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Anushka Sharma’s next production Kaneda confirms Arjun Kapoor in the lead

The first thing to come to your mind when you think of Arjun Kapoor and Anushka Sharma pairing up for a film is that finally we have a pairing of equals (read: the Khans’ principle of romancing actresses half their age is so passé).

 

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And so it’s confirmed. Anushka Sharma will reportedly be seen romancing Ki & Ka actor Arjun Kapoor in her upcoming film Kaneda. It will be helmed by Navdeep Singh, who last directed the sleeper slasher hit NH 10. DNA reports that it will be a dark, gritty thriller and after NH10 we are pretty sure it will be dark.

There were several rumours that Arjun Kapoor had stepped down from the film, but it has no been confirmed that he will be a part of it.

Kaneda will be Anushka’s third production after NH 10 and Phillauri. The 28-year-old actress has finished the last schedule of Phillauri, where she will be seen sharing space with Diljit Dosanjh and Life of Pi actor Suraj Sharma. The trailer is said to be released next week sometime.

Arjun Kapoor has two films — Half Girlfriend with Shraddha Kapoor and Mubarakan co-starring uncle Anil Kapoor.

Anushka’s last film was Karan Johar’s Ae Dil Hai Mushkil where she played a girl from Lucknow, Alizeh. She is currently also working on Imtiaz Ali’s next with Shah Rukh Khan, tentatively titled Rehnuma.

Dangal box office collections cross Rs 385 crore: Aamir Khan plans success party

Mumbai: Dangal producers Aamir Khan and Siddharth Roy Kapur will host a grand party here on Saturday to celebrate the success of the movie, which has become the highest grossing Bollywood entertainer.

In 'Dangal', Aamir Khan portrayed wrestler Mahavir Singh Phogat

The film has recently surpassed collections of Rs 385 crore at the Indian box office. For Aamir, it almost makes for twin celebrations as now he has two films — PK and Dangal — which have crossed the Rs 350 crore mark.

The makers are ecstatic with the reactions and positive response to the film, which is in demand even in its sixth week.

Aamir, who usually shies away from parties, is organising the celebration for Dangal after being urged by his friends from the Hindi film industry. He has invited the who’s who of the industry for the party at Taj Lands End, said a source in the know of developments.

Directed by Nitesh Tiwari, Dangal is an inspirational story of an Indian wrestler Mahavir Phogat, who against all odds, manages to train his daughters Geeta and Babita to become world class wrestlers.

The sensitive portrayal of the father-daughter relationship moved the audience, who also appreciated performances by Aamir and his on screen daughters Fatima Sana Shaikh and Sanya Malhotra.

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.

Kung Fu Yoga: Why Indian film industry can’t forget Jackie Chan-starrer in a hurry

Early reports indicate Kung Fu Yoga is not doing well commercially, in spite of Jackie Chan’s popularity. A newspaper article states that just 14 viewers watched the film on its release day (3 February) in a Mumbai multiplex. According to a film industry representative, it is expected to do better in south India than the rest of the country. However, its overall performance is unlikely to be impressive. The impact of Kung Fu Yoga on India’s film trade is going to be limited. At worst, the importer and his distributors stand to lose money. Small change, for an industry that routinely fails to recover production costs from the box office. Nevertheless, Kung Fu Yoga is not a film which the Indian film industry can afford to forget in a hurry. Because it was a part of an ambitious — and potentially game changing — plan by the Chinese and Indian governments.

Jackie Chan and Sonu Sood in 'Kung Fu Yoga'

The film has been panned by Indian critics too. Kung Fu Yoga’s failure on critical and commercial fronts in India is a pointer to a larger problem that Indian and Chinese film industries face all the time. Ironically, this film was meant to address the very problem that it now stands as the latest example of. A majority of Indian and Chinese films earn their revenues from viewers who are of Indian or Chinese origin, as the case may be. Both industries struggle to realise value from markets beyond the overseas markets where there is a significant presence of expatriates. Of course, we need to expand our understanding of the expat to include the South Asian diaspora and “Three Chinas” (Mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong) plus Singapore, with reference to Indian and Chinese cinemas respectively.

Kung Fu Yoga’s poor showing in India is not for the want for effort. Apparently, Aamir Khan and Katrina Kaif were approached, but were unavailable. As a result, the final lineup of Indian actors, which includes Sonu Sood, Disha Patani and Amyra Dastur, is not exactly stellar. Undaunted, Jackie Chan charmed his Indian fans and local media representatives alike during his much publicised promotional tour in the run up to the film’s release. I do not wish to go into why it didn’t work — several reviewers have done that already. Instead, I would like to draw attention to two points. First, the film worked for Chinese audiences and critics alike. Second, this is a failed Indo-Chinese co-production.

Kung Fu Yoga earned US $ 138.8 million (around Rs 940 crore) at the box office in China alone during the first week of its release. That is double the estimated cost of the film. Notably, the film’s takings are already way higher than the worldwide collections of India’s most successful film, Dangal. More importantly, it reminds us of the size of the Chinese market and the drawing power of Jackie Chan.

Released during the Chinese New Year (CNY) weekend, which usually witnesses the highest footfalls in theatres during the entire year, Kung Fu Yoga emerged as the second highest grosser of the season, after Journey to the West. The success of this year’s CNY releases is said to have cheered up the Chinese film industry, which had a dull year in 2016. Incidentally, Journey to the West is directed by Tsui Hark and produced by Stephen Chow (of Kung Fu Hustle fame), both of whom are Hong Kong industry stalwarts.

China’s quota system ensures that access of foreign companies to its enormous film market is severely restricted. At present, only two Indian films can be released in China annually, according to the website China Film Insider. This number is unlikely to increase in a hurry. In 2016 the quota for foreign films, a bulk of which are Hollywood productions, stood at 34. The only other way Indian production companies can enter this market is by making co-production deals with Chinese companies. Everyone in the film business knows this but, as always, the devil is in the detail: whom to work with, with what stories, and so on.

Raees box office collection: Shah Rukh Khan’s film has Rs 21 crore opening

Shah Rukh Khan has proved yet again, his penchant for making a solid opening at the box office with his latest release Raees.

Raees, directed by Rahul Dholakia and produced by Excel Entertainment and Red Chillies, was expected to take in anything between Rs 17-19 crores in box office collections when it opened on Wednesday, 25 January 2017.

The predictions seemed in line with SRK’s previous releases — Fan (which brought in Rs 19 crores on opening day) and Dilwale (which had a Rs 21 crore opening).

As per early reports, which have taken into consideration the screen count (approximately 2,600) and occupancy levels (reported to be around 60 percent through the day), the Day 1 box office collection has been estimated at Rs 21 crore.

Trade observer Ramesh Bala tweeted out the early figures: “Looking at the early day one numbers, Raees seems to have outdone Kaabil by a huge margin at the box office: Raees — Rs 21 crore; Kaabil — Rs 7.5 crore.

Akshay Kumar News18 380

1 figures for Raees at Rs. 20.5 crore, stating: “Considering the fact that Wednesday was a regular working day with the only advantage being the big holiday on Thursday (Republic Day), due to which evening and night shows were better than normal, Raees has clearly taken a very positive start at the box office.”

While official figures are still awaited, it is Day 2 figures for both Raees and Kaabil that will be keenly watched. It remains to be seen how much the public holiday will benefit the business of both films.

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.

Bengaluru molestation: Backlash to Akshay Kumar’s message shows it’s catch-22 situation for stars

On the morning of 9 January 2017, Meryl Streep made a blistering anti-Trump speech at the 74th Golden Globes without mentioning the President-elect. During her acceptance speech for the Cecil B DeMille Awards, she called out Trump for mocking a disabled person and warned that the press would need to be defended. As expected, the same people who laughed at Akshay for using a public platform to address a societal issue lauded Meryl.

Akshay Kumar. File Photo

Bollywood actors are always criticised for not taking a stand on issues that are relevant and volatile. It’s just that when they do address an issue, their opinions are ridiculed and their motives questioned. And, don’t forget what happened to Aamir Khan and Shah Rukh Khan when they spoke up.

Celebrities in our country don’t have basic freedom of expression.  They are both expected to have and not have any opinions. If they do express an opinion, they shouldn’t have ever done or said anything contrary to that opinion. Also, they shouldn’t have a film releasing around the time of the said opinion being shared.

A friend pointed out that Akshay has Jolly LLB 2 releasing next month so obviously this video was a PR exercise. She added, “When he does films like Rowdy Rathore and Housefull where women are objectified, how can he expect his audience to respect women?” Last year, Katrina Kaif spoke about gender equality and violence against women during a conference in Delhi. The first reaction I heard was “How can Katrina talk about gender empowerment when she dances suggestively in skimpy clothes to ‘Chikni Chameli‘ and ‘Sheila ki Jawani‘?”.

Apparently, actors like Akshay or Katrina have no right to speak about gender issues. ‘Every job is a job’ does not apply to Bollywood’s actors. The argument is that actors have a large sphere of influence. Hence, we expect our actors to be actor-activists. And, that brings us right back to the backlash they face every single time. Ever so often the repercussions go beyond abuses online or being topics of discussion on primetime news. If Bollywood is too scared to speak up, it’s because their statements could (and have, in the past) harmed the industry financially. This is not a fear that Hollywood lives with.

During the Actress Roundtable of 2015, Kalki Koechlin was spot on while explaining an actor’s social responsibility. “People always say that actors have a responsibility… an actor has the responsibility to deliver in their job as an actor, just as much as a banker in theirs. For every actor to be an activist on every topic is ridiculous,” she said.

Every time we look to our celebrities to use their influence to impact large scale societal change, it is important to remember that they are only human. Like us, they are bad, and at times lazy activists. When a celebrity speaks out, it’s out of sheer frustration and anger at what is happening in the country. Again, that reaction is no different from how anyone of us would react.

Most of us don’t have the bandwidth to comment about everything. What an actor chooses to take a stand on comes from a personal space. It has nothing to do with his/her movies. In his video message Akshay said, “I am ashamed to be a human being today. I was returning from my New Year’s vacation with my four-year-old daughter in my arms when I learnt about the molestation incident in Bangalore (sic). I don’t know how did you all feel about it, but my blood started boiling. I am a daughter’s father but even if I was not one, I feel if a society cannot respect its women, it doesn’t deserve to be called a humane society. What’s most disgusting is that people have the guts to justify such shameful acts by criticising women for their choice of clothes.”

Everything Bollywood does is not for publicity. Among the many causes he supports, Akshay, along with Youth Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray, has been involved in the Women’s Self Defense Centre (WSDC) in Mumbai where women are given free self-defense training. Launched in 2014, WSDC offers a course that lasts for a month after which women have the option of enrolling for free advance classes. There are plans to open 100 more WSDCs across the country in the next five years.

Akshay Kumar doesn’t need a video message or a WSDC to generate publicity for his next release or for himself. Nor does Katrina Kaif need to speak at a women’s empowerment conference to generate work. Like you and me, Bollywood celebrities are not obligated to be activists. They do it because they are concerned citizens.

The only people we need to question about social responsibility are our elected representatives. They are the only ones who directly benefit from airing their views. So, leave Bollywood alone.

Don’t expect Bollywood stars to pull a Meryl Streep: Honesty’s never a virtue in the film industry

On the contrary, more often than not they succumb to political and ideological bullying – never standing up for their beleaguered colleagues or fellow citizens. That these stars, despite their hefty celebrity statuses, have ever so often failed to defend fellow actors who are hounded by fundamentalists and government alike, is indeed a sad commentary on the culture of the Bombay film industry.

Mercifully, not all celebrities across the world, are cut from the same cloth. When confronted with bullies, not all of them genuflect or become tongue–tied. Nor do they fear to take the powerful head on.

Meryl Streep poses in the press room with the Cecil B. DeMille award at the 74th annual Golden Globe Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Sunday, Jan. 8, 2017, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

This Sunday night, the celebrated actor Meryl Streep, presented an inspiring template for the kind of outrage celebrities can put on display.

While accepting her lifetime achievement award at the Golden Globes, Streep turned the occasion into one which addressed many of the anxieties that have been racking America since the Presidential election this November. Speaking out against the dangerous and discriminatory politics practised by US president–elect Donald Trump, she said:

“Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners. And if we kick them all out you’ll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts which are not the arts. An actor’s only job is to enter the lives of people who are different from us, and let you feel what that feels like. And there were many, many, many powerful performances this year that did exactly that. Breathtaking, compassionate work.”

In a grand, eloquent sweep, the veteran actor gestured towards the challenges awaiting the acting fraternity, and many other diverse sections of the American public. She told the gathering how Trump’s imitation of a disabled reporter “broke her heart. … I still can’t get it out of my head, because it wasn’t in a movie. It was real life. And this instinct to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life, because it kinda gives permission for other people to do the same thing,” she said.

Faced with Meryl Streep’s speech, one cannot but consider how strikingly different the conduct of Bollywood stars has been when it comes to dealing with similar challenges; how abjectly they have failed in not just defending their own rights as a collective community of actors – but also thereby ending up backing retrogressive fiats by default.

Very recently we were witness to the manner in which Raj Thackeray’s Navnirman Chitrapat Karmachari Sena (MNS) bullied top Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan, and director Karan Johar, into giving an assurance that they would not work with Pakistani actors in future. The orchestrated uproar over the release of Khan’s film Raees this September, which had Mahira Khan, a Pakistani actress in a lead role, pushed Shah Rukh Khan into offering Thackeray an assurance that “they will not hire any Pakistani actor till the situation between the two countries (India and Pakistan) improved.”

Shalini Thackeray, general secretary of MNS Chitrapat Karamchari Sena, went to the extent of saying: “It is not a veiled threat. It’s a direct threat to producers like SRK and Karan Johar who take Pakistani actors in their movies.” Even in the face of such unabashed bullying, Bollywood kept totally silent.

The same way it kept mum when the Modi government attacked actor Aamir Khan last year for his comments on the prevailing culture of intolerance in the country.

The discomfiting truth is that in almost all such cases of covert and overt persecution, actors are left to fight lonely battles (that is if they themselves do not rush to placate the bullies,) while the industry heavyweight lapse into silence as a means of self–preservation and self–advancement.

In stark contrast to such servility, Meryl Streep spoke out not on just on behalf of her own fraternity – but also defended the interests of the larger fraternity of others who are feeling ever more alienated and threatened by Trump’s politics.

Her speech, in its wide scope, was political in content. “Disrespect invites disrespect, violence incites violence. And when the powerful use their position to bully others we all lose,” she said. Addressing the media, the actor called on the press to hold the government accountable and for the public to support independent reporting. She urged the “famously well-heeled Hollywood Foreign Press” to support the Committee to Protect Journalists. Saying “we’re going to need them, and they’ll need us to safeguard the truth.”

In a strangely fitting way, Streep’s speech comes days after the death of Indian actor Om Puri who, not only championed progressive causes throughout his career but was mercilessly hounded by the powers that be last year for his remarks on the controversy on hiring Pakistani actors.

Unsurprisingly, he found little vocal support within his own community. All too often, only the Anupam Khers of Bollywood are heard speaking out aloud – and that speaks volumes for the culture that seems to dominate the film industry in India.

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.