Monthly Archives

June 2021

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”.

Story of Joint Family – Day 2010

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I visited Anupam Kher on the first day of the shoot and was surprised to find him composed, he said, Yash Chopra always said that the best way to make a film is to enjoy the process and that’s what I’m doing. I am happy I have actors I enjoy spending time with and filmmaking is all about good vibrations”.

The actors were in great spirit and the scenes were getting okayed rather swiftly. From where we were seated, we watched Waheeda Rehman dry a wet towel on the balcony banister, chatting about a proposal for her older son/ Anil Kapoor to her younger son, Abhishek “He will like the girl, won’t he?” she asks Abhishek. “Of course, he will…” he reassures her.

Remembering Om Jai Jagdish – Day 2009

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Twenty years ago, around this week, released Om Jai Jagdish produced by Vashu Bhagnani and directed by Anupam Kher. The film was a game changer for almost everyone involved in the film. It marked Anupam’s debut as a director, Rahul Nanda, son of Gulshan Nanda as writer. Waheeda Rehman made a comeback after twelve years. Anil Kapoor who had so far always played the younger son, for the first time played the older brother. Abhishek Bachchan, Fardeen Khan were not in happy phases of their careers but this film brought them into notice.

A bungalow set was constructed in Mumbai for the first schedule of the film and before the actual shooting commenced, Kher invited the cast with their families for tea at this beautiful bungalow. It was a super idea to meet the unit and get acquainted with the ambiance.

Day Number Artistic to formula – Day 2008

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Over the years Vipul Shah was more active as a producer than a director and got identified with Commando series. For artistic satisfaction he indulged with smaller projects like Zindagi Ek Pal and Kuch Luv Jaisa and strangely did not miss direction, said, “As long as I’m making films I’m stimulated.”. Today, every director wants to write his own script, don’t you?  “No, because Aatish Kapadia is terrific at his work and when he hands me a dialogue sheet, he does not need to mention the scene number/ location/ character name, no instructions inside brackets he knows I will understand and execute it exactly the same way he has conceived it. That’s the level of our compatibility”. And wife Shefali? “Shefali understands the rhythm of my work and contributes in my creative process, she is not just a great actor but also a great mind”.

Shefali knows this and I will not be surprised if the next artistic film produced by the banner is directed by Shefali Shah, she is more than ready for it!

Working with Bachchan | Day 2007

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Shah says he was very clear that he didn’t want to make a romantic film because nobody did that better than Yash Chopra and therefore, chose drama – “I was looking for subjects but my mind kept going back to our play, Aavjo Wahla Phari Malisu and I decided to follow my heart once again. It was a simple story, the kind of films Hrishikesh Mukherjee made and my instinct proved right”

It was the first time you worked with your wife? “Yes, we did a film earlier but at that time we were not married and this time she was over critical of everything, as a result Amitabh Bachchan started addressing her as malkin and joked, ‘Director toh theek hi nay a unhe bhi badalna hai?’. Once in front of the camera however, no special treatment meted out to her. I ask the director how it felt watching his wife in the arms of Amitabh Bachchan? For the first time Vipul Shah blushed, “What can I say, even envy has limitations, I don’t think any husband would complain of such a privilege”.

To be concluded

Regional to mainstream | Day 2006

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Didn’t it worry you that working with only Gujarati team will brand you as vernacular? He smiles, “they say that about everyone who comes from regional theatre. The mainstream has always been superior about the regional but let me tell you that the regional content is always superior. They were skeptical of me because Aankhen was adapted from Gujarati play but it never bothered me. I’m proud of my roots and a time will come when the mainstream will be proud of us vernaculars”.

Shah’s tele-serial Ek Mahal Ho Sapnon Ka was amongst the first serials to complete 1000 episodes and in a way the beginning for Balaji’s Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi but Vipul Shah was more than generous in his praise for Ekta Kapoor, said “Kyunki…is India’s answer to Dynasty, that’s show business, it follows a cycle. So do filmmakers, I guess. Vipul Shah’s next film Waqt also was adapted from a Gujarati play, penned by friend and partner, Aatish Kapadia.

To be concluded

Theatre to cinema | Day 2005

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The film industry is full of artistes who started with theatre and filmmaker Vipul Amrutlal Shah is one of them. He began his career with Gujarati theater, moved on to Gujarati tele- serials, debuted as Gujarati film director of Dariya-Chhoru /Children of Ocean and finally made it into mainstream cinema. In the coming years, he established his banner with romantic comedies like Namstey London and Action Replay and in later years produced successful action thrillers like Holida and Force.

Come 08 June Vipul Shah turns 48 and I recall his early memories, “For most of us studying at Narsee Monje College in the western suburbs of Mumbai, Bhaidas Theatre was a dream destination. I joined Gujarati theatre when I was 19 and turned director with Aandhado Pato /Blindman’s Buff when I was 21. The play was written by Aatish Kapadiaand ever since we have collaborated creatively be it theatre, television or films, Gujarati or Hindi”.

To be concluded

MF Hussain & Madhuri Dixit – Day 2004

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You mean your current muse Madhuri Dixit? He shook his head “That is a perception, I paint her form not her face, for me there is no past, no future because it is today that combines our yesterdays and tomorrows and that’s what Gajgamini is all about.”  The film is a visual treat I tell him but too abstract to understand what is going on. “I made it with a motive to experience not understand. Life is an illusion and the poet a symbol of illusion. Kavi Kalidasa is the greatest creator of all times and Kamdeva the divine lover.  My film explores illusions, no dissolves between light and darkness. My concern, as in all my paintings, is to relate to a specific Indianness and which is why the premise of the film is Varanasi”.

Everyone was intrigued why Madhuri Dixit danced with her back to the camera?  “Facing camera is not essential, I am celebrating the female form, presenting the woman as sublime but the audience still views her as a sexual object.” Madhuri Dixit, Tabu, Shabana Azmi and other heroines understood that and were proud to enhance MF Hussain’s majestic frame. He told all of them the same line: “It is a story of women who carry pots and jangle ghungroos as they walk, alone and endlessly.

Shabana Azmi is right, we did not value MF Hussain and celebrate his genius while he was alive.

Concluded