Monthly Archives: February 2018

Kuchh Bheege Alfaaz surpasses ‘broken boy healed by happy woman’ trope with Geetanjali Thapa’s act

In the week before the release of his latest movie (and very first love story) Kuchh Bheege Alfaaz, acclaimed director Onir was asked in an interview what the lead characters of Archana and Alfaaz represent. He responded, “Alfaaz is broken from the inside, whereas Archana, who has leucoderma, is broken from the outside.”

Kuchh Bheege Alfaaz. Image from Twitter/@justscorpion

Kuchh Bheege Alfaaz tells the unlikely but sweet story of RJ Alfaaz (played by newcomer Zain Khan Durrani) — a mysterious RJ with a troubled past (yes, the ‘boys with troubled pasts’ have left music and joined radio now) — and Archana (National Award winner Geetanjali Thapa), who is a chilled out, idealistic, leucodermic maker of memes and WhatsApp forwards. Their paths cross virtually after a minor Tinder-phone number mishap. When Archie (short for Archana) gushes on the phone to him about how much she loves and admires the mysterious and romantic RJ Alfaaz, he decides to tell her that his name is Abhimanyu.

That’s pretty much all I remember him telling her, actually. See, if both Alfaaz and Archana are broken in different ways, it’s certainly had vastly different effects on their personalities. Alfaaz’s brokenness comes from a sorrowful experience with his teenage girlfriend, while Archana is apparently “broken” because she has leucoderma. She doesn’t, to be honest, seem very broken at all in the movie, and is actually an endless repository of good cheer and strength.

Anyway, by the time we first meet them, Alfaaz’s brokenness has inspired most of his personality to slowly seep away through the cracks over the years. All that’s left seems to be a thick concentrate of intense poetry and love stories that he recites on his captivating radio show, but otherwise, Alfaaz is a man of few words and by extension you also feel few thoughts.

I like to think that Archana was meant to be a symbol of female resilience and vigour, and Alfaaz a testament to the extreme fragility of masculinity. It seems an apt metaphor to me. On the other hand, it could also be a different, although a far more hackneyed trope: That of the silent brooding man being saved by the perkiness of the manic pixie lady love.

Most of Alfaaz’s responses to the delightful and engaging Archana on social media are barely a couple lines long. And until the very end, he doesn’t seem to say much to anyone that isn’t a response to a question or an assurance that he is, in fact, okay.

Archana, on the other hand, seems to have responded to her supposed “brokenness” by wearing the cracks with pride and embracing life with arms wide open. She may cover the patches on her neck with a scarf (until the end), but she has a love for roaming around Calcutta barefoot, and a unique approach to Tinder which involves saying yes to anyone who doesn’t upload a photo of themselves, just like her. She goes on dates to tiny momo canteens, is always quick with her truly delightful smile, and has a complicated office-friend-romance type situation with her colleague that she handles with friendliness, compassion and a spine of steel.

She knows what she wants (to make “beautiful” memes, and RJ Alfaaz), and falls hard for so-called Abhimanyu because of how much her mysterious phone pal reminds her of the RJ. And I mean she falls hard. She sends him adorable, vivacious and amusing messages all day that make her smile in anticipation of his response when her phone buzzes, and she continues to text him even when he persists in being a boring and brooding sort of guy. There are moments when you feel sure that if you were one of Archana’s friends and read his lacklustre responses, you’d immediately encourage her to cut her losses and move on to someone a bit more exciting. But Archana seems to give everything and everyone around her a chance, while Alfaaz retreats into his stark, white, bare apartment (with a great view) to read Faiz Ahmed Faiz.

There are lots of great views in Kuchh Bheege Alfaaz, and one of its best features is its pretty, nostalgic depiction of slow, slow Calcutta. The movie itself does feel a bit long, and it could have reached its conclusion a lot quicker than the 116 minutes it took. But perhaps it’s just the newness of social media romances that we expect our characters to meet and climax earlier than they need to, or earlier than social media can let them get away without.

While it is kind of exasperating to see another broken boy reluctantly allow himself to be healed by a happy woman, the excellence of Geetanjali Thapa doesn’t make it so bad. In fact, her skill and charm makes it easy to feel that perhaps the movie pushed Alfaaz into a bare room because it was aware of the talent it had at its disposal with Thapa, and decided to use it to create a strong woman character I’d loved to have seen more of. I guess this is one of those stories where you don’t really care if the guy and girl get together in the end, as long as the girl is happy, which you have a feeling she will be because she at least has a personality.

The Ladies Finger (TLF) is a leading online women’s magazine delivering fresh and witty perspectives on politics, culture, health, sex, work and everything in between.

Padman, Aiyaary, Padmaavat box office collection: Bhansali’s film nears Rs 500 cr in global earnings

This week’s latest release Aiyaary, starring Sidharth Malhotra, Manoj Bajpayee and Rakul Preet Singh, had a rather underwhelming start at the box office with respect to the kind of hype the film had generated prior to its release.

Padmaavat, Aiyaary and Padman. Facebook

On the other side, already-released films like Padman and Padmaavat are growing steadily with every passing day in the theatres.

Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s magnum opus Padmaavat, starring Deepika Padukone, Shahid Kapoor and Ranveer Singh, has emerged as one of the highest grossing films in Bollywood. The kind of nationwide attention that the film gathered — owing to the violent protests by various fringe groups belonging to the Rajput community — has only helped the film in the longer run. The film’s collection — both in India as well as abroad — has been mammoth.

According to a report by Box Office India, Bhansali’s film is nearing Rs 500 crore mark in global earnings. The film’s gross domestic earnings is reported to be around Rs 334 crore in India and Rs 165 crore overseas.

Zoom, in one of its reports, claims that Akshay Kumar-starrer Padman which was touted to be his biggest moneyspinner, has had a slow performance at the box office. The film has been able to mint Rs 68.12 crore in nine days of its release. As per trade pundits, the film’s overall earnings will come to a halt at around Rs 80 crore.

Film trade analyst Taran Adarsh posted on Twitter and revealed the collection of Neeraj Pandey’s Aiyaary:

Malayalam filmmaker Jeethu Joseph to make Bollywood debut with horror film starring Rishi Kapoor, Emraan Hashmi

Mumbai: Critically acclaimed Malayalam filmmaker Jeethu Joseph, best known for helming Mohanlal-starrer Drishyam, is gearing up to make his Bollywood debut with a horror film starring actors Rishi Kapoor and Emraan Hashmi.

From left: Emraan Hashmi, Jeethu Joseph and RishiKapoor. Facebook

AZURE Entertainment and Viacom18 Motion Pictures announced a collaboration to produce Jeethu Joseph’s Hindi film debut on 19 February in a statement.

“Directing a Hindi feature film has been on the anvil for some time and I have been waiting for the right story. This crime mystery thriller with elements of horror has excited me tremendously and we have got perfect casting for the two protagonists in the film. I am looking forward to start the film at the earliest,” said Joseph.

The yet untitled film will be shot in a single schedule between May and July.

Emraan said that the project will be “a riveting, nail biting treat for fans of the genre and with Jeethu at the helm of things. I’m confident the film will be a game changer”.

Ajit Andhare, Chief Operating Officer, Viacom18 Motion Pictures, said, “Ever since we produced Drishyam, a Hindi remake of Jeethu Joseph’s original masterpiece, we have been looking for a subject to make with Jeethu in Hindi.”

Kangana Ranaut’s Manikarnika gets a new cast member in former Bigg Boss contestant Vivek Mishra

Former Bigg Boss contestant Vivek Mishra has joined the cast of Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi, starring actress Kangana Ranaut.

“I’m really happy to star in the film. The film itself will help to educate the generation. It will teach the meaning of love for the nation. Queen of Jhansi was an inspiring figure,” Vivek Mishra said in a statement.

“I enjoy being a part of such movies. Earlier, I was a part of Aamir Khan’s Mangal Pandey: The Rising,” he added.

Kangana Ranaut in Manikarnika and Vivek Mishra/Image from Twitter.

On his role in the upcoming film, he said, “I am playing Sipahsalar. My role will be close to Jhalkari Bai, portrayed by actress Ankita Lokhande.”

Vivek finds Kangana “kind as we can imagine how Laksmi Bai was. She has a very pure and lovely soul. She is beautiful and amazingly talented”.

Sasural Simar Ka actress Dipika Kakar to make Bollywood debut with JP Dutta’s Paltan

Sasural Simar Ka actress Dipika Kakar is all set to make her Bollywood debut and join the cast of JP Dutta’s ensemble war film Paltan alongside Suniel Shetty, Sonu Sood, Rana Daggubati, Pulkit Samrat, Siddhanth Kapoor, Arjun Rampal, Harshvardhan Rane and Gurmeet Choudhary.

Dipika Kakar. Image from Instagram/ms.dipika

Kakar took to her Instagram profile to share the news with her follower in a surprise announcement. She captioned the photograph of the film’s poster “What better could I ask for than being a part of a #JPDuttaFilm as my first one!! Such an honour to join the Paltan

Padman banned in Pakistan; Akshay Kumar-starrer under fire for its ‘tabboo’ subject

Akshay Kumar’s Padman, based on the life of social activist Arunachalam Muruganantham who introduced low-cost sanitary pads, has been banned in Pakistan.

Pakistan’s Federal Censor Board refused to clear the Bollywood movie for its release in the country. According to the members, the film deals with ‘taboo’ subjects such as menstruation and, thus, cannot be allowed to screen in Pakistan.

Furthermore, the Federal Censor Board announced a ban on the film in all cinemas across the country. “We can’t allow our film distributors to import films which are against our traditions and culture,” FCB member Ishaq Ahmed was quoted as saying by PTI.

A still from Padman/Image from Twitter.

The members of Punjab Film Censor Board also refused to watch the film saying it is based on a “taboo subject” and rejected any clearance certificate to it. “We can’t allow the screening of films on taboo subjects in our cinemas as it is not in our culture, society or even religion,” a member said.

Syed Noor, a well-known Pakistani filmmaker, said that there was a need to speak to the local film distributors and exhibitors about the films they import from other countries. “Not only this film Padman, but I think even Padmaavat should not have been released in Pakistan as it portrays Muslims in a very negative light,” Noor said.

Directed by R Balki, the film also stars Radhika Apte and Sonam Kapoor in pivotal roles. The movie has opened to a good reception in India as it earned Rs 10.26 crore on its first day, and is expected to cross the Rs 50 crore mark during the weekend.

Padman and the predicament with biopics: Is the priority to be authentic to subject matter or fictionalise drama?

The story of Arunachalam Muruganantham, more commonly known as Padman, has hit theatres this week. While Bollywood stars — in solidarity with the theme of the film and with Akshay Kumar leading the way — have been inundating their social media platform with images of them holding sanitary napkins, one really wonders how true the plot of the film will be to the real Arunachalam.

The biopics that Bollywood has culled out in the past few years gives us reasons to believe that the promises made by makers of Pad Man during the promotional phase of film are to be taken with a pinch of salt.

Akshay Kumar as the reel Padman and Arunachalam Muruganathanam as the real Padman

In recent times, we witnessed a sincere Arjun Rampal sinking his teeth in the portrayal of Arun Gawli, but the overall plot of Daddy was a let down by the writers, after the protagonist was venerated in the film. Azhar, a shoddy attempt by Tony D’Souza to commemorate cricketer Azharuddin, was way off the mark. The film actually glorified Azhar and absolved him of all sins of match fixing. Neerja cannot be dubbed as a biopic in true sense as it dealt only with a particular event and in a very tricky fashion Neeraj Pandey avoided most of the curious questions which viewers were looking for in MS Dhoni. The less one says about Apoorva Lakhia’s biopic on Haseena Parkar, the better. Barring Dangal and Mary Kom none of the biopics could match with the life of the protagonist they dealt with.

To sum up, the tricks of making a biopic is still to be cracked by Bollywood filmmakers.

Most of the filmmakers falter when it comes to weaving nuances that are involved in the making of a biopic. Padman is next in queue and slated to pass the same test this weekend. With Arunachalam himself being available for the various promotional activities of the film, it’s a foregone conclusion that the film has blessings of the social entrepreneur who revolutionised the world of women health care with his low cost sanitary napkins.

But let’s not forget even Azhar had blessings of Cricketer Mohammad Azharuddin and so did Daddy and Haseena Parkar. Barring a few like Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Paan Singh Tomar, Bandit Queen and The Dirty Picture, majority have failed and faltered in their execution.

So why is it that Bollywood always trails behind in a genre that has been cracked beautifully and successfully by Hollywood? Biopics, in the first place, can be a very tricky affair and are not considered a safe bet by producers. True to the oft witnessed herd mentality among Bollywood filmmakers, it was only after the success of Paan Singh Tomar and The Dirty Picture that Bollywood woke up to the true money spinner potential of biopics. Prior to both these films, biopics were always considered a losing proposition and saw light of theatres in a very erratic fashion.

One major factor that differentiates the biopics of Hollywood and Bollywood is the art of picking the subject matter itself.

Most of the lives that are picked by Hollywood are from the common strata and thus pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman becomes the protagonist for Roman Polanski for his Oscar winner The Pianist or Martin Scorsese resorted to the life of maverick stockbroker Jordan Belfort for his The Wolf of Wall Street. Erin Brockovich was just an environmental activist before the film catapulted her to fame. In strictest sense none of them were celebrities and people had no clue about their existence until the films appeared.

In Bollywood it’s always been the other way. Filmmakers have picked only those subjects which either have been part of history or have received constant media coverage. For the Hindi film industry, personalities like Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Milkha Singh, Phoolan Devi, Sarabjit Singh, Azharuddin and Mary Kom perfectly fit the bill on their defined parameters. Films like Manjhi – The Mountain Man and Manjunath are few and far between which actually talked about common men and viewers had no inkling about their plots. Truth be told, Bandit Queen and Paan Singh Tomar, ironically both centring around reformed dacoits, are the closest that Bollywood has tasted in terms of a refined biopic: rest all have been marred with a star hangover.

Dangal, MS Dhoni, Mary Kom rested on the star power of Aamir Khan, Sushant Singh Rajput and Priyanka Chopra to an extent.

Not much is known about the personal life of Arunachalam and it would be interesting to see how director Balki has interpreted and given a vision to his life. It’s yet to be seen what treatment Balki gives to the personal part of his life. But a niggling thing that is worrisome is that the setting of the film too has been changed to a North Indian village, which looks ridiculous to say the least.

One thing that largely worked in favour of Dangal, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag and Paan Singh Tomar was the milieu to which the protagonist belonged. Even the South impact in The Dirty Picture was apparent but in Padman the shuddh Hindi dialogues and the banners that are visible in the trailer look like an eyesore and take away the authenticity of the film.

Actors might have shown their solidarity with the film but in the end it’s the acceptance of the mass that matters.

Padman becomes first Bollywood film to have simultaneous release in Russia, Iraq and Ivory Coast

Mumbai: Padman will become Bollywood’s first film that will release in Russia, Ivory Coast and Iraq on the same day as it hits the screens in India, says producer Twinkle Khanna.

“I once told my Padman that I will take him places… Well, not only will Padman release in 50 countries all over the world but it is Bollywood’s first film that will be releasing day and date in Russia, Ivory Coast and even Iraq,” Twinkle tweeted on Wednesday.

Akshay Kumar in a still from PadMan. YouTube

Directed by R Balki, Padman, releasing on Friday, is based on the story of a real-life hero and addresses the issue of menstrual hygiene.

The film, starring Akshay Kumar, Sonam Kapoor and Radhika Apte, is based on the story of Arunachalam Muruganantham, who brought about a near revolution by introducing a machine capable of producing low-cost sanitary pads.

Manikarnika: Rajput Karni Sena backs Sarv Brahmin Mahasabha’s claims over ‘historical tampering’ in film

Jaipur: The Shree Rajput Karni Sena, which has strongly protested against the release of periodic drama Padmaavat, has decided to back the Sarv Brahmin Mahasabha’s protest against the “historical tampering” of Queen Lakshmibai, also called Jhansi Ki Rani, in the film Manikarnika starring Kangana Ranaut.

The film is based on the life of ‘Jhansi ki Rani’ and allegedly shows the relationship of the queen with a British officer.

Kangana Ranaut in Manikarnika (left); Deepika Padukone in Padmaavat (right). Facebook

Shree Rajput Karni Sena founder Lokendra Singh Kalvi, asked if his outfit is lending support to the Brahmin Mahasabha in its fight against the film, said, “Agar Brahmin ka khoon bahega to Rajput kya chup rahega, jab Rajput ka khoon baha to Brahmin kabhi chup nahi raha (Rajputs will never keep quiet if Brahmins are affected, and vice versa).” He claimed that 10,000 letters were signed with blood by Brahmins to protest the release of Padmaavat.

On the issue of quashing of FIR against Sanjay Leela Bhansali, producer of Padmaavat, and against Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone, he said it had to happen as the apex court has already declared that the film should be released and linked it to the matter of freedom of expression.

“The High Court will definitely follow the Supreme Court. There is nothing new in it,” he added.

Asked if there is any chance of the film being released in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Gujarat, Kalvi said the “Supreme Court cannot dictate to cinema halls to release the film and depute paramilitary forces outside cinema halls”. The four states had earlier decided against releasing the film, and three of them had approached the apex court.

“What we know is that cinema hall owners are not ready to screen the film in any of these states,” he said, adding that on 9 February, new films are releasing and hence cinema hall owners will be more interested in those.

Film distributor Raj Bansal, who looks after the Rajasthan and Madhya Pradeh market, has refused to release the film in the two states. The Multiplex Association has also refused to release the film in Rajasthan, Kalvi said.

“We have asked the government to set up a pre-screening board to look into issues related to historical tampering of facts. We strongly propose forming a panel to look into the controversies emerging in films as Padmaavat and Manikarnika.”

He said the proposal was liked by Sanjay Leela Bhansali and even Vice President Venkaiah Naidu when he was heading the Information and Broadcasting Ministry.

“This board should be constituted by the censor board, state government or government of India and should sort out the disputes emerging at any time when any historical tampering is reported. In such times the expert panel’s role should come in,” he added.

He said the censor board had invited three panelists to watch Padmaavat but their views were not paid heed to, and added that a pre-screening board will have a legal voice.

Manoj Bajpayee on Aiyaary: ‘Neeraj Pandey films are the kind of mainstream cinema I love to be associated with’

Manoj Bajpayee, who seems as much at ease with mainstream as with parallel cinema, is quite charged up. He is gearing up for his first release of the year — Aiyaary, an action thriller touted to be an intriguing tale with twists and turns. And it is the presence of director Neeraj Pandey that makes it more special for Bajpayee, who has collaborated with the him earlier on films like Special 26 and Naam Shabana.

“Neeraj is a great talent that happened to mainstream Indian cinema. Look at his track record, look at the scripts he has written in the mainstream genre — he has set an example. He doesn’t follow the rules, doesn’t surrender to the formula and still makes a film which is intriguing, interesting, engaging and popular as well. Films like A Wednesday and Special 26 were unique and for Aiyaary, he has experimented a lot in his writing and yet it has the capacity to reach every person,” says Bajpayee, convincingly. “Neeraj could have approached any big star for Aiyaary and they would have given both their hands and feet to grab this role. I feel very lucky he chose me. I know am not a huge star and I don’t have any illusion about it,” he adds.

aiyaary 825

The film shows Bajpayee as an army officer sharing a mentor-protégé relationship with Sidharth Malhotra in what looks like an unconventional pairing. “The story revolves around how two people of different ranks work together and suddenly come at loggerheads. Also, both the characters are masters at disguising and tricking the other person. This is something that I have never done before. The behrupiya avatar is quite fascinating,” said Bajpayee.

What also appealed to the actor is playing the protagonist who’s focused, honest and yet very clever. “This combination is very rare. An honest person being clever and not willing to compromise is interesting. One can’t be like this character, Abhay Singh (his character) is like that because in real life because he will not bend, whereas Manoj Bajpayee bends whenever the need arises,” he laughs out loud. “It was a difficult film to write and so it was difficult for us to perform. But Neeraj makes sure that he gets the perfect shot,” he says.

The trailer gives a sneak peek into the evolution of the relationship between the two officers. Bajpayee says, he was happy sharing the frame with the young actor. “Sid comes from a different world and I really admire in the manner he has established himself despite coming from outside the industry. I have seen the kind of impact he has on youngsters. Coming from the outside and making place in mainstream industry is in itself remarkable,” said Bajpayee.

“When I heard that Sid will be my co-star, I was excited that I will be getting to meet a new person, a new actor. I don’t judge people without meeting them. I need to have my own experience to analyse the person. We started rehearsing and now we get along very well. We relate to each other because both of us have come from a middle-class family,” he added.

While the director was “adamant” about Bajpayee being a certain kind of fit, the latter believes more in the “mental condition”. “Neeraj needed a certain kind of persona and he was quite adamant about it. I went out and exercised a little to get that kind of body, but for me, losing or gaining weight or exercising for the role is not part of the performance. For me, the mind and the unsaid things between two lines is more important. Changing my look, putting a moustache or losing and gaining a few kilograms, are an actor’s personal choice. At the end of the day it is the mind of the character that is important,” said the actor.

Like every year, Bajpayee will be seen in a good mix of commercial and offbeat cinema, and he is particularly excited about the psychological thriller, Gali Guliyan, which has travelled to many festivals across the world. Then there’s an action thriller with Nikhil Advani and John Abraham which will be directed by Milap Zaveri. “Gali Guliyan has been the most difficult role I have done in my entire career. As far as mainstream goes, Neeraj Pandey is mainstream and that is the kind of mainstream I would love to be associated with. Or the mainstream I am doing with John for Nikhil. It is a fantastic script. Then, Baaghi 2 is a masala film and I have done it for my relationship with Ahmed Khan. Also Mukesh Chhabra (casting director) insisted I do it. I had a great time shooting,” says Bajpayee. The versatile actor is also looking forward to Devashish Makhija’s Bhonsle in which he plays a terminally ill local cop, retired against his will and Abhishek Chaubey’s Son Chiriya alongside Sushant Singh Rajput.