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Movie Review: Haseen Dillruba

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    Haseen Dillruba, uncannily reminded me of Ashutosh Gowariker’s What’s Your Rashee?. While there is barely anything that makes the two films similar on the surface, they are connected by the biggest flaws.

    For most parts of the Gowariker film, Harman Baweja is seen bride hunting. He meets 12 different girls and has to decide on one. When he finally settles for one of the 12 matches, he justifies his decision by saying he was in love with her. Not for once was there a moment in the screenplay to suggest he was in love with the girl and that she was on his mind when he was meeting the other girls. The film collapses in the one line when Harman confesses his “beyhadh pyaar”.  Haseen Dillruba goes to pretty much the same issue.

    Haseen Dillruba’s Rishu is an engineer working with the Jwalapur electricity board with interests in homeopathy. He is pretty much the average small-town Indian guy who is forced to go bride hunting. And interestingly, the two times he has gone bride hunting, he has fallen in love too. The first girl did not want him, but he got lucky the second time around. Now he has a beautiful wife, and he is too intimidated to try and consummate the marriage. Unsure how to deal with an assertive wife, he seeks advice from his unmarried best friend who coaches him on how to ‘train’ his wife to become the homemaker his parents would love. When his wife falls for his cousin instead of him, he is hurt and shows devilish intentions, while stating that he loved her too much.

    Most of Rishu’s character is believable. We all know the type of guy who falls in love with every girl he meets. Throwback to Saif Ali Khan from Dil Chahta Hai, and Aamir Khan’s dialogue “Tera koi bharosa nahi. Aaj Pooja, kal koi dooja”! And we also know the guys who fantasize about getting a hot girlfriend but bite his tongue if he ever needs to speak to a girl he fancies. However, it is when he claims he passionately loved Rani is where the problems arise. The screenplay in no way justifies this ‘love’. And this is also where the rest of the film falters because everything else is based on how much Rishu loves Rani. I could call this the “What’s Your Rashee Syndrome”.

    And that’s the tragedy. Because this one massive flaw aside, Rishu is one helluva interesting character. He is endearing, seeming less harmless and yet turned dangerous. And Vikrant Massey adds every bit of life the character needs. The skilled actor manages to bring in the madness with steely eyes when needed and disarms with his smile.

    The other characters have no such flaws. Taapsee’s Rani is a literature student in love with pulp crime novels written by a particular writer. And like many fiction lovers, she derives her idea of romance and love from these novels. This is funnily close to what porn did with a pizza delivery guy. And hence when Rishu’s cousin Neel, with six-packs and everything else to drool over, arrives at the house for a few days Rani crushes over him like a teenager. She suddenly finds her wanting to cook, something she would never do, just to please Neel. Taapsee aces her part. Harshvadhan Rane shows promise too but is let down by the character that is as incomplete as the clothes he is made to wear. Neel is essentially used as the bait and barely anything else. He is often shirtless. He even wears a life jacket over a bare body!

    Outside the pulp crime story that Haseen Dillruba aims to be, it also makes fleeting commentary on patriarchy, one how the woman is expected to be sundar, susheel and gharelu. None of that has much bearing on the story per se. You may wish there were more scenes between Rani and her in-laws, but the in-laws disappear right when the story gets going. You are unsure why they were not present when Rishu unleashes his rage.

    Pitfalls aside, Haseen Dillruba does manage to entertain. It does just about what the pizza delivery boy is supposed to be. Let’s just call this one a fling rather than a memorable love story.

    Haseen Dillruba is available on Netflix

    Movie Review: Sherni

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      Roughly two and half years ago, around November 2018, forest officials in Maharashtra with help from a private hunter had managed to kill a tigress named Avni after mounting a massive hunt. This was in accordance with the Supreme Court’s directive. Following the killing, there were both celebrations and accusations. The hunter was provided with a silver tiger trophy, while activists talked about how it was a cold-blooded murder without any effort to actually tranquilise the tiger and transport it to a protected area, thereby saving her life.

      For many, this episode of tiger hunt would probably still be fresh in minds considering the news coverage it received. Amit Masurkar must have certainly had this incident playing in his mind when he decided to make Sherni. So Avni or T1 becomes T12, the hunter Asghar Ali Khan becomes Pintu bhaiya, who prefers a havan before starting his hunting expedition. Both Asghar and Pintu seem to share similar parents and have similar records when it comes to hunting. There are multiple other similarities, except with different names.

      What he did not get into his mix was the protest and campaign that was going on simultaneously to save the tiger. Amit keeps a relatively simpler screenplay, angling occasionally at ideas such as development versus conservation and gender discrimination. His primary focus is political and bureaucratic monkey business that unfolds around such an incident.

      Our protagonist is Vidya Vincent, a DFO who newly been appointed to the area. She has struck a field job after years of slogging behind the desk with barely any incentive or promotion. And she realises that this is not an easy assignment as now she has to deal with people rather than files. Vidya’s honest efforts find blockades in her superior’s willingness to bend backward to please the people holding political powers. She finds support in Professor Noorani, played beautifully by Vijay Raaz. Noorani is a zoologist who steps in as an expert to help Vidya with knowledge of the animal. Together they set out to save the tiger and the villagers while hoping Pintu bhaiya does not beat them at it.

      Sherni is shot well. Masurkar successfully provides a glimpse of the terrain and its challenge. His approach is similar to a documentary maker, lending the story the believability it needs. And his dialogues add the zing, ensuring that the entertainment factor is kept alive.

      He is also helped by his casting. Every person on the screen looks and behaves the part. While the likes of Bijendra Kala and Neeraj Kabi live up to their competency, you are left surprised by Sharat Saxena. As Pintu bhaiya he strikes gold. And there’s Vidya Balan, never failing to deliver. This time as a cat-fearing Malayali-Christian married to a north Indian, living away from her husband, absorbed in work, and aspiring to do more than what has been laid out for her. The one scene, also a part of the trailer, where her mother-in-law asks her to deck up a bit before heading out, her reaction is worth watching on repeat. Here is a woman who does not react much to anything and yet when she finally knows she has lost, you finally get a glimpse into her vulnerability, and you see the pain. As the camera goes into a closeup, Vidya does what she does best.

      Sherni is an out-and-out environmental thriller. At 2 hours and 11 minutes, the screenplay is taut although you wish it were not as unidimensional. And the fact that it draws so much from a real-life situation is scary and heartening at the same time. Scary because we know this has happened and might happen again. Heartening because we know that both in the case of Avni and T12, people who cared tried to help and ensured the two cubs were safe. Watch it.

      Sherni is available on Amazon Prime.

      Movie Review: Dictionary

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        Around mid-2008, India was waking up to a phenomenon names Savita Bhabhi. A cartoon strip about a promiscuous married woman, Savita, had managed to pique the imagination of the collective youth of the country. The phenomenon became so big that the Indian government had to step in, much to the dismay of plenty, and ban the site under the anti-pornography laws. This followed widespread criticism against the government for behaving like a “net-nanny”. Its fate notwithstanding, Savita Bhabhi did manage to enter common parlance as a part of sexist jokes and more.

        Director Bratya Basu may have sought inspiration from Savita Bhabhi too when he thought of his protagonist Smita Sanyal in Dictionary. No, his film is not akin to some of the web shows that we have today that gleefully entering the realms of sleaze while exploring sexuality. Bratya instead, and mercifully so, set out to explore the emotions that play into an extramarital relationship.

        Smita is nothing like Savita, although both have husbands named Ashok. She certainly is not promiscuous, unlike Savita who flaunts her sexuality unabashedly. Smita is someone who has found solace and love outside her marriage. She never makes it known what drew her away from Ashok, towards her Suman. It is the men in the story who come up with reasons. Suman, a literature professor, remarks, “When men are weak, women fall”. Ashok on the other hand cites his inability to play a good husband, opening up the discussion on what the film actually intends to do. Relooking at conventional ideas. Ashok talks about how the dictionary describes the husband as the head of a family and master of a household. “Not a friend,” he remarks.

        At the other end, Bratya brings in a parallel story of Makar Kranti Chatterjee, who is so obsessed with the western lifestyle that he prefers to be called Mak Chatterjee, almost reminding us of Arjun Rampal’s ‘Call me Mikey. Everybody in Hollywood does” act in Om Shanti Om. To cut the confusion, there is nothing common between the two films. Mak is the exact opposite of Ashok. Imposing and one who truly believes he is the master of the house, as he is in his office. He is what is seen conventionally as a strong character, having managed to build a small business into a larger factory and living in a posh locale of Kolkata. He is someone who gets hassled as he watches his son opting for flattened rice and curd instead for toast for breakfast. He is also used to bring in some lighter moments.

        Both the stories are linked by the dictionary. By words that we know, and we don’t. And of course, Suman, who is almost like a personification of the dictionary as the professor who loves to quote from the classics. Suman happens to be Mak’s brother-in-law.

        The strength of Dictionary is in the delicate approach Bratya adopts while handling the extra-marital relationship. He manages to steer away from letting out any judgments, giving each character their own space and reason. And he is blessed to have found an appropriate cast that could bring his characters to life. Abir Chatterjee as Ashok, Nusrat Jahan as Smita, Mosharraf Karim as Mak, and Arna Mukhopadhyay as Suman bring respectability into their characters. Also commendable are Sirsha Roy’s cinematography and Prabuddha Banerjee’s music complementing each other.

        Dictionary is about one finding the truth, shaking off presumptions. Will it manage to create as much discussion as Savita Bhabhi did? Probably not. It most certainly is not aiming to do so. But it should manage to start some conversations.

        Dictionary is available on Zee5.

        Looking back at Sushant Singh Rajput’s career

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          Exactly a year back we lost Sushant Singh Rajput. Was it a case of suicide, or was there something more? Well, only time will tell. Irrespective, one of the things I will probably never be okay with was the way the depression story was ridiculed. “He did not look depressed,” is exactly the kind of argument that we should have probably never entertained. Nevertheless, that is a discussion for another day. Today, we discuss business. Business of films and how it could impact an actor’s career.

          Sushant Singh Rajput was by no means a failure. He was a sparkling story of success. How else do you term a person’s career when in merely ten years he got to work with some of the biggest film producers and directors in the Hindi film industry. Yash Raj Films, Dharma Productions, Nadiadwala Grandsons – he got to work in stellar projects made by all of them. In a country where almost every second kid wishes to become a movie star and thousands make it to Mumbai every year to try out their luck, how many can claim to have such a remarkable journey? And yet, as it appears, things were not hunky-dory. Were far from it rather!

          As was made public during the investigations following his demise, Sushant had lost out on several films in the last couple of years. This led to a number of allegations – of how SSR may have been systematically targeted by people in the film industry. People who had given him work in the first place. Conspiracy stories are plenty.

          The disconnect is evident. Why would anyone want to target an actor in an industry that is run by commerce? If your films are doing business, you are in business.

          Not even the most ardent fans Salman Khan would probably argue if you compared Salman’s histrionic abilities with say a Rajkumar Rao. Salman is not known for his acting prowess. He is however a powerhouse of charisma that drives the box office like a charm. Even his most deplorable films manage to bring in festive joys for the ones in the business of film exhibition. For a producer who risks his financial standing while making a film, a chance at the recovery of investments is paramount. And they often do the star’s bidding as long as the star promises to deliver the moolah – personal feelings for the person notwithstanding.

          Another case study: Govinda. The actor is known to have been always late for his shoots. But till he was delivering the blockbusters it was all fine. The day he ran out of luck at the box office is when people also started having problems with his inability to manage time.

          At the other end of the spectrum, we have multiple cases such as Kumar Gaurav who found themselves out of favour when their films stopped doing the business the producers needed them to do. A “star kid”, Kumar is not alone. And he was not a bad actor either. Kumar has delivered credible performances in films such as Naam and Kaante. For every Rishi Kapoor who made it, there are multiple Rajiv Kapoors who did not.

          If nothing else, this reinstates that the only thing that matters is commerce. Had the Indian film industry been run by the government, maybe profits would not have mattered as much. But when someone puts their own money into something, it would be foolish for them to not expect returns. And this is where probably Sushant’s story found a stumbling block.

          I know you will argue that many of Sushant’s movies were hits. Yes, they were. But Rajesh Khanna too had once given 15 straight superhits. Unfortunately, it is the latest Friday that matters. And for Sushant, the failures of Detective Byomkesh Bakshi (COP: 35cr, Revenue: 26cr) and Raabta (COP: 47cr, Revenue: 21cr) were major stumbling blocks. More so, the latter. Yes, there was a Dhoni in between. That was moderately successful. But it was also the biopic of India’s most successful cricket captain and was directed by a maverick filmmaker with a fan following of his own. And like in most cases, while success is attributed to multiple factors, failure is often pinned on one person. DBB and Raabta’s failures meant SSR was not ready yet to pull off the kind of films he wanted to do… films that needed budgets that were more than the business of his most successful film. Case in point the ambitious films Chanda Mama Door Ke and Paani.

          Right after Raabta, multiple films of Sushant were put on hold indefinitely. Some others he himself walked out of. These include RAW, which was later made with John Abraham. Can you blame the film financiers/producers for that? Well, it’s their money. Like Vashu Bhagnani once told me about casting his son in his movies, “He is my son. If I have the money, why should I not spend on him.” Indeed! A father has the liberty to spend his money on his son. You and I, as the audience, have the liberty to decide which movie to buy tickets for!

          Could SSR have reworked his strategy and moved to small budget films that are usually made with his Kai Po Che co-star Rajkummar Rao? Maybe that could have helped. Maybe not. It is a hypothesis at best. The fact remains that he was not selling the tickets that were required to recover investments made on films such as Raabta and the wonderful Sonchiriya.

          Before I am trolled for my statement, let me affirm I had huge regards for SSR the performer. While the actor on-screen demeanour mostly reminded me of Shah Rukh’s early days, the charm he oozed can barely be matched by anyone from his generation. I enjoyed watching him, as much I enjoy watching SRK on-screen. He was a perfect mix of charm, energy and acting capability that I have always thought is important to create stardom. And which is why I mourn the loss. Because in him, I truly believe, Hindi cinema could have had a major star… if only he had more time. Alas!

          For now, I truly hope that we move on from making a mockery of his demise and relish his work in films such as Kai Po Che, Dhoni, Kedarnath, and Sonchiriya.

           

          Movie Review: The Girl on the Train (2021)

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            Back in childhood, I lived in the small city of Guwahati. Away from the madness of maximum city Mumbai, Guwahati has its small-town charms. It is vibrant in its own way while being quite laid back. One of the essential parts of Guwahati is the cycle rickshaw – a mode of transportation most people would swear by.

            The new age youngsters might find it disturbing to ride in a vehicle that is manually pulled by another human and not machine, but rickshaws have their own charm. You could enjoy the light breeze on your face, as the rickshaw cruised slowly. More importantly, you could probably do quick hellos with friends and acquaintances as they sat for their evening ‘addas’. The rickshaws allowed you that. Mumbai does not have an equivalent. The fast city has suitably fast trains, which aid you in your rush to reach somewhere. Not entirely enjoyable, but efficient. A slow cycle rickshaw will never be right for this city.

            I wish I could say The Girl On The Train was like the rickshaw ride in Guwahati. It is not. Neither is it efficient like the train journey in Mumbai. Instead, it is like a rickshaw ride in Mumbai. Rest assured, it is not heading anywhere.

            The Girl on The Train is about a wreck of a woman, Mira, who sinks herself in alcohol to get over the tragic loss of her unborn child. She has also lost her family and job. Interestingly, she finds solace in another person – someone sees every day from the window seat of her train in which she travels to we-dunno-where. The best part of her day is when the ever-drunk Mira sees this woman, amidst various moments of her own happy life. The happiness of this woman appears in sharp contrast to Mira’s life – a cozy house, a loving husband. Things go bad when this woman goes missing, and Mira, who happens to be a lawyer by profession, finds herself as a prime suspect in the case.

            Another detail: Mira has retrograde amnesia. Her short-term memory does not translate to long-term memory.

            Essentially, this is a great setting for a suspense thriller. I have not read the source material – the best-selling novel – but there must be a reason why it is popular. But the movie fails to evoke much response except boredom.

            FullyFilmy Review: The Girl On The Train

            A good reason for this might be the way Mira’s character evolves. You never quite feel empathy for her. And this is not due to Parineeti Chopra’s performance. The actress gives it all she has, but she is not given a character that does much else than drink. The one single feeble attempt at justifying her attitude is established when she says she had been looking forward to becoming a mother since she was a child. And neither is her processing bits of information and piecing together frames in her memory made quite believable – something on which the climax depends on.

            It is not Mira alone that not provided fir enough ground. None of the characters are. Add to that nonsensical scenes such as a random interrogation scene between Mira and the investigating officer in a public place.

            But more importantly, I still cannot figure why is the story set in London. Is it because trains there are supposed to be slow like cycle-rickshaws in Guwahati? Slow enough for you to see someone from a distance, recognise him or her, identity what they are doing, and get attached to their daily activities. Unlikely. London does offer a clean railway track though, unlike Mumbai. Maybe hence, eh!

            To give due credit, the actors try hard to add to their sorry characters. And cinematographer does his bit to add sheen to the frames. We only wish the director did what he is capable of, as is evident from his earlier ventures.

            For the interested, The Girl On The Train is available on Netflix.

            The love-affair of Bollywood and North America

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              In the course of the last few years, we’ve seen how the ‘Bollywood Masala’ has soared its popularity across the globe. It shouldn’t be a surprise though — considering a whopping 22 million Non-Resident Indians around the world! Bollywood is no longer constrained to the beaches of Indian Ocean — it has come into whacking limelight over these years and the song ‘London Thumakda’ has now a literal meaning in it.  Today, the fandom of Indian Movies transcends all the borders and Bollywood movies make a mammoth revenue with the love of their fans abroad and they’re too good to ignore for the creators in the industry. Stars fancy meeting their global fans by hosting tours and award functions, and the warmth the fans reciprocate is priceless. If you’re from North America and scepticism clouds your judgement about getting into the Bollywood movies, but they’re not as uncertain to try as the game of roulette—they’re easy to grasp and are loaded with fun songs that you can surely enjoy. In a nutshell, Bollywood movies are fun and if you’re in North America, you’d get the best out of Bollywood there—here are some of the best movies Bollywood movies from the last year that you could start with.

              Let’s take a glance at the dynamics of Bollywood and its influence on fans all over the world.

              The revolutionary 21st century for Bollywood:

              The inception of this century encountered some of the blockbusters by the mighty Bollywood giants who established their names during the beginning of the 21st century itself – Yes, we’re talking about Karan Johar and Aditya Chopra. If the iconic guitar tune just echoed in your head, you know where this is going. With likes of Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayengay, Kal Ho Na Ho and Kuch Kuch Hota hai creating massive traction all across the globe, filmmakers started giving more attention their global crowd by adding elements of Indo-American culture in their movies. The popular TV host and film trade analyst Komal Nahta also gave her opinion on this shift in Bollywood saying, “These directors gave NRI viewers the perfect mix of traditional Indian values with a modern Westernised treatment.”

              Over these years non-resident Indians weren’t the only ones who hopped on the global fan brigade of Bollywood, the diverse culture and the dramatic magnetism of Bollywood lured a lot of a lot of Hollywood celebs too. Be it Kristen Stewart’s desire to work with the ‘Greek God of Bollywood’, Hrithik Roshan, or the queen of reality Tv in Hollywood, Kim Kardashian who admitted her ardent fascination in appearing in popular Indian telly reality show, Big Boss.

              If Bollywood has influenced any part of the world the most, it would most certainly be the Western one — especially the fans of North America.

              Bollywood’s overwhelming love story with North America:

              Did you know that out of the 13 million population of, Ontario has 600,000 Indian diasporas? You can only imagine the levels to which the Indian culture penetrates there. Even the business giants in North America have started to pay serious attention to the possible synergies of having the hold of Bollywood aficionados.

              Indian-Language movies have found a strong grip on the North American cineplexes.

              Some of the Bollywood blockbusters have hit the skyrocketing stats in North America only, in the past decade —like Rajkumar Hirani’s 3 Idiots that grossed $6.5 million in 2009. Though it was a long time back and nowadays movies are even exceeding the $10 million grosses. The latest release of the movie Bahubali (Bahubali 2: The Conclusion), broke all the records in North America in 2017 by grossing more than $13 million in North America. Its total box-office collection turned out to be around $20m in the United States — the movie gained popularity like wildfire in North America and left a long-lasting impact of Bollywood on the people. Although the population of Indians in North American only comprises of 1-3% of the Global Indian diaspora, a Bollywood hit in North America can still earn more than 10% of its worldwide gross — that explains how a lot of Bollywood award functions and movie tours took place in North America in recent years. One of the most iconic ones among them was last year’s IIFA Awards which is also known as the ‘The Oscars of Bollywood’. The star-studded night took place in MetLife Stadium in New York. The event had the likes of some of the biggest stars in Bollywood like Salman Khan, Varun Dhawan and Alia Bhatt, who were dancing to the popular Bollywood numbers and were revered by their fans.

              Farhan Akhtar wins Best Actor award for Bhaag Milkha Bhaag at 15th IIFA Awards, Tampa, USA

               

              Sooner or later, Bollywood movies can rival Hollywood movies in a staggering duel for movie screens in North America. Currently, an average week in the US encounters 900 movie screens decorated with Bollywood movies, across 35 states of it. However, one thing is quite certain, fans of Bollywood in North America are only going to get more of their beloved stars in the coming time.

              The Star That Stree Delivered – Rajkummar Rao

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                Rajkummar Rao’s growing popularity can barely be questioned. He is, and for good reason, considered one of India’s best actors, and arguably the finest in the younger generation. And even though he has a loyal audience, one that is growing fast, his ability to draw audiences to the theatres has been questioned. The worry was not unfound, with Queen being his only clean hit till last. 2017 was an important year with Newton – his first success as a solo protagonist.

                Which is why Stree is a gamechanger. The horror-comedy breezed past the 50-crore mark in merely six days, after an impressive Rs 31-crore first-weekend collection. By the end of the first week, Stree has become one of the most profitable films of 2018 in terms of investment versus earnings. And if that’s not good enough, the pace at which it is advancing shows good indication that this might just mark Raj’s entry into the 100-crore bracket – a prestige club of Bollywood stars. The keyword here being ‘star’. It’s almost symbolic – a star is born of Stree!

                Rajkummar Rao

                This also comes at an interesting time. Raj might have found a solid competitor in Vicky Kaushal, who has been basking in some warm light the whole of this year. Vicky has been a part rather prominent parts in Sanju, Raazi and Lust Stories. And he is all seem to create a large impact with Anurag Kashyap’s Manmarziyaan. At least the trailers seem to be saying so.

                This is just the time when Raj needed to assert that he is not just an actor who can pull of any character, but also take up responsibilities of a film on his shoulder. And he is not letting the opportunity pass. Right from the promotions of Stree, Raj was clear that this is an important film for him. This is possibly the first time he has a film that could work with a larger audience than what he has been able to establish. And he has not let the success go unnoticed. At least that’s what the party he hosted for the media screamed out.

                On Wednesday evening, Raj celebrated the success with many media personnel media – people who have stood by him and advocated his abilities as an actor. It was a happy occasion. Raj played the perfect host as he spent some informal moments with each person present at the party. The party also was attended by the producers of his film, Dinesh Vijan, and Raj Nidimoru, apart from Shraddha Kapoor. The food and the wine flowed making it all a memorable affair.

                And while the party spoke about his delight, the statement was made through the choice of location. Olive, a luxury dining place frequented by the likes of Ranbir Kapoor, Shahid Kapoor and some of the best-known stars of Bollywood. A place situated in the heart of glamorous Bandra.  If conjectures could be made, this could very well signify Rajkummar Rao’s rise, him stepping up from Lokhandwala to Bandra.

                What does this mean for the industry? A whole lot of things. We have a brand-new addition to the A-list. Someone who has taken the longer route to success. A rare case of actor-turned-star. A welcome addition.

                On the same day, Raj announced on his social media that he has been signed as a brand ambassador for an eyewear brand – a part of a well-known Italian brand. This further establishes his connect with the audience.

                Celebrations aside though, this will also open up speculations on each of his movies going forward, and how they do at the box office. Now on Rajkummar will be expected to deliver at the box office, even as he maintains the quality of his work. And it is going to be interesting how Raj managed to keep his fans happy, stay a star and yet fall into its trappings.

                Movie Review: Anil Sharma’s Genius

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                  Over the last few years, Bollywood has taken massive strides towards telling tales that more real and grounded, increasingly detaching itself from the dramatic storytelling that was once the essence of Hindi cinema. Of course, it cannot be denied that this has been a welcome change. And yet, what also cannot be denied is that there is a sizable audience still yearns for the movie that packages everything, like a buffet, from action to romance to comedy. And Anil Sharma’s Genius gives this audience just that.

                  Let’s be clear. This is probably not a movie that is going to please the intellectual and the ones who seek a more contemporary storytelling. Genius is pretty much a 90s flick, replete with randomness and inconsistencies. It has a hero who can overcome crippling pain and spring into action when his country’s reputation is at stake. It is about a hero who is invited by RAW to join him because he is… a Genius at what he does. It is a story where we are not sure what our hero is studying at IIT – computers or chemicals. He seems to ace everything anyway. Along with Sanskrit slokas. It is a film where our hero derives scientific basics from the Vedas – something I am certain is not going to go well with many of the audience.

                  It is also about a larger than life villain, MRS, played by Nawazuddin Siddiqui. An aura is built around this man, who remains untraceable for the world except for our hero Vasudev Shastri. And yet when he comes on screen, MRS is more comical than menacing. He even does a cute dance to Himesh Reshammiya’s music at a party. This chap is a genius in his own right.

                  But once you accept its inconsistencies, Genius can be engaging. It is a non-linear screenplay and has enough twists to thrill the audience. While the first half of the film is dedicated to building the love story and Vasudev’s character, someone who greets people with a charming Radhe Radhe, the second half is when things get serious. Twists build up towards an action sequence where two geniuses fight it out. But before that, the screenplay could successfully convince that there is something fishy about the hero itself.

                  The dialogues of the film are aimed at playing to the gallery. Often references are made to the way of life in Vrindavan and the culture. Genius is mounted on a lavish scale. Director Anil Sharma is one of the few filmmakers in Bollywood who can mount a film on a large canvas.

                  All of these help debutant Utkarsh Sharma to come across as a decent new face. Someone who could be given another chance, irrespective of the faith of his debut. Co-star Ishita has much lesser to do. Much of the cake is hence taken by Nawazuddin Siddiqui. In one particular scene, where he is telling the backstory of his character, the actor showcases pure brilliance, moving from madness to grief.

                  Genius in its essence is a 90s flick, but with some new age smartness… characters talking about hacking and binary codes an all. It is the kind of launchpad that seeks to project the debutant as a complete package. Looks bhi hai, action bhi karta hai, aur romance bhi. Badhiya hai! Watch it just for that!

                  Movie Review: Mudassar Aziz’s Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi

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                    Sonakshi

                    In one of the film’s hilarious scenes – and there are quite a few actually – the lovable Usman Afridi asks Bagga, “Desh toh azaad ho gaya, lekin Kashmir ka kya karein?”. It comes across as a simple line that but when seen in context to the real-life bilateral ties, a Pakistani asking that question to an Indian speaks volumes of how delightfully layered Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi is in its humour. The film has multiple such lines that allow us to laugh at how funny the complex can be.

                    Sequel to the much loved 2016 Happy Bhag Jayegi, Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi takes us to Shanghai, China. While the earlier was based on a runaway bride landing in Pakistan, this time it is about mistaken identities – one Happy being kidnapped instead of the other. The reason behind the kidnapping is quite hare-brained and might in a way look too convenient for the screenplay, but then that’s exactly why the goons become so lovable. They are silly and clearly do not have much of a future in the world of crime, as Sonakshi’s Happy says out in a scene.

                    Sonakshi

                    The kidnapping is followed by a mad ride to find why she was kidnapped, her escape and then finding the other Happy, who we have already met in the 2016 film. While all this unfolds, the clueless Happy (Diana) and her husband Guddu (Ali Fazal) happily enjoy boat rides in Shanghai.

                    Mudassar Aziz builds a hilarious screenplay. Never for once does he resort to anything that does not fit the essence of the film. Every scene adds up and more importantly entertains. But most importantly, many of these scenes could very well turn into a classic, just because of the way the director has dealt with it. Some of the sequences are spontaneous that it is difficult to figure out whether it is all written and rehearsed or did things just happen on the sets and the director decided to keep it.

                    None of the actor – Sonakshi Sinha, Jimmy Sheirgill, Piyush Mishra, Ali Fazal, Diana Penty and Jassie Gill – ever slips out of character. They nail each and every dialogue with conviction and adds to the delight. Jassie Gill, who debuts in Bollywood with this film, shows immense promise. Sonakshi Sinha pulls a perfect one as the feisty Punjabi girl. There is also a fun cameo by Aparshakti Khurana. And Jimmy Shergill sets the standards high.

                    But the star of this film is Mudassar Aziz and his writing. As a director, he makes a rather over the top premise look plausible. But it is his incredible writing that makes Happy Phirr Bhag Jagegi an absolute joy.

                    Gold Movie Review: Fiction over reality

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                      The story of Gold starts with the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Our protagonist Tapan Das is the narrator. Das is the Junior Manager for the Indian Hockey Team, and he aspires to salute his own national flag rather than an English flag after the team wins a Gold. He is a Bengali, living in Mumbai and dreaming for his country. In ideal conditions, this could be a great character. And he is pretty much one of the more interesting characters we have seen. He is an alcoholic accused of embezzlement of funds and yet when it comes to his country, he wishes to surpass the faults in his character.

                      But, director Reema Kagti decides to make her actor Akshay Kumar speak Hindi with a Bengali accent… even when he speaks with his wife, another Bengali. What she manages, in turn, is build a character who seems to be unsure of what accent he needs to speak in. So, when Akshay Kumar is narrating, he is doing so in decent Hindi with little Bengali accent thrown in; when is speaking on screen he is doing an overdose of the Bengali accent making it look a caricature; and when he sings… he does so in Punjabi! And we are not sure how to feel about him anymore.

                      Yet, Gold has larger problems. Reema Kagti, usually used to writing with Zoya Akhtar, finds a writing partner in Rajesh Devraj, who has earlier written films like Quick Gun Murgun, and Fakir Of Venice (yet to release).  As mentioned, her screenplay starts with the Berlin Olympics. The hockey final sets up the premise of the show and from there it is an exercise to build up Tapan’s character and how he struggles to a team going and the difficulties he faces.

                      To be fair, after a tepid first half, the second half gets the josh going. The nationalistic fervour is evoked in the final 30 minutes and the film reaches its crescendo in its final minutes. When the national anthem plays out, you might just have a heart beating much faster with excitement and joy. Gold manages to hit its target there. Reema creates interesting characters, although at a point it looks like she is heading for a Chak De! India style conflict within the team. She quickly steers clear and moves ahead towards the larger goal.

                      The director is ably supported through some feisty performances by actors like Amit Sadh, Sunny Kaushal, Vineet Kumar Singh and Kunal Kapoor. Akshay Kumar delivers his best and looks comfortable in what he has been offered.

                      Technically, Gold is shot on a lavish scale. It is never easy to set a film in an era that has gone by. The film hence needs a large amount of VFX. Reema reduces the pressure by focussing on creating the era, instead of the matches. While the camera takes you into the playground, in middle of the excitement, it does not quite focus as much on the ball creating a lesser need for VFX. The focus stays on the faces.

                      Despite all of these, however, Gold comes across as an opportunity missed. And a terrible miss it is. Mostly fiction, with a few real-life inspirations thrown in, Gold’s screenplay takes too much time in building its protagonist and lesser time in building the team. India is 1948 was in a complex state. We were still in the hangover of the riots that has ensued after the partition. A lot of players refused to play hockey just because they were not in the state of mind. And building the team was probably a much larger task than finding the talent. The screenplay offers nothing on how the dynamics between players changed once a few of the former Indian players were started representing Pakistan. As per reports, Pakistani players were given orders not to mingle with Indian players. The tension does not make it to the screen. The makers have not used any real names and have even altered situations to fit its screenplay. The focus stays, unflinchingly, on Tapan Das. And it becomes a one-man mission.

                      Nevertheless, Gold makes the cut simply because it delivers the thrill and the proud nationalism it promises. What one must keep in mind while watching this film – Yes, it is touted as the story of India’s first gold medal, but it is a piece of fiction, including the character of Tapan Das.

                      What does the box office collections of Dhadak tell us about nepotism?

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                        With a first week collection of Rs 50 crore, the makers of Dhadak are celebrating. And they have good reasons to. Janhvi Kapoor’s debut is snuggly placed pretty high on the scale when it comes to successful films of this year – beating films like Varun Dhawan’s October. And glaringly, Dhadak serves as a cold reminder of why exactly ‘nepotism’ prevails in the industry, which has seen severe criticism in recent times for supporting its own.
                        MEDIA PLAYS FAVOURITES
                        The success of the film is barely a surprise. The trade was always quite kicked about the film, with curiosity levels sky high right since it was announced that it would serve as Janhvi’s debut. So much was the craze that the paparazzi started following the Janhvi before she started shooting for it. In one of her interviews, the actress actually recounted how the one particular scene filmed in Kolkata had to be scrapped because the paparazzi following her was also seen in the shot!
                        The media does not quite provide the same kind of love to any other debutant who is not born into the film industry. For example, Rajkummar Rao with his immense talent was barely interviewed until his talent could not be ignored anymore.  Why so? “The lineage plays a major part in creating the curiosity. Like in this case, Janhvi is Sridevi’s daughter. Plus of course, there are others factors. There is a great marketing initiative put in place to make sure they are all over the place and people know about them and the media talks about them,” says senior journalist Indu Mirani. Indu likes to be that it is the media which drives the curiosity and not the other way around.
                        Interestingly it is not just the average joes that Janhvi and Ishaan edged past. Dhadak also beat debut vehicles like Student Of The Year and Heropanti – both extremely hyped, and major hits. The huge sympathy wave for Janvhi after her mother’s demise could be a reason. Sridevi, after all, was one of the biggest stars the country has seen.
                        nepotism
                        MONEY MATTERS
                        Indu did point out a very pertinent point – launchpads that have great marketing budgets, which manage to generate some sort of interest among the movie audience.
                        Budgets can be commanded by the bigger directors. And yet when Farah Khan, a top-notch mainstream director, wanted to make a film with three female characters she found it difficult to put the film together. Eventually, she let go of her dream.
                        In comparison, director Anil Sharma seems to have managed a decent budget to launch his son Utkarsh Sharma. Needless to say, directors like Karan Johar, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, and Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra got the budgets they wished for when they were launching Alia Bhatt, Ranbir Kapoor, Sonam Kapoor and Harshvardhan Kapoor. In comparison, smaller filmmakers even with great ideas do not get such budgets if they wish to cast just about any newcomers.
                        There are dozens of smaller filmmakers who launch newcomers – but most of these films sink without a trace. Every once in a while, films like Masaan and Pyaar Ka Punchnama do happen, but it is not rocket science to figure that ratio of star-kids making a profit are higher.
                        “While I would say it is not only about films, but yes, we have to accept that ancestry does play a part. When the next generation of a star comes in the expectations of business that their film can do automatically rises,” says well-known distributor Girish Johar. With over 140 films to his repertoire, you could assume he knows what he talking about. “The certain favouritism tends to come in. If you know a renowned chef’s child has a turned a chef, you might want to give it a try! Similarly, the film watching audience tends to think that if an actor is the child of a renowned actor, he or she could be tried. In contrast, if the same film is made with a completely known cast, people tend to wait for the feedback on it. This, in turn, plays a part in the money that is spent in mounting and promoting the film!” he explains why star-kid launchpads are more attractive business opportunity to financiers.
                        A wise producer, anonymously, put it up in as straight words a possible. “Filmmaking may be an art, but it is a commercial art. The producer puts his money into the director’s dream. And it is important that he gets his money back.” Putting that to perspective, the ones who put money into Dhadak did know what they were getting into. As you read this the film had marched past the lifetime collections of many films starring well-known actors.
                        AUDIENCE LOVES NEPOTISM
                        Interestingly, star kids manage to get a lot of press and attention even if their debut vehicles flop. Like in the case of Harshvardhan Kapoor and Ranbir Kapoor. In contrast, someone like Karthik Aryan and Divyendu Sharma barely got any media coverage despite being lead in a superhit first film.
                        Now, despite what journalists like Indu Mirani believe – that it is the media that drives the curiosity – it can barely be argued in the digital age, a lot of reportage happens on what could get more clicks. Which is why Taimur Ali Khan is today one of the most discussed individuals in the country. To put that into perspective – a website stands to lose up to lakhs of views if it stops talking about Taimur, Inaaya, and Abram!

                        Understanding why Sunny Leone needed Karenjit Kaur’s untold story

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                          Some time in 2016, Sunny Leone hit upon what was until then an unexplored fanbase. Women, who had till then not really given her much thought. So far, a larger chunk of her fanbase was clearly male. One interview with a well-known journalist Bhupendra Chaubey changed things. A rather persistent Bhupen wanted to pin Sunny down and throw at her all the questions that he believed would send the star riling into self-introspection – a journalist’s wet dream. That was not to be. Despite all his attempts at getting Sunny to explore her guilt at having joined the porn industry, the actress stayed amazingly composed and unrattled. She, in fact, made it clear that she would not ever give out any signs of being perturbed by people who want to tell her off. Her attitude found a lot of women, and men, sitting up and taking note that she is not just someone who titillate with her body but could woo with her mind too.

                          For a lot of people till then Sunny Leone was just a former pornstar and someone who was attempting a makeover, with a Bollywood career. Her first Bollywood film was a major hit, thanks to the curiosity. Her next film tanked. And things were not so good anymore. Sunny was soon becoming the go-to girl for the directors who were not necessarily intending to tell stories but make the quick buck – using her seductive on-screen persona. It was a run-up to the release of one such movie, Mastizaade, when Sunny Leone stumbled upon this unfound love.

                          For anyone who has tracked Sunny, and her career – porn and otherwise – it has never been a secret that she has a very clever mind. She is known to have made a profit out of decisions – dollar for every quarter! When she and Daniel started dating, they started their own adult entertainment company – where they produced a few of their own films. These films, of course, worked decently, considering they were indeed a couple. And then she went on to produce a lot more films which did not actually star her but had her name and hence sold well. For a mind as sharp as that, it would have been unimaginable to let go of an opportunity that could be milked – an opportunity that was open up by the famous interview. The idea of a biopic was born – a biopic that could humanise her and make her more endearing. A biopic that could tell her story. Because clearly, like Chaubey stated in the interview, people wanted to know! I would like to assume, this is where Karenjit Kaur: The Untold Story found its genesis.

                          And Karenjit Kaur is made. Interestingly, Sunny does not mind using Chaubey’s interview as an axis, around which her story is told, as the screenplay goes back and forth – almost like a Slumdog Millionaire. It’s another matter that in her show she makes Chaubey look like a maniac. And the interview is made into a shoddy piece of work – considering this is the real story, you would have expected them to keep the interview as real as possible.  I suppose, whoever runs the show holds the reigns. When Chaubey interviewed her, it was him firing all guns. This looks like giving back, in style. The irony: this is the second time in two weeks, when our dear actors have decided to stick it up to the media… remember Sanju?

                          So Karenjit Kaur’s story is told – the shy girl that grew up bold. She made some choices, at first for the need of money, but never for the heck of it. ‘The Untold Story’ as it is tagged, portrays Sunny as a moralistic girl who repeatedly turned down the money before situations got better off her.

                          Unfortunately for her though, much before this expensively shot ‘biopic’ of hers happened, Sunny had already okayed a documentary. Mostly Sunny, shot by Dilip Mehta, was out in 2014. And it shows a Sunny quite contrasting to the Sunny that Karenjit Kaur the Untold Story offers. Sunny is unabashed in the documentary as she speaks that she enjoyed the money that came along with her work and financial situations never quite pushed her into it. “I didn’t think about my family. I did not think about my family. I didn’t think what was right or wrong to them. I was making a living. This is more money that I could ever imagine that I could make all year long, working at a tax returns firms as a receptionist,” she says in the documentary. She follows it up by, “It was not that we were poor. That wasn’t the case at all. But they definitely didn’t give us what we wanted. So, I was always trying to figure out how am I going to make money; how am I going to figure how to go to the store and buy candy…”

                          Goes without saying that Mostly Sunny is a far better watch. But that’s still besides the point. The larger question would be: why make a something like Karenjit Kaur The Untold Story? How does such a show help?

                          We can only make assumptions. And studied guesses. For one, a career in the porn industry is not forever. You might get a realistic view of it if you watch Hot Girls Wanted, a documentary available on Netflix. A Bollywood career offered Sunny a shot at something she had not even realise was possible. Sunny mentions in the documentary how it all fell together as her “exit strategy”!

                          A few Bollywood films later, the curiosity around her has gone down considerably. Her films don’t bring in numbers at the theatres anymore. Her last hit was in 2014. Her film Tina and Lolo is lying unreleased for the lack of takers for years now, thanks to the series of flops. Even digital rights of her films, which earlier sold like hot cakes, don’t get money anymore. Why would you pay for what is available for free, is what I was told when I asked one buyer once.

                          In the last two years, Sunny has been busy with item numbers in films like Raees, Bhoomi and Dongri Ka Raja. Working with Shah Rukh Khan did bring in hope that things might change. There has been a time when actors refused to work with Sunny because they believed it would tarnish their reputation. Rajniesh Duggal spoke about it on record in Mostly Sunny. And I can tell from personal experience of at least one star who refused to have Sunny doing an item number in his film, even if it meant great publicity! This might anger the feminist but it’s a fact nonetheless. The change seems to be taking longer than one would have expected. And you cannot stay young forever. Sunny turned 37 earlier this year. And things don’t fall into place, endorsements will start drying up too. Acceptability needs to come in, faster.

                          Karenjit Kaur fits in as the perfect idea. So what if it is badly made! So what if it dramatizes her life and makes things seem all too rosy! So what if it makes a mockery out of an interview! The show could tell the story the way she wishes it… The show means Sunny is back. With a bang. And she would hope, this time things look up… for a longer duration, for her to figure the perfect next switch.

                          Sunny sums it better than anyone else ever could. She did it in the documentary when she says, “I don’t know what my legacy will be. I don’t look at myself and go, oh my god, I am the greatest actress, or dancer, or even and adult. But one thing I was good at was turning a quarter into dollar.”

                           

                          Karanjeet Kaur The Untold Story is available on Zee5.

                          Movie Review: Shashank Khaitan’s Dhadak

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                            If you have been a Sridevi fan, it is natural that you would find your eyes train on Janhvi Kapoor as she appears on the big screen for the first time. You might try to find resemblances, even feverishly hoping for something. I am betting at least some people will do so. Good news is that you will actually find flashes on Sridevi in Janhvi. Every now and then, the young girl will do what is natural – be like her mother. But that’s not the good news. Well, not the only good news. What is more important is that this girl is actually a good find… someone Karan Johar could pat his back for launching. Janhvi is effortless in her portrayal of Parthavi, a “uchi jaat” (higher caste), rich girl from Udaipur. Her expressions work and so does her delivery.

                            But what’s interesting is that she is matched scene by scene, and at times even trumped by Ishaan Khattar, another new actor, half-brother to Shahid Kapoor. Ishaan is refreshing because he does not seem to be caught up in the need to look good. He is comfortable in his skin and clearly concentrates on his craft.

                            Ishaan and Jahnvi are the biggest highs of Dhadak. As if almost by design… so that a great screenplay does not take away the delight of finding two new good actors.

                            That would be stupid though, if it is indeed by design!

                            For audiences who might not find the two young actors delectable, Dhadak could feel like a rather convenient a screenplay. Especially for the ones who are yet to get over Sairat, a Marathi film that broke many benchmarks. The film had left people speechless, unsure how to deal with it because of the way the director Nagraj Manjule dealt with the characters. Sairat was set in rural Maharashtra, and the people in the film behaved the way any real person would behave in those settings.

                            In comparison, Dhadak does not quite get as real – the trap that a Bollywood movie needs to willingly fall so as to please the larger audiences. This film is set in Udaipur and that is reinstated every now and then by the characters. There is no way you feel the essence of the place otherwise. Dhadak hence, after the joyous and breezy first half, becomes quite predictable. And then you are left waiting for the next big turn of events.

                            Writer-director Shashank Khaitan leaves out a lot from Sairat as he penned his version of the film, making it simpler and concentrating on adding extra effect on what he kept from the original. He wins some, loses some. Among the downers – he fails to bring in a growth curve in his characters, and the conflict that life’s struggles bring in is half-baked.

                            Shashank’s power as a director cannot be undermined though. Having delivered two back to back superhits, Shashank shows his understanding of the mainstream Bollywood audiences. And probably also understands that a larger part of his audience across the country has not watched Sairat, and hence the comparisons are unlikely to bother them.

                            To add to that, Shashank shoots this on a scale that pleases the eye. The aerial shots of Udaipur make you fall in love with the city. There is a lot of colour in each frame, to assert the good times while towards the later part, set in Kolkata, things are soberer.

                            Dhadak hence works – purely in the regular Bollywood ‘mainstream’ parlance. It is however, a missed attempt at creating anything that could last longer… like Sairat probably will. Except, of course, the careers of Ishaan Khattar and Janhvi Kapoor. Dhadak will live, just because chances are that these two will go a long way.

                            Business of music decentralised, and the South takes the step

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                              Indian Performing Right Society Ltd (IPRS) sets up regional committees.

                              For long now, it has been a habit of people to look at Mumbai and Bollywood as the centre of all creative activities. And this also reflected in the way the Indian Performing Right Society (IPRS) – the only government authorized body in the country to administer rights, issue licenses and collect royalties for authors, music composers and music publishers – functions. However things are changing and a significant change in the same direction was recently undertaken.

                              Few days back the IPRS Governing Council met in Chennai to discuss with its members from the south Indian states on how to get things better. Among people who were involved included stalwarts likes Illayaraja, A. R. Rahman and Vidyasagar. And the outcome of the discussions could very well be a game changer. The IPRS realizes that it needs to increase involvement of regional members to achieve greater market efficiency and to make this happen it is setting up regional committees, who will function as advising bodies for Governing Council on how to relay IPRS policies to the regional members and authorities in coordination with its local administrative offices.

                              The first Regional Committee was promptly set up in Chennai. And the IPRS is now working towards other states joining hands in this effort. Well known Telugu singer and lyricist welcomed the change. “I am very pleased that the first step taken by the new IPRS is to move away from its former Mumbai and Bollywood-centric attitude by acknowledging the importance of other music productions centers and by involving every member instead of having just two representatives from the South on the Governing Council.”

                              Commenting on this development, Javed Akhtar, Chairman of the IPRS said, “IPRS is like a cooperative: it exists by and for its members. We have carefully assessed the situation, analyzed all the challenges faced by the Society and decided on a development plan. Our first step is to effectively localise and bring greater regional involvement in the Society’s operations. We started with South India, which is the country’s largest music producer and music exporter, with internationally acclaimed legends such as Illyaraja and A. R. Rahman. In the coming months, we will expand this regional drive so as to cover all the main music production centers this year itself.”

                              Mandar Thakur, COO of Times Music, also pitched in, “The economic contribution and the international influence of the South Indian music industry is second to none and is even greater than Bollywood in several parts of the world, particularly in South-East Asia, the Far East, and some European countries. But until now we have somehow not been able to properly monetize our assets. I warmly welcome this healing step of IPRS: it goes to show that the new management is inclusive and means business.”

                              It may be noted that the IPRS was founded in 1969 and has over 4,000 members across the country.

                              I should have been more professional: Chitrangda Singh

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                                Chitrangda Singh opens up about films, career, and life…

                                 

                                There is something endearing about Chitrangda Singh. You know she is not your mainstream heroine, though not for the lack of trying. She did try it with Desi Boys, but you would always remember he more for the work she did with Sudhir Mishra than for her item number in Gabbar is Back. Rather, if you are a part of the population that fell in love with her after Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi, then would probably want to forget that she ever did an item number as crude.

                                And yet, for someone who made an early impact as that, it is unfathomable how she did not score better. She was after all being referred to as the next Smita Patil… somewhere in the middle, she seems to have run out of luck. Or goodwill… if rumours are to be trusted.

                                Out of silver screen for a few years now, Chitrangda is back today, as a producer with the rather compelling story of ace Indian hockey player Sandeep Singh. And it is no surprise that she took the plunge at production while she was idling away, for the lack of work.  “Around 2013-14, I started writing something as I was not getting much work. End of 2014 I met Sandeep through a friend. We got talking. He was the Indian hockey captain and I have been around sports all my life. When he told me what all happened to him, my first reaction was astonishment. I started writing his story…,” Chitrangda tells us how she actually got into doing something beyond acting.

                                Doubtlessly, production was no cakewalk. Not for a first timer. For the first time Chitrangda was exposed to the intricacies of film budgets and funding. It took a lot of selling before she actually found a buyer in Sony Pictures Network, who happened to see the merit in the story or exhilarating triumph of Sandeep Singh. “At that moment a lot of biopics were being announced. And in a way that became a disadvantage as people reacted to us as ‘Ah one more biopic!’. Plus, it was about hockey who people do not know much. So, I will be honest, it became a little difficult to get people excited. I hence got a three-minute long presentation on Sandeep, using actual footage and images,” admits the actress, also accepting that she indeed approached other ‘mainstream’ actors for the role but nothing fell in place. Getting a mainstream actor to put on the look of a Sardar, that too one who played hockey, could be a task. It is no surprise that she failed there. Destiny, of course, takes its own course. Diljit not only worked for her in terms of looks but budgets.

                                After much labour, as the film releases Chitrangda today hopes that the story of Sandeep Singh reaches out to the people who never knew of him – a large population considering the apathy towards hockey the country. “There is something about him that he told me and it got tears into my eyes. When he was paralysed and was at home, the sportsman in him was ashamed. He could not even clean himself or change his clothes. He used to cry at night. One night he tried to hold onto the wall and stand up, but he fell. That created a sound and his father came out to check what happened. He saw what had happened but quietly walked back in so that Sandeep did not feel worse. Then sometime later his elder brother came and helped him up. There are so many such incidents. Like how he kept calling his girl, but she did not take his call. Somewhere he started feeling like a lesser man. And for a sportsman to lose that is a very big deal. Because when you go and play, that is your biggest asset…,” she says, reflecting on her constant meetings with one of India’s best hockey players ever.

                                Chitrangda

                                She believes people will identify with Sandeep’s crisis simply because everyone in our lifetime has to go through one such period when we have to work hard to redeem our self-respect. Apart from being a heart wrenching story, it is a human story that consists of the most basic emotions that we tend to feel. Chitrangda being no exception. “Of course, I have been through such moments when you start doubting yourself. Professional and personally. When the kind of work you want is not coming your way and the kind of work that’s coming makes you wonder if this is how you are perceived. I would not say it is as dramatic, but you have to fight for what you believe in. You have to fight to get back your self-confidence after certain failures in your life,” she points out. That brings us back to our question – does she too feel that she could have done better, after all the glowing reviews she received for her early works. “I think we all feel that somewhere or the other that things could have been better. But I have nobody else to blame for that by myself. Because I think I have taken very long breaks because of which work suffers. No doubt about that. If I was to do things differently, maybe I should have been a lot more professional and had focussed a lot more on my professional life. That would have changed things for me. But I think I did the best I could at that moment to handle whatever it was that was coming my way,” she reflects.

                                Clearly, the period of uncertainty has passed – the one she faced when she started writing, just to express what she was feeling. Today, Chitrangda seems content. The positive side – she is also finding a comeback as an actress. Her next film Sahib Biwi Gangster 3 is releasing pretty soon, and then she has Baazaar. Also, there is more happening as a producer, she promises. To top it all, she continues to look like billion bucks. At 42, things are sunny, for Singh!

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