Tag Archives: bollywood

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.

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

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

Dear Zindagi stars Shah Rukh Khan and Alia Bhatt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge to Ae Dil Hai Mushkil: Bollywood loves naming films after hit songs

Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge still runs successfully at Maratha Mandir today. What runs along with it in the film industry, are all the DDLJ clichés that the film gave birth to, in 1995. The train sequence, lovers running and uniting in the fields and the girl’s furious father letting go of his daughter in the climax – all these scenes became historic and, in turn, the formula for all commercial entertainers.

Ae Dil Hai Mushkil borrows its title from the Johnny Walker's iconic song from the 1956 film CID.

An unnoticed trend or formula that Aditya Chopra’s film injected into the veins of the industry was that of dedicating the title of the film to the name of a famous song. Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge was the name of a song from Yash Raj Films’ 1974 movie Chor Machaye Shor starring Mumtaz and Shashi Kapoor.

Chopra, who was just four years old at the time of the release of the film, is likely to have imbibed the dialogues, scenes and songs of his legendary father Yash Chopra’s films. Thus, while selecting a title of his directorial debut, he chose one of the famous songs that he grew up listening to. The title fit into the context of the film aptly as well.

What followed was a trend of naming films after famous songs as a formula, on the director’s part, to replicate DDLJ’s momentous success. One of the first attempts at executing the formula was in the 1998 Sohail Khan directorial Pyar Kiya Toh Darna Kya starring Salman Khan and Kajol.

The film could have been named anything else but Khan chose to bank on the popularity of the legendary song from K Asif’s 1960 historical drama Mughal-e-Aazam. The film emerged successful and the trend of naming films after famous songs continued.

While intertextuality was not a new phenomenon in Hindi cinema, these allusions to popular songs gained traction as a mere market trend. There were several instances when the title of the film had little to do with the story but was used nonetheless as the song it was named after had immense recall value among its target group.

For example, Samir Karnik’s 2011 comedy Yamla Pagla Deewana was named so to attract the fans of Dharmendra to cinema halls. The film was nothing more than an ode to the revered actor and the fact that he was sharing the screen space with his sons Sunny and Bobby Deol for the first time. The right packaging, in which the title played a crucial role, ensured the film was a huge success at the box office, though it was panned by the film critics.

Similarly, after Ranbir Kapoor had a flawed launch vehicle in Saawariya, Yash Raj Films decided to capitalise on their own formula when they re-launched Kapoor through the film Bachna Ae Haseeno, named after his father Rishi Kapoor’s iconic song from the 1977 action film Hum Kisi Se Kum Naheen. The film worked and launched the fourth generation star in the process. Incidentally, another film of Ranbir, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani was named after the title song of his uncle Randhir Kapoor’s 1972 film Jawani Diwani. The titles of the two films were in tune with Ranbir’s characters but at the same time, they indicated the fact that Ranbir is carrying forward his family legacy.

There were a few films which took their titles from popular songs but presented it in an entirely new light. The most recent example is Karan Johar’s Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. The title is inspired from Johnny Walker’s historic song from the 1956 film CID. Though the context of that song was the trials that one faces while making his ends meet in Mumbai, Johar’s version turned into an anthem for unrequited lovers.

Another good example is Farah Khan’s Om Shanti Om, which was a complete detour from Rishi Kapoor’s song from the 1980 thriller Karz. Though both the films were based on the theme of reincarnation, the title had little to do with the coincidence. It alluded to the characters of the film, Shantipriya and the two incarnations of Om.

Another interesting example is Rakesh Roshan’s Koi Mil Gaya. The title referred to a dance number in Johar’s Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. Since the song was a children’s favourite, Roshan decided to name the film after the song to please his target group. However, the rationale behind the title was not superficial as unlike the song it was named after, the ‘koi’ in the song did not refer to first love but to an extra-terrestrial creature.

Roshan’s 2003 fantasy film came just six years after Johar’s film so the song had good recall value by then. Similarly, films like Guzaarish and Jai Ho also followed the same path as they banked on the popularity of recent hit songs from Ghajini and Slumdog Millionaire. Though Sanjay Leela Bhansali added depth to the title of Guzaarish by addressing the issue of euthanasia, Sohail Khan changed the name of his film from Mental to Jai Ho after AR Rahman won an Academy Award for composing the renowned song sung by Sukhwinder Singh.

As the trend continues with upcoming films like Meri Pyari Bindu and Raabta, we are yet to see whether these films hold any titular relevance or are merely spin offs of popular songs with good recall value.

IPL 2016 Opening ceremony: Bollywood stars set the stage alight ahead of new season

Mumbai: A glitzy mix of Bollywood razzmatazz and high-octane performances, including that of West Indian cricketer Dwayne Bravo’s smash-hit rap ‘Champion dance’, marked a glittering opening ceremony which set the ball rolling for the ninth edition of the IPL on Friday night.

The two hour and 15 minute long event was less spectacular as compared to the previous editions but the cine stars still managed to put up an entertaining show, enthralling the gathering at the Sardar Vallabhbhai Stadium at the National Sports Club of India in Mumbai.

Ranveer Singh performs during the opening ceremony of IPL. PTI

Bollywood actors Ranveer Singh, Katrina Kaif, Jacqueline Fernandez and Punjabi rapper Yo Yo Honey Singh kept the audience glued to their seats during the opening gala attended by the BCCI top brass, franchise team owners, players and support staff of all the eight participating teams.

The crowd at the indoor stadium enjoyed every bit of Bravo’s much-anticipated ‘champions dance’. In white blazer and black trousers, Bravo, a part of the West Indies World Twenty20 winning team, swayed to his ‘Champion dance’ as the fellow cricketers and crowd cheered him.

Bravo also danced to another number ‘Chalo Chalo’ and was joined on the stage by Bollywood playback singer Ankit Tewari who sang an Indian version of ‘Champion’ — ‘Hindustan Mein Bade Bade Champion.

Like earlier opening ceremonies, the cricket segment was short and limited to only the oath taking ceremony by the skippers of the eight teams. Indian team Director Ravi Shastri ushered the eight captains to sign the MCC Spirit of Cricket pledge for fair play.

Hollywood and Bollywood choreographers shake a leg for ‘Rhythm’

(L-R) Rinil Routh, Glenn Douglas Packard, Ganesh Acharya and Adeel Chaudhry in RhythmRouth, Glenn Douglas Packard, Ganesh Acharya and Adeel Chaudhry in Rhythm
The lead actors of ‘Rhythm’, Adeel Chaudhry and Rinil Routh, are lucky debutants who matched their steps with not one, but two renowned choreographers in the same song. Writer-director Vivek Kumar roped in Glenn Douglas Packard, an internationally acclaimed choreographer, and B-Town’s very own Ganesh Acharya to groove to ‘Fatey Chuck’, which was shot in one of the swankiest and biggest clubs in Krakow, Poland, with 200 dancers.

Having worked with Ganesh in films like ‘Kranti’ and ‘Zor’, Vivek convinced him to make a special appearance in the song. He says, “Glenn, who has choreographed the other tracks in the film, happened to visit our shoot that day. That’s when I thought of getting them to shake a leg together for the peppy number. Both of them happily obliged. While Glenn sported an Indian ensemble, Ganesh wore a Western outfit.

 They performed each other’s trademark steps and the result was a fantastic fusion of Hollywood and Bollywood.”

‘Rhythm’, produced by Vicky Films Pvt Ltd and presented by RN Kumar, releases on February 19.

How Anushka Sharma experienced a classic Bollywood moment while filming Ae Dil Hai Mushkil

Mumbai: An actress clad in a sari romancing on the top of snowcapped mountains is an image reminds one of a Yash Chopra directorial. But actress Anushka Sharma seems to be revisiting the frosty lanes of Austria for her upcoming film Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, produced by Karan Johar.

File photo of Anushka Sharma. IBNLive

The actress gave a hint of it by sharing an image of a portion of red cloth, which appears to be a chiffon sari, and the background is pristine white with snow.

Alongside the image, Anushka wrote: “Guess what’s happening here? Never thought I’d get to do this! #AeDilHaiMushkil.”.

Celebrated costume designer Manish Malhotra is working in the film and had earlier promised to present Anushka in a brand new look with the film, which also features Ranbir Kapoor.

“Off to an early morning shoot in the stunning mountains of Austria with @ManishMalhotra sprucing up the glamour quotient,” Anushka shared.