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It’s not just Akshay Kumar, but the female characters in the satirical dark comedy drama, Jolly LLB 2, were also applauded.

It’s not just Akshay Kumar, but the female characters in the satirical dark comedy drama, Jolly LLB 2, were also applauded.

One such character was the wonderfully-nuanced cameo by SayaniGupta, who played Hina Siddiqui, a young Muslim woman driven to despair.  It’s a small but pivotal and deeply impactful role, so much so that Sayani was lauded for her performance by some of the veterans from the industry. Twitterati in large numbers also poured their love for her.

Gupta has so far been doing a balancing act between commercial and art cinema. She has received critical acclaim for her offbeat and distinctive roles in films like her debut Margarita With A Straw (played the role of Kalki’s love interest)and most recently Fan (as Shah Rukh Khan’s secretary), however, Sayani doesn’t take compliments or criticism seriously.

“I have never sat down to ponder over what others have to say because ultimately you know what you have done. Piyush Mishra (theatre and film actor, NSD alumni) called me few days back when I was shooting for Jagga Jasoos, and said while referring to Jolly LLB 2, ‘I didn’t know you acted so well.’  Lot of people are complimenting me on social media as well. Somebody told me that they went to watch the film thrice because of me. There are lot of people who said I made them feel for the part and I made them cry,” says Sayani.

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She continues, “My performance really moved my mother, and she is far too detached about the industry and not at all excited about the film world or what I am doing. She is not in favour of me acting and it was quite a struggle to convince her when I went to FTII (Film and Television Institute of India). Little by little, she is coming to terms with it but she would have rather seen me as an IAS officer or in a regular job.”

“We are from middle class family and they didn’t want their only daughter to get into films. Obviously there are certain perceptions about the film industry. My close friends never say nice things, they are always critiquing my work, but finally they felt that I was brilliant in Jolly LLB 2.”

Strangely enough, Sayani has been getting offers for horror movies for last few years and she, too, fails to understand the reason for it. “Maybe they think I am a Bengali, I have big eyes…” she laughs.

While Sayani so far has rejected two offers post Jolly LLB 2 (as  she is “choosy”, “instinctive”, “and not ready for it”), she is certainly excited about her first international project, The Hungry, which is an Indo-British production starring Naseeruddin Shah and Tisca Chopra. The film, for which the actors were very selectively chosen, is directed by debutante filmmaker Bornila Chatterjee, who is an alumnus from New York’s Tisch School of the Arts. The Hungry is an adaptation of William Shakespeare tragedy Titus Androcinus, which is believed to have been written between 1588 and 1593.

“This year marks the 400th death anniversary of Shakespeare. His stories could seem a tad hyper-real for this era, but this film is a realistic take. The script won at a collaborative cine-lab,” says Sayani, further adding, “The film has a bunch of deadly actors. We shot for it in Delhi and Agra. The ambience on set was stimulating and since we all got along so well, it turned out to be a great shoot.”

Recently, Sayani earned an honourable mention for the Best Actress award for her short film, Leeches, at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles  (IFFLA). In just two years of her career, she’s also bagged one of the lead roles opposite Naseeruddin Shah with The Hungry. The actress considers it her privilege to act alongside ‘Naseer’, who was her teacher at the FTII.

“Naseer was very excited about his role after decades. He plays my father. He has been my teacher and lot of my understanding about acting and the craft is because of him. It was almost like reassurance of sorts when he would come to take our class. I adore him as a human being. He is fun to be around. He has always taught us how acting is all about reacting. He is a keen listener, which adds to the performance,” she says, adding:

“There are two of the coolest men I have worked with – Shah Rukh Khan and Naseeruddin Shah. They are sensitive, they are aware, they don’t take themselves too seriously. They are normal dudes.”

So did Sayani take any advice from the two “coolest” men?

“Some of the things Naseer told me is: ‘Learn your lines till you bump into a furniture. Know your lines backwards. Study the script well. Be relaxed and don’t take things too seriously. Make it fun and light.’ On the other hand, there’s much to learn just by the way Shah Rukh carries himself. He is the most technically sound actor, I feel. His understanding, the cleanliness with which he does everything, his craft is solid. He doesn’t show it. He is persistently hardworking and also the humility. He doesn’t take his stardom seriously,” she reveals.

Two of Sayani’s “friends” from the industry are the erstwhile directors – Rajkumar Hirani and Vishal Bhardwaj. She may not have offers from them yet but she certainly takes their advice. “I don’t talk work with them. Hirani often tells me that I should give people time after they have seen my film. I did audition for a part in Rangoon but Vishal told me that it won’t be good enough for me. I would never ask them to cast me because that could hamper our relationship. Whenever they want to cast me, they will.”

Sayani is currently shooting for Ranbir Kapoor-Katrina Kaif- starrer Jagga Jasoos which has been in the making for a long time. “When I signed the film I was playing the only narrator in the film. I had a separate track of my own. But since there is no script — Dada (Director Anurag Basu) doesn’t work with scripts, he writes as he goes along — my role has changed. I will know what my part is only after I see the film. Also, it is a very difficult film when it comes to format. It is musical, it’s a children’s film, and it is not a normal narrative. I play a 14-year-old girl and that is all I know (laughs),” she says.

Sunny Leone to soon appear in comedy show Bhabi Ji Ghar Par Hai

Mumbai: Actress Sunny Leone, who is doing well for herself in Bollywood and has featured in reality TV shows like Bigg Boss and Splitsvilla, will soon make her debut on the small screen with the popular show Bhabi Ji Ghar Par Hai.

Sunny Leone. Image from IBNlive

According to the sequence, Sunny will be entering the street where Vibhuti (Aashif Sheikh), Anita (Saumya Tandon), Angoori (Shubhangi Atre) and Manmohan (Rohitash Gaud) live. She will appear along with the director of her film to scout for her film’s hero.

Talking about shooting with Sunny, Shubhangi said in a statement: “It is a pleasure to shoot with Sunny. She has no qualms about anything and is very easy to work with.”

“She is an extremely cooperative co-actor. Hope the audiences will be surprised with this new entry. It was fun teaching her Angoori’s iconic line ‘Sahi pakde hain’.”

Sunny, who started shooting for the show on Monday, will be seen playing herself on the &TV entertainer.

Happy Bhag Jayegi star cast share fun facts about each other and play The Firstpost Show Funny Face Off

Talented, smart, beautiful and funny, the entire star cast of the upcoming movie Happy Bhag Jayegi: Abhay Deol, Diana Penty, Ali Fazal and Jimmy Shergill was on The Firstpost Show were they spoke about fun facts they found about each other during the course of the making of the movie, advice they received while entering the industry and played a few rounds of The Firstpost Show funny face off.

Happy Bhag Jayegi

Here are a few snippets from the show:

Tell us a fun fact that you found about the person sitting next to you during the course of the making of the movie:

Abhay Deol about Diana Penty: “She’s more like me than I imagined. We are very similar and that was a very pleasant surprise.”

Diana Penty about Ali Fazal: “I found out fairly recently that he plays the guitar, he sings and he dances really well.”

Ali Fazal about Jimmy Shergill: “He’s a lovely singer, closet singer.”

After discussing fun facts about each other, they went on to tell us the most fun advice they received while entering the industry and played super fun rounds of The Firstpost Show Face Off. To know what are the advices each one of them got and to find out how they performed in Funny Face Off, watch the full episode right here.

Udta Punjab’, ‘Sultan’ and ‘Dangal’ show new social, political realities of Punjab and Haryana

The latest Bollywood blockbuster to speak of Punjab (Udta Punjab) is the horrific account of the youth of the state doing drugs. Meanwhile, two superstar films hitting the big screen with tales of the rural heartland of Haryana, are Sultan and Dangal. Riding on Salman Khan and Aamir Khan, the two mega-flicks bring to the fore stories of the youth of Haryana, muscling their way into sporting glory.

Desperate efforts were made to scuttle a big budget film like Udta Punjab, because it spoke the awful truth of the state. Meanwhile, the youth of Haryana, charged with the glamour of being celebrities, are rewriting their destinies.

This is the social and political reality of the two agrarian north Indian states today. Nobody expects the Punjab drug story to change anytime soon. This crisis has hugely empowered the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which is now trying to bulldoze its way into the power corridors of the Punjab Secretariat in Chandigarh.

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Haryana, meanwhile, keeps its focus squarely on sports, and has consistently punched much above its weight. Following the Commonwealth Games of 2010, that if Haryana were a country, it would be fifth on the gold medal winners’ tally, after Australia, England, Canada.

Fifteen of India’s 38 gold medals at the Commonwealth Games — nearly 40 per cent of the country’s best-ever haul — were won by athletes from Haryana. The state continued its supremacy over Indian sports in the 2012 London Olympics. Out of the six medals won by India in the London Olympics, four were bagged by players associated with Haryana.

Assembly elections in Punjab are due early next year. Youth power is one of the major routes that AAP wants to take to chart its victory path in the state. Along with promises for better opportunities for education, AAP is out to storm sports turf in the northern state to wrestle political power from arch rivals Congress and SAD-BJP.

Unveiling the party’s Youth Manifesto on July 3, AAP supremo  promised the Punjab Olympic Mission to encourage and empower Punjab sportspersons to win medals for the state. The party’s ‘Youth Manifesto’ also provides for a sports university & three additional sports colleges to encourage sport among Punjab’s youth. It promises the highest prize money of all states for achievement in sports. The prize for an Olympic gold medal – Rs 5 crore!

Despite drug abuse tearing through the  Punjabi pride, physical strength and valour continues to run through the state’s DNA. The ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) has failed to animate Punjab sports at grassroot level. This is where  has sensed a huge opportunity. AAP has promised to launch ‘Khedo Punjab’, a mass movement in sports, if voted to power in the 2017 Assembly elections.

Among the sports initiatives promised by AAP is the decision to identify and adopt 500 talented sportspersons, whose training, diet and fitness will be provided free by the state. There is dire need to give the youth story of Punjab a bright turn.

Last year, the Union Sports Ministry had drawn up an ambitious Target Olympic Podium (TOP) scheme for the Rio Olympics in August 2016. As part of the TOP scheme, star sportspersons from all over the country were allocated funds for enhanced fitness and training for the world’s biggest sporting extravaganza.

Here too, Haryana had emerged as India’s medal factory.

State-wise, Haryana continued its run as the sporting powerhouse of the country, with 16 athletes listed as beneficiaries under the TOP scheme in the first two lists. Most of them were wrestlers and boxers. Star grappler Sushil Kumar led the pack, which also had Yogeshwar Dutt, Bajrang Kumar, Amit Kumar and the Phogat sisters — Vinesh and Babita — in it.

Among the pugilists, Vijender Singh, Mandeep Jangra, Sumit Sangwan, Vikas Krishan and Pinki Jangra were the beneficiaries under the scheme. Later Vijender Singh, India’s most celebrated pugilist, was dropped from the list of beneficiaries under TOP because he had bid goodbye to amateur boxing and turned professional.

Discus thrower Seema Antil and marathon man Sandeep Kumar also benefitted from TOPS. Shooters Sanjeev Rajput, Shweta Chaudhary and Anisa Sayyed were the other Haryana athletes under the sports ministry’s pioneer project.

By comparison, Punjab’s tally was nearly half of what Haryana has scored among the TOP beneficiaries.
In the first two lists, Punjab had only nine Rio hopefuls under the TOP scheme. Its maximum representation was in the field of athletics. Triple jumper Arpinder Singh, shot putter Inderjeet Singh, marathon runner Khushbir Kaur, relay runner Mandeep Kaur and discus thrower Navjeet Kaur Dhillon are Punjab’s flag-bearers under the scheme.

Youth power will play a key role in the Assembly elections in Punjab in 2017. AAP plans to go ballistic with its various campaigns to draw the youth to its fold.

In the 2014 Parliamentary polls, Punjab had close to 4.7 lakh voters in the 18-19 age group. The party had emerged as the giant killer in Punjab, by wresting four of the thirteen Parliamentary seats.

In its debut foray into Punjab, AAP left the ruling SAD-BJP alliance with six seats, and pushed the Congress tally down to only three seats in the Lok Sabha elections, AAP now hopes to build a ‘Nava Punjab’ (new Punjab), energized by the youth and the aspiring middle class of the state.

That will definitely be a whole new flight, and a much-needed shift from Udta Punjab.