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Aditi Rao Hydari on working with Mani Ratnam and Sudhir Mishra: ‘I’m a director’s actor’

Aditi Rao Hydari is living her dream. For a girl with absolutely no Bollywood connections, she’s made fabulous headway into the industry. Within a short span of six to seven years, she has already had legends like Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Mani Ratnam directing her. After last year’s Kaatru Veliyidai, she’s now also part of Ratnam’s upcoming Chekka Chivantha Vaanam, which she’s currently filming in Chennai.

“I want to work with Mani Sir again and again. If I had the choice I would do all the films made by Mani sir,” says Aditi.

She was about nine when her parents took her to watch Mani Ratnam’s 1995 classic Bombay. “I don’t really know how and why they took me to watch this film,” recalls Aditi, adding, “people around me were discussing the issues in the film vehemently but all I could see was Manisha Koirala dancing to Kehna Hi Kya’. I just wanted to jump into the screen. I didn’t know too much about films then, but I just knew that I wanted to be doing that in future, and when I started working with Mani sir it was so surreal for me.”

“I was once again blown away by Manisha’s performance in Sanjay (Bhansali) sir’s, Khamoshi. Bombay, Khamoshi — these are the kind of films that have drawn me towards cinema,” she adds.

Aditi Rao Hydari/Image from Instagram.

But one filmmaker who Aditi will forever remain grateful to is her mentor and National Award-winning filmmaker Sudhir Mishra. After a cameo in Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Delhi 6 (2009), Aditi got her big break in Mishra’s gritty drama, Yeh Saali Zindagi (2011) which kind of cemented her position; and, yet again, Mishra has trusted her with a challenging role in his upcoming Daas Dev (releases on 27 April).

In Daas Dev, which is modern day adaption of legendary epic romantic drama Devdas set against the turbulent political backdrop of Uttar Pradesh, Aditi’s character plays a politician — the ones that walk around the corridors of power, fixing deals and manipulating.

“The core of my character, Chandni is very similar to Chandramukhi, she’s very pure and selfless, but then, she’s a fixer. She’s an MBA dropout who has got into politics. She’s constantly proving to herself and to the world that she is capable of every task. She’s also kind of mysterious and knows everybody’s secret. Also, she’s the narrator of the whole story and from her point you see these very twisted, dark, selfish, characters. The core is similar to Devdas, but the film deals with intoxication at different level. Of power, of greed, of substance, of love…the film is actually a political thriller of intoxication,” says Aditi.

Aditi says that like in Mishra’s previous film, she couldn’t relate to this character as well. “On the first day of the shoot I completely freaked out and told Sudhir sir that I just don’t know this girl and I am just following you. But sometimes it can be quite exciting when you don’t know something at all. You are like a sponge, you are soaking in everything,” says Aditi, furthering, “Sudhir sir trusted me with a difficult part when I was a newcomer and I had just come to Mumbai. I had faced the camera before that but I wasn’t a professional actor then and was just dabbling in it for fun. I was studying. So, I didn’t ask him any question when he came to me with Daas Dev. He said, ‘I want you to do it, and I was, like, absolutely’. With Sudhir sir, even if he had wanted to play a broomstick in his movie, I would have readily done it,” laughs Aditi.

She is all set to collaborate with Mishra for the third time in his film on the life of Renu Saluja, one of Bollywood’s top-notch editors of the ’80s and ’90s, who passed away 18 years back. She was Mishra’s live-in partner and he collaborated with Saluja on award-winning films like Dharavi (1993) and Is Raat Ki Subah Nahin (1996).

Aditi Rao Hydari with Richa Chadda promoting Daas Dev/Image from Twitter.

Aditi may not be able to tell whether her performance has gone several notches higher after working with these stalwarts, but she has got a lot of appreciation whenever she has worked with Mishra, Ratnam or Bhansali.

“It is an amazing feeling when you can explore and try different things. I am pretty spoilt by that way. I keep craving that experience again and again,” says Aditi, who also longs to work with Vishal Bhardwaj, Ashwini Iyer Tiwari, Anurag Kashyap, Anurag Basu and Sharad Kataria. “It is a great time for actors. I don’t look at films as commercial or arty, I just look at the story. If a film says a good story and the character is going to be memorable, I want to do it,” she says.

Aditi feels that she’s forever pushing and challenging herself which stems from her training in Bharatanatyam that has inculcated a certain discipline in her right from her childhood. In fact, her Tamil debut movie Sringaram (2007), in which she played Devdasi, beautifully portrayed her dancing skills.

When asked if this was the best phase of her career, she says, “It would be presumptuous to say that because as an artist I am greedy. The day I feel that I am doing my best work, I will never do any better. I am always inspired by people who keep pushing boundaries. But somewhere I am quite hard on myself. I have been learning dance since I was five, it is a difficult discipline because you are never allowed to be complacent, you are constantly pushed and challenged and when I am not being pushed I feel I am not working hard. I crave that experience.”

An aspect of this industry that annoys Aditi the most is “unnecessary controversies” as there have been numerous stories on the cold war between her and her Daas Dev co-star Richa Chadda, who portrays Paro. “I don’t know why in 2018 people still want to write about so called cat fights. It is sad. We are all hard working professionals supportive of each other. It is so derogatory for us women. Is this what people think about women’s behaviour? I don’t like to come out and speak about these things because why should I explain? Why explain? Whoever wants to write, it is their problem, it is all in their head and it shows their mentality. Neither Richa nor I have spoken about it,” says Aditi.

Ten years of Race: Third installment celebrates everything the original film had — with the bonus of Salman Khan

Although many might not have noticed the timing of Salman Khan sharing a picture of Bobby Deol as Yash, a character from their upcoming film Race 3, it was rather fortuitous. The star tweeted his co-star’s picture just a couple of days before the tenth anniversary of the release of the first film in the ‘Race series’, Race (2008).

With a major overhaul both in front and behind the camera with Salman Khan replacing Saif Ali Khan as the male lead and Remo D’Souza helming the project instead of Abbas-Mustan, the third film in the action-thriller franchise is all set to join the likes of Jolly LLB to get a reboot — where the film ages the stakes only get bigger.

Traditionally, the concept of sequels tends to lose a bit of sheen with the passage of time. Take the case of Charles Bronson’s Death Wish series, which became a barely noticed almost B-film by the time the fifth film released 22-years after the original that came out in 1974. And then there’s First Blood (1982), the debut of the Rambo series, which was made on a budget of $15 million USD but the third, First Blood III (1988) was mounted on a budget of over $60 million USD and even though the film made almost $200 million USD the idea had became jaded and it would be two-decades before the fourth film, Rambo (2008) hit the screens.

In the context of Hindi films, the sequel has come as god sent and the combination of a ‘sequel’ and a ‘reboot’ has only made things better for the stars. For Salman Khan, the Race franchise offers the slick urban thriller template that is a stark contrast to his other franchise, Dabangg, where it’s the Chulbul Pandey character that lends repeat value. There are talks about a third Dabangg rumored to be directed by Prabhudeva and chances of a fourth Race cannot be ruled out as it gives the producer, Tips Films, a go-to project every couple of years.

Similarly, for Ajay Devgn, the Golmaal series offers a template that could work as well with or without standard character (Gopal) while Singham gives him the character that he could play well into his sunset years, a la Clint Eastwood or Charles Bronson with Dirty Harry and Death Wish series. For Akshay Kumar, Jolly LLB offered a chance to go back to doing comic roles but with a tinge of social messaging, which has come to be seen as his forte.

For a Kangana Ranaut, and nearly most of the Tanu Weds Manu primary cast (R. Madhavan, Swara Bhaskar, Deepak Dobriyal, and Eijaz Khan) their characters in the series can be rekindled at any point in the future without much thought.

The is no question that the near-obsessive drive with which producers and production houses are investing in reboots and remakes is an indication of an abject lack of fresh ideas. In fact, it’s rather saddening to see how filmmakers, as opposed to paying homage to the greats from the previous generations, are choosing to rehash the past simply because frankly, they don’t give a damn (beyond making money, that is).

Some part of this nostalgia-driven reboot/ rejig drive is also an easy way out for many – after all, it’s all about the relationship between characters and the viewer, so why not revisit the tried and tested beloved characters rather than reinvent the wheel?

Salman Khan tweeted about Race 3 in the same week as the release of the film film, a decade ago. Race 3 also seems to be a subtle attempt to rekindle the memories of Salman Khan’s Wanted (2009); the pose that Khan is captured in on Race 3’s first poster is almost Wanted redux.

Alia Bhatt has made pact with Katrina, Deepika to do films together: ‘I’m game for a good chick flick’

Alia Bhatt has over the years cemented her position as a formidable acting talent in Bollywood. With her incredible performances in films (Highway, Udta Punjab, Dear Zindagi, to name a few) and a major fan following, she is one of the most-sought after actresses in Hindi film industry today.

Katrina Kaif, Alia Bhatt and Deepika Padukone. Facebook

With A-listers like Deepika Padukone and Katrina Kaif as her BFFs, Bhatt says she’s all game for a “good chick flick” with the other two actresses.

According to a report by Deccan Chronicle, Bhatt has expressed her desire to work with Kaif and Padukone (individually) in films. In an interview, she is reported to have said that she has made a pact with the two actresses to do films together.

She particularly talked about the changing scenario for women in Indian films. She said, “It has become progressive for actresses today. But, there’s still a long way to go. The best thing is that now, they are standing by each other. For instance, imagine Dil Chahta Hai being remade with three girls today. It would be wonderful. I’m game for a good chick flick,” reports Deccan Chronicle.

Bhatt has been busy of late completing her shoot schedules for Meghna Gulzar’s Raazi along with Masaan actor Vicky Kaushal; Zoya Akhtar’s Gully Boy along with Ranveer Singh and then Ayan Mukerji’s magnum opus Brahmastra with Ranbir Kapoor.

Varun Dhawan, Katrina Kaif to pair up for the first time in Remo D’Souza’s ‘biggest dance film’

It is confirmed now that choreographer-turned-director Remo D’Souza’s magnum opus will star Varun Dhawan and Katrina Kaif. The film is touted to be D’Souza’s ‘biggest dance film’ — whether it will be the third installment of his dance movie franchise ABCD (Any Body Can Dance), or a fresh film is not yet known.

It was earlier reported that D’Souza and T-Series’ Bhushan Kumar are all set to collaborate for this massive project. Adarsh had previously tweeted on 3 March stating that the big announcement regarding the film’s cast will be made on 19 March.

Varun Dhawan and Katrina Kaif during a performance. Image from Twitter/@KatrinaKaifFB

Trailer of Alia Bhatt-starrer Raazi to reportedly release with Varun Dhawan’s next film October

With Alia Bhatt and Varun Dhawan both gearing up for their upcoming releases where they portray unconventional characters, the trailer launch of Bhatt’s Raazi along with Varun Dhawan’s upcoming release October on 13 April seems to fit the narrative. It is being reported that Raazi’s trailer will be attached to Varun’s film October as reported by Pinkvilla.

Varun Dhawan has high expectations from his unconventional role in Shoojit Sircar’s October, which is touted as a unique love story between Dhawan’s unlikely devotion to Banita Sandhu who ends up in an ICU. “When I heard the story, I was so moved by it that I felt the need of doing the film. I need the film more than anyone else in the room at this point of time in my career,” said the actor about working on the upcoming release.

Varun Dhawan in October and Alia Bhatt in Raazi/Image from Twitter.

Varun Dhawan on October: I need this film more than anyone else at this point in my career

Mumbai: Bollywood actor Varun Dhawan says his upcoming film October came as a much-needed opportunity in his film career.

Varun Dhawan in October. Image from Twitter/@filmfare

At the film’s trailer launch on 12 March, Varun said, “I was the last person cast in the film after meeting Shoojit Sircar. I think casting should happen that way… Not because one actor is doing good in films. When I heard the story, I was so moved by it that I felt the need of doing the film. I need the film more than anyone else in the room at this point of time in my career.”

October promises a unique love story.

“When I sign a film, I look at the script more than anything, and how much the maker is putting in the film. In October Shoojitda, writer Juhi Chaturvedi and every one of our crew members put their heart and soul in it. I had to be a part of this film. They signed me for the film even before Badrinath Ki Dulhania and Judwaa 2,” Varun said.

Besides being an emotional journey for him, the film turned out to be a learning experience for Varun.

“Dada (Shoojit) asked me what do I do when I wake up. I said, ‘As usual, I check my phone, I post things on social media’. Then he asked me not to do that, and instead observe a plant for 10 minutes. I started doing that and felt a huge change. I unlearned a lot… It was a very different experience,” Varun said.

October is releasing on 13 April.

The Dirty Picture director Milan Luthria says Bollywood may be reaching its saturation point with biopics

His directorial venture The Dirty Picture, loosely based on the life of South actor Silk Smitha, has become one of the most memorable Bollywood films, but Milan Luthria believes the enthusiasm the audience shows towards the biopic genre will soon fizzle out.

The filmmaker ,who was a part of panel discussion In Someone else’s shoes: Fireside chat with makers of stellar biopics along with Hansal Mehta, Nandita Das and Dangal writer Piyush Gupta, at FICCI Frames event in Mumbai, said it is the “laziness” that prompts a lot of directors/writers to work on a biopic.”Earlier, we did not have buyers for biopics, like for The Dirty Picture.

The Dirty Picture (L); Dangal

Today, the acceptance level is high. But I am afraid we might be reaching a saturation point.”People chase it (a genre) without even knowing why are they doing it. I feel there might be laziness in writing. It is difficult to chart out a road map…. Start out the story with a new character. Reference point always makes things easier for writers,” he said.

Luthria, however, believes “good biopics” will continue to do well.Mehta, who has worked on true stories like Shahid and Aligarh, said the subject of a film should be entertaining and engaging.”Did I care if Dangal was a true story? To some extent, yes.

But do I care that it was an entertaining story? Yes I do . Like how true was (the story of) Shahid. He was not alive to tell me the story. We have always cried that we do not have good stories, but we need to work hard to find them.”If we are making biopics with the thought that everyone is making it, then it will be the dead end. We will screw it up if we just make it. There has to be a lot of potential in the story to bring it up on screen. Even in case of Aligarh, people were not telling us everything, but we had to make the story engaging,” he said.

Varun Dhawan, Katrina Kaif might pair up for the first time in Remo D’Souza’s ABCD 3

Remo D’Souza’s blockbuster dance movie franchise ABCD (Any Body Can Dance) is reportedly all set to make a comeback with its third installment and according to reports, the film is going to star Bollywood A-listers, namely — Varun Dhawan, Katrina Kaif, Salman Khan and Jacqueline Fernandez.

Varun Dhawan and Katrina Kaif during a performance. Image from Twitter/@KatrinaKaifFB

Trade analyst Taran Adarsh recently took to his Twitter profile to share that a big announcement regarding D’Souza’s film, which will be unveiled on 19 March. Calling it the ‘biggest dance film ever’, Adarsh also revealed that D’Souza will be collaborating with Bhushan Kumar (from T-Series) on the project.

According to reports, with Dhawan and Kaif being “terrific dancers”, this appears to be the “perfect cast”.

“The film has 3 principal characters and Remo D’Souza has already signed Katrina Kaif and Varun Dhawan. For the third character, the director is in talks with two actresses, Jacqueline Fernandez and Vaani Kapoor, however, is yet to sign the contract with either of them. Just like ABCD 2 even this film will be shot in 3D. The film will go on floors by January/February next year since Remo D’Souza will be busy with Race 3 till June. A lot of pre-production needs to be done, as the plan is to serve the audience with world class dance moves. Before going on floors, the entire cast of the film will undergo training sessions and workshops. The film will be shot in India and abroad,” said a unverified source, according to a Koimoi report.

According to a Pinkvilla report, another unverified source has claimed that Kaif will be seen playing a Pakistani character once again, while Fernandez will be seen playing a British girl. “So we will get to see Katrina Kaif play a Pakistani character yet again. Yes, we’ve learnt that Remo D’Souza’s next film with Varun Dhawan will see the actress playing a Pakistani girl, while Judwaa heroine, Jacqueline Fernandez will play a British girl. The title of the film is ABCD 3,” said another unverified source, according

If Dhawan and Kaif do pair up for D’Souza’s film, it’ll be the first time that the two actors will appear together on screen.

Sridevi’s death marks a funeral of sorts for the Hindi cinema she helped add new dimensions to as well

It has been nearly four days since Sridevi, Bollywood’s first female superstar, passed away, and yet, it has not become churlish to ask the when, why, and how of this untimely, unkind occurrence. How could Sridevi — she who, however vociferously withdrawn, looked so immortal — just die? I will not meditate on its pulsating finality, for mourning is merely a word. The teetering question that obituary formalises and makes powerless is a question that no ordinary death can inspire from grief — how could the universe, so broken, have the audacity to take Sridevi away?

Anybody who has seen Sridevi being interviewed, presumably by a Rajeev Masand or an Anupama Chopra, would remember her characteristically cold, distant giggling after answering a painstakingly worded question so insufficiently that one would wonder if she were really an actor. To me, rapt in observation, unable to understand how unforgiving the world was to those who did not perform, and unaware that adulthood is only to pretend to be who we are, there was profound, hopeful meaning in silence; in the many quiet moments that these conversations with Sridevi would invariably sire, I imagined that she would break into a song and re-enter the person of Hawa Hawai in garish dress, with idiosyncratic expressions on her face but not a care in the world, trying and pretending to synchronise her performance with her dancers as effortlessly as Madhuri Dixit could but hopelessly, delightfully failing, and yet, convinced that she could seize pearls from the sea, flame from a torch, and the night from one’s heart (saagar se moti chheenu, deepak se jyoti chheenu, seene se raat chura lun…) She did not, and she could not. Sridevi may have taught us that it was fine to fail, but it was not a lesson she ever learned for herself.

Sridevi as Hawa Hawai in Mr India. YouTube screenshot

This piece, however, is not about the author, or, for that matter, about his subject, central as she may be to it. This is about cinema, or film as the genteel among us would have it: a curious creature that Sridevi came to love, even inhabit, and in whose history her death leaves an impossible end from which there can be no return. In death, she leaves Hindi cinema much poorer than when she found it and much more desperate to have her back. But death does not break into a song.

From the wise measurement of retrospect, the 1980s have — time and again — been castigated as the unfortunate decade when commercial, mainstream cinema extended its insidious reach into the production of artless, crass, sensationalist films. The trend directed innovation and artistic energy towards a stream of filmmaking that would become ‘parallel’ cinema and exist, as in the name, in uncomfortable tandem with its more popular and widely-known adversary. While an incipient postcolonial nationalism had been the inscription of Hindi cinema in the 1950s, 1960s, and the 1970s, the novelty of nationalism, so fresh and heartfelt in the decades that had passed, visibly tapered as the imagined community gave uncertain way to bona fide individual ambition (think Gol Maal, 1979). This latter was a social impulse that would become economically and politically significant only a decade later, as India let down its economic borders and bolstered its limits of sovereignty through the serious pastiche of nuclear spectacle.

The weakening of the nationalist spirit, however, released spirits that few had anticipated and even fewer could tame. There is no better embodied encapsulation of this than Mithun Chakraborty’s titular Disco Dancer (1982) where Chakraborty’s Jimmy rises from seemingly obscure origins to a life of a post-reason disco glory, dissolving nationalist quotidianism and inherited ideas of respectability into an unprecedentedly energetic but eventually incomprehensible template both unbeknownst and tantalising to and for its progressively transforming public. As the dissipation of nationalist zeal pulverised energies like the aforesaid that no one had seen or even desired to, those whom nationalism had other-ed (here, women) short-changed their positions in the settled margins, prepared and unafraid to confront orthodoxies of cinema, and if it ever came to that, of the nation.

Sridevi with Rishi Kapoor in Chandni

This is a point Jerry Pinto forcefully made for Helen and many others for the iconic Smita Patil and Shabana Azmi. But here we may also submit that the 1980s were significant for another reason — it was in this decade that Shree Amma Yanger Ayyapan would become Sridevi for Hindi cinema. Little did Hindi cinema know that in re-naming Shree to the palatable Sridevi, it too would be re-scripted. In Sadma (1983), Nagina (1986), Mr India (1987), and Chandni (1989), to name but a few and even so without nuanced survey, Sridevi evolved, as it were, a new grammar of cinema for its more rustic Hindi formation, having come first of age and only then of sensibility. Female protagonists could no longer be relegated, at least not without the counter-possibility that Sridevi and some of her contemporaries made possible, to the honour of service as artefacts of celebrated plots or reinforcing embellishments of the hero’s loud, trumpeted masculinity. The social mores that nationalist disciplining had left behind remained in sure place but could no longer rationalise why a lady could not have her dance — and take befitting pleasure in it. While this may, particularly to the conservatives among and within us, appear as a needless, egregious exhibition of female sexuality, only those with a sense of this temporality will grasp its extraordinariness — sexuality, hitherto tethered to all —encompassing and therefore all-erasing projects, was unshackled, ontologically liberated, if only within limits, and catapulted to the polaroid through women who took little care and special delight in its performance. As Dhrubo Jyoti has recounted in an impassioned tribute, this performance was an iconography for all those unacceptables whose dress was not so garish and homes welcoming but desires as queer. Sridevi had none of Madhuri Dixit’s swan-like agility, but what she also did not have was her sense of refinement and its likely spawn, shame. If dance was an act that Dixit made into art, Sridevi was of the rare pedigree peopled by one whose dance art would beg to become.

Sridevi in a still from Lamhe

As India liberalised in the wake of the 1990s, an event nearly as cataclysmic as anticipated, it did so with a flourish and a very American sense of manifest destiny. Films of this period evidence the rise of whom sociological theory can only call ‘the aspirational middle class’ and a simultaneous aestheticisation of globalisation. There is no mention of Bollywood in the 1990s without mention of Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, that evergreen reservoir of romance for those ignorant of cinematic pre-history. DDLJ, as it has come to be cherished, is curious for its stunning globality as Shah Rukh Khan romances a young woman (a practice Khan merrily continues decades later), across the panoramic Alps of Europe and the infinitely stretching mustard fields of rural Punjab. More critically, female protagonists and sidekicks whose femininity had spoken its name in the 1980s both prepared the ground for and participated in the making of love that was not, to bitter scandal, marital or did not necessarily lead to matrimony. Sridevi’s Lamhe (1991) is a striking example although matrimony is also its implied end. While critics lauded the film as a frame beyond its time, the film did comatose business and ruptured the sense of sexual governance implicit in the making of films and lives — Pallavi/Pooja’s desire is existent and expressive, repressed neither by the domineering reiteration of social codes nor the reproductive economy that makes her love for Viren incestuous. To desire is a good heroine’s murderous sin, and Sridevi sinned frequently and always, with a spring in her step. But then, Sridevi was never a ‘good’ heroine — good heroines are happy to be merely sighted and happier to be forgotten. She was terrible and terribly memorable.

There is a world that changed with the millennium, and while one would like to read the awkward, effortless, beautiful English Vinglish (2012) as a product of the gaudily imitative, maudlin, English-worshipping India that liberalisation presented to us, there is much to say of the ground that has shifted in the vein of the irrevocable. Sridevi may have returned after 15 years of domesticity, a husband, and offspring, but this was not her world. Hindi cinema today has entered a degenerative phase of tragedy — our nationalism is aggressive and aggrandising, our communitarianism is dishonest and blithering, our religious politics searches for prey to demonise and ethically assault. Sridevi’s death would not be so personal if it were not so political, and as funeral awaits her, a similar fate befalls the cinema of her times.