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Thugs of Hindostan: Aamir Khan, Amitabh Bachchan power this fun, fearsome Bollywood ride

The year is 1857, and at the time of the East India Company’s rule, Raunakpur is among the few remaining freeholds. Its ruler Mirzasaab (Ronit Roy) is preparing for an all-out battle with the Company, and its representative, John Clive (Lloyd Owen). His trusted general Khudabaksh (Amitabh Bachchan) has been deputed with Raunakpur’s prince to gather allies.

A surprise night visit with Clive, however, puts paid to those plans. With his son held hostage by Clive, Mirza hands over control of Raunakpur to the British. But the prince is killed anyway, as is Mirza, and his wife. The only surviving member of the royal clan is the Princess Safira, who is rescued at the eleventh hour from the clutches of Clive by Khudabaksh.

Eleven years later, we’re introduced to a thug Firangi Mallah (Aamir Khan). A glib talker, Firangi’s eccentricity is not to be taken for a lack of seriousness, however. For he is ruthless when it comes to the question of profit, and not above double-crossing his own comrades when it comes to earning a pretty penny.

Poster for Thugs of Hindostan. Image courtesy Twitter

Cut to a whole other type of ‘thug’: Khudabaksh, who now fights the British with a grown-up Safira (Fatima Sana Shaikh) by his side. A snazzy action sequence on a ship gives ample opportunity for the duo to display their wizardry with sword and bow-and-arrow, their cunning and discipline, and the devotion of their band of followers.

The contrasts between Firangi Mallah (who has to introduce himself) and Khudabaksh (who is spoken of by others due to his deeds) is drawn very clearly in these opening scenes.

The British decide that they can’t let Khudabaksh persist in his challenge to the East India Company, and seek the services of a true villain in bringing him down. Enter: Firangi Mallah, who it turns out, has another grand passion apart from money — the dancer/courtesan Surayya (Katrina Kaif). The first few scenes in which we’re introduced to Surayya are mildly uncomfortable as the camera dwells on her waist and bust and pout. If we meet the other characters through their actions, with Surayya, it is her physical beauty and that alone, which is the focus. However, she gets to to display some quickness of wit as well, in her interactions with Firangi. That’s before she must launch into the actual reason for her presence: an energetic dance number. It is during this dance that Firangi meets the British officer who wants to co-opt him into the fight against Khudabaksh et al.

And so the stage is set for Firangi to meet Khudabaksh.

Which he does in spectacular fashion, during a skirmish set on a ship.

When the trailer of Thugs of Hindostan released, there were comparisons aplenty to Pirates of the Caribbean. Perhaps Firangi is modelled on Jack Sparrow, but there are also traces of the other quirky characters Aamir Khan has played in the past. No matter though, he is still a hoot. And the action sequences in this first half are an incredible amount of fun to watch. The stunt choreography is slick, even if it has definite touches of Bollywood (by which this reviewer means some hyper-dramatised moments). At no point in the first hour-plus of the film do you feel your attention flagging.

There’s something about the way Firangi and Khudabaksh relate to each other that’s oddly reminiscent of the Shah Rukh Khan-Amrish Puri equation from Diwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. The younger man trying hard to impress, the unbending older man seeking a spark of something within this protégé. Khudabaksh seems to see something in Firangi that hitherto no one has: a spark.

Through symbol, imagery and through words, Firangi is depicted as Khudabaksh’s ‘heir apparent’. Their characters are a study in contrasts: one ever-ready to yield, the other completely unyielding; one for whom everything has a price but no value, while for the other, some things — like freedom, integrity, loyalty — are so valuable that there can be no price put on them, ever. Amid their battle with the British, there’s also a battle of wills between Firangi and Khudabaksh. Whose character will prove to be stronger, who will influence whom, is part of the crux of Thugs’ first half.

The conclusion of this battle of wills is perhaps of the foregone variety, but the way it plays out is satisfying.

In one scene, we see Khudabaksh tilling a barren land over several years, in the hope that one day, the same ground will yield a harvest. The land is a metaphor for Firangi, and it proves to be a fertile spot after all, for Khudabaksh’s hopes to take seed.

Amitabh Bachchan plays warrior patriarch with ease, and Fatima Sana Shaikh is competent enough in the role of Safira. She performs the action sequences perfectly, but falters in the emotional ones. Aamir Khan shifts between being funny and menacing in a most engaging manner. One moment, he could be jesting, the other, a change in expression shows the danger that lies just below the surface.

There’s plenty of opportunity for Firangi to show this menacing side as the skirmishes with the English (and their chief, Clive) pick up in scale and intensity. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for poor Katrina Kaif, who is brought in for her second oddly athletic dance number of the film at a late point in the proceedings. She writhes and contorts in sequinned hotpants as the plot builds towards its climax.

It is the setting up of this climax that Thugs of Hindostan totters a bit. There’s an unveiling that’s a little too filmi (even for this wholly commercial entertainer). This, however, is forgiven in the rip-roaring, all muskets blazing finale sequence of the film. The showdown is appropriately high-stakes, and caps off an enjoyable caper.

Thugs of Hindostan is Bollywood having a blast (quite literally, in some moments!). If its no-holds-barred adoption of the commercial Hindi entertainer’s elements can be a flaw at times, for the most part, it works in the film’s favour. A mild Pirates of the Caribbean hangover aside, this is prime Diwali blockbuster material — a story of relationships, betrayal, adventure and courage, of underdogs and their unlikely triumphs.

Chitrangda Singh on #MeToo: We can’t leave everything to legal process, should socially ostracise certain people

Earlier, Chitrangda Singh would often reason that perhaps she did not push herself “enough to shine like a star”. That the several breaks she took intermittently with her priorities changing, or being trapped in family problems and shuttling between Delhi and Mumbai, affected her career to a large extent. But today, more than ambition, the actor-producer counts on passion. “I don’t know the definition of being ambitious but I am very passionate about cinema. I want to produce, act. I want to be cinema person 360 ways possible. I don’t know whether that means being ambitious but it keeps me going,” says Chitrangda, who will be next seen in Saif Ali Khan-starrer, stock market thriller Baazaar (releases on 26 October). Her last film, Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster 3, with Sanjay Dutt in the lead, tanked at the box office.

“I don’t get that much screen time in Baazaar, so that was a bit of a challenge. Without getting too many lines, I still had to help the plot unravel. One thing that Nikkhil (Advani, producer) told me when he was pitching me this role was to stand up to Saif’s strong character. He was looking for someone who conveyed dignity for this role. Saif plays my husband. He is an antagonist and he has very powerful lines and dialogues. My character doesn’t have those flashy dialogues. I needed to have a strong presence. That was more important than looking just pretty,” she says.

Chitrangda Singh. Facebook

But my character is warm. Though she is not in love with her partner, she looks at his games in a different way. She is born into a wealthy family and for her, the definition of ambition, greed, happiness is different as compared to the other three characters (Saif, Radhika Apte and Rohan Mehra), who are willing to sacrifice relationships and friendships for power. My character is observing all this, but there are repercussions on their marriage. But more than love and emotional angle, the film’s base is the game – power greed and how you manipulate. That is why Saif is an antagonist not the protagonist so to speak” she adds.

Chitrangda shares screen space with Saif for the first time. She sees him as an understated actor with excellent timing. “Saif is a lot of fun on set. There is an easy vibe and when you feel comfortable with someone, then that becomes a pleasure. Also, I like that he underplays his performances,” says Chitrangda. She had a pleasant time working with the other two co-stars as well. “With Radhika, I don’t have much work. We met just for two days. But she was full of stories and I am excited about the work she has been doing.”

The actress, however, found it “scary” working with newbie Rohan Mehra. “He is a quiet guy, very earnest. He had learnt the complete script by heart, my lines, Radhika’s lines, everybody’s lines. Tell him page number 72 and he would be all ready to start. I was shocked. I told Gauravv (K Chawla, director) that Rohan is over prepped. It is scary. He is totally into it,” she laughs heartily.

Chitrangda began her career as a model prior to making the transition to the silver screen. She was compared to the legendary Smita Patil in the initial years of her career. In fact, noted director Shekhar Kapur complimented her by saying, ‘You have outdone Smita Patil,’ when he saw her performance in her debut, Sudhir Mishra’s Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi (2003), which was followed by the 2005 film Kal: Yesterday and Tomorrow (2005).

Then, she took a break from acting between 2005 and 2008 after her marriage to Indian golfer Jyoti Randhawa and made her comeback with the leading role opposite Sanjay Suri in the film Sorry Bhai!. Further, she tried her hands at mainstream cinema with Desi Boyz (opposite Akshay Kumar) and made a couple of special appearances in songs of Tamil movie Anjaan and Akshay Kumar’s 2014 movie Gabbar Is Back. After a few more forgettable films, she reemerged as a producer this year with Shaad Ali-directed Soorma, starring Diljit Dosanjh and Taapsee Pannu.

Chitrangda Singh and Saif Ali Khan in a still from Baazaar. YouTube

However, she has not been getting meaty parts as much as she used to be offered in the past. “I know what you mean. You can only choose what gets offered to you. You pick the best out of that. Sometimes you are lucky with good stuff coming your way, or you try and make a mark with what is offered to you. And opposed to it, you try set up the kind of films you want to be part of and make that kind of cinema. These are the only ways that you can still remain excited about cinema,” says the actress, who will act in one of her two productions that she plans to announce soon.

And in the recent wave of sexual harassment allegations, Chitrangda also opened up about her “distressing” experience on the sets of Babumoshai Bandookbaaz. Though she did speak out during the making of the film, she feels it is easy to bring out her side of the story given the #MeToo movement that has gained traction in the past couple of months. “There is no structure, no process and no organisation that one could go to voice your grievances and at that time, no such movement had started. So yes, it is easier to talk about it now. Thanks to Tanushree Dutta for taking up the charge and initiating the movement in India,” she says, furthering, “It is a very good and healthy thing to happen to any industry that you do not let people go further, get promoted, get encouraged for the favours being done, or if there are any compromises they are willing to make. That shouldn’t be the basis of their promotions. It should be only on the basis of your potential and talent.”

However, Chitrangda strongly feels that instead of leaving everything to the legal process, the social consciousness needs to be the order of the day. “Most of the times you can’t prove rape. If you are not taken to hospital and get checked. How do you prove it? How does Vinta Nanda prove? But that doesn’t mean she is lying. We can’t leave everything to the legal process. Social responsibility has to grow. We should socially ostracise such people. Consciousness can’t come by filing an FIR at a police station. I hope that my son doesn’t grow up thinking it’s all okay, and that can only happen if we make enough noise now. It’s only then that the next generation will know that even a bit of harassment is just not okay,” she says.

Further, giving her views on the chances of certain people misusing the movement, the actress states that they do not deserve to be part of it. “Maybe collateral damage will happen. But I hope people are as truthful and honest for the sake of the girls who have really suffered. At some point, if people have used it as a manipulation and tend to benefit from it, they don’t deserve to be part of the movement. That won’t be fair to the real victims because you become an enabler. You enabled and encouraged this somewhere, as a result of which the same people have expected that from more girls. It’s extremely important to draw the line, and it’s also important for the media and us colleagues and people from the industry to recognise that ,” says Chitrangda.

FryDay movie review: Govinda can’t escape the ’90s in this unimaginative, below par comedy

Govinda fans can rejoice. This FryDay marks the return of the entertainer number one, in all his 1990s glory. He throws his entire body into the comedy — jiggling, wriggling and contorting his face while delivering the modicum of entertainment and laughs scattered through director Abhishek Dogra’s sit-com.

A still from FryDay. YouTube

Writers Rajeev Kaul and Manu Rishi Chadha set this story in Delhi. Varun Sharma plays Rajiv, a down-on-his-luck water purifier salesman with a sleazy boss and an unethical colleague. Rajiv is no Einstein and those around him take advantage of this simplicity. His job now depends on installing this one water purifier on this fated Friday.

Somewhere else in Delhi, a theatre actor is performing Mughal-E-Azam and gobbling up the dialogues of his co-stars. It is vintage Govinda but, like many other scenes, is over-written and overcooked.

After a crash course in salesmanship by a bargain basement motivational speaker (Sanjay Mishra), Rajiv finally bags a client and on the appointed Friday, he arrives at Gagan Kapoor’s (Govinda) home. But the portly middle-aged man, who lives in a garish bungalow, has other plans for the day. With his wife Bela (Prabhleen Sandhu) away on work trip to Simla, Gagan has wasted no time inviting over his young paramour, Bindu (Digangana Suryavanshi).

Every time the doorbell rings, Gagan’s plans for a little hanky-panky are thwarted. Unwanted guests include a thief, Rajiv, the maid and a cop. Dogra’s bedroom farce, largely located in this one set, gains some momentum only thanks to Govinda’s energy. However crass the theme of infidelity might be, only he can turn out dialogues like, “Once in a week it is must, what about Gagan Kapoor’s lust?”

Although he is a fitting junior counterpart to Govinda, Varun’s act as hapless character (seen in Fukrey and almost everything else he has done) is repetitive and tiresome. Fortunately, the actresses play it straight, leaving the comedy to the main actors, supported by Brijendra Kala as the conman.

Dogra’s direction is unimaginative and the production values so sub-par that besides Govinda fans with a penchant for physical comedy, there is no reason to thank god for this FryDay.

Sui Dhaaga: Made In India song Sab Badhiya Hai is Varun Dhawan’s tribute to Mamata-Mauji’s optimism

Sab Badhiya Hai’ is a promotional song in Sui Dhaaga: Made In India which talks about Mauji and Mamta’s world. Being an unassuming couple who try and make it on their own through their business, both have an optimistic take on life. Yash Raj Films has provided the song with an interesting premise stating that Varun (the actor) wants the song to be part of the film. Having faced a lack of enthusiasm at his brainwave from the makers, Dhawan goes on to dream the entire song.

Still from Sab Badhiya Hai. Image from Facebook

Dhawan breaks character in the song, inching closer to his real-life persona. Playing the role of a narrator, he sings in abandon of Mauji and Mamta’s love story and their positive take on life. Picturised in various settings, ‘Sab Badhiya Hai’ has all the Bollywood masala with energetic dance sequences and vibrant sets.

Sung by Sukhwinder Singh and Salman Ali, the track has been composed by Anu Malik who has also penned the lyrics with Varun Grover.

Both Dhawan and Sharma have recently also been signed to endorse the Skill India mission to promote India’s skilled talent by engaging with them across different parts of the country.

Stree director Amar Kaushik says he’s made a ‘desi’ horror film with conviction: I find ghost stories fascinating

Amar Kaushik, the debutant director of Rajkummar Rao-Shraddha Kapoor’s Stree was very clear that he wanted to start his career with a rare genre – horror comedy. There are many directors who helm rom-coms or action-thrillers, which he considers to be safe. But that isn’t the only reason why Kaushik chose to direct a horror comedy. It’s also because he’s always found ghost stories intriguing and fascinating.

“I vividly remember, many years ago I was told about this challenge: whoever was able to watch Bees Saal Baad (Waheeda Rehman-Biswajeet’s horror film from 1962) alone in a theatre will get a reward,” recalls Kaushik.

Then, a short visit to a “ghost” town called Chanderi further ignited his passion. “I grew up in Kanpur (Uttar Pradesh). When I was in graduation first year, I was passing by this small town Chanderi. It was around 10 pm and I checked-in into a hotel. It was dark and nobody was seen around outside the hotel. I was terrified. Something about the place stayed with me,” says the director.

“Later,” he continues, “when we started researching shooting locations for Stree, I felt it should be somewhere in Central India. I thought of Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh and then I suddenly remembered my Chanderi experience. Once I went there for my recce, I was convinced about the location. It was as if every scene was tailor made for the film and I insisted on shooting in the most spooky locations. I deliberately chose those locations, the ones we were warned from frequenting by the local people. I wanted the actors to get really scared during the shoot. I deliberately shot at midnight. That has really worked,” says Kaushik, who claims to have made a “desi” horror film with conviction.

Also read: Rajkummar Rao on Stree co-star Shraddha Kapoor: She was supposed to do my debut film Kai Po Che

“We usually read stories, or watch movies that show an old, isolated, dilapidated haunted house situated in the mountains, or in some secluded spot. But the ghost in my film is very basic. We have used little bit of VFX but otherwise all the action scenes are real. I didn’t want too much of technology. Also, sound in a thriller or horror is quite important but music need not be very loud. Silence can also be effective,” he adds.

Starting his career as an assistant director, Kaushik was a part of the Rajiv Khandelwal-starrer Aamir (2008). Working with accomplished directors in the industry, he was also a part of Sorry Bhai (2008), I Am (2010), No One Killed Jessica (2011), Go Goa Gone (2013), Fukrey (2013), Ghanchakkar (2013), and Beyond the Clouds (2017). After years of playing second fiddle, he finally made his directorial debut with a short film Aaba (2017), which was the only award winning Indian short film at Berlin International Film Festival, in 2017.

Kaushik considers himself to be lucky to cast Rajkummar and Shraddha Kapoor for his first feature. “Raj and I would often meet during film festivals and when I had to choose an actor for the character Vicky (in Stree) it had to be Raj. When I told him that he was playing a tailor’s part, his immediate reaction was, ‘Okay, send a sewing machine to my house, I will learn tailoring’. For diction, he just needed one month and a teacher. Raj makes your work easy,” says Kaushik, further adding, “I wanted a girl with that small town innocence and Shraddha fitted the brief. The fact is, established actors are realising that new directors are coming up with fresh ideas. There is no pressure on us about our previous or next film. We concentrate on just one project, the one that is in front of us.”

Also read: Shraddha Kapoor on Stree co-stars Rajkummar Rao, Pankaj Tripathi: ‘Huge fan of their work’

The film’s promotions attracted a lot of attention particularly because of its unique teaser and posters that said: ‘Mard ko dard hoga…Stree aa rahi hai’.

“‘Mard ko dard hoga’ is not just the tag line. In the movie we talk everything related to that. In small towns, girls are told to come home early in the evening. We have changed all of that by saying – ‘Boys, don’t leave the house late night, strees (women) are roaming around, they will take you with them’. In the film, we tell boys to come out wearing a saree and bangles to stay safe,” he explains.

From Rockstar to Sanju, how Ranbir Kapoor’s experiments as an actor also won over the box office

Often male actors are not lucky enough that their career-defining performances also end up becoming their biggest box office success. For a long time, Aamir Khan’s biggest money-spinner, Raja Hindustani, was not the performance that the actor would have ideally liked people to remember him by. Similarly, for Shah Rukh Khan a Happy New Year or a Chennai Express finding more box office success than a Chak De India or a Swades spoke of how the audiences loved him in a certain way. When it comes to Ranbir Kapoor, his most compelling performance — Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year — received a lukewarm response at the box office. However, films where his performances have been strongest — Rockstar and Barfi, for instance have also enjoyed commercial success. With Sanju opening to both critical acclaim (specifically for Kapoor) as well as brisk box office collections (the film has had the highest opening of 2018 thus far), the young star is poised to add yet another career-defining role that is also a commercial success to his repertoire.

(Clockwise from top) Ranbir Kapoor in Sanju; Barfi; Rockstar; Rocket Singh — Salesman of the Year

While Kapoor might not the most consistent contemporary male star in Bollywood when it comes to commercial success, there is little doubt about his unique position. For a long time, Kapoor has been considered the ‘great hope’ of commercial Hindi cinema and while one could ascribe it to his ‘Kapoor’ lineage, it’s not that he hasn’t proved he’s more than a famous surname. What does make Ranbir Kapoor unique among his peers is the manner in which he seems to be insulated from the box office fate of his films. Once again, a few might be quick to credit his pedigree for this ‘first in case of fire’ kind of love the industry showers on him, but there seems to be a genuine fondness for Kapoor in the viewer who is willing to forgive him for misfires like Roy, Besharam and Bombay Velvet.

One of the reasons why Kapoor gets — for want of a better expression — a slew of unending chances, is the earnestness that he displays as an actor.

Right from Saawariya (2007), which despite having Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s name attached to it was probably the worst debut a star child — and that too a ‘Kapoor’ — could have asked for, to Sanju where he ‘becomes’ Sanjay Dutt, there is rarely a moment from any of his films where Kapoor doesn’t seem to be working on his characters. Kapoor more than managed to get back on his feet post-Saawariya with Bachna Ae Haseeno (2008) — a typical new Bollywood production — but it was the three releases that he had the next year that probably ensured Kapoor’s status for not just the industry but also the audiences as well as critics. In a single year, 2009, Kapoor had a masala Hindi film (Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani), a pitch-perfect story for the upwardly mobile multiplex audience (Wake Up Sid) and a favourite of critics and the discerning Hindi film aficionado (Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year). The first was Kapoor’s maiden blockbuster, the second a hit that enjoyed a following in some territories and the last — in spite being a complete washout commercially — charmed just about anyone who saw it.

Kapoor is also one of the few new-age male stars in Hindi films who seem to steer clear of multi-starrers or two-hero projects. He is also a rare variety, who, even within the trappings of popular Hindi cinema, has managed to infuse a semblance of experimentation. His Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year, now seems like the ‘art-house’ foray that actors in the 1970s or 1980s would attempt — Rajesh Khanna and Sharmila Tagore in Avishkaar, Dimple Kapadia in Rudali, etc — and even Raajneeti (2010) seems like an attempt to push himself without going too far. Rockstar (2011) and Barfi (2012) fit the description of being same, same but different and both hit the sweet spot both in terms of commercial success as well as critical acclaim.

As someone who grew up in the midst of the film business, Ranbir (just like a Sunny Deol, Sanjay Dutt, Ajay Devgn, Karisma Kapoor or Sonam) could have a subconscious fear of spiralling out of orbit while attempting a particular kind of role. Who knows, this could be at the back of Ranbir’s mind when he agreed to do a Besharam, which was more of a ‘standard Hindi film’ than his other filmography. The last few releases might have seen Kapoor oscillate between success and abject failure — Bombay Velvet (2015), Tamasha (2015), Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (2016), Jagga Jasoos (2017). But when his enacting of the famous scene from Munnabhai MBBS (where he channels Sanjay Dutt’s character questioning if a patient should fill out paperwork before being admitted to a hospital even if he/she is on the verge of death) brings people in droves to the theatres — as is the case with Sanju — then you know that Ranbir Kapoor truly is living it up.

Sanjay Dutt’s niece to make her Bollywood debut opposite Krushna Abhishek in comedy film Teri Bhabhi Hai Pagle

Govinda’s nephew Krushna Abhishek and Sanjay Dutt’s niece Nazia Hussain are set to share screen space in Vinod Tiwari’s upcoming film, Teri Bhabhi Hai Pagle, reports DNA.

Teri Bhabhi Hai Pagle poster

Dutt’s niece Nazia is best known for her role in Telugu film Nee Jathaga Nenundali.

In the film Teri Bhabhi Hai Pagle, Krushna who plays the role of superstar Raj, is seen trying to woo his co-star Ragni, played by Nazia.