Gearing up for Gangubai – Day 2079

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Bhansali recalls that when he was older and went to watch movies, he was fascinated with the projector fascinated and the beam of light falling on the big screen, “I wondered how it happened and told myself that one day, I will tell my story too. I shot nine films and a few songs, created music for my movies and have enjoyed the process. This year is special because a film I enthusiastically look forward to Gangubai Kathiawadi makes it to the cinema halls and there is more…

Netflix will showcase the ambitious Heeramandi a subject close to my heart. My friend Moin Baig presented the story to me 14 years ago but I had to wait because it had to be presented on a grand scale. Then OTT happened and I knew that the time had come and Netflix is the perfect platform for the extravaganza. Stories are forever wandering in my head and I never know which one I will pick to make my next film. Twenty-five years have gone by and years have gone by and more decades will pass, but my love for cinema can never diminish. I always say you don’t need money to make films, you need passion.”


Bhansali celebrates jubilee – Day 2078

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This is a special year for Sanjay Leela Bhansali who completes 25 years in cinema. Bhansali recalls that he was four- years-old when he visited a film shooting for the first time with his father. “My father had to meet some friends and seated me on a chair from where I could watch the shooting. He said he would come and collect me, so I sat there, watching people, camera, props move from one place to another and I was fascinated.

When father finished his work and came to fetch me, I did not want to go home. I wanted to be inside the studio forever, it was more exciting than going to school, being with my friends and cousins. It was only when I turned much older, did I understand that they were shooting a cabaret dance on that day. It was all so colourful, so enchanting that I was captivated in the world of the dancer and knew all the steps because it was so many times.”

To be continued

Yash Raj and festival time – Day 2077

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Somehow, the only South director Hindi cinema is attracted to is Mani Rathnam and when news came around that Aishwarya Rai was shooting with Ratnam again, they were all the more curious. Ratnam’s next is based on Tamil celebrated book Ponniyin Selvan portraying the Chola dynasty and Sobhita Dhulipala of Made in Heaven fame, a trained classical dancer, plays the pivotal role of a princess who is a master of Kuchipudi and Bharatnatyam. The film is a multi-lingual project and also features Vikram, Aishwarya Rai and others.

The coming months are promising for Yash Raj Films because Bunty Aur Babli is due for a Diwali release while Prithviraj starring Akshay Kumar as the king and directed by Dr Chandraprakash Dwivedi a new year opening and Ranbir Kapoor’s Shamshera directed by Karan Malhotra is scheduled for March 2022.

Autobiographies and bubble shoots – Day 2076

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To those who allege that show business is changing rapidly, I will respond that opportunities are too many. What was not okay just a few years ago, is perfectly fine now. When Masaba told her story with mother Neena Gupta, many were horrified. Then came the Bollywood Wives and now suddenly everyone is telling their stories. Legendary tennis players Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhuppathi have shared their conflicts in Breakpoint and allegedly Salman Khan and Prabhu Deva are next in the line. 

There is so much content to absorb on the small screen that it is a refreshing to read about projects coming on big screen. Rani Mukerji after shooting for a month in a bubble has just wrapped up Mrs Chatterjee Vs Norway, story of a mother who fights a nation for the sake of her child. Interestingly, South star-director Revathy has roped in Kajol also for the story of a mother titled The Last Hurray.

Movie Review: Sardar Udham – Day 2075

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Film: Sardar Udham

Date: 15.10.2021

Sardar Udham is well intended but unusually slow

by Bhawana Somaaya

Shoojit Sircar directed Sardar Udham is the story of revolutionary freedom fighter who shot General Michael O Dwyer in the presence of all at Caxton Hall, London. Dwer was the man to give fire orders in Amritsar’s Jallianwala Baugh that killed 20,000 Indians. When the massacre occurred in1919 Udham Singh was only 20 years old and it became a life transforming event in his life.

The film touches upon all those landmark years: 1913 -1929 -1921 -1927- 1931 -1933 and 1940 and we travel all these cities, Punjab-Rawalpindi-Scotland-USSR-Lahore where Udham walked the streets, markets, spent happy times in the field, stable, picked by police stations, at times hiding in dingy lodges haunted by recurrent nightmares and the pall of gloom during his long imprisonment.

The camera exposes you to all his demons, not an easy film to shoot because it is tough to compress so much information within just two hours. The research is detailed, authentic and excels in sound, cinematography, locations, language. The problem is the pace. All the sequences are long, Udham’s investigation unending and frequent flashbacks-flash-forwards annoying.  

The Jallianwala Baugh massacre is superbly shot, but again never ending. Nobody expects entertainment from a patriotic film but some humour, light moments could have changed the narrative. Vicky Kaushal plays Udham with quiet confidence and repressed anger but the character is devoid of   shades. Watching the film, I kept wondering how Irrfan Khan would have portrayed the role.

It is not easy making a film like this, not easy revisiting wounds. It is 100 years since the massacre but India is yet to receive an official apology from the British. The bigger tragedy however is that the revolutionary who sacrificed his life for the nation has been forgotten.

Thank you, director Shoojit Sircar, for reconnecting us to our hero Sardar Udham. Jai Hind.

An actor & a filmmaker – Day 2072

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While a lot has been written about Asha Parekh as an actor, as a dancer, we tend to always overlook her accomplishments as a filmmaker. I remember asking her if she had ever imagined that she would become a director one day?Never” she replied but she was always fascinated with the medium. “I was always curious to know what went on in the director’s mind and was always asking them questions. Those days things were different, there was so much bonding within the unit in between shots. There were no vanity vans then so everyone was always on the sets, absorbing, learning”.

What made you venture into production/ direction? “Those days television was blooming and my friends were pestering me to get into something constructive.  So, I decided to do a series in Gujarati called Jyoti.  They were episodes based on women-oriented stories and after 26 episodes I was confident to move into Hindi platform but again, chose a subject of my comfort zone, dance, Baje Payal explored dance in Hindi cinema and all the heroines willingly participated in my show. After this I moved to mainstream series and there was a time, I was shooting Kora Kagaz and Kangan simultaneously. It was a crazy time and we were in a way relieved when Kora Kagaz was concluded”.

To be concluded

Asha Parekh – A full life – day 2071

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On 02 October is Mahatma Gandhi, Lal Bahadur Shastri and Hindi cinema’s hit- girl Asha Parekh’s birthday. She was referred to as the Hit Girl because all the films she featured in were super hits and it was said that purchase of territories concluded as soon as a new project featuring her was announced. She started her career as a child star in the fifties, made her debut as a lead in the sixties and despite her superstardom continued to perform dance ballets on stage. She is the only heroine trained in both Bharatnatyam and Kathak classical dance forms.

She is also the only heroine to turn distributor and become actively associated with social service in hospital. In the nineties she was appointed President, Cine Artistes Association/ CINTA and also Chairperson, Censor Board by the then I& B Minister Sushma Swaraj. Unlike other actors who sit on their laurels Asha Parekh has accepted new challenges over the decades. She launched her production house and turned director on television with Baje Payal then Dal Mein Kala Hai, Kora Kagaz and finally, Kangan.

To be concluded

Dev Anand made everyone feel special – Day 2070

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It is only later I discovered that Dev Anand has the same effect on everyone who came into contact with him. It is said that Shabana Azmi already launched as a leading lady had no intention of doing a small part in Dev Anand’s new film but five minutes of entering his office and Azmi was so carried away that had agreed to Ishq Ishq Ishq. Says Azmi, Dev saab was so charming that she was swept off her feet and could not refuse the veteran actor.

Neetu Singh, another star of the seventies revealed that her boyfriend Rishi Kapoor in those days was obsessed with Dev Anand that he looked for opportunities to meet him. It is because Dev Anand made every-one he met feel special. His actors loved him and his heroines felt safe with him.

Unlike other filmmakers, Dev Anand did not expose his heroines on screen, on the contrary he always said that the more covered the heroine, the more sensuous she looked. In later years however, after turning director, Dev Anand often presented his heroines like Zeenat Aman and Tina Munim in glamorous costumes but they were always sensual never vulgar. I asked him about the shift in image and he accepted that it was an effect of changing times, said, “Filmmaking is a collective process and dependent on multiple pressures and sometimes it is easier to give into these pressures rather than waste energy in converting opinions”.

To be continued