Monthly Archives

March 2022

Microsoft games and sequels – Day 2342

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Tell us about your character Admiral Margaret Paragonsky?

She is the head of the Office of Naval Intelligence, a no-nonsense woman, a bit conflicted because she has been trained to abide by the rules and yet she allows the unscrupulous scientist to manipulate her, she breaks all rules because she promises a panacea for humanity.

Do you get anxious every time you begin a new film?

Oh yes, this time more because of covid. It was a vulnerable time for me personally because I was still recovering from my near fatal accident. In fact, was in Budapest exactly twenty days after my discharge from the hospital. The first day I was in high heels and not confident of my balance but the cameras and the lights are an adrenalin rush for an actor and we are ready for any challenge.
Last, how familiar are you with the Microsoft game Halo?
To be honest, I knew nothing about it, the production organised a visit for me to the Halo World’s lab 343 Industries and everything was fascinating but alien. I tried reading a couple of books on the subject but it was complicated, so I decided to surrender to the vision of the filmmaker. Concluded

Madame Souzatska to Admiral Paragonsky – Day 2341

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Halo is your first colour-blind casting since you started shooting for Western movies four decades ago.
Yes, it is indeed amazing that we have a cast that includes Korean, African American, English, Indian, Hungarian and none of the actors are cast for their ethnicity and more important, all of us retain our natural accents, a proof that the world shrinking and becoming a global village.

It was not like that when you started?
No, all these years, I have been cast as a South Asian. I remember asking my director John Schlesinger way back in 1988 why he cast me as the boy’s mother in Madame Souzatska when the character in the book is a Jew and John said that Indians are a part of the British fabric and this must reflect in the choices. The struggle for colour blind casting started then and we are seeing the results now but there is still a long way to go.
What was the process of preparation before the filming?

We had a bootcamp in Budapest where did some readings, workshops and then on the sets at Korda Studios that was transformed into the Halo world.  The actors met only on the sets because all protocol had to be observed for covid. To be continued

Shabana Azmi ready for Halo – Day 2340

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Shabana Azmi is the first Indian actor of her generation to have an extensive exposure via international projects. Genesis, Madame Souzatska, La Nuit Bengali in the eighties. City of Joy, Immaculate Conception, In Custody, Fire and Side Streets in the nineties. Water Borne, Loins of Punjab and It is a Wonderful Afterlife in 2000 and A Decent Arrangement, Midnights Children, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, The Wishing Tree and The Black Prince post 2010. Add to this, tele series Bangla Town Banquet, Next of Kin, The Good Karma Tree and now Steven Spielberg produced Halo. I catch up with the actor in London on her way to the premier of the web series to find out how she feels.

From art cinema to $200 million budget project, it has been a long journey?

The journey has been long and meaningful, budget is just a number, what is important is how you feel.

So how did the opportunity come your way?

It was quite surprising actually because I didn’t have to go through an audition. The casting directors saw a couple of my films and suggested my name.  My agent Geoff Stanton was in talks with the producers without letting me know. It was only after I got confirmed that I did a facetime call with the director Otto Bathurst whose work I had loved in Black Mirror and Peaky Blinders.

To be continued

Lessons of Life – Day 2339

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How does Rani Mukherji adjust to so many different temperaments?

I think all actors are as good as the script and the director. We are clay and can be molded according to the characters we play be it Yuvva, Black or Paheli.

And in the process do you learn something from your characters?

Most certainly, from Michele in Black I learnt that there should be dignity in deprivation. I became grateful for everything God has given me. From Heera the prostitute in Mangal PandeyThe Rising I learnt there is courage in conviction. From Laachi in Paheli I cherished my right to exercise my choice. From Maya in Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna I learnt that I should only marry for love. From Bunty aur Babli I learnt to listen to my heart. From Millie in Babul to cherish relationships and from Radhika in Ta Ra Rum Pum to never take success or money for granted.

What have you learnt from show business?

To be in the present and to have no expectations from anyone, to rely on yourself, your work.

And from life?

To remain happy and live life to the fullest without regrets because we don’t know what’s awaiting us tomorrow.


Top directors and banners – Day 2338

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What about Shah Rukh Khan?

Shah Rukh Khan is an extremely focused actor and his energy is infectious. His attachment with people he works with is admirable. He is sensitive to his entire team and also very observant.  Let me make a confession, it was Shah Rukh who taught me to romance on screen. In the earlier days, I used to be very self-conscious in my romantic scenes and refrained from looking into the eyes of my hero. Shah Rukh taught me to linger my gaze in a scene and slowly I mastered the art.

AndSalman Khan?

Oh, Salman is a combination of child and a man, extremely good-looking and popular. Everyone just loves to love him.  That is his personality, he exudes affection.

What about other directors?

Everybody has their unique style and a special way of working. Karan Johar functions from the heart and the reason his films are so popular is because he touches a human chord. Sanjay Leela Bhansali is a painter and a poet. His frames are lyrical. Shaad Ali is crazy and this reflects in his films – Saathiya or Bunty Aur Babli his characters are magical and I feel grateful that I got an opportunity to play so many different characters with so many filmmakers.

And Yash Chopra?

Yashuncle works entirely on instinct. He insisted I do Saathiyaan even though I had initially said no. He heard two scenes of Veer Zaara and cast me in the role of the lawyer. He is a passionate filmmaker and what I feel for him is special.

Working with trio Khans – Day 2337

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Do you ever feel disillusioned?

On the contrary, I feel detached from everything negative. I have no time or energy to get worked up over trivial matters. The pace of work is all consuming and everything else is on hold. Earlier I was pre-occupied with my new office, then I was doing up my new home and all this has to be accommodated in between my shootings and outdoors so it is all about chalking out your priorities”.

So, what is your priority, your role or the banner?

Ideally a good role from a good banner because the best role cannot be executed without a competent banner. The decisions are not difficult at all because usually everything comes to you in a package and it all happens organically, the right films at the right time come to you and all you have to do is to recognize the opportunities and adjust your dates. When you enjoy your work, nothing is a strain.

You have worked with all the three Khans, how similar or different are they?

Aah, let me see how I can answer this question, Aamir Khan is an intelligent actor with an eye for detail and the film he does is above every individual or ego. During Ghulam director Vikram Bhatt had insisted my voice be dubbed and I was very upset but Aamir convinced me that it was for the betterment of the film. I submitted but a year later, Karan Johar released Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and retained my voice, so I was thrilled. Aamir saw the film and made an effort to apologize to me. I appreciated his efforts; it takes courage to admit that you were wrong and he did that.

Happy Birthday Rani Mukherji – Day 2336

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When we were children, our birthdays were restricted to cake cutting, as we grow older however, birthdays are time for reflection. Show business is a slippery world and what shines today, fades tomorrow, but there is memory of the sparkle, the spontaneity and the magic. Today is Rani Mukherjee’s birthday, and I recall my many insightful conversations with the actor.

In 2000 Rani was the queen of the box-office and on the wish list of every filmmaker. I asked her how it felt to be on the top and did she ever feel lonely? She was surprised by my question; said she had never thought about it because everywhere she went, she was showered with love and affection and there was no time to feel lonely.

What about the negative stories in the media, did she ever feel persecuted? “Not at all, they are doing their job, they can write what they want but I will not be provoked and will not issue any clarifications. I have no desire to release personal bulletins explaining my every action or choice of films to everyone. My job is to give my best shot everyday to every scene in every film, the results are not in my control”.

To be continued

Alia Bhatt and Madhuri Dixit rock – day 2335

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Ganga Harjivandas/ Bhatt heralds from a small town in Gujrat. She belongs to an illustrious family, is the daughter of a barrister but is obsessed with movies and wants to become an actress, so her boyfriend Ramnik brings her to Bombay and sells her to Kamathipura.

Anamika Anand and Gangubai Kathiawadi after serious attempts to break away from their cages, submit to their circumstances and over a period of time get absorbed in the roaring success. Anamika is charismatic and draws people to her. Gangubai is intelligent, fearless and therefore a natural leader.

Both are surrounded by families. Anamika has her mother, husband and two kids and Gangubai has the entire kotha. Both have special confidantes. Anamika shares her woes with her makeup man who betrays her. Gangubai dotes on Kamli, who betrays her when she dies early in child birth.

Both find true love but are unable to sustain it. Anamika in her co-star and Gangubai in her tailor. For a while both are carefree and joyous but the heady feeling is short lived. For both, personal happiness is a luxury that money cannot buy. Anamika is married and cannot afford a scandal and Gangubai is from the dark alley doomed to singlehood.

Both are exploited by those around them but eventually emerge victoriously. They are famous and economically independent Anamika’s family is dependent on her earnings and Gangubai’s entire clan is dependent on her guidance. Gangubai is supported by the underworld don Rahim Lala/ Ajay Devgan, Anamika by a stranger who stands by her during her crisis.

The Fame Game is the right role at the right time on the right platform for Madhuri Dixit and Dixit fills every frame with her poise and fragrant presence. Gangubai Kathiawadi is the perfect pitch at the perfect age for Alia Bhatt. And most important, both are super successes globally.


Heroines take over heroes – day 2334

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There is a delightful story about Aliaa Bhatt narrated to me by her sister Pooja Bhatt. When Aliaa was three or four-years old, she played Pooja’s childhood in Tamanna. One day, the shot was taking longer and she was asked to rest in the makeup room. A while later, Pooja joined her in same room but Aliaa was reluctant to share the cot with her older sister. Soon there was a knock on the door to announce that the shot was ready. Before Pooja could get up, Aliaa had checked herself out in the mirror and was out! There was no doubt in her mind that the shot could have been for her sister. Not just that, she delivered a perfect one-take and then announced her pack up.

Aliaa Bhatt always knew that she was made for the camera. Madhuri Dixit was unaware of the glamour world till she got her break in films.  She made her debut in 1984 and completes four decades before the arc lights this year while Aliaa Bhatt completes a decade in show business and has to her credit some remarkable films.

This month two terrific actresses have delivered blockbusters and done entertainment industry proud. The senior actor, Madhuri Dixit on the small screen in The Fame Game on the Netflix, the story of a superstar. The junior actor, Alia Bhatt on the big screen n Sanjay Bhansali directed Gangubai Kathiawadi, the story of a prostitute.  If Madhuri’s poise and presence lent dignity to the eight-episode- web series, Alia Bhatt’s energy and power makes the film an engaging watch across all states and generations.

The characters they portray are both contradictory and similar in many ways. Actress Anamaika Anand/ Dixit heralds from a small village in Maharashtra. She wanted a normal life but her ambitious mother had big dreams for her and controlled her life. Her father is unknown, never mentioned in the series.

To be concluded

Aamir Khan Birthday Special Part 2 – day 2332

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Are you doing right by avoiding the media?

See, there is curiosity about me but there is no hype, because I don’t hard-sell myself, because I don’t boast of my achievements to film magazines. I don’t believe in media publicity. I don’t succumb to media pressures because my dream is on another level. I want to be the country’s most respected actor and the race is not over yet!

Even though your competitors have moved ahead?

They did so because they had the talent. I don’t grudge them; for myself, I can say that out of the fifteen films I have done so far, I am proud to lend my name to seven films and I’m not sure how many actors can be as fortunate.

So, would you say you are happy?

Well… not entirely but I’m fairly happy.

Why not entirely?

Because I would like to work even lesser than I do now; as of now I’m working every single day of the year except Sundays. I want to reduce the assignments to just one film in a year.

What other things make you happy?

Umm… Let me think, success makes me happy… Good things happening to my family, to people I care for, make me happy… People who are sensitive make me happy…Kindness makes me happy.

And what makes you unhappy?

When things go wrong in my life… Suffering, my own, and of those around me makes me unhappy.