Tag Archives: film

Watch: Sanjay Dutt reveals why he choose Omung Kumar’s Bhoomi as his comeback film

Ahead of the release of Bhoomi, Firstpost caught up with Sanjay Dutt, who was more than happy to answer our curious questions.

One of the most obvious ones, at the heels of his release, is — Why Bhoomi  and not Munnabhai 3, as the latter already has a trailer out?

Dutt reveals, “Munnabhai 3 is still on the scripting stage. Right now it’s on hold. Bhoomi is a film I really wanted to do as a comeback, especially because I believe in women empowerment. I wanted to talk about what a rape victim [sic] from a small family goes through living in a city like Agra”

Speaking about Omung Kumar, the director of the film, Dutt says, “Omung is a great director, he’s tried something different with Bhoomi. It’s totally a commercial film.”

Was politics ever an option for a comeback, we ask Dutt? He is quick to respond, “Not really. Two family members is enough. Cinema is a medium where I can reach out to many people, and send out a good message.”

Watch Firstpost’s interview with Sanjay Dutt.

Daddy: Arjun Rampal gives his heart, body and nose to the film, but is let down by Ashim Ahluwalia

The first time you see him, it’s through a glass wall. Light tinted, slightly oversized sunglasses  and a small, neat moustache embellish the face, carefully half hidden in profile. He hasn’t spoken and you don’t take much notice of him except as a big gangster, Maqsood (read Dawood). He is, apparently, a man of some importance. We know this because he has a sidekick who addresses him as “Bhai”.

The second time you see him, he is seated in a car. He is dressed in a printed silk shirt. His hair is long and thick and the camera is close enough to see his eyes through those light gold shades. And then he speaks. The unmistakable grainy voice belongs to Farhan Akhtar. The hitherto dull and dim lit screen, suddenly lights up. The rest of the long hour and a half, you wait for the next glimpse of Bhai.

Oh, but isn’t this film about Arun Gawli, the gangster who became known as Daddy?

Unfortunately, yes. It is also a film that attempts to walk the thin line between the real and commercial cinema. But how real can a movie be, without it being a documentary?

In the previous scene with Bhai, the men, sort of huddled outside, are being given an important assignment. One of them dares to enquire about the payment. He is Arun Gawli, a small time goon from Dagdi Chawl in Mumbai’s Byculla area.

If Farhan Akhtar is unrecognizable, with the perfect detailing of the underworld man from the eighties; Arjun Rampal as Arun Gawli fondly called Daddy, is equally nondescript behind the prosthetic big nose and long hair. Utmost care has been taken to recreate the real world of a man whose humble beginnings in the 70s and 80s are traced to a place called Dagdi Chawl.

The old staircases, the crowded, long balconies, the small rooms with faded, cracked paint and weak, wooden doors — are painstakingly lit with dim light to show a world as dark as Gawli is made to be. This is that Mumbai chawl  where he woos a Muslim girl across the balcony and eventually marries her. This is the unsafe place which he builds into a mini fortress, armed with his faithful men and guns. This is where crossfires are exchanged every time the cops come to get him. This is the hideout where he religiously prays to his God — Shiv Shambho.

This is the home where he holds his baby and a gun with one hand and a toy rattle with another.

The latter, particular image should ideally evoke some strong, mixed emotions.  But it doesn’t. In fact, the film, does not stir up any emotion, whatsoever.

Daddy has been positioned as a ‘real’ film with ‘commercial’ value given by Arjun Rampal’s name. But this faithfulness to the realistic feel, ends up overlooking the required drama and entertainment in films, which go beyond repeated shootouts. The silk shirts and the bell bottom pants also need some flesh, blood and soul, just like a simple Dagdi Chawl-made vada pau needs its dry garlic, and red, hot chutney.

Rampal’s Gawli says “ikde ye” quite comfortably but does not engage you with a real conversation after that.

The matter of fact tone is as dull as the Wikipedia page which informs you of as much as you see in the movie. The story had sufficient meat in the way three men — Baba (Anand), Ramu (Rajesh) and Arun (Arjun) — formed the BRA gang and their eventual journey. However, you never really get to know who they were as people or friends.

None of the fantastic detailing to recapture the ’80s matters. The flat dialogues make the pace  and the tone feel so stretched that the songs provide a welcome break. Particularly, an item number that reminds one of Parveen Babi in a gold, shimmery costume and of the popular disco beat.

Arjun Rampal seems to have given his heart, mind, body, soul and ‘nose’ to this film as actor, co-writer and producer. Hence, it’s disappointing to see it all ruined by director Ashim Ahulwalia who is obsessed with art direction and the costume department. The setting and sepia tones take precedence over the screenplay and the character.

This is not so surprising, considering his debut film — the Nawazuddin-starrer Miss Lovely — which drew some attention during film festivals but failed when released in theatres.

Rampal in Daddy, is like Aishwarya Rai in Sarbjit. Both are fighting their immense good looks and their image, with heartfelt sincerity. Rampal gives a satisfactory, restrained performance in Daddy but he needed better scenes, especially with the ineffective and badly miscast Nishikant Kamat who plays Inspector Vijaykar.

Daddy could have been like Ram Gopal Varma’s Satya but ends up as fake as Farhan’s character name, Maqsood, in its guise to be real. Was Dawood singing in their ears — “main hoon kaun…main hoon, main hoon… DON”?

Bobby Deol: ‘Yes the film industry has let me down, but I can’t keep sulking’

After a four year hiatus, Bobby Deol — the flamboyant star of the 90s — is back on the big screen.

He hopes to win back his audience and his fading stardom, and revive his career with the upcoming comedy, Poster Boys, which marks the directorial debut of actor Shreyas Talpade, and also features his older brother, Sunny Deol. “People ask me why was I so choosy and why I didn’t do any film in the last four years. I tell them that I wasn’t choosy but people had become choosy about me,” says the actor candidly.

After a successful debut with Rajkumar Santoshi’s Barsaat (opposite Twinkle Khanna) in 1995, he went on to appear in many hits and is best remembered for his thriller and action films like Gupt, Soldier, Hamraaz, Ajnabee among others. Bobby’s career slowed down with duds like Chor Machaaye Shor, Kismat, Bardaasht, Tango Charlie. Years later, his fading career got a new lease of life with Yamla Pagla Deewana (2011) but his success was short-lived as younger actors displaced the once blue-eyed boy of the 90s. To make it worse, his films like Thank You and Players tanked at the box office.

He’s back in his flashy avatar — donning trendy shades and leather boots — and Bobby has now decided to speak his heart out.

“This is me, there is no defense mechanism,” he reiterates, adding, “I have no idea what went wrong with my career. I haven’t worked for four years, and these four years of my life has gone so fast but it has made me a better and stronger person. I have been dying to work, I love being on the sets. Now I feel refreshed, more positive in life and it reflects in my attitude or else I wouldn’t have been able to talk so openly. This way I will attract people’s attention and get more work.”

“A good subject, a good script is hard to find, God doesn’t give you chances again and again,” he says, as he looks around at his fans waiting for selfie. “I hate these selfie pics, it is the worst photograph possible…you look so distorted and ugly. We look like mannequins,” laughs Bobby, and gets down to chatting with Firstpost.

The actor says that the perception that he’ll only do starry roles and central characters has caused a dent in his career. “People started carrying false news about me and maligning me. The industry and social media kept saying that I don’t want to work. That I was content and happy. That I was busy as my wife’s going through a legal battle, but nobody knows the reality. It was tough for me to come out of all that. I want to change their outlook. I am now meeting people and telling them that I want to do good characters. Nice and meaty roles in all genres,” he says.

Few months back, Bobby had opened up about how the industry let him down and as a result he missed chances of doing hits like Jab We Met and Highway with director Imtiaz Ali, but without holding any grudges, he says, “Yes, the industry let me down but I can’t keep sulking. If work comes my way and people don’t ditch me, I would love to work with dedicated people and with some of the contemporary directors. Abbas Mustan are the only directors I have worked the maximum with. But somehow we have not been able to work together because when you are not in circulation then it is very difficult to get the project on floor.”

He further adds, “I haven’t really seen too many films off-late but I will start watching now. But I like the way Akshay is picking up scripts these days.”

While in the past Bobby was often refused roles of a small town guy, he grabbed the opportunity with Poster Boys in which he plays a naive, sincere and honest school teacher. “That’s going to be my approach now — to break stereotypes and surprise people. Earlier, whenever I would ask for the role of a poor guy, I was refused because I didn’t look like one. I always played a rich guy in many of these thrillers and rom-coms. The only time I played a small town boy was probably in Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s Kareeb. I never looked at myself as good looking or bad looking. There are so many films made where actors don’t look the part but perform the part. That is what I am hoping for,” says Bobby.

But one thing that will never change with Bobby is ‘disappearing’ from the city on the eve of his film’s release. Laughing out loud, he says, “I really get stressed with these box office collections. This time I am leaving for Manali. I would always run away on the release day. I am too sensitive a person, I can’t handle all this. I won’t lie; I get nervous and scared.

Bareilly Ki Barfi: Bitti’s dilemma plays on a familiar film trope — the deceptive love triangle

In a particularly hilarious moment in Bareilly Ki Barfi (among all its hilarious moments), Bitti’s mother asks her friend Chirag Dubey to be “Hanuman” and set her daughter up with Pritam Vidrohi, since their jodi is that of Ram-Sita. Chirag (played by Ayushmann Khurrana) is the actual Ram here and the friend he’s bullied into pretending to be the writer Pritam Vidrohi (Rajkummar Rao in his most comical role yet), was supposed to be his Hanuman.

Still from Bareilly Ki Barfi

This confusion — Girl thinks she is in love with charmer Boy B but it’s actually behind-the-scenes Boy A — is the underlying theme of this film. It’s a variation of the Cyrano de Bergerac/Hitch theme that has been played out and perfected in lots of Indian movies. From Saajan where Madhuri Dixit thinks she is in love with the dashing Salman Khan for his poetry, but the poems have been written by the poor orphan with a disability, Sanjay Dutt. Or the ‘90s Tamil movie Duet where an effervescent Meenakshi Seshadri falls in love with who she thinks is Ramesh Arvind, his poems and his beautiful saxophone playing when it’s actually the fat and awkward Prabhu who is the talented musician keeping her up at night. In Minnale, Madhavan pretends to be Reema Sen’s fiancée (who’s actually played by Abbas) and successfully lands the girl. Sapney (Minsaara Kanavu) had a thread of this theme where Aravind Swamy hires Prabhu Dheva to make Kajol fall in love with him. Or even Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi which takes it to #peakdrama where a dull SRK is married to Anushka Sharma and adopts a secret, glamorous identity to woo his own wife.

In Bareilly Ki Barfi, Bitti (Kriti Sanon) searches for the writer Pritam Vidrohi thinking he’s the one who’s written a novel that describes her to a T. A restless young woman, she thinks the man who’s authored the book and who really gets her, will fix her life. Except it’s her friend Chirag (Ayushmann Khurana) who’s actually written the book, is in love with her and gets her.

Rebellious Bitti, who asks random men on motorbikes to drop her off at her destination, who shares her cigarettes with her daddy, who break dances at whim, who runs away from home and comes back, who tells a prospective groom that no, she isn’t a virgin, is at odds with the small town she lives in. And when she comes across a book (also titled Bareilly Ki Barfi) where the protagonist resembles her so much, she’s determined to track him down and see where it goes. (Sidenote: I’ve been collecting unusual professions writers have given heroines in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam films, Bitti’s is by far my favourite; prosaic, yet not: She works at the electricity board.)

Chirag doesn’t tell her the truth (for if he did, would we have the movie?) and instead says he knows the writer. Bitti, persuades a smitten Chirag to find Pritam who agrees, because he wants to eliminate the competition. Chirag and his friend go to Lucknow to meet and convince the mild-mannered, stammering, shy and hesitant sari salesman Pritam to turn into a paan chewing tharki. Pritam goes overboard with his transformation and brings fear into Chirag’s heart, especially when Bitti and family fall for him. This forcing Boy A to act as Boy B is a theme seen in Saajan as well.

Ayushmann Khurrana, Rajkummar Rao and Kriti Sanon in Bareilly Ki Barfi

In Saajan, after Sanjay Dutt’s character Aman’s poems get published (under a pseudonym) and he becomes famous, Madhuri Dixit’s Pooja corresponds with him. But Aman’s brother Akash (Salman Khan), falls in love with Pooja. And because Aman was a disabled orphan who was adopted by Akash’s parents, and because he thinks a woman would never love someone with a disability, he helps Akash pose as Sagar to win Pooja. It reminds me of a line Chirag spouts while drunk: “Pyar kiya hai, qurbani toh deni padegi“. The same qurbani is shown by Aman. And in the end, Pooja has to choose between the person she fell in love with and the poet she was entranced by.

Duet’s Guna and Siva — two brothers who run an orchestra — too fall in love with the same girl, Anjali, their choreographer-neighbour who cannot resist the saxophone music playing out of their house. Guna, played by Prabhu, is fat and awkward and doesn’t have the courage to confess his love for her, while the younger Siva makes a beeline for her and impresses her. The twist? Anjali thinks it’s Siva who is a skilled saxophone player, when it’s actually Guna. But here, there’s no qurbani, there’s no meetha barfi. Siva simply uses his brother’s insecurity to his advantage until Anjali comes to know of the truth — many arguments, some convincing and a fight late, Siva dies. Guna and Anjali unite.

What is so irresistible about the shell games of these movies? It’s partly because the heroine’s conflict becomes our own, and we’re suddenly taking sides. In Saajan, Sapney and Duet (and Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, if dancer SRK was played by someone else), the heroines picked the underdogs, the nice boys, the ones who usually get left behind. In Minnale too Madhavan’s character is the underdog, but he doesn’t let us sympathise with him one minute, because the very next, he’s impersonating his loved one’s fiancée, especially one who happened to be his ‘enemy’ in college. Here, the heroine doesn’t have any real choosing to do; her dilemma is why should she pick him even after he lied to her. Each of the men on opposite sides usually represent a particular life, a way of fulfilling bigger dreams, especially when marriage = life as in the case of Bitti of Bareilly, who has been turned down  by many, many men because of her carefree but somewhat claustrophobic existence.

The pleasures of the Hitch version of the love triangle are manifold — there’s the tension of the unfolding drama even if you do know who will end up with whom, there’s that rush you get when you’re rooting for the loser and then there’s the unabashed mounting competition.

As I said before, the two men on opposite sides represent particularly different lives and Bitti picks Chirag, the one who didn’t quite sweep her off her feet, but one who offers her companionship, one she can share her small-town idiosyncrasies with. But what would’ve happened if she picked the other? On the face of it, the other is not an attractive choice: He’s a gullible, affable timid soul who’s been harangued by his mother all his life, resulting in the hopeless case that he is. Here’s a guy who has been bullied by Chirag tirelessly, whether it’s posing as him for the author photograph or getting doused in water for making a mistake. It’s hard to imagine Bitti with Pritam but boy Pritam does look like he needed a true vidrohi (rebel) like Bitti in his life to save him. Luckily for Bitti, she doesn’t share my soft spot for the real underdog in this story. She gets the last laugh and the last barfi.

Jab Harry Met Sejal: Imtiaz Ali’s film should rightly have been called Jab Sejal Met Dude

 

You get a similar feeling about Jab Harry Met Sejal, except you feel it about Shah Rukh Khan.

Now, of course, this is a pretty weird feeling to have about a ‘SRK movie’. Imtiaz Ali has done everything he can to stop you from feeling this. SRK’s Harry — despite having no discernible problem in life but being attracted so much to women that it scares (only) him — is supposed to be deep. You’re told again and again, mostly by Harry himself, that he’s a bad guy. He’s weary. He’s got trauma. One flashback early in the movie leads you to believe there’s some mysterious backstory from India that’s left Harry the tour guide scarred in Europe. Turns out nope, there isn’t.

Anushka Sharma and Shah Ruh Khan in Jab Harry Met Sejal. Image via Facebook

Because despite all the drama that the film tries to create around Harry, he’s fine. Nothing wrong with him. No trauma. No backstory. He’s just a dude, single in his forties. And that’s okay.

Jab Harry Met Sejal almost belonged to Sejal (Anushka Sharma). The movie is about her, after all – about the ring she lost and the things that happen to her as she goes from city to European city looking for it. Sejal moves the plot along: in fact, you often get the feeling that she was supposed to be the plot. Sharma’s deliberate Gujju accent may have been a bit much sometimes, but she makes up for it with her spectacular comic timing. Sejal is a lawyer, plays a role in her family’s business, is clear and decisive about what she wants, kicks the shit out of numerous bad guys and breaks off her own marriage. Harry is mostly just…there, a consequence more than a character, along for the ride Ali is taking us all on.

This movie should have been called Jab Sejal Met Dude.

In the run-up to this movie there was some talk of Imtiaz Ali’s repetitiveness: that most of his films feature people who go off on a journey in which they find themselves, and find love. This is true of Jab Sejal Met Dude too. It is practically the only thing that happens: the pair travel to different cities in search of a lost ring, get into really mild adventures in each city, find the ring and get together. You get the feeling that travel didn’t really need to be so central to the plot but was blackmailed into it, since everything travel was supposed to invoke could have been done without having gone on a journey at all. They could have found similar adventures just chasing each other around Mumbai – getting into fights in clubs, meeting spurned ex lovers, taking train rides, fighting thugs, throwing wedding parties for friends and singing impromptu songs.

Somebody somewhere convinced Imtiaz Ali early on that a journey is an integral part of films, so he feels the need to make all his movies fit that formula. The idea of a journey in Ali’s movies always leads to one person finding themselves. And barring few exceptions, that one person is usually a boy — from Jab We Met to Tamasha to Jab Sejal Met Dude.

Somebody somewhere convinced Imtiaz Ali early on that a journey is an integral part of films, so he feels the need to make all his movies fit that formula. The idea of a journey in Ali’s movies always leads to one person finding themselves. And barring few exceptions, that one person is usually a boy — from Jab We Met to Tamasha to Jab Sejal Met Dude.

Even more repetitive than the theme of travel are Ali’s precious male leads and all the bhaav they get from him. You get the feeling that men in Imtiaz Ali’s movies are a lot like Gayatri Jayaraman’s ‘urban millennial poor’ — whether it’s Shahid Kapoor’s man-child who couldn’t deal with his mother’s romantic relationship in Jab We Met, or Ranbir Kapoor whose biggest problem in Tamasha was that he couldn’t figure out if he’s a fun or boring guy to hang out with, or Kapoor in Rockstar where he can’t write songs until he feels sad about something, and now SRK’s spectacularly unremarkable Harry convincing himself he’s the blandest devil incarnate. Ali’s men break into sobs over their bad dating records and boring at-home personalities, probably to add some ‘darkness’ that’s supposed to add glamour to their souls in the filmmaker’s formula. I feel like telling the men in his movies to suck it up and go do their homework when they complain about how sad they are.

It isn’t like Ali doesn’t know how to give characters real problems. Part of the reason why Alia Bhatt’s Veera in Highway gets so chilled out about being kidnapped is that she’s dealing with the trauma of being sexually abused by her uncle as a child. Deepika Padukone’s Veronica in Cocktail is so traumatised by her breakup with Saif Ali Khan that she turns to excessive drinking and gets into a terrible road accident. Will someone please ask Ali, why do women need to go through so much trauma while the men get to just worry about themselves?

I found it strange that before the release of Jab Sejal Met Dude, Anushka Sharma claimed in an interview that her character was very superficial and had no depth. The trailer made it seem like she had plenty going on for her. But now, having watched the movie, I think I understand what she meant. It isn’t that Sejal has no depth, but that her role doesn’t allow her to show it no matter how much the plot depends on her. How can Sejal unfold all of her own complexity and depth when so much space is being taken up by SRK unnecessarily crying over his tour-guide status and imagined evilness towards women?

Ali won’t give us the satisfaction of a truly evil SRK, and he won’t give us the satisfaction of a truly realised Anushka. He just wants to hit the road again with a Dude.

 

Ek Haseena Thi Ek Deewana Tha movie review: Suneel Darshan’s son returns in a film so terrible, it’s riveting

A long long time ago in the kingdom of cliched cinema, a rich man’s daughter falls in love with a poor stable boy. He is killed by her father for that crime. Decades later, his bhatakti aatma returns to claim the heart of her granddaughter. We are told the young lady is her naani’s carbon copy and, as fate would have it, already engaged to her childhood friend at the point she meets the aatma.

What happens thereafter is not what you might expect, but I am not wasting time getting into the nitty-gritty of the story because, frankly, that would amount to beating about the bush. Overriding fact: this film is awful.

It is a romantic thriller, but no twist in the end, nor even Amarjeet Singh’s slick camerawork in the picturesque English and Welsh countryside, can compensate for the all-round godawfulness, the inertness and the dated storytelling that constitute Ek Haseena Thi Ek Deewana Tha.

Poster of Ek Haseena Thi Ek Deewana Tha

Producer-director Suneel Darshan’s latest venture marks the return to Bollywood of music director Nadeem Saifi, and Darshan’s second attempt at giving his son Shiv an acting career.

Nadeem’s compositions for the film are passably melodic while they last, but too generic to be memorable. The Nadeem who has churned out songs for Ek Haseena Thi EDT is not worthy of the reputation enjoyed by the man who made the blockbuster music for Aashiqui and Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahin as one half of Nadeem-Shravan in the 1990s. Like this film, his work too seems stuck in time.

It speaks volumes about the pathetic quality of Ek Haseena Thi EDT that the music is still one of the nicer things about it.

The highlight of the film’s horrendousness is Shiv, a milky-skinned gentleman whose expressionlessness resembles the blankness of faces we see these days Botoxed into immobility.

I understand paternal devotion. I do. But to expose your child’s absolute lack of talent before the world is not love. There is no kind way of saying this, so I may as well not mince words: Shiv cannot act.

The only saving grace for him in this film is that Natasha Fernandez is almost — though not entirely — as bad. Instead of advertising itself as a film, Ek Haseena Thi EDT should have considered promoting itself as a contest for pathetic acting between Darshan Junior and Fernandez. Their co-star Upen Patel is no Robert De Niro, but he comes off looking comparatively impressive in the presence of these two and made me wonder whether he might show some spark in a better film.

Pretty Ms Fernandez struggles to work her facial muscles, poses around (clearly at the behest of her director) and delivers dialogues in an amusingly strained fashion. Her Hindi diction is awkward, she even says tukraana for tthukraana. And director saab did not deem it fit to correct her before demanding a retake?

Perhaps Darshan was too busy focusing on getting the wardrobe and makeup departments to package his heroine to perfection so that she could be draped on his son.

The problem lies not just in a father prioritising his offspring over all else, but also in this team’s questionable attitude to women. For instance, the good guy in Ek Haseena Thi EDT is positioned as a good guy although he thinks nothing of kissing a sleeping woman who does not know him; and when one man asks another for a birthday gift, the other guy points to a woman, as though he had purchased her from a shop. Her outburst in the end, about the right to make her own choices, comes as an obvious afterthought, inserted there by writers who want to camouflage their narrow-mindedness in a changing world.

To be fair to Darshan, although he has enjoyed tremendous commercial success, he has at no point been viewed as a great artist or a liberal by serious Bollywood gazers. That said, nothing in his filmography is a match for the vacuity of this film.

Ek Haseena Thi EDT is so terrible, it is riveting. (Spoiler alert, for those who still care) It is not a fantasy flick, nor does it belong to the mythical/mythological genre, yet at one point, a man reveals — with a perfectly straight face — that after an accident, he prayed to God for a few extra days on Earth and God granted him 14. What calculation did God make to arrive at that precise figure. Was God a voice in this fellow’s head? Did s/he appear in flesh and blood? Did they chat on Skype?

With nothing happening on screen, I busied myself with these profound questions. I also briefly considered headlining this review thus: Ek haseen critic thhi, ek khokhla film thha.

Tubelight: How much Salman Khan will earn from the film (whether or not it’s a hit)

It wouldn’t be wrong to say that after the Dangal and Baahubali mania, the next film to do justice to the term “most-awaited” would be Salman Khan and Kabir Khan’s Tubelight.

There’s been much buzz about the film. In Tubelight, set against the backdrop of the Indo-China war of 1962, Salman plays a do-gooder who is very close to his brother. He’s a little slow, and is therefore called a Tubelight by everyone. The film also stars Chinese actress Zhu Zhu and Sohail Khan. The film is a remake of Little Boy.

Given the massive success of two big Bollywood films globally, Dangal and Baahubali, it is being touted that bigger opportunities have opened for future Bollywood films globally.

DNA reports that Salman is planning a grand release in China and premier for Tubelight, and since the film already has a Chinese connect (it has multiple Chinese actors), the box office collections are expected to sky rocket. With Zhu Zhu being a big name, trade experts are predicting 700-800 crore collections from China itself.

And so, the big question on everyone’s mind is, how much of this profit will Salman Khan be pocketing for himself?

A source from the crew of Tubelight has revealed that the film has been made at a budget of Rs 170 crore, and Salman Khan has taken a signing amount of Rs 60 crore. This is due to the fact that all his films bag satellite rights worth Rs 60 crore, which is regardless of its box office fate.

It was further revealed that Salman will also be bagging half the profits of the film. This could also be because he is the producer on the film, as Tubelight is jointly produced by Kabir Khan Films and Salman Khan Productions. (Please note that these figures are not verified by the makers of the film).

Manisha Koirala on Dear Maya: ‘I loved the script instantly; it’s a feel good film

After a five year break from arc lights, Manisha Koirala, who makes a comeback with coming of age drama, Dear Maya, was nervous about facing the camera.

The 46-year-old actress will be seen in the role of a middle-aged woman looking for love, and she says, “I wasn’t sure if I was doing it right. I was on the edge when I was facing the camera.”

Manisha has worked with some of the biggest directors back in the 90s like Mani Ratnam (Bombay, Dil Se), Sanjay Leela Bhansali (Khamoshi), Vidhu Vinod Chopra (1942, A Love Story), and now she chose to make her comeback with young director, Sunaina Bhatnagar, who has assisted Imtiaz Ali for six years.

dear maya social

“I first read the script, I loved it instantly and so I decided to meet the director. When I met her, I knew that she will make a good film. Sunaina had made a good character sketch. She was very clear about the character’s psychology. It is a feel good film, and that is another reason it attracted me,” says Manisha, who’s working with a woman director for the first time in her career.

Says Sunaina, “Manisha told me that she was used to melodramatic, loud acting, so she wanted me to tell her if she was doing that. Somebody as talented as her was so honest about it and hence I knew it will be an easy process of shooting with her. Her sensibility is subtle and realistic. Even in those days she tried to keep it subtle.”

Interestingly, while her character in the film is shown being a victim to the pranks of two young girls, Manisha says, that she was a big time prankster in her hey days. “I have played many pranks on people,” she laughs.

After Dear Maya, Manisha is looking forward to Dibakar Banerjee’s Bombay Talkies 2 which has been made in small segments like the previous part. Then there is Sanjay Dutt biopic, “in which I play Nargisji. I have a miniscule yet an important role. It is like special appearance,” she says. “I have altogether worked on four films this year and played some interesting characters. Next year I have been offered two to three good scripts so let’s see how that progresses,” says Manisha.

Coming to the Dutt biopic, one wonders if she shared some notes with Sanjay Dutt particularly since both of them have been paired together in over half a dozen movies in the 90s. “Sanjay and I are like buddies but we haven’t spoken as yet about me playing Nargis ji,” she smiles.

Even as Manisha sounds awestruck by the work of her contemporaries like Sridevi and Madhuri Dixit, she can’t stop praising some of the current lot of actresses. “Look at Alia, Kangana and Deepika’s work, they are doing more meaningful roles now. I saw Udta Punjab, and I don’t know much about the film but I remember Alia’s work. She leaves an impact. I saw Queen years back, Kangana left an impact,” says Manisha.

However, she is aware that the dream roles may not come to her easily at this juncture. Recently Raveena Tandon had a funny take on the sequel to Andaz Apna Apna; she said that if the slapstick comedy was to be made today, she and Karisma may feature in the sequel only as a photograph: “You know how the sequel will begin? Both Lolo and my pictures would be hanging on the wall with Aamir and Salman crying that they have lost their wives. Cut to the next scene, they will be seen running after 21 year old girls”.

To this Manisha says, “That is so true, Raveena said it so correctly. But this is a kind of dilemma that all actresses go through. It is in Hollywood as well.”

“Manisha, who has worked with all three superstars, continues, “What is not natural is that these three Khans have still managed to survive. After being in the industry for 10 or 20 years, it is natural that you go down and some other energies, talent come in and they follow the same graph. But Salman, Shah Rukh and Aamir are still on top. There is something god gifted in them. Nobody can replace them. It is a unique feature. We should admire their staying power, rather than feel bad.

Half Girlfriend: Chetan Bhagat’s book or Mohit Suri’s film, which one is worse?

Some questions are truly critical. For instance: “Why did Kattappa kill Bahubali?” Now that we have the answer to that particular question, there is another burning question for the pop-culture-obsessed mind, and that question is this: Does Mohit Suri’s Half Girlfriend retain that line, immortalised by Chetan Bhagat. Deti hai toh de, varna kat le. The answer? In a bit.

First, we must address the elephant in the room. Why are people casting Arjun Kapoor in roles that demand complexity, nuance, skill and an overall understanding of context and milieu? Say what you will about Chetan Bhagat and his writing, but his books are fodder for the kind of films that can strike gold at the box office, if they’re made and positioned smartly. 3 Idiots and 2 States have proven that.

Shraddha Kapoor as Riya Somani in 'Half Girlfriend'

In fact, Half Girlfriend — despite being a mostly-unimpressive and sometimes-revolting book — has the kind of story that would have been a smash hit as a film in the ’90s. And treated with the right amount of texture and sensitivity, it had the potential to make for an intriguing watch even for today’s audience. One of the key aspects of the story – the protagonist Madhav Jha’s struggle and conflict with the English language, can come through strongly only with a medium like cinema; because in the book, everything is in English, including the bits where the character is actually speaking in Hindi.

However, the film falls flat on its face, largely because rather than seeming like an under-confident but rugged, attractive, athletic and intelligent fellow — what Madhav is supposed to be like — Arjun’s Madhav comes across looking like an overgrown oaf (pardon my language, but it’s true). His supposed-Bihari accent is not only terrible, but also inconsistent. In one scene, he says ‘loojer’ and ‘loser’ within a few seconds of each other, without irony. (What’s surprising is that Arjun played country bumpkin so much better in his first film, Ishaqzaade.)

About the only not-bad thing one can say about Arjun Kapoor in Half Girlfriend is that the film version of Madhav Jha comes across as less of a sexist creep than the book version. But that’s because Arjun Kapoor completely lacks the chops to pull off the character the way it was written. The character in the book is your average horny Indian male bred on a staple diet of entitlement, who shows a semblance of evolution through the story. (Sample this: At one point, when the girl covers her exposed legs, Madhav in the book reacts with, ‘Damn, I just lost my view’.) The character in the film, though, is just a brawny bumbling buffoon, his facial hair standing in for actual expressions.

Mohit Suri also takes the best thing about the book — the character of Riya Somani — and makes her a brooding bore, with spurts of being a slightly improved version of the high-on-life-or-cocaine character Shraddha Kapoor played in his own Ek Villain. While she was insufferable there, she’s quite, well, sufferable here.

Riya was an enigma in the book, the reasons for her demeanour, stoic personality and her actions through the story being a mystery all through, revealed only in the third act. (Yes, the book is actually split into ‘acts’. Bhagat knew right then that he was writing a script, not a book.) Like the book, in the film the narration itself is forcibly non-linear. However, the story unfolds quite linearly, cutting to the present once in a while. The result is a dumbed-down film with virtually no peaks or hooks, preferring to spend its time wallowing in shallow emotions, accompanied by a thoroughly unmemorable soundtrack.

In fact, the ‘village area’ scene from the trailer, which has already become a mildly funny meme, actually has ‘rural area’ in the book. That’s how little the makers of the film think of or trust the audience, and that’s the level they decided they must stick to all through. In another scene, we see Shraddha Kapoor put a bottle of water to her mouth to take a sip, but clearly not sipping or even wetting her lips. That’s how little the director cares.

What we’re left with, then, is that burning question from the start of this column. (Spoiler ahead!) In the book, Madhav attempts to get intimate with Riya, is rebuffed and becomes violent, before he utters that most infamous and reviled line, which created a stir when the book came out. Deti hai toh de, varna kat le. (‘F**k me or f**k off’ is how Chetan Bhagat translates that line in the book.)

We’ll never quite know whose call it was, but the scene in the film ends up a cop-out, simply by virtue of one changed syllable. It could have played out exactly in the disgusting manner it appears in the book, after which Madhav could have gotten his comeuppance through the story. Instead, quite like the book and the film, its most (in)glorious moment is also a half-damp squib. Who would have thought that one day Chetan Bhagat will get to hear these golden words: The book was better.

Lipstick Under My Burkha: No one can stop this film from reaching people, says Prakash Jha

Even as Lipstick Under My Burkha has been critically acclaimed in several international festivals, it is not getting a certificate from the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), in India. ‘

The film has been deemed too ‘ and according to CBFC, it is laced with sexual scenes and abusive words. Revolving around four women — a burkha-clad college girl, a young beautician, a mother of three and a 55-year-old widow who rediscovers her sexuality, the film features actors like Ratna Pathak Shah and Konkana Sen Sharma.

As the team awaits the decision of Film Appellate Tribunal (which is due today, on 27 March), producer Prakash Jha and director Alankrita Shrivastava put across their point of view in a chat with Firstpost. Excerpts:

Poster of Lipstick Under My Burkha

Isn’t it ironical that despite hitting roadblock ahead of its release in India, the film has earned accolades in the International film festival circuit?

Alankrita Shrivastava: It is very ironic. It’s huge disrespect to the Indian audience by not certifying the film because then you are saying that world over somehow people are more educated and are more evolved except in India. It is a very colonial mindset to say that there is something wrong with the Indian audience. Why should we deny the rights of Indians to watch a film that has been made in their own country?

The kind of response we have been getting at festivals across the world is really phenomenal. I wasn’t expecting that. It is getting lot of applause and standing ovation in every country we have shown. We have got several jury and audience awards. The question and answer session post screening has been long and non-stop because people want to talk and discuss. There is lot of emotional connect which people are feeling across the world among different audiences.

It is unfair that our own audience is not getting to watch it. Hope the decision is reversed and people finally get to watch the film.

The film talks about women’s sexuality and their desires.  From what we have seen recently, the industry is not ready to accept women who speak up their mind? Why do you think it is happening? How do you react?

Alankrita: The CBFC is clearly functioning from a very patriarchal mindset, they have no idea about the context of how they should watch a film. They have no idea about the gender dynamics, the politics of representation, the politics of female gaze versus male gaze. I feel they are just functioning from a space where the only kind of cinema they seem to be propagating is a very male gaze controlled popular mainstream cinema. There is no level playing field for alternative voices.

CBFC is not uncomfortable with sex per se but they are uncomfortable with the fact that a woman is striving for agency over her own body and she is trying to claim her own desires. There is no nudity, there is not even a cleavage shot in the film. The film talks about the lives of women from their own point of view but we are so used to watching item songs where the camera mindlessly travels up and down a woman’s body with zero connection with the narrative, or where women are portrayed as sati savitri, virtuous women, or vamps.

There is very little space for ordinary women who have had their ups and downs. They want to keep us engaged only with popular representation of women and nothing more. No one has the right to shut down 50 per cent of the population voice. The decision of CBFC is absolutely not in keeping with the spirit of the Constitution of India which promises freedom of expression and gender equality.

Prakash Jha: CBFC clearly has no sense of the audience, they are completely blank. They seem to be telling women: ‘How dare you change the balance of the society? You have been raised, indoctrinated, we have told you how to speak, how to stand, how to behave, how to express, how to serve men all your life.’  The audience all over the world is extremely intelligent, they are expressive because they are what they are.

Can anyone stop me from exercising my rights? No one can stop this film eventually from coming to people. I am not afraid. I don’t get discouraged by such things.

Why didn’t you move the High Court like the Udta Punjab producers?

Jha: They probably didn’t have much time on their hand as the release date was very close and court saw the logic in Udta Punjab team approaching them. In our case we didn’t have the release date announced, so the court would have asked us whether we have exhausted all our options. We are going to the Tribunal and waiting for the verdict which takes time.

Recently the Padmavati set was vandalised and the film’s director was assaulted, you think intolerance on freedom of speech is on a rise?

Jha: It has always been like that. Indian society, mythologically, historically, socially has always been very strong. They have never tolerated, never accepted and allowed anything which doesn’t fit into their mind-frame. Lot of objections have been raised on my films and I have ended up going to the tribunal, court; this is not new for me. I always tell filmmakers that film-making is not just a creative process, it is an art of putting your view to the society in the forefront.

Perhaps, I have given the same mantra to my assistant Alankrita, too, and she is going to face controversies. But we don’t want controversies. We have shown the film in several festivals, it has reached different kinds of audience. Alankrita is just back with seven global awards. Audience from Cairo, Sweden, England, Miami, France, Tokyo and even our own, MAMI, have applauded and appreciated the film.

lipstick-under-my-burkha-380 (1)

When people have the freedom to select their government and their own future, then don’t they have the freedom to watch a film?

While slamming the supporters of Lipstick Under My Burkha,  CBFC chief Pahlaj Nihalani defended himself by saying that they have been liberal in the censor certification of films like Befikre, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil and Rangoon and yet the industry folks were complaining. Comment.

Prakash JhaLipstick Under My Burkha questions the very soul of the society which perhaps is not understood by CBFC.

Alankrita: Women in our popular, mainstream cinema are always acted upon. Stalking is portrayed as love. But a situation where a woman is striving for agency over her own life, her own body, her own desires and dreams, that is something making them uncomfortable.

For a very long time now, we have been striving to move to a place where films are certified and not censored, but it doesn’t seem to be happening.

Prakash Jha: I appreciate that the government had appointed a body under Shyam Benegal and they have submitted the report. I encourage the government to adopt that report and make it into a law and thus remove the process of censoring. A film like Lipstick Under My Burkha will only enhance the thinking of the society, the richness of the society. It is not going to damage the society.

Alankrita: I am not discouraged, I have faith in the Tribunal. I hope they are able to see the film in the context it has to be seen. I am sure that they will be able to reverse the CBFC decision. It is important to continue my journey, I will continue to make such films. One has to be prepared to fight it out.