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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.

Watch: Deepika Padukone, Indian sportswomen feature in inspiring #JustDoIt campaign

Deepika Padukone stars in an inspiring new video with Indian female athletes for a Nike campaign. Taking off from the brand’s tag line: “Just Do It”, the video sees Deepika training hard in the gym and on the badminton court as other athletes  like hockey player Rani Rampal, footballer Jyoti Ann Burrett and cricketers Harmanpreet Kaur, Smriti Mandana and Shubhlakshmi Sharma are also visualised pulling off their jaw-dropping feats.

Deepika in a still from the Nike #JustDoIt campaign video. Screengrab from Facebook

Sharing the video on her Facebook page, Deepika accompanied it with a post on how sports has helped her through difficult phases in her life:

“When I was growing up my father said to me, ‘To be the best, always remember the three D’s — Discipline, Dedication and Determination. Follow your heart. Do what you are passionate about.’ Sport has taught me how to handle failure. It has also taught me how to handle success. It has kept me grounded. It has taught me humility,” Deepika wrote on Facebook.

She also referred to her (now commonly known) battle with depression, and her efforts to overcome it.

“Two years ago I struggled with depression,” wrote Deepika. “I was sinking. I almost gave up. But it was the athlete in me that gave me the strength to fight and never ever give up!”

She goes on to exhort everyone to open their eyes to the power of sport, and its ability to make a positive impact on individual lives, and society.

“I want to say to every girl and every boy and every woman and every man…play a sport…because it changed my life…and it will change yours too! Sport has taught me how to survive! It has taught me how to fight! It has made me unstoppable!” Deepika added, before signing off with “‪#‎JustDoIt”.

The video by Deepika for Nike comes in the run-up to the 2016 Olympics at Rio, and is sure to generate even greater support for the Indian contingent as they head for the Games. It had 895,286 views within just seven hours of being uploaded by Deepika.

Watch: ‘Dishoom’ trailer is action-porn and John, Varun are the cherry on the cake

As soon as we were told that Dishoom stars John Abraham and Varun Dhawan play cops in the film, we already knew who would play the good one, and who would play the bad.

John, playing the stern cop, is like Jackie Chan in Rush Hour, or Sylvester Stallone in Tango and Cash, while Varun Dhawan is the funny/goofy copy a la Chris Tucker or Kurt Russell. It’s a trope that works well in action films, and Rohit Dhawan’s Dishoom maximises this trope to its full potential.

The Dishoom trailer gets straight to the point, and wastes no time. The film revolves around a missing cricketer, and it’s Kabir Shergill (John) and Javed Ansari (Varun)’s job to find him, before a final match. Enter Jacqueline Fernandes, who is also a special agent, but also the token hotness quotient in the film.

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To the film’s credit, John and Varun haven’t escaped the sexualisation (they show off their masculinity and bare abs at any chance they get), so kudos to the makers on not discriminating between genders.

Add a host of action sequences, punches and blows, cars flying that would put Rohit Shetty to shame, and much bravado, and you get the power-packed trailer of Dishoom.

Special mention to Varun Dhawan’s comic timing, that seems to be getting only better with time. In a scene, with Jacqueline, he appears upside and tells her, “I’ve been practising the Spiderman kiss for years. Let’s?” and even though the dialogue is quite appalling, you can’t help but smile.

While the film seems rather predictable, and has its share of all the masala elements to make it a commercial entertainer, there’s something about the film’s no-nonsense plot, which paced quite well, makes us curious to watch it.

Also, welcome back Akshaye Khanna. We’ve missed you dearly.

Watch: The real star of ‘Sultan’ trailer is Salman Khan’s Haryanvi accent

There’s a dialogue in the much-awaited trailer of Salman Khan’s next film, Sultan, which goes something like this, “Asli pehlwaan ki pehchaan akhade mein nahin, zindagi mein hai (a fighter’s real identity is not found in the ring, but in life).”

This can be aptly said about Salman Khan’s life. In contrast to his larger-than-life, on-screen image is his personal life — full of controversies. Balancing between the two can be quite the fight. Ever since his legal battles have grabbed the country’s collective attention, we have seen Salman try to give us on-screen characters that are largely white in the black/white scale.

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However, after 25 years in the industry, it was finally with Bajrangi Bhaijaan that we saw something in Salman that we probably would not associate with him before: hard work. We saw a star who believed in his character and played it to a good degree of its potential.

In Yash Raj Films’ Sultan, Salman’s hardwork can be amply seen in the training he must have undergone to develop and maintain an impressive physique through the shooting of the film.

But that is Salman’s forte. What really takes you by surprise in the trailer is his Haryanvi accent. It’s not completely authentic, by any means, but it surprisingly works. It’s not the kind of accent you hear in a metro in Gurgaon, but it’s an accent that will remind you of a Haryanvi kushti player.

The trailer itself is quite telling of the sports drama that Sultan is going to be. It’s entertaining in places and holds your attention enough to let the goofy bits pass by.

Anushka Sharma, who has been breaking out of her bubbly girl phase with movies like Bombay Velvet and NH10, seems like a fitting co-actor for Salman. Her character of Aarfa, a female wrestler, is not the typical Hindi film heroine by a mile, but she retains the spark we have grown to love in her.

She’s our second favourite aspect about the Sultan trailer, after Salman’s accent. We love it because it finally shows us that he’s taking his movies seriously.

Watch: Move over Kashibai, Priyanka Chopra kicks a** in ‘Jai Gangaajal’ trailer

For all those of you who only spoke about Priyanka Chopra’s accent when it came to Quantico, the trailer of Prakash Jha’s Jai Gangaajal is out, and you may have to eat your words.

Just when we thought Chopra couldn’t do anything else this year to cement her position in the film industry, this trailer made us rethink that. Playing a tough cop in this sequel to Jha’s Gangaajal starring Ajay Devgn, perhaps the biggest compliment one can give Chopra is the fact that Devgn isn’t missed.

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In a completely de-glam avatar, and with crisp, impactful Hindi, Priyanka Chopra owns every frame in Jai Gangaajal. The film explores the relationship between society and police force, and is set in central India. It makes for an interesting premise given the current bureaucratic issues we have had as a nation.

Perhaps one of the dialogues from the film summarises our feelings towards Priyanka Chopra best, “Khakee ka rang sahi ho to, usse aurat pehne ya mard; tum jaiso ko chutki me aukaat dikha deti hai” (If the color of khakhi is right, it doesn’t matter whether a man wears it or a woman.)

Watch: This hilarious parody video shows what’s wrong with Salman and ‘Main hoon Hero tera’

Tu mera Hero number 1‘. ‘Palat tera Hero idhar hai‘. ‘Main tera Hero‘. And now, there’s ‘Main hoon Hero tera‘.

Screenshot from YouTube video.

The world might be changing quickly but Bollywood’s obsession with old, cliched and cheesy formulae to create the same lame category of songs by jumbling up words already used might not change for a long time. One of Bollywood’s favourite words, apart from ‘pyaar‘ and ‘dil‘ seems to be ‘Hero’.

And the latest actor to make another song out of ‘Hero’ is, not surprisingly, Salman Khan. However, if listening to Salman’s probably auto-tuned voice and watching the disastrous acting of Sooraj Pancholi and Athiya Shetty in ‘Main hoon Hero tera‘ makes you sick, you will love the parody of the song.

The original song shows the word ‘Sooraj’ tattooed on Sooraj Pancholi’s back. The parody shows the words ‘Doobta Sooraj’ on the character playing Sooraj Pancholi.

The parody video also has the actor playing Salman sing out some tips for Sooraj Pancholi. “Protein shake maarke pehle tu mere jaisi body bana” is one of those profound tips.

The most hilarious of these tips, of course, is when Salman teaches Sooraj the importance of being a virgin in the parody video. Arguably the funniest part of the video is when Sooraj and Salman are together meditating and continuously chanting, “I’m a virgin.”

The song also takes a hilarious dig at the nepotism which is rampant in the Indian film industry.

You can watch the entire video here:

Welcome Back review: Anil Kapoor and John Abraham are fun to watch in this silly film

Uday and Majnu are, as someone points out in Welcome Back, the Laurel and Hardy of goondas. They are, to again quote the film, “khule saand“: foolish, stubborn, ridiculous and flatter than cardboard cutouts. But here’s what may come as a surprise: they and Welcome Back are also really, truly funny.

Welcome Back is a straightforward, unabashed copy of Welcome and like the first film, this one wears its stupidity proudly on its sleeve. Just like in Welcome, Uday (Nana Patekar) again discovers he has another half-sister, Ranjana (Shruti Haasan). Majnu (Anil Kapoor) embraces her because any sister of Uday’s is a sister of his and within minutes, circumstances demand that Uday and Majnu organise a wedding for Ranjana. The reformed gangsters want her to marry a good lad from a respectable family.

Of course, nothing is simple in director Anees Bazmee’s world. As a result, Dr Ghungroo (Paresh Rawal) returns, offspring pop out of the woodwork, John Abraham loses his shirt, a mother-daughter duo of con artistes target Uday and Majnu, Shiney Ahuja suffers the ignominy of wearing a candy-pink blazer and Rajpal Yadav protects his and our modesty by wearing nothing but a transistor a la PK. Does any of Welcome Back make sense? Absolutely not. Is any of it realistic or credible? Only if you’re on a diet of nothing but hallucinogens. But who cares as long as Uday, Majnu and Ghungroo are being idiotic on screen?

Nana Patekar, Paresh Rawal, Anil Kapoor and John Abraham in Welcome Back. Image Courtesy: Facebook

Most of the film is so predictable — particularly if you’ve seen Welcome — that there’s no point recounting the plot of Welcome Back. In a nutshell: dons face dons, lovers are kept apart, cons are hatched, and hilarity ensues.

Abraham plays Ajju, a don from Mumbai. He is easy on the eye and inoffensive. Abraham doesn’t have much to do other than look good and flex his muscles from time to time so that at a critical point, Majnu can say of Ajju, “Lagta hai yeh gym mein hi paida hua tha.” (“It’s like he was born in a gym.”) Haasan, Dimple and Ankita Shrivastava all have significant roles in which they’re both flashy and forgettable.

Despite Bazmee sticking to his tried-and-tested formula, there are surprises in Welcome Back. However, fortunately, there aren’t any spoilers because no one knows what happens in the last few seconds of the film. The ending is somewhat literally up in the air.

But here are a few of the doozies that Welcome Back does serve us. Did you think there would be a situation in which you’d watch Naseeruddin Shah on screen and wish he could act more like Feroz Khan? Bazmee also throws in a scene in which Abraham gives a whole new meaning to the term “dry humping” when he leaps from camel hump to camel hump. No one could have seen that coming.

There’s a lot to love in Welcome Back if you don’t expect intelligence from the film. Like a sequence in which Uday and Majnu play antakshari with ‘ghosts’ in a graveyard (with neon tombstones, no less). You get to hear Kapoor singing “My name is Lakhan” after 26 years. There’s also a don named Wanted Bhai who gets a operatic chorus sing “Wanted Bhaaai” each time he makes an entrance. Just to bring this character home, his son’s name is Honey (played by Shiney Ahuja, which makes this role a double whammy of unfortunate names). And let’s not forget the desert chase that involves hovercrafts, skydivers, four-wheel drives, helicopters as well as a random train of camels.

Welcome Back a film that is completely aware of how stupid it is and delights in its idiocy. Bazmee also tucks in funny details for the keen-eyed, like Majnu’s art which is absolutely spectacular. We’re particularly fond of two of his paintings. One shows a horse on top of another (take that MF Husain) and the other is of the Dubai skyline.

Patekar is wonderful as the prone-to-rage Uday. He dances gleefully, packs many punches in his lines and is superb with the slapstick antics that Bazmee demands of him. Giving Patekar company are Kapoor and Rawal. What Kapoor lacks in the calibre department, the age-defying actor makes up for with energy and enthusiasm. As Majnu, Kapoor is dressed as flashily as ever (although Dimple Kapadia’s wardrobe in this film makes Majnu’s Technicolor velvet jackets seem almost sober). He doesn’t make much of an impression when he’s trying to be the menacing bhai, but he’s an excellent foil for Patekar. Rawal pops up intermittently and establishes yet again that he’s one of our most versatile comic actors.

These men are the stars of Welcome Back, but what makes them shine are the dialogues written by Raaj Shaandilyaa. This is Shaandilyaa’s first film and he makes sure everyone in Welcome Back, including extras, get lines that will bring them laughs. Some actors do justice to Shaandilyaa’s writing comedy and maintain an impressively silly tone, while some struggle. Regardless, the lines are funny enough to work despite the actors.

For instance, when a blind man gets a knock on his head and is suddenly able to see again, Uday tells Majnu that it’s pretty impressive how powerful Santoshi Maa is even in the deserts of Dubai. It helps that Patekar is the one entrusted with this line, but it would be funny no matter who said it. At another point, a gangster gives the girl he’s romancing a peck on the cheek and gets slapped. His minions explain to him, “Bhabhi ne aapko Emraan Hashmi samjha aur aap Amol Palekar nikley.” (“She expected you to be Emraan Hashmi and you ended up being Amol Palekar.”)

Unsurprisingly, after intermission, Welcome Back loses some of its steam. This is partly because Bazmee struggles to bring the film to a close and also because the director shifts focus from dialogue to stunts. The action sequences are outlandish in Welcome Back and boast of some of the worst CGI seen in recent times. It’s obvious that Bazmee has ensured the special effects are deliberately awful in the hope that they will draw laughs, but in terms of humour, they don’t hold a candle to the dialogues.

At 153 minutes, Welcome Back is just a shade too long and the ending is a sandstorm of stupidity. But you’ll forgive Bazmee and gang because for at least 120 minutes, this comedy keeps you in splits. Welcome Back might be 2015’s silliest film and this is the best reason to watch it. After all, when was the last time you came out of the cinema giggling?

Khiladi on fire: Watch Akshay Kumar nearly escape an accident on the sets of ‘Singh is Bling’

Akshay Kumar is known to pull off his own action stunts in films, no matter how dangerous they may be. On the sets of Singh is Bling recently, Kumar survived a fire accident just in time.

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While shooting for the song ‘Tung Tung Baaje‘ from the film, Kumar had to jump through a ring of fire. In the film, he plays a Sardar who prides himself on being a daredevil.

In a video released by the film’s production house Grazing Goat films, Kumar is seen rehearsing with his stuntmen many times before jumping through the circle fire. In one such jump, he misses the mark and the flaming circle falls onto him.

Fortunately, with help on time, Kumar survived the accident unharmed.

He tweeted about the accident on Tuesday evening: