Monthly Archives: September 2017

Hate Story 4: Karan Wahi confirmed as male lead opposite Urvashi Rautela

Karan Wahi has been finalised as the male lead in Hate Story 4 opposite Urvashi Rautela. The franchise was kicked-off in 2012 with Paoli Dam in the leading role. Known for being a racy thriller, the fourth installment will see Wahi, who is otherwise a well-known television actor,

Karan Wahi and Urvashi Rautela. Images from Twitter/KaranWahi_Fan_Club‏ and UrvashiRautelaURFC‏.

Currently, the actor is seen on the stunt reality show Fear Factor: Khatron Ke Khiladi. As per a report , the content of the fourth installment will be toned down in terms of romp.

Having made his Bollywood debut with Habib Faisal’s 2014 romantic comedy Daawat-e-Ishq, Wahi was most recently seen in the Ranbir Kapoor-Katrina Kaif starrer Jagga Jasoos. He rose to fame in 2004 with Star One’s teenage show Remix, wherein he played Ranveer Sisodia.

Director Vishal Pandya told the publication that the Hate Story 4 is based on an actual event. Therefore, the makers are targeting a larger audience. However, as per his statement, fans of the franchise will not be disappointed as erotica will still be the overarching element in the upcoming film.

The fourth part will be written by Milap Zaveri, who has been a part of the franchise since the first installment.

Mithali Raj’s life to be made into film; captain of Indian women’s cricket team hopes to ‘inspire young girls

The life story of Mithali Raj, captain of the Indian women’s cricket team, will now be told through a Bollywood biopic, Viacom18 Motion Pictures announced on Tuesday. She hopes it inspires young girls to explore sports as a career.

Mithali Raj addresses the media in Mumbai following the Indian team's return home from the World Cup. AFP

Mithali Raj. Image from AFP.

The rights for the biopic of the cricket star have been acquired by the studio which has backed content-driven films like Queen, Manjhi: The Mountain Man, Drishyam, Mary Kom, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag and Toilet: Ek Prem Katha in the past.

“I am extremely happy on this association with Viacom18 Motion Pictures. Hoping that this movie inspires more people especially young girls to take up sports as a career,” Raj said in a statement.

Mithali Raj is the highest run-scorer in women’s international cricket and the only woman cricketer to surpass the 6,000 run mark in ODIs. She is also the first player to score 7 consecutive 50s in ODIs, apart from being the first Indian to have led the national team to an ICC ODI World Cup final twice – 2005 and 2017.

An Arjuna awardee, Raj was also honoured with the Padma Shri in 2015, India’s fourth highest civilian award for her contribution to cricket.

Ajit Andhare, COO, Viacom18 Motion Pictures, said in a statement, “Viacom18 Motion Pictures has always been the pioneer in showcasing content with portrayal of strong women characters right from Queen to Kahaani to Mary Kom.

“We are proud to be collaborating with the young and inspirational Mithali Dorai Raj, a name single-handedly responsible in bringing about a shift in the way women’s cricket team was perceived in our country.”

The association between Viacom18 Motion Pictures and Mithali Raj has been facilitated by Varun Chopra, Director, Medallin Sports.

Chopra said, “Mithali remains to be an inspiration for multitudes for many years now and her story on the silver screen will keep motivating generations.

Haseena Parkar, Daddy, Raees: Crime dramas in 2017 have been less gangster, more criminal

It won’t be wrong to say that stories from the underworld have always fuelled our hunger and many times we have tried to bring the ‘unknown’ and ‘unsaid’ to the screen. Dark tales are high intensity and you are always on your toes while watching them.

As Narcos is the current obsession we all are suffering from, the bad guys have surfaced again on Bollywood charts. We had forgotten them for a while but they have come back. Leaving the moral debate aside, we all want to know what makes gangsters and men/women of crime so powerful.

The year started with Raees baniya ka dimaag aur miyabhai ki daring…and all of us went to the theatre in packs to be allured by Raees bhai, because if ammi jaan kehti haan then why wouldn’t we.

The film was loosely based on Abdul Latif’s life; a big-time bootlegger who eventually monopolised the illegal liquor business in Gujarat. At some places, SRK was applaud-worthy, but on the other hand the film was too long, populated with love sequences we didn’t need. The minute an enjoyable cat and mouse chase got better, it was frizzled by an over bearing love ballad.

However, Raees was a cakewalk to watch, compared to other gangster films in 2017.

In the last two weeks I have watched two films that I was so excited about. Murky streets, cold blooded gangsters and power play on screen — I live for such drama. But 2017 has been — and there’s no polite way to say this — disappointing.

It began with Daddy, which was so wonderfully shot but that’s about it. Arun Gawli, the gangster on whom the film is based, was feared and worshipped by the people of Dagdi chawl.  The claustrophobia that is thrown at us while we watch the film sucks you in deep and you can’t take your eyes off the screen. From cops to everyone who knew and fondly called him Daddy, everyone spoke about their version of the man who entrenched in the underbelly of Bombay.

These were the high points of the film but the point of matter? I didn’t learn anything I didn’t know about Gawli and I walked out feeling exhausted. Why would you subject your audience through the entire narrative and not give them something they don’t know? A little unfair, isn’t it?

But the crimes don’t simply stop here. This weekend’s release, Apoorva Lakhia’s Haseena Parkar, is a depiction of Dawood Ibrahim’s sister and how her life turned out the minute her brother became the man everyone feared. As inadequate Shraddha Kapoor was to play Haseena, even Siddhant’s portrayal of Dawood was devoid of any personality.

Even today, when you think about the man who swung the system with one hand, shivers run down your spine. And here Dawood is just reduced to having bubble baths and candle light dinners in Dubai.

Did no-one go back to the storyboard when there was time? Here’s a film with haphazard dialogues and a bland screenplay. This is the third gangster film of the year and even now, no one was able to diagnose the problems to fix them.

If only it was the job of background score and lipstick colours to invoke fear in us — why would we even need a theatre-watching experience then?

A timid Shraddha Kapoor suddenly turns eccentric and talks really, really slowly and says, “ Aapa yaad reh gaya na, naam yaad rakhne ki koi zarurat nahi.” Honestly, that is the only thing I remember from the film.

The problem of the matter lies in the first step of making a film. As alluring power-hungry, menacing men can be, their stories are not so simple. You just cannot begin without tying loose ends, lest you fall flat on your face. It has been almost two decades since Ram Gopal Verma’s Satya and even today that is the best depiction of cold blooded gangsters. Satya was not only a great film but also gave us so many gems — from Anurag Kashyap, Ram Gopal Varma, Vishal Bharadwaj to Manoj Bajpayee.

The only time someone after RGV came close to making mean men work was Milan Luthria’s Once Upon A Time In Mumbai (and the sequel was rather abysmal, so the curse remains). It has been so many years and sadly, I could just remember 2 films in a million. Pity.

Judwaa 2 is not a new genre for me; Pink and Shabana were, says Taapsee Pannu

Taapsee Pannu took the Hindi audience by surprise when she shifted gears from noteworthy off-beat films like Pink and Naam Shabana to comedy and masala pot-boiler Judwaa 2, directed by David Dhawan, alongside actors Varun Dhawan and Jacqueline Fernandez.

Looking glamorous, singing and dancing — an avatar she hasn’t played onscreen before in Bollywood, but this is exactly what she has been doing down South for last seven years. “I started my career in South with these big, glamorous, commercial films, and it is not new for me. In fact, Pink and Naam Shabana was new for me. Judwaa kind of a role was not a challenge, it was pretty easy but the Hindi audience seems to have been taken by surprise,” said Taapsee, who made her Bollywood debut with David Dhawan’s Chashme Baddoor in 2013 although she was already 10 films old in the south.

“Since I don’t like repeating myself, I change the genre pretty often so that I, as well as the audience, are spared from monotony. After doing heavy duty films like Pink and Naam Shabana, I decided to do a light-hearted film. People had started thinking that I am a serious kind of an actress but I like shocking my audience by giving something totally different and that is usually received well. After Judwaa 2, I will be doing films slightly outside the Judwaa zone. I want to balance hard-hitting, strong intense films with mainstream,” she further said.

However, going by Taapsee’s description of her character in Judwaa 2, it is evident that she has not tried getting into the shoes of Rambha’s character in 1997-release Judwaa. Rambha was shown as coy and shy, whereas Taapsee’s character Samaara is confident and takes the lead in doing things. “Samaara will be the one to take the first step in the relationship and push Prem to do things. That makes the character look interesting. I am not doing Rambha’s role, I have done it in my own way because girls have changed a lot from 20 years back to now. So, I cannot be doing that anymore,” said Taapsee, who plays an NRI from a Gujarati family.

With ‘Oonchi hai building’ being her all time favourite, shooting the song (with Varun) was “the biggest nostalgic moment” for her.

“It has been on my playlist forever, and after I signed the film, I have not seen Judwaa even once so that I don’t get influenced,” said Taapsee. The most memorable moment for her was the day she had to shoot with Salman Khan, who she was meeting for the first time. “There is one scene of us together and that was the only day of my shoot that I was quiet. I kept staring at Salman blankly. Everybody else had worked with him and they were sharing each other’s experiences but I was quiet,” said Taapsee, as she giggled.

Since Taapsee started her Bollywood career with David Dhawan four years ago, she was in a comfort zone. “David sir told me that he will introduce me to commercial mainstream cinema (with Judwaa 2) and I got tremendous encouragement from him. It is like coming back to square one. Judwaa 2 was a completely different level of commercial cinema. It felt like you have done a lot of hard work, so you have been given a bonus. I was treated like a princess, I was looking million bucks. I was given 10 outfits to choose from. It was like playing a quintessential Bollywood heroine. So far I had not done all this,” said Taapsee, further adding, “David sir is from the first family in Bollywood I got acquainted with. He would stay in touch and call me after my releases or after reading my interviews regardless of us working together. He would often tell me to shift to Mumbai and concentrate on Bollywood,” said Taapsee.

The actress had had many interactions with Varun Dhawan on the sets of Chashme Baddoor and they got along famously. “Varun’s exactly the kind of guy people perceive him to be — warm, friendly, humble,” she said. Taapsee also revealed that Varun didn’t have it easy just because his father called the shots. “David sir would often give us a reality check. In fact, it was more difficult for Varun because he was treated worse and we would tease him for that. He would have maximum arguments with his dad,” she laughed.

After making waves in Bollywood, many believed that Taapsee had bid adieu to the Telugu industry where she’s been working for seven years. But she proved them wrong by signing Telugu horror-comedy – Anando Brahma — soon after the release of Pink. Made on a shoe-string budget, the film released sometime last month and did phenomenally well at the box office. Unlike many other actresses, who moved bag and baggage to Mumbai from the south, Taapsee said she would never “uproot” herself as she’s found firm ground in Telugu cinema and now can make her own choices.

“I intend doing one Tamil or Telugu film every year. It will be the biggest stupidity if I leave the south film industry because I am well established and my films do well over there. I feel very comfortable there as it is my home ground. Just because I have been accepted here in Bollywood, I wouldn’t want to leave South. It has groomed me, and besides the loyalty factor, I can demand good work there. I have learnt the language as well. I can take up lead roles, so at this stage I don’t want to risk it. I am lucky to have been accepted in both industries,” said Taapsee.

Bhoomi movie review: Sanjay Dutt pulls off age-appropriate, impactful role in this flawed film

Somewhere near mid-point of the revenge drama Bhoomi, a moustachioed character, that is a fitter extrapolation of a 1980s Hindi movie villain, taunts a grieving and seething father.

He says he has amended a local saying — ‘Save the water’, to ‘Save the daughter’. The bad-man, Dhauli (Sharad Kelkar) is arrogant and unrepentant about his actions. Dhauli is the instigator of a gang-rape that has left Arun Sachdeva (Sanjay Dutt) scrambling to put back the shattered pieces of his sweet and gentle family life.

In Bhoomi, Dutt returns to the stage in an age-appropriate role and puts his all into the part of Arun, a simple shoemaker from Agra. A single parent, he shares a loving relationship with his daughter Bhoomi (Aditi Rao Hydari), an educated, independent, working girl. He cooks her dinner and gives her a head massage. She dyes his hair, makes parathas and chides him on his drinking habits.

Alongside they banter about the future and in passing mention the gender discrimination built into a prayer. Their family home in a small neighbourhood is getting dressed up for her upcoming wedding. But then one day their guileless life is shattered when Bhoomi is gang-raped.

There’s a touching scene of the bride being told to keep the atrocity a secret from her to-be husband and you see a girl dressed up in wedding finery faced with a mortifying choice. Director Omung Kumar handles the sequence tastefully, with minimal dialogue and a montage of little events unfolding around a still-life bride.

But what he earns there, Kumar wastes in the police station and courtroom scenes that follow. For all the time screenwriter Raaj Shaandilyaa and Kumar spend in setting up a world that is a believable mix of stereotypes and new-age thinking, post the crime the narrative takes on the convenience of revenge drama tropes – disinterested and insensitive cops, judgemental neighbours, a one-sided court case, societal shaming, a spineless fiancé (Sidhant Gupta).

The court scenes, in particular, are highly convenient. A lawyer spits out attacks and allegations on the innocent and weaker party. While there’s an instant throwback to Pink, this situation lacks both believability and frisson.

Having seen a couple of opportunities lost, one thinks that the story of Bhoomi will find its metre once it morphs into a revenge drama. It almost does.

But then Bhoomi stumbles, once more owing to its dependence on heightened melodrama augmented with a piercing score aimed unabashedly at evoking tears and ringing eardrums. There is enough violence to make you uncomfortable and look away, but no tears – because the characters are weeping buckets, ensuring you know exactly what they are feeling.

Certain scenes are designed with interesting elements – for instance the crime scene, and the early moments between father and daughter – but design and drama are printed in bold all over the film. There is no escaping either, and there is no subtlety in their delivery.

Based on true events, Bhoomi loads on the messages, which are announced by the characters like headlines on a news channel: Respect women, gender discrimination and gender equality, prevalence of prejudices and double standards. And yet there’s room in here for a gratuitous item number featuring Sunny Leone, performing some strange tribal choreography.

Aditi Rao Hydari plays the whimpering victim well, but her character lacks the fight-back. Kelkar is handed punch lines to match up to his punches, and that just makes him a caricature of bad men of yore.

Bhoomi is better dressed, better filmed and better performed than the old-fashioned revenge drama it actually is.

And the big differentiator is that this film has Dutt showing us that his wrinkles have their own stories to tell. While the idea of an eye-for-an-eye and taking the law into one’s hands is hard to justify, Dutt’s performance is affecting. He’s tender, he’s tormented and helpless, and when he’s vengeful, you feel his pain.

Shraddha Kapoor on Haseena Parkar: ‘I had to gain 7-8 kilos, wear prosthetics and change my voice’

Shraddha Kapoor seems to enjoy the little pleasures in life, and it is apparent.

She utters a “yippie” with delight on seeing her adrak wali chai (ginger tea) arrive; she gets excited on seeing a note pad and pencil on her table (and soon gets down to do some sketching), and with great enthusiasm she reads out her favourite little quote to this writer – ‘The hard work puts you where the good luck can find you’ — summing up her feelings on her dream of becoming an actress coming true.

So one can imagine the actress’ excitement on taking centre stage as the lead in biopics like Haseena Parkar (based on the life of underworld don Dawood Ibrahim’s sister), and world badminton champion Saina Nehwal. Further, she has also been signed for the lead role opposite Baahubali star Prabhas (supposedly his first Hindi film) in Saaho for which the names of Katrina Kaif and Anushka Shetty had been doing the rounds.

Shraddha, who began her Bollywood journey with two back to back duds — Teen Patti (2010) and Luv Ka The End (2011) — climbed back up the ranks with the blockbuster Aashiqui 2, in 2013, followed by super hits like Ek Villain, Anybody Can Dance 2 and Baaghi. Notwithstanding two failures (Rock On 2 and OK Jaanu) in the recent past, she’s currently on an all-time career high.

“It’s a great feeling when your childhood dream becomes a reality. I want to keep getting better and better, that is my endeavor. There is no substitute for hard work,” she says.

However, Shraddha wonders why playing Haseena is such a big deal? Some people from the industry felt that it was a huge departure for her at such an early stage of her career. The film’s director Apoorva Lakhia comments, saying, “Her filmography has been different, she has been playing a bubbly young actress and it takes a lot of guts for someone to play a mother of four kids, over 40 years of age.”

Shraddha adds “You don’t get to play such roles again and again. I was pleasantly surprised when Apu [director Apoorva Lakhia] came to me with the offer. Haseena’s story was so tragic and intriguing. She’d gone through so much in her life.”

Shraddha plays the role of dreaded ‘aapa’ (as Haseena Parkar was called), who became an underworld mafia queen after she was tried and persecuted because she was Dawood Ibrahim’s sister. The film shows Haseena’s journey from a 17-year-old teenager to a 43-year-old.  Shraddha was able to attain drastically different looks by using prosthetics, body suits and heavy make-up.

“I managed to gain seven to eight kilos and for the rest we took help of prosthetics, and silicon prosthetics in the mouth. I had to change my look as well as the voice as my character ages,” says Shraddha, furthering, “When you get ready to play a character then you start feeling, walking and talking like that person. It’s psychological.”

The actress spent lot of time with Haseena’s family while researching for the character. “They were extremely thrilled that a movie is being made on their family member and they told me many stories about her. Our interactions were warm and I was kind of interviewing them. I had hundreds of questions to ask but my hands couldn’t keep pace. I wish I had recorded all those information though I prefer taking down notes,” she said.

Since her real life brother Siddhanth plays the role of Dawood, it was most difficult for Shraddha to hold herself while doing the emotional scenes with him. “Emotional bits that were connected with my brother were most challenging because then you get a bit more personal. Both of us couldn’t stop crying while doing an intense scene and Apu had to stop the shoot for some time,” informs Shraddha.

Shraddha’s face lights up with the mention of her forthcoming films – the Saina Nehwal biopic (directed by Amole Gupte), and Saaho (directed by Telugu film director Sujeeth).

“When you get to be part of two different worlds, it is so exciting. I have to speak in Telugu and Hindi for Saaho. The script is wonderful; we haven’t come across anything like this in the Indian cinema before. I have started learning Telugu. I find the language fascinating because my coach, Mr Appari told me that certain words can be said in eight different ways in Telugu. That’s so amazing!” she exclaims.

Talking about the Nehwal biopic, Shraddha says that she is in the process of shedding weight for the role (that she gained for Haseena Parkar) which she is finding a bit difficult. Probably so, because one finds the sweet-toothed Shraddha peeping into a big tub of gulab jamuns swimming in mouth-watering rabdi, and she finally succumbs to the temptation.

“I have been going for my badminton classes four to five times a week. I wake up at 5 am which I love,” she said. In a recent development, the actress has started playing the sport with Nehwal besides taking tips from her, and she cannot stop singing praises of her director Amol Gupte.

“I feel so happy to be working with him. One of my favourite films of his is Stanley Ka Dabba. He comes from a completely different school of thought. He is such a purist, so caring, so giving,” she concludes.

Kangana Ranaut rues ‘sorry state’ of feminism, says an ideal society wouldn’t need feminists

Bollywood actress Kangana Ranaut, often caught in controversies due to her outspoken nature, says she is not a man-hater, and that she hopes to see a society which does not need feminism.

Kangana Ranaut. News 18 image

The National Award-winning actress was present in Mumbai at the Jagran Cinema Summit on 15 September. During an interaction session there, she was asked about her opinion on feminism and why some people called her a ‘man-hater’ after her fiery interviews in the last couple of weeks.

In response to that, Kangana said, “No, I am not a man-hater for sure… I think feminism is something… a sorry state to be in any society. The gender equality should be there, where feminism doesn’t need to act like a medicine on inequality. We should not have feminists, we shouldn’t have all these things… We shouldn’t have feminism in society.”

Kangana has always made some unusual choices in films — be it Fashion, Tanu Weds Manu, Queen or Simran — and has been really bold in making statements on her struggles in her personal and professional life.

Asked about her courage, Kangana said, “See, a person’s opinion shouldn’t have to do anything with her profession. My profession should not determine my voice as an individual. I think before an actress, I am a woman and a citizen of this country with a free voice, and my voice should be free from all baggage.

Newton movie review: Rajkummar Rao, Pankaj Tripathi, Anjali Patil shine in a dazzlingly low-key dramedy

“Do you know what your problem is?” a veteran election instructor asks a newbie.

The youngster replies: “My honesty?”

“No,” says the older gentleman, “your problem is your pride in your honesty.”

His point is pretty straightforward, as he continues: Don’t get so hung up on how clean you are, just do your work one step at a time, one day at a time, and in time the country will take care of itself. Read: do not let your ego cause you to obsess to such an extent about your giant role in the big picture, that you forget the old dictum about little drops making the ocean.

The elderly character played by Sanjay Mishra does not appear in the film beyond this conversation he has with the protagonist, but his words put in a nutshell the premise of Newton. Writer-director Amit V. Masurkar’s sophomore venture is the story of a rookie sarkari afsar determined to conduct a free and fair election in a remote, forested Chattisgarh polling station to which he has been assigned as presiding officer. Newton Kumar (Rajkummar Rao) is a portrait in youthful earnestness. He is inexperienced and innocent enough – some may say naïve – to be startled at the opposition to his efforts by those within the establishment.

His companions on that journey into a Naxalite-ridden conflict zone where everyone is too afraid or too skeptical to vote are senior policeman Atma Singh (Pankaj Tripathi), a local booth level officer Malko Netam (Anjali Patil), an official of indifferent health called Loknath (Raghubir Yadav), and a bunch of cops who are on duty to guard them.

What you see in this mix are a conscientious soul, a corrupt cynic, a woman doing her job while being resigned to her people’s fate, an old man resigned to the harshness of a reality he does little to change and a satellite group flowing with the tide. It takes all kinds to make the world, it takes just one you, me or Newton to be the change we want to see in that world.

Hindi cinema has for long more or less ignored the existence of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in our society, with most films being centred around upper-caste, north Indian, Hindu men. Stories of Dalits and women have usually been told by art filmmakers, and that too in weepie form. When Dalits have appeared in mainstream ventures, they have usually been supporting players and victims with no agency, uplifted by kind Brahmin and Kshatriya men. In the matter of caste representation, southern Indian cinema – though far from perfect – is head and shoulders above the north, with Dr Biju’s thoughtful Malayalam film Kaadu Pookunna Neram just this year taking us deep into tribal territory. Marathi cinema too scores high on this front with recent years bringing us the offbeat genius of Chaitanya Tamhane’s Court (2015) and Nagraj Manjule’s commercially conventional yet thematically groundbreaking Sairat (2016).

Masurkar razes multiple Hindi film clichés to the ground in Newton by resorting to low-key black comedy to tell a tale of Adivasis being pulled in different directions by the police and Naxalites on election day, by making an Adivasi – that too a woman – one of the agents of change in the film, and by conceiving Newton as a man of indeterminate caste, even if clearly not an Adivasi himself.

Newton’s story has been credited to Masurkar, the screenplay and dialogues to him and Mayank Tewari. Together, they have managed to keep their tone light throughout, while never once making light of the unnerving situations before us.

Crucial to their effort is the casting, and the fact that a large part of the film is shot on location in the jungles of Chhattisgarh. Casting directors Romil Modi and Tejas Thakkar found many of their artistes in the very region the story inhabits. This explains why, thankfully, nobody is self-consciously ‘playing poor’ or ‘playing tribal’. Of the leads, Rajkummar Rao, Anjali Patil and Raghubir Yadav live up to their track record by delivering immersive performances, with each one lending an endearing touch to the characters they play. (As an aside, it must be said that Patil’s deliberately deglamourised styling in each of the films I have seen her in so far has failed to camouflage her great beauty. She is a stunner.)

To be a scene-stealer in an assembly of such immense talent seems impossible, yet somehow Pankaj Tripathi achieves that. This is an artiste who values our time and makes every second, every flicker of an eyelash count. Nowhere is this more in evidence than in the scene in which Atma Singh is first introduced to Newton Kumar. By then, the latter’s name has already been a butt of many jokes. Atma does not offer a wisecrack, but with an expression so fleeting that you might miss it if you blink an eye at that moment, he wordlessly lets us – and Newton – know that he has noticed, he is taken aback and amused, but he does not care enough to do anything more. Now that he has delivered back to back brilliance in Anaarkali of Aarah, Gurgaon, Bareilly Ki Barfi and Newton, it can be safely said that 2017 is turning out to be The Year of The Tripathi.

Good camerawork and editing are an inextricable part of every good performance – this fact is exemplified by a scene in which Atma sits primly, wearing a floppy hat, and across a large vacant plot of land, observes Newton who stands at the door of the polling station. Atma’s posture, evident even in an extreme long shot where his face is a blur, Atma’s tininess in Newton’s eyes from that distance, and the pace of the cuts going back and forth between them had the combined effect of causing me to giggle, despite the awareness that Newton is disheartened at that point. A salaam here and for the flow of the rest of the narrative to cinematographer Swapnil S. Sonawane and editor Shweta Venkat Mathew.

Masurkar made his directorial debut with the laugh-so-much-that-you-might-die Sulemani Keeda in 2014, which sadly did not get the public attention it deserved. With his second film, it is clear that intelligently used humour is his weapon of choice, irrespective of the battle at hand. It is not often that an Indian filmmaker takes to comedy in a setting this dismal – Masurkar and his co-writer do, without being condescending or trivialising the almost depressing circumstances it chronicles in lands far beyond the India most of us are exposed to.

There is so much that Newton alludes to – the exploitation of tribals by politicians, the ignorance of ‘mainstream’ society, the constraints faced by honest government servants, the apathy or corruption that these constraints trigger even in those not naturally inclined to evil, language politics (I challenge anyone who claims that Hindi is the language of north India as a whole, to decipher the smattering of Gondi dialogues in the film without the help of a translator), the dubious efficacy of all violence (including violence that claims to have noble goals). Yet the film is not a PhD thesis nor is it all bleak. With his emphasis on the almost Darwinian significance of the lone soldier in human civilisation, Masurkar snatches optimism from the jaws of pessimism.

This is a film designed to give us hope that might even be deemed ridiculously in the face of the challenges before India’s many Newtons. One theory is that hope is a compulsion, a choice some of us make to maintain our sanity; the other is that human history bears witness to the value of being that drop in the ocean. In the words of a song from this film (music: Naren Chandavarkar and Benedict Taylor, lyrics: Varun Grover): “Manzil door thhi / Dheemi chaal thhi / Udti dhool mein / Aankhen laal thhi / Chalte chalte khud rasta mudh gaya / Tujhko dekh ke panchhi udh gaya.” (The road was long, your pace slow, your eyes reddening with the flying dust. As you walked, the path turned, and at the sight of you, the bird took flight.)

Newton’s music wafts so gently in and out of the narrative, that you almost do not notice when it is not there. When it is though, it makes its presence felt without rubbing itself in our faces.

Newton was premiered early this year at the Berlin Film Festival where it won a top award. The cleverness of Masurkar’s film is that it is designed to appeal to audiences beyond the already converted and beyond the artistically inclined fest circuit.

It takes us to a region rarely explored by Bollywood, and to a scenario so bizarre that as viewers we are left with just three options: laugh, cry or be furious. Option 4: all the above combined.

If you do watch this film, I strongly suggest that you stay till the very last credit has rolled off the screen. You do not want to deprive yourself of the pleasure of listening to the closing song Kar, in which lyricist Irshad Kamil writes: “…Paas pados mein kya banta hai / Kya hai masala kya hai tel / Tune isse kya lena hai? / Raajneeti ki shop hai, mitron / Sabhi emotion hote sale / Border pe apni sena hai / Tu Twitter pe chhod missile / Subah baitth aur shaam kar / Dil bola / Dil bola / Dil bola apna kaam kar / Chal tu apna kaam kar.” (Roughly: Why bother with what’s cooking in the neighbour’s house? In the business of politics, my friend, every emotion is for sale. Our Army is on the border, but you launch missiles day and night on Twitter. Still, my heart says, focus on your job. Come, play your part.)

Sanjay Dutt on Bhoomi: ‘The industry has stood by me, wanted to make comeback with the right film’

Sanjay Dutt is a free man quite literally and metaphorically. The looming fear of a conviction has now gone after the actual completion of his sentence — something that kept him silent for 25 long years, at the advice of his lawyers.

Now the actor is speaking his heart out and how. He clearly seems to have dropped his guard. “You must understand that I had a burden of a case on my head for 25 years and I couldn’t speak what I really wanted to. There’s no sword hanging on my head now. That burden has come off  and I am feeling light. I can speak about anything, I have nothing to hide now. I have nothing to fear. You can ask me anything and I will talk,” said Dutt with a warm smile.

He further added, “I’m loving my life, spending time with my family, my wife, my children, my sisters. Now I don’t want to take my freedom for granted.”

Wearing a black T-shirt, faded jeans and sporting a beard, 58-year-old Dutt is gearing up for his comeback film Bhoomi, which will hit the screens on 22 September. Directed by Omung Kumar, Bhoomi is an intense social drama about a father-daughter relationship with Aditi Rao Hydari playing Dutt’s daughter.

There was much speculation about Dutt’s second innings in Bollywood from the time he was released from Yerwada jail last February. While some reports suggested that his old friends — Subhash Ghai, Sanjay Gupta — were keen on working with him, there were other reports attributing the delay in his comeback to his wife, Maanayata, who was apparently demanding huge remuneration and as a result turning off the filmmakers.

“None of this is true. It was my decision to start after a gap. I wanted a break of about six months. I wanted to be with my family, my children,” clarified Dutt, further adding, “The industry has always stood by me but I wanted to come back with the right film. I heard many scripts, and Omung also narrated few stories to me, but I loved Bhoomi. It is an entertainer, a commercial, action film and this is the genre I want to be in. The film’s about the trauma of a lower middle class family. It has a message but it is not preachy. I play a tough father who gets his daughter justice.”

Reminiscing about the first day of the shoot for Bhoomi, he said, “We were shooting in Agra and as soon as I entered the sets, all the crew members welcomed me with a huge round of applause. I am passionate about films and acting, it’s my life. I was choked on seeing cameras, lights. Every day, while in jail I would get anxious about getting back to movies when I am out. I remember telling Omung to keep a light scene on the first day. So we shot that scene where my ‘daughter’ is applying dye in my hair. I gave my final shot in the second take,” said Dutt.

Director Omung Kumar briefs Sanjay Dutt on the sets of his first film since his release from Yerawada Jail

Considering the number of films Dutt has signed in the last few months, it looks like he has been welcomed into the industry with open arms.

Soon after the release of Bhoomi, Dutt will start shooting for Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster 3, from 26 September. The third movie in the franchise will be directed by Tigmanshu Dhulia and will see Dutt essaying the role of a gangster. He had earlier played a gangster in Mahesh Manjrekar directed, 1999-release Vaastav. Soon after, he will play the lead in a thriller love story titled Malang, to be directed by debutant Aarambhh Singh, who assisted Omung on Bhoomi.

Sometime next year, Dutt will be teaming up with Omung once again, for a historical titled Good Maharaja, a film based on Maharaja Jam Sahib Digvijaysinhji Ranjitsinhji, who was the ruler of Nawanagar, a princely state in British India. Then there’s Girish Malik’s Torbaaz — an action-thriller set in Afghanistan. Sanjay Dutt will be essaying the role of an army man and father to a young child in the film.

“My character fights for the young Fidayeens and tries to rehabilitate them through cricket,” said Dutt sounding extremely excited about the film. And finally, there’s the cherry on the cake — much awaited, Hirani’s third instalment of Munnabhai franchise, which is most likely to roll at the end of 2018.

Talking about his biopic with Ranbir Kapoor portraying him, Dutt said he was both, shocked and intrigued on hearing about it.

“What’s so interesting about my life? I wondered. But Ranbir is perfect for the part. Those few days, when I was out on parole, I would sit with the team for hours and talk about my life and they would record. While letting them into my life, I was able to reflect on all those years that have gone by. The story will tell the truth, it will not glorify me. I have told them to put good, bad, everything,” said Dutt, who would like to watch it only after the first copy is out.

Sanjay Dutt's look from The Good Maharaja. Image from Twitter.

The actor is also happy about his co-star of several films, Manisha Koirala, essaying the role of his mother, Nargis. “I saw one photograph of hers and it reminded me of my mom. Manisha and I did speak to each other few times but we never discussed the biopic,” said Dutt.

The last few months has seen movies of such formidable stars like Salman, Shah Rukh, Ranbir Kapoor failing at the box office, leading to speculation about the industry’s most bankable pillar – the star system. Is it coming to end, and are only strong content-based films are working?

“I don’t know about all this. Aisa hai kya (Is this so?) But some films work and some don’t which doesn’t mean that the stars are over. And if you are saying that only strong content is working then Bhoomi has got a lot of good content,” Dutt laughs out loud.

Arjun Rampal on Daddy: ‘Shooting in Dawood-friendly area as Arun Gawli was scary’

After rejecting a certain producer’s “one-dimensional” script on the biopic of possibly Mumbai’s most feared gangsters, Arun Gawli, Arjun Rampal took upon himself to write the script and act in it as well. He got so obsessed with the subject that he locked himself in a room for almost two months to finish the script. He further finalised Ashim Ahluwalia to direct it, assembled the cast and crew, and soon enough his journey as a producer also began.

“When I was first approached, I did not like the script, it wasn’t exciting. The producer’s sensibility was different. It was a very typical portrayal of gangsters that we have seen in innumerable films. We were making a biopic so we had to be real and I didn’t find the level of realism in it, the incidents that had actually happened were avoided,” said Rampal, furthering, “I decided to produce it myself and got the official rights for the biopic. I didn’t approach any studio to avoid restrictions, and sudden changes. I have experienced in this past.”

Once the main cast and crew was assembled, the actor-producer-writer went through a staggering transformation to play the part. The uncanny resemblance to Gawli baffled many, as Rampal was almost unrecognisable in the get up.

“It was a huge process because Gawli has a distinct look. I had to shrink in size, lose about 11 kilograms and get a new nose. But when I went for the look test, I was very clear that if I failed test, we will get another actor and Ashim will still direct it. Luckily, this make-up artist from Italy worked on prosthetics and it went off well,” said Rampal.

Ahluwalia, whose 2012 film Miss Lovely was an entry at the Cannes Film Festival, was on the same page as Rampal. When he was asked to direct Daddy (releases on 8 September), he was clear that he would do it on his own terms and not the way “Bollywood usually treats gangster films”.

For long, it’s been seen, Bollywood’s gangster movies have romanticised the criminal, portraying him as a man with the golden heart, wronged by the system and who turns to crime reluctantly. Be it Amitabh Bachcan’s Deewaar, Don or Agneepath, or even more recent films like Once Upon a Time in Mumbai or Shah Rukh Khan’s Raees.

“There is no redemption in my film. What’s important was to tell a story and it was critical to show the human side of Gawli. People may feel, or may not feel anything. They will have to draw their own opinion about him,” said Rampal, a former ramp model who made his Bollywood debut over 15 years ago.

Talking about his director, Arjun added,  “Ashim is a kind of reluctant director and he doesn’t want to do typical Bollywood stuff.  He was clear that we can’t put an item song in it nor have scenes of me jumping off roofs or have an eight pack abs. He didn’t want the character play a heroic guy, spinning out big fat dialogues because that amounts to glorifying a person. The film is not a fictionalised piece. It is a real story and we had to keep it real. We wanted to show an unconventional gangster or politician. When standing with other characters, they should not see Arjun, they should see Gawli. That process was tiring.”

Not just physical and facial transformation, but understanding the world of Gawli, a one-time henchman of mafia boss Dawood Ibrahim who later broke away and formed his own gang, was challenging for Rampal. An unemployed youngster during the Mumbai textile strike, Gawli’s gang of extortionists and contract killers spread terror in and around Mumbai.

“I would go in his area, Dagdi Chawl, and mingle with the people who have lived that life and have known Gawli because he is not accessible and there is not much written about him. He is in jail serving a life sentence. So whenever he would come out on parole those were the golden moments for me as I would get to meet him, observe him,” said Rampal, but hastily added, “But even when I met him, I couldn’t read him. He would just gaze at you, he would listen to you. So we have taken point of views of the Dagdi Chawl, point of views of the family, of the rival gangs and of the cops. That is how you discover Gawli in the film and you either empathise with him or your don’t,” revealed Rampal.

It wasn’t easy to convince Gawli when Rampal and Ahluwalia approached him for permission to make his biopic before shooting the movie.

Gawli, who is serving a life sentence for the murder of a politician from the right-wing Shiv Sena party, wasn’t forthcoming. He portrayed a Robinhood kind of a figure and is known among his followers as “Daddy”. Gawli’s stronghold in Mumbai was at the Dagdi Chawl, a colony of seven buildings that houses families in one-room tenements. His family still lives there.

“It is not a biopic on a sports personality or freedom fighter or somebody who was extremely righteous. This person came from the world of crime. We told him that people need to know his story and that is what fascinates me and the director. We wanted him to allow us to show everything about how he became Arun Gawli. Initially, he had apprehensions about the portrayal of him and his family because they’re also part of the script. But later he probably saw our consistency, our belief in what we wanted to do. One day, he felt that we were right, that we should not be making a propaganda kind of film, and asked us to go ahead,” said Rampal.

The crew also shot in areas where Gawli’s biggest rivals lived, an environment that was openly hostile to them.

“Locations chosen were really bizarre. I didn’t know these places actually existed. His area is Agripada and then you cross over to Nagpada which is Dawood’s area. When I would go dressed looking like Gawli into the Dawood area with a crew of 200 people I felt that hostility. Many times we had to stop the shoot as some guys would come and start inquiring. It was a bit scary, there was tension and we would take police help. But it was also quite exciting because that would bring the necessary energy into the film,” said Rampal.