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Sunny Deol: ‘Because of my image, people have the wrong perception about me

Would you believe Sunny Deol is now a new person? Vocal and outspoken without a trace of the reticent and introverted superstar of the 80s and 90s.

The actor is now social media savvy, albeit he uses it only to reach his fans; he doesn’t shy away from speaking his mind, or cracking jokes on himself, or even taking on an unorthodox and unconventional subject like vasectomy in his upcoming comedy drama, Poster Boys.

The film, which hits the screens on 8 September, also marks the directorial debut of Shreyas Talpade and is a remake of his 2014 Marathi production of the same name. “I loved the idea of three people from different backgrounds falsely implicated for Nasbandi (vasectomy). The situations were quite interesting, and if I like something spontaneously then I always do it. I heard that Shreyas was already planning to make it in Hindi. I was aware of Shreyas’s talent since we had worked together in Bhaiyyaji Superhit and therefore asked him to direct the Hindi one.”

Poster Boys

But one wonders why Sunny himself didn’t direct, as he has already directed couple of films like Dillagi (1999) and Ghayal Once Again (2016).

“I was already working on my son Karan’s film, Pal Pal Dil Ke Paas, I can’t be doing so many things,” says Sunny, when we caught up with him in Juhu, Mumbai. Dressed in a military green shirt, light blue jeans and sneakers, the 60-year-old son of yesteryear actor Dharmendra, undoubtedly looks like he is at his healthiest best. He seems to be in a great mood and guffaws at various instances.

While talking about shedding his ‘image’, Sunny winks and says with tongue firmly in cheek, “I have gotten so used to these film promotions because that is part of your scripting (laughs out loud). One has understood it. We have to do all this otherwise people don’t notice you with there being so much noise all around you.”

Sunny has undoubtedly been more popular than some of his contemporaries, with quite a few huge blockbusters and highest-grossers like Gadar, Border, Ghayal, Tridev under his belt. Yet somehow, he has been much less visible while his contemporaries like Anil Kapoor, Sanjay Dutt, Jackie Shroff, Mithun Chakraborty are seen in a variety of projects on the silver screen and television.

Is it Sunny’s insistence on playing only the central character that is responsible for this?  The actor dismisses that he has been resisting character roles, saying, “No, nothing like that. Doing character roles is certainly not an issue for me. Damini was a character role but it turned out to be as important as the central character which people still talk about. I want to do characters that I enjoying playing and not just for the heck of it. Also, because of my image people have such a wrong perception about me (laughs out loud). But I don’t want to give them any explanation, I am not bothered about it. Why should I bother? They assume that I won’t do it and that I am very difficult. That doesn’t stop me from doing what I want to do.”

He continues, “I don’t do  television or ads, hence I am not seen at all if I am not seen in movies. Even in the 90s, I wouldn’t do other stuff. I wouldn’t go for parties or functions and that has been my nature. I joined the industry to be an actor and that is what I am doing. Once your films start doing well, you become a star and people want to see more of you but basically I want to do good acting and play good characters.”

Sunny Deol spotted at their upcoming movie " Bhaiyyaji Superhit '' at Borivali Sachin Gokhale/Firstpost

Our conversation now veers towards the launch of his elder son Karan in Pal Pal Dil Ke Paas. In one chance meeting with Karan, three years ago, this writer had asked him the genre he is best suited to. Karan responded, displaying amazing wit, “Besides films and acting, the Deols have carried on the lineage of short temper. All of us at home are short-tempered people. So, obviously, it has to be action roles.”

Sunny has a hearty laugh at this and says, “It is not true, we Deols are not only into action roles, but maybe because others can’t do action well and hence our name is leading in that genre,” he laughs. So what advice does he give Karan?  “I don’t give him any advice. He has to work hard, be honest to his profession and love and enjoy what he does,” says Sunny.

With the recent bunch of films with big stars proving to be duds at the box office, Sunny attributes it to the changing audience and lack of good writing and content. “I haven’t seen much of the current lot of films, I can’t comment, but I get a feeling that content wise, the depth of directors, and depth of characters is getting really frivolous. Hits and flops are part of the game and this is the correction period,” he says.

Though reviews and criticisms do matter to Sunny, he would still want to go by his own strong conviction. “If a review is nice, it matters; if it is bad, it matters. If you accept good, you accept bad as well. I know when I have done good or bad. You should know what you are doing. The day I come to that point and it happens to me then I don’t think I would want to act, I will quit acting,” he says.

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.

 

People talk about Aishwarya Rai’s beauty more': ‘Sarbjit’ director Omung Kumar

National award winning director and production designer Omung Kumar says he was questioned by many for his choice of casting  Aishwarya Rai Bachchan as Sarabjit Singh’s sister Dalbir Kaur in his upcoming biopic Sarbjit.

However, Omung was happy, confident and convinced with his selection. “Everybody told me I was mad to cast Aishwarya. But then, they said similar things when I cast Priyanka Chopra for Mary Kom; that she won’t fit the role, she doesn’t look North Eastern, and so on.”

“But I’d decided that for Dalbir’s part, I wanted someone who’s mature enough, who could play a 22-year-old and 60-year-old as well, someone who commands and demands respect when she speaks. Aishwarya is a director’s actress, she is a fantastic. We can see her in any role possible, but yes, they talk about her beauty more,” says Omung.

Sibling

He continues, “Also, Aishwarya agreed to do the film immediately because she knew that this is a role of a lifetime. One cannot say no to this role because you owe it to society.”

Meanwhile, Randeep Hooda, stunned everyone with his physical transformation to play Sarabjit (the Indian national who was famously detained in Pakistan for 23 years) and went on a rigorous diet while losing a whopping 18 kgs in a period of just 28 days.

He says that he was initially worried about playing the part. “Omung has been saying that I said yes to the role in 15 minutes, but the fact is that I was scared. I was apprehensive. I had liked the script but it was hard to commit, and then, I take my commitment very seriously. Who in the right mind would go through all that?”

“Finally I decided to have a conversation with myself, not with the director, and agreed to step into the role,” says Randeep, who had transformed into the skeleton of a starving man.

Further, to get into the skin of the character, Randeep would carry his work home religiously. Says Omung, “At home he started living in a dark, dingy corner with absolutely no light, all through day and night. I had demarcated an area of 6 feet by 4 feet and he would live, walk only in that portion. He had also asked for chains which were tied around his hands and legs. More than losing weight, it was Sarabjit’s psyche he wanted to get into. He had to actually live that person for several months.”

Sarbjit releases on 20 May.

Sunil Gavaskar joins Virat Kohli in the defense of Anushka Sharma, terms people trolling the actress ‘frustros’

New Delhi: Former India captain Sunil Gavaskar has lambasted all those who troll Bollywood actress Anushka Sharma by linking her to Virat Kohli’s on-field performance after every India match, terming them “frustros” with no love in their lives.

His comments come close on the heels of Kohli himself hitting out against social media trolls for targetting Sharma by saying that those who blame her for anything negative in his cricket career should be ashamed of themselves.

“All I can say is that they are frustros. I don’t have an idea of the status of their relationship. But she is a lovely girl and they looked absolutely terrific together. And she brought a lot of stability in him at a time when he was just emerging as a lynchpin of India’s batting. He himself has said that she has brought a lot of positivity in his life and career,” Gavaskar told ‘NDTV’.

Sunil Gavaskar. AFP

The former captain felt Anushka has helped Kohli grow both as a human being and as a cricketer.

“For people to say that she was sitting in the stands and he got out. What would he get? he doesn’t get to see her if he gets out on the first ball. He can’t go out from the dressing room and meet her up over there. So, all I can say is they are frustros and they have no love in their lives, and therefore, they are taking it out on the poor girl, who has been there, been a support and backed him.

“In my opinion, she has only helped him grow as a human being and as a cricketer,” said Gavaskar.

Talking about Kohli’s cricketing brilliance, Gavaskar said the Delhi lad has shown that one doesn’t need to play slam bang cricket even in T20 format.

“He played cricketing shots (during his unbeaten 82 in India’s 161-run chase in a tense group encounter against Australia in Mohali to enter the last-four stage of World T20) and there was no wild slogging.

“The drives were absolutely breathtaking. Everything was so right about those shots. Also he has got the priceless gift of power and timing. And he plays correct cricket. He showed that you don’t have to play slam bang cricket in T20. You don’t have to look to hit the sixes. Four boundaries in an over he hit and then run brilliantly between the wickets and you got your 20 runs in an over,” he said.

Asked if Kohli getting the same amount of love and adulation in India as Sachin Tendulkar, Gavaskar said: “Yes, he is winning matches for India. He is pulling India out of tough situations. And the way he is playing the game…very attractively. So no surprise that he is getting the adulation and admiration of not just the Indian cricket loving public but just about everybody world around.”

Gavaskar believes that Kohli can get even better.

“A batsman’s peak years is from the period between 26 to 33. And he is only 27, so for the next 7-8 years…my sincere advice to bowlers is either take up wicket-keeping or batting,” joked the legendary batsman.