Monthly Archives

April 2022

Offloading Ashma Ganguly – Day 2356

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Is Mira Nair a demanding director?
I have known her for little more than five years now and she has always surprised me. I will say that Mira is a thoughtful director and I think it was a good idea to begin shooting in Kolkata at Howrah Bridge followed by Taj Mahal at Agra. It was when we got comfortable with our characters that we traveled to New York.

What is her USP?

She has fascinating observations about people and life. I would say her personality is evident in her relationships with her actors and her technicians. She is not at all hard on her actors. On the contrary, she makes light of even the most dramatic scene and which is why I call her the David Dhawan of America because her motto is to be happy at all times.

That’s unusual?
Absolutely, for her image and position it is so easy to get carried away but Mira is grounded and values human beings. She makes everyone around her feel special and is highly appreciative of the slightest good work you deliver. It’s the first sign of a competent director and so reassuring for the actor.  When I finished my work in the film, I extended my stay in America, something I have never done in all these years. I think I needed that much time to off load Ashma Ganguly before I got back home.

Concluded

Mira Nair is God of details – Day 2356

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How different was the experience of shooting?

I quite enjoyed shooting with an international unit on a foreign location. This was the first time I was travelling without the entourage of my make-up man, spot-boy and hairdresser and felt entirely baggage free, quite liberating frankly.

You didn’t feel lonely at the end of the day?
I did, particularly when the days were very cold and I wanted to eat hot Indian food but I enjoyed my space too. I always carry my books and music with me wherever I travel and I made friends with the unit too so all of us went out together on a couple of occasions. The hotel where we were staying was in the heart of Manhattan city so it was very easy to just stroll into a theatre, restaurant or to a Broadway show whenever one felt like.

How do you prepare for a role?
It depends from role to role. Mira didn’t want me to over prepare for the character, besides I’m familiar with the Bengali culture and customs because all my friends are Bengalis and live in Kolkata.   My look for the character and the backdrop was the least of my problem because I knew Mira would work out the details. I also knew that she has extensive workshops and would guide us on the journey.

To be continued

Character seeks the actor – Day 2355

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It did not bother you that you were not her first choice?
Not at all because at this phase of my career, these issues seem too trivial, on the contrary, I viewed the offer as an opportunity. How does it matter whether I am the first or the last choice of the filmmaker? The role can travel to as many artistes but the character is remembered by the actor who plays it! I believe that whatever happened, happened for a reason and I did the film because I was destined to play the part. I had read the book and identified with Ashma Ganguly and maybe now the character herself was seeking me out as an actor.

What attracts you to Ashma Ganguly?
Her honesty, her complexity and her survival instinct.  It is the story of ab immigrant couple, Irrfan Khan and me trying to make a home in New York city. The couple tries their best to fit into the foreign land but in their hearts and head, they are all the time living in Kolkata, thinking about all their loved ones, the relatives they have left behind.

To be continued

15 years of Namesake – Day 2354

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Mira Nair’s Namesake was released in India in 2007. The shooting of the film began sometime in April 2005 initially in Kolkatta and later in New York. It is fifteen years since the film released and is still a big draw at film festivals looking at Indians in foreign space. The film is especially relevant in present times when people have not been able to travel to meet family residing overseas. I remember meeting Tabu during the shooting of this film and she had said that the story of Namesake will always touch a raw nerve as long as we have families living away from us. Excerpts:

You had been in talks with dire4ctor Mira Nair for a different film if I remember right?
That’s right, Mira and I had been meeting on and off over the last few years and bounced a couple of ideas. Both of us were keen to work together but nothing concrete ever came out of these meetings or conversations. At one point, it seemed like one of the ideas both of us liked, was going to work out, but even that fizzled out at the last minute. So, for a while we stopped meeting, assuming that our time to work together had not come as yet. Then one day, while I was shooting in Hyderabad for a South film, I get a call from Mira and she says that the Namesake casting had fallen out and would I play the main part?

To be continued

The audience is changing – Day 2353

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In my opinion Rajamouli’s RRR has raised the standards of entertainment. Now the audience is hungry for more magic and cinematic experiences. Bigger budgets, multi-languages, more action- fantasy films will be the trend in the coming years. More sequels and franchises will be made. K.G.F Chapter 2 released in 1000 screens will soon announce KGF Chapter 3 and RRR will announce a sequel. The climax of Pushpa: The Rising has prepared us for a sequel and is probably work in progress at the moment.

In the 70s Pushpa may have been identified with Hindi cinema’s Rajesh Khanna, who tilted his head and said, “I hate tears’ but in the year 2022 Pushpa is universally identified with superstar Allu Arjun and this time it is Inspector Shikhawat who tilts his head and says
with a drawl, ‘Ae Pushpa’.

Moral of the story, nothing lasts forever, not success, not stardom because showbusiness is changing every moment.

Concluded

Entertainment is changing – Day 2352

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Entertainment like fashion, changes every few years, so does the business. In the olden days, Hindi and South cinema superstars never crossed territories. Bollywood stars could not speak their language and South stars even when they attempted Hindi language were never accepted by Hindi audience. Be it Kamal Haasan or Rajnikant, they failed to make a mark in Bollywood. Dhanush is currently the only exception and his presence is limited to niche movies. But last few months prove that it is not just the trends but attitudes are changing. The Hindi audience, who never liked South stars are lapping up to Pushpa, RRR and KGF. There has been a shift and it is time for our Khans and Kapoors to reassess their stardom.


Who would have thought that an Akshay Kumar’s Bachchan Panday would not work at the box-office? Who would have imagined that The Kashmir Files would take over box-office by a storm? In all fairness Ajay Devgn is the only star to consistently sparkle be it a special appearance in Gangubai Kathiawadi, RRR or make his debut on the OTT platform with Rudra. Ranveer Singh’s 83 did not garner the figures expected and Ranbir Kapoor’s Bhramastra has been in the making for years. Shah Rukh Khan is still unsure of what to make nex and Aamir Khan has been dragging feet over Laal Singh Chadha ever since covid. Salman Khan brand of movies have been working so far but will they after the southern wave I’m not sure.

To be concluded

Jayantilal Gada is the new king – Day 2351

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SS Rajamouli of Bahubaali fame was ready with his ambitious RRR but had to wait for the
right time to hit the theatres. There were small and big delays but the reactions were
euphoric! The film collected 1000 crores in less than two weeks and now Hollywood was
checking out Rajamouli profile. Mumbai’s top producer and exhibitor Jayantilal Gadda who
has had a hattrick- Gangubai Kathiawadi, RRR and Attack held three grand parties attended
by the entire film industry.


That is not all, last week we have another big South release, Kannada film K.G. F Chapter 2
starring superstar Yash. Written and directed by Prashanth Neel, and produced by Vijay
Kiragandur, this is a sequel to the 2018 film K.G.F: Chapter1 this time with a bigger budget,
100 crore and more Bollywood actors, Sanjay Dutt and Raveena Tandon and just the advance
booking Chapter 2 promises to be another blockbuster.


It has finally happened; Indian cinema has crossed barriers of language to unite in creativity.
This is a big moment for the entertainment industry. A crucial time for our superstars and
super filmmakers to redefine their art.

To be concluded

Southern Cinema rules entertainment – Day 2350

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Bollywood superstars may not like this but the South film fraternity have taken over the
entertainment business all over the country. Time was when countrymen waited for the latest
Hindi blockbusters but ever since the theatres closed down during the pandemic, most people
I know are binging on Telegu films dubbed in Hindi. There is high demand for these
entertainers on the OTT platform and it reflects a changing mind set.

The Telugu action-thriller Pushpa: The Rise was in a way the beginning. Superstar Allu
Arjun starrer opened theatrically on December 17 2021 to a thundering response at the box
office and was simultaneously released in dubbed versions including Hindi, Malayalam,
Tamil and Kannada languages. The official Twitter page of the OTT made the announcement
for the movie and its digital premiere and the film collected Rs 247 crore in the worldwide box-office – Rs 1,51,00,00,000 in its first week and the second-week collection recorded earnings of Rs 41, 00, 00,000. The celebrations had just begun.

To be concluded

Shooting India and abroad – Day 2349

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Currently you are doing more films abroad than in India, “Yes, because I’m getting better offers abroad than here. I don’t want to do any more run of the mill roles for sure. From now on it will only be quality films for me”. And what is the difference in the shooting of India and outside? “See, I don’t want to undermine our home productions but there is no comparison with their efficiency. They are masters in detailing, so there are less chances of blunders but I also have to add that they make as many bad films as us”

What are the other differences? “They have better resources, bigger budgets and newer technology but that’s not the issue because we have the best technicians and artistes. The biggest difference in my opinion is in our responses. While we respond to everything emotionally, I think they are more mechanical about everything.” Does Gurinder Chadha fall in the same category? “No, because Gurinder Chadha does not intellectualize her craft, there is no snobbery towards Hindi cinema in her films. She is a storyteller and has the capacity to portray extra-ordinary characters in ordinary circumstances be it Bend it Like Beckham and Bride and Prejudice. Working with her is like working in a Bollywood film because she is Punjabi at heart”.

What about you, do you miss India when you are shooting abroad? “Well yes and no, because I know I’ll be returning home as soon as my schedule is over and I have learnt to live from day to day because there is a famous saying, if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.”

Theatre, acting school and more – Day 2348

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So, what is the plan ahead? I asked Anupam Kher. “From now on I will do different things and will do it my way.”  And how will you juggle your time? “Everything we do, does not require our time. It requires concentration and if your intention is good everything falls into place. There was a time I was shooting 23 films a year. Today, I’m shooting only two and both on start-to-finish schedules. When the mind is peaceful, you are able to divide time between cities and countries”.

What have you learnt from your low phase? “The lows in my career taught me seclusion, I discovered that Hindi cinema functions in camps and people meet only when they are working together. If you are not working together, even if you are friends, you become an outsider. I decided it was time to divert focus, so, I launched my play, wrote a script and built my Acting Studio”

Is it that simple? “See, a new vision calls for a new discipline. It was around this time I adapted the habit of making notes of all I needed to do. I had seen Vijaya Mehta do that during the shooting of Pestonjee, then I noticed that filmmaker Yash Chopra used a planner and even Sam Pitroda made frequent notes on his mobile phone. This was a revelation because I had never done it, I had always worked at random but now I make notes for everything. I am more systematic”.

To be continued