her reporting itself, and even in her biggest story, Noor only comes across as lacking any kind of journalistic skills because there is no research that goes into her piece except for a single interview.

And only after a war photographer Ayananka (Purab Kohli) steals her story does Noor even pay attention to her editor Shekhar (Manish Chaudhury), who yells at her about how publishing a story is not more important than the people involved — this is when she is upset that he hesitated to run it. This is also when Shekhar delivers the deadly punchline of, “We aren’t just journalists; we are human too.” The Ayesha we remember from Karachi, You’re Killing Me, would have never let anyone dismiss stories so easily.

From the beginning, Noor also sets up an annoying binary between ‘serious’ journalism — “serious journalism ko apni Barkha milne wali hai,” Noor says — and fluff, like entertainment pieces. There’s an unbelievable scene where Noor is sent to interview Sunny Leone, and keeps yawning throughout it. When Shekhar demands to know what all that was about, Noor simply makes snide references to Leone’s ‘past’, calls her a “bloody pornstar”, and says she knows why the country loves her. It’s Shekhar who then says that Leone is “self-made”.

In the end, Noor’s fame comes through a viral video, Mumbai, You’re Killing Me, which she makes after her organ scam story has terrible repercussions. It’s obviously a not-so-hidden reference to Imtiaz’s book, but it doesn’t work at all. Her monologue (in the video) about people staring at her on the road because she is a woman, that as tax payer she gets nothing, or that Mumbai’s air is polluted, only seems terribly forced. Karachi, the city that obviously influences Ayesha’s stories, is almost a character in Imtiaz’s book even without her having to mention it. In Noor, however, Mumbai needs to be forced into the narrative because until that moment, the city never comes across as a place that influences Noor’s journalism.

Perhaps Noor would have worked if it figured out for itself what story it wanted to tell, and let Noor actually be a journalist like Ayesha and her friends (there are so many women journalists in the book who’ve all disappeared in the movie). In the process of rushing towards establishing a moral, it doesn’t let Noor be even half the woman Ayesha is.

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.

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“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.