Monthly Archives

June 2021

The world of web – Day 2020

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The web series made hay while the theatres shut down and now that the cinema halls are threatening to open up again, the world of web is getting jittery and it is showing.  Suddenly all the regional channels, Oho/ Gujarati and Aha/ Telegu who were not fully ready to launch are working on an overdrive to get published. Oho aired Chaskela followed by Cutting in Gujarati and Aha has a line of shows coming after In the Name of God in Telegu.

The established channels have all got into content partnerships, so Jio Cinema is celebrating Malayalam Mojo an eclectic mix of features, critically acclaimed, box office successes, period dramas, comedies, thrillers, satires, all backed by celebrated talent, Zee 5 who scored in subscriptions with Radhe: Your Most Wanted Bhai and Friends: The Reunion has lined up international shows with TVF like Pitchers Season 2, Tripling Season 3 and more. Will that be a game changer, cannot say?

Of Dosanjhs and Kumars – Day 2019

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Diljit Dosanjh has proved that irrespective of crisis, the show goes on. His film Shadaa has completed two blockbuster years and Akshay Kumar has been working without a break for two years. A year ago, Kumar was the first Bollywood actor to start shooting with super covid precautions and now Bell Bottom will be the first film to hit cinema halls next month.

The trade is super excited that the cinema halls will open up again and are hoping other producers will follow suit. They wanted Salman Khan’s Radhe to release in theatres and Khan seriously tried but the cases were risingand he was advised to premier on the OTT platform. The exhibitors felt let down but it was the right decision at that point. Anyway, now all eyes are on the spy drama of Akshay Kumar and they are optimistic his vintage action will bring back the audience to the cinema halls. Those who work with Akshay Kumar swear by his discipline and time management. His meetings are short, conversations brief and decisions swift. He always has a group of writers/ directors pitching new projects to him and Kumar is known to allot quick appointments. For years, he has combined a new release with a new launch, and therefore as Bell Bottom gets ready to hit the screen, Kumar announces Raksha Bandhan launching four new faces who will play his sisters. Co-starring Bhumi Pednekar and to be directed by Anand Rai Raksha Bandhan is targeted for the cinema halls as well

Remembering RD – Day 2018

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Hindi cinema has been blessed with the most accomplished artistes and if after so many decades, we are still hooked on to our old songs, then the credit goes to our music composers/ lyricists and to our singers. But while the best talents are forgotten after a few decades, there is one composer who gets bigger with time, Rahul Dev Burman/ Pancham Da and that is because RD Burman  did not cater to an era or a generation, he created music for eternity. His talent was timeless and his memories are priceless.

On 27 June it was Pancham Da’s eighty-second anniversary and my most precious memory of him was shared by his wife Asha Bhosle. She said she always gave special gifts to him on his birthday. One year, he wanted to outdo her and sent her a broom wrapped in silver paper.  Broom because Ashaji is obsessed with cleaning and was forever dismantling RD Burman’s studio and tidying up his work place. RD thought that presenting her a broom as a birthday gift will make her realize her mistake and she will stop rearranging his things around the studio.

As I write this blog my head reverberate with all his memorable compositions over the decades, for Shammi Kapoor/ Teesri Manzil, for Rajesh Khanna, Aradhna/ Kati Patang/ Mehbooba and ofcourse for filmmaker Gulzar/ Parichay/ Khushboo/ Mausam.

His loved ones will forever regret that RD died before the release of 1942 A Love Story a film marked as his comeback. It was not to be but ever since, come 27 June and every radio channel/ tv channel/ newspaper will run tributes to the maestro. That’s show business, that’s life!  

Vidya Balan v: The Tigress roars – Day 2017

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It is the story of the jungle and if you are a lover of animals, there are several reasons to watch this one directed by Amit Masurkar. It is a delight to watch the dense forest, the various animals, birds, insects, nature captured in its pristine beauty. There is minimal use of sound and music, the frames are uncluttered. Detailed writing where every sequence offers adequate information -how many hours the tigress sleeps and where she goes hunting. There is a scene how nature senses danger and it is chilling.

The film addresses multiple issues, animal welfare, bureaucracy, environment conservation, human rights, rural life aur of course saving of tigers. Many of our heroes have played forest officers in the past but they were singing songs like Dilip Kumar in Madhumati or embroiled in social dramas like Guru Dutt in Saheb Biwi aur Ghulam. This is the first time; we are introduced to an operation and the forest officer’s accompanying teams- Tracking Team -Rescue Team- Expert team and Tranquilizer Team.

This is also the first instance when a female officer without picking up a gun or even raising her voice, makes herself heard loud and clear! Without makeup, without vanity, without any fuss or frill, Vidya Balan in and as Sherni is spectacular!

 concluded

Vidya Balan iv: Side effects of Salu Shakuntala – Day 2016

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What is fabulous about Vidya is that as ana actor she is drawn to her characters, not the end results, therefore when a Humari Adhuri Kahani with Mahesh Bhatt and a Shaadi Ke Side Effects with Farhan Akhtar did not yield success, she had no regrets. Her strength as an artiste is that she is neither obsessed with her image nor distracted by the message of the film. A homemaker aspiring empowerment in Tumhari Sulu, a scientist  finding solutions from her kitchen in Mission Mangal and a genius in Shakuntala Devi, do you blame the audience for being excited about  Vidya Balan movies? 

In the1988 release Sridevi was addressed as Sherni because she picked a gun and sought revenge for her family. In the year 2021 Vidya Balan is addressed as a lioness because she wants to save the forest and the animals. Based on the controversial killing of tigers in the Maharashra 2018, the film tells of a newly appointed forest officer/Vidya Balan in the forest department of Madhya Pradesh. It is her first field posting and she has to face many challenges.

To be continued

Vidya Balan iii: Bhool Bhulaiya to Kahaani – Day 2015

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Over the years, I would often bump into Vidya and our conversations invariably revolved around her roles, how she chose and researched her characters. She said she delivered 100 versions of ‘Good Morning India’ before Raju Hirani agreed to the final style in LRMB, shared she had hired a guru to train her in Bharatnatyam dance for the climax in Bhool Bhoolaiya.  

For The Dirty Picture, she was very clear that she will have to be totally uninhibited in order to do justice to Silk Smitha, “That is the only way the film and the character would have worked”.  The Dirty Picture picked up all the awards of the year. I remember watching the film at a private screening and it is the only time I stayed back for the second show as well. Vidya was curious why I would do that, “Because, the first time, I watched it as a critic making notes and the second time, I wanted to enjoy it as an audience” I explained.

In my opinion, Vidya Balan blossomed the day she stopped being apologetic about her weight, stopped fitting into the conventional concept of beauty. The day she dropped her insecurities, she was in a happier space, blooming in Kahaani, Kahaani 2, also Marathi film Ekk Albela where she played Geeta Bali.

To be continued

Vidya Balan II: Guru to Paa – Day 2014

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The film fraternity back home was as curious and flocked at Lage Raho Munna Bhai premier to watch the rising star. I met her for the first time at our Screen Awards event when she received her debut trophy. Vidya’s career was on a roll and it seemed nothing would go wrong but show business is an illusion and disappointments lurk in dark corners.

If she was praised for Mani Ratnam‘s Guru,  accepted in Salaam-E- Ishq, she was lambasted for Hey Baby, Halla Bol and  Kismat Konnection despite being paired with A grade heroes. Vidya was confused and decided that henceforth, she will choose roles on her instinct. She said yes to a psychological thriller Bhool Bhulaiya and in a way, this was beginning of her magic!

In the coming years, she played mother to Amitabh Bachchan in Paa, a seductress in  Ishqiya and the understated Sabrina Lal in No One Killed Jessica, that five- time-national award winner Shabana Azmi describe it as  a deeply moving flawless performance. 

To be continued

Vidya Balan: Hum Paanch to Parineeta – Day 2013

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Every time, a Vidya Balan film is due for release, everyone is curious what she is coming up with next and to think that her story, like everyone, began with failures.

After Ekta Kapoor launched her in the 1995 sitcom Hum Paanch, she forayed into South films but they rejected her and termed her unlucky.  The humiliation hurt but she was grateful that Bengal cinema launched her in Bhalo Theko 2003. Pradeep Sarkar (with whom she had done many commercials) was working on Parineeta based on Sarat Chandra’s novel of the same name and recommended Vidya to producer Vinod Chopra.

She had to undergo multiple screen tests and by the end of it she was so demoralised that she went into a depression. But Chopra insisted on one more audition and Vidya agreed to the final shot in sheer exasperation! The final shot clicked and Vinod Chopra confirmed Balan as his Lalita. Parineeta opened at the Cannes Film Festival and the foreign press went berserk about Vidya Balan.

To be continued

Nuclear family does not diminish attachment – Day 2012

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During lunch break, Abhishek Bachchan says that even though Om Jai Jagdish is a multi-starrer film, there is no sense of rivalry on the sets, “in fact it is like being part of a large family”. The set feels like a home with so many friends dropping by to congratulate the team.  There is Anupam’s wife, Kiron Kher, parliamentarian, Rajiv Shukla, producer Srishti Behl and some more.

In between shots, Kher finds time to tell me more about his film “It is about a joint family that needs to divide when the time is right. We have been fed on Sooraj Barjatya’s films that tell you about ideal families. Om Jai Jagdish says that a joint family is not a proof of love and living separately does not diminish bonding”. While we are chatting, we are joined by Om Puri who plays a florist in the film, Om listens to his director, says he plays a Muslim character and for a change does not speak in Urdu but in English “And that’s breaking a cliché” he adds. “It is exciting to work with an actor-director because he understands what an actor goes through.”

Actor and an image – Day 2011

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There is a light change and everyone plonks on the sofa till the camera man is ready. Anupam uses the break to brief his actors for the next scene. “You are supposed to be less excited and more natural” he tells Abhishek. Waheeda Rehman looks at him expectantly but he dismisses her, “Aap ke liye koi instruction nahi hai” then turning to me says, “My only grouse against my idol/ Rehman is that she is too regal looking to play a middle-class mother.”

Rehman does not agree, she says, an actor can look any part as long as she has the right costume and an authentic set but yes, projection is also about perceptions. “All through my career I was never perceived in wicked roles. While shooting Teesri Kasam Raj Kapoor said I was too soft faced to play a nautch girl but the director wanted me do the role. You find me regal now because you have not given me a crumpled saree, give me a poor sari and I will look a poor character”. “I can’t” laughs Anupam Kher, “Because I am making a commercial film not an art house film, and my audience wants to watch Waheeda Rehman not a poor mother”.