The second BIG movie of the week is Actor, Producer and Director Ajay Devgn’s second directorial – Shivaay. After a round of controversies surrounding the movie courtesy Kamal R Khan aka KRK, this action packed movie released with much hype and expectations. Let’s find out if the movie was able to live up to the expectations or not.
Shivaay ( Ajay Devgn) is a mountaineer who conducts treks in the Himalayas and lives in a small house. On one of his tours, he meets the Hindi speaking Bulgarian student Olga (Erika Kaar) and falls in love with her after he saves her life in a deadly avalanche. Olga becomes pregnant and is not willing to give birth to a child but on Shivaay’s insistence, she agrees to deliver the child Gaura (Abigail Eames) but refuses to raise it with him and returns to Bulgaria.
Nine years later, Gaura who was told by Shivaay that her mother is dead, learns about her existence through a letter. The peaceful life of Shivaay is shattered when Gaura confronts him about this learning and forces him to take her to Olga. So, Shivaay and Gaura go to Bulgaria to meet Olga who is now married to a Bulgarian, however, in a twist of destiny, Gaura gets kidnapped by a child trafficking gang and thus begins Shivaay’s cat and mouse chase with the kidnappers. Will Shivaay be able to save Gaura? How far will a father to go for the safety of his daughter? Find out by watching the movie.
The plot is very good slightly inspired by Taken but the script lacks punch, However, the father-daughter angle is explored very beautifully by Ajay. Ajay Devgn as a performer and director does a superior job but his writers Robin Bhatt and Sandeep Srivastava pull him down. The action in the movie is interesting. As Shivaay, Ajay Devgn lives the role and Abigail Eames as Gaura does a wonderful job. Erika Kaar and Saayesha Saigal are good in their respective roles, however, as the story is about Ajay and Abigail, the other actors get less importance in the narrative.
Music by Mithoon is average but the background score is impactful. Cinematography by Aseem Bajaj is beautiful. The snowcapped mountains are captured wonderfully. Editing by Dharmendra Sharma is average, he could have done some crispier cuts in few sequences especially the chase sequence which is too long and tends to get boring.
On the whole, Shivaay is a good attempt by Ajay Devgn and his fans will love this actioner from him.
Diwali is the biggest festival of India and like every year, this year too, two BIG movies are clashing with each other to get audience’s attention. The first movie I am reviewing is Karan Johar’s much-anticipated, much-talked and controversy surrounded – Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. Without much talking, let me dive into the story of ADHM.
The movie starts with ‘private-jet ameer’ Ayan (Ranbir) trying to hook up with ‘Raees’ Alizeh (Anushka) after a chance encounter at a London pub. However, instead of they ending up in bed and bidding farewell later, they strike up a friendship instantly. They’re both Bollywood-crazy goofballs who love cheesy ’80s songs, poke fun at each other’s partners and fit into each other like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. But Ayan wants more from the relationship while Alizeh wants to have him as her ‘bestestest’ friend forever after reeling from her break-up with her ex DJ Ali (Fawad). Although, Ayan is a good singer, but Alizeh feels there is no feeling in his singing as he has never experienced heartbreak. Which he does when a chance encounter with Ali while Alizeh and Ayan are holidaying in Paris, makes her slip back into his arms, leaving him distraught.
Alizeh goes back to Lucknow and gets married to Ali against her parent’s wishes. Ayan tries to make Alizeh understand his love for her, but she rejects him as she is not in love with him. A distraught and heartbroken Ayan then finds solace in a physical relationship with an older divorcee Saba (Aishwarya), who helps him get a new perspective on one-sided love.
Will Alizeh fall in love with Ayan and accept him as her lover or will Ayan find his soulmate in Saba? To find out, watch the movie.
The story by Karan Johar is a mixture of his earlier movies like Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Kal Ho Na Ho, Ek Main Aur Ek Tu etc. and Rockstar. There is no originality in the story or script, however, performances by the lead actors keep the movie afloat and entertaining. Ranbir, as usual, does a fantastic job and Anushka is a dream to watch. Their chemistry is crackling and you don’t turn your face away whenever they mouth those typical filmy corny dialogues from the 80s and 90s. Aishwarya looks beautiful and does a decent job in her small role. Lisa Haydon is hilarious and makes the ‘Vaatavaran’ exciting with her presence. Fawad Khan and Imran Abbas are just okay and do not have too many screen time (there was no need for the entire controversy to be created around their presence in the movie). Shah Rukh Khan and Alia Bhatt lightens up the screen with their short cameos.
Dialogues by Niranjan Iyengar and Karan Johar is good and the first half is quite entertaining because of the dialogues and the lead pair’s chemistry. The second half drags in the first 20 minutes and then picks up once Anushka and Ranbir meet again. The music by Pritam is outstanding especially the title song and Channa Mereya which has a haunting presence even in the BG score.
Cinematography by Anil Mehta is very good and you will fall in love with the lighting and every frame which gives you that typical KJo signature style. Editing could have been crisper, especially in the second half.
Overall, ADHM is a feel good movie and keeps you entertained and therefore I would recommend you to watch it at least once if you are a fan of KJO movies.
Diganth Manchale, lovingly called as ‘Doodh Peda‘ because of his fair skin, is one of the most sought after actors in the Kannada industry. Diganth who is making his debut in Hindi movies with Wedding Pulav starring Anushka Ranjan (daughter of Anu and Shashi Ranjan) took some time off his promotional schedule and met me over a cup of Chai. Here are some excerpts from our fun-filled conversation;
You are one of the most successful stars of Kannada industry. However, not many people know that you started off with a not so happening movie Miss California in 2006. How did your journey as an actor start?
Yes that’s correct. I did start out with Miss California which was a big disaster (laughs) and after that I had to struggle a lot. I didn’t know what to do next. I did a lot of print ads, modelling, TV commercials, walked the ramp for few shows before I signed my next movie which was three years after my first one. The movie was Mungaru Male.
Yes I have seen that (smiles)
It was one of the biggest hits and you can say it was the DDLJ of Kannada industry. Although, I had a very small role but I got noticed by people and the director Yograj Bhatt saw a lot of potential in me and offered me his next movie…
Yes (smiles)… you know a lot about me huh?
Of course, I keep track of all my guests who get featured in my series (winks). (Laughs) I was one amongst the three main leads of the movie, and again Gaalipatta was a big hit. Then the director Yograj Bhatt once again repeated me in his next movie Manasaare which I would like to call my first movie technically because I was the solo lead and it catapulted me to the top league after it became a huge success (smiles). I would say from the year 2009 onward I became one of the established actors in Kannada industry.
Nice (smiles). Let me tell you, although I am not a huge Kannada movie buff, I did watch Mungaru Male and I just loved the movie. I still remember the last scene where your character is getting married to Pooja Gandhi’s character and I was surprised to see such a good-looking actor for the first time in a Kannada movie….
Yeah (laughs) I have heard that quite often. Initially, people didn’t accept me as they felt I am not a Kannadiga. My North Indian features made them think I was one of those north Indian guys who knows the language as I would have born and raised in Karnataka (laughs). In fact when I was giving interviews in Kannada during Gaalipatta, that time they came to know that I am a Kannadiga and forget Bangalore, I was from a small village near Sagara in Karnataka. After that I was accepted and considered as one among them. In Karnataka people want their heroes to be from their own motherland and actors mainly male get less acceptance if they are from outside Karnataka.
I think, the only actor from the North who actually made some mark in Kannada movies is Dhyan, right?
But then even he also fizzled out.
Ya… he is not in the league anymore.
Correct… Diganth tell me how did a boy from a small village with no filmi connections made it so far? Can you share anything about your family, your growing up days etc.?
I am from a small town called Tirthahalli in Shimoga district, Karnataka few kilometres away from Sagara city, where I was born and raised. My father was a professor and he always wanted me to study further and never wanted me to be a part of the showbiz (laughs). However, my elder brother and mother were in total favour of me joining the industry and therefore they encouraged me a lot. Soon after college I met this director Kudlu Ramkrishna who is also from Tirthahalli. Mr. Ramakrishna was looking for a fresh face and wanted to launch someone from Tirthahalli and after meeting me, he was impressed with me and put me in his acting school before he launched me in Miss California and that’s how my journey started with the movie industry (smiles).
Hmm… Tell me after Miss California flopped miserably there was a point in time when things were not happening for you. Did you ever think of packing you bags and quitting the industry for good?
Well I did think of doing that however, I felt if I have jumped into the ocean then it would be better for me to struggle and swim out of it. During that time someone suggested me that I should go for modelling. Till that time I felt modelling was only for girls (laughs).
Yeah (continues laughing) I was that naïve. Then I went for my first TV commercial audition and surprisingly I got selected (smiles). Soon I was doing a lot of print modelling and also walked the ramp for various designers at Lakme Fashion week etc… until I got Mungaru Male.
I see that you are a regular in every Yograj Bhat movie. How did you meet Mr. Bhat? Tell me the story of you bagging the role in Mungaru Male (excitedly)?
I was shooting for a TV commercial with Rajeev Menon when the production controller there one day told me that Yograj Bhat is looking for a good-looking actor who had model like features and can speak in Kannada. I was not very excited about the offer as the hero of the movie – Ganesh, was a newcomer while I had done a movie already and I didn’t want to play a small part. I was looking at doing something bigger and not just do timepass roles. The production guys of Mungaru Male kept on calling me as they had liked me and wanted someone who was better looking than the hero to make a real impact in the climax scenes. After a lot of coaxing I met Yograj Bhat and rest is history. Today when I look back I feel I would have really regretted if I wouldn’t have done Mungaru Male (smiles).
Did you always aspired to become a Bollywood hero someday?
Oh yes! In fact since childhood I watched a lot of Hindi movies and I was well versed with Hindi as I learnt the language in school. I always wanted to act in Hindi movies than Kannada and today by God’s grace I am doing Hindi movies (smiles).
Do you have an accent while speaking Hindi?
I do have a slight accent however it is not very strong and therefore am fluent with my dialogues apart from dubbing my own lines (smiles). In short, I had prepared myself for Bollywood since long time.
Most of the superstars from south especially men, couldn’t make it big in Hindi movies case in point Kamal Hasan, Rajnikant, Nagarjuna, Venkatesh, Chiranjeevi etc. What do you think could be the reason?
I don’t know (frowns). Maybe back then the acceptance was low however, now the geographical barriers are slowly diminishing. With movies like Robot and Baahubali doing well, I think ‘NOW’ is the right time for actors from the south to make a mark in Hindi movies. The audience is accepting and I am sure soon there will be more actors from the south making their presence felt in Bollywood.
Now that you are debuting in Bollywood, don’t you think you will have to struggle all over again to make a mark here?
Yes and I am ready for it. I love challenges and I am sure I will make my mark. I am in a comfortable zone in Kannada movies with lot many projects in hand. However, starting all over in Bollywood is something I have prepared myself for.
Great (smiles)…. So how did Wedding Pulav happen?
There is nice story behind it. Couple of technicians from the Kannada industry told me that Binod Pradhan was making his debut movie and was looking out for a leading man. They asked me to try my luck. I had never heard of Binod Pradhan but when I came to know about the movies he had done like Parinda, Mission Kashmir, Bhag Milka Bhag, Rang De Basanti etc. I wanted to be a part of his movie. I tried to source his number from all my contacts and the number I got was his old number. Whenever I tried that number it was always switched off. Then I had to leave for Romania for fifteen days for a Kannada movie shoot and I had kept my phone switched off. When I came back I got a message from Binod Pradhan asking me to contact him asap. I immediately called him and the next moment I was on a flight to Mumbai and soon signed the movie. Maybe I was destined to do it (smiles).
(Smiles) How was it working with the Ranjans’?
Ranjans’ (smiles) working with them was a great experience. They took care of me and treated me like I was one of them. Especially Anushka who is a nice person, a nice co-star, she is very confident for a newcomer.
Wedding Pulav is Anushka’s debut movie produced under her home banner, so did her character get more footage and importance compared to yours?
Not really. If you look at the trailer we have been given equal footage. If you see the movie you will again see that we both have equal roles and Shashiji saw to it that there was no partiality done.
How was your experience working in Bollywood?
Very good (laughs). I found it professional, in a corporate way. Would love to do more films here (smiles).
What are you future projects?
I have a Hindi movie called Ticket To Bollywood with Amyra Dastur which is 70% complete. In Kannada I have two movies up for release Sharpshooter and Prapancha with Yograj Bhat, and two more in the making.
Okay in my series I have a section where I ask few questions that you have to reply in one word preferably (smiles).
Shall I shoot?
Which is your favorite food item?
Not Wedding Pulav please (winks) (Laughs) Anything and everything in vegetarian food.
One item please
Aah! That’s a toughie…
Okay… I will let it pass… but the next one is a killer and you cannot escape (winks)
Your wildest fantasy? (Laughs) This is a bomb of a question… so I cannot pass it?
Nope (nodding my head)
Wildest fantasy (thinks)…. A kissing scene with Deepika (laughs) the Bangalore connection you see…(winks)
I do (laughs)…. Bollywood or Sandalwood?
That was fast… Favorite director?
Barfi… Ranbir’s role in Barfi
In Kannada Aindrita Ray and in Bollywood Deepika Padukone
Nidhi Subbaiah in Kannada and Anushka Ranjan in Bollywood.
Yash in Kannada and Varun Dhawan in Bollywood (laughs).
Here’s a googly… One night stand or committed relationship? (Laughs) I am a person who loves to be in a committed relationship… so no One Night Stands for me (continues laughing).
(Laughs) Okay… Last not the least, what is your message to your fans?
Please watch my movie Wedding Pulav and also support me the way you have supported all this while.
Thank you Diganth for taking some time from your busy promotional schedule and chatting with me. I wish you all the best in your new innings in Bollywood.
Thank you. Likewise (smiles).
After a long time I could say happily that I saw a ‘total paisa vasool’ entertainer with this week’s big release – Singh Is Bliing starring Akshay Kumar, Amy Jackson and Lara Dutta, directed by Prabhudheva.
Coming to the story, the movie starts with a bang introducing Akshay Kumar as Raftaar Singh with the Tung Tung song. Set in the Bassi Patna village somewhere in Punjab, Raftaar Singh is a good for nothing young man pampered by his mother (Rati Agnihotri) who is given an option by his father to either take up a job with his friend (Pradeep Rawat) in Goa or marry an obese girl from the village. Raftaar chooses to go to Goa. Meanwhile, somewhere in Romania Sara’s (Amy Jackson) life is in danger and therefore her multi-millionaire don father (Kunal Kapoor) sends her to Goa to his friend who also happens to be Raftaar’s boss too. Sara comes to Goa with the main intention to track down her long-lost mother.
Raftaar is given the job to take care of Sara and as he is not able to speak or understand English, his sidekicks (Arfi Lamba and Anil Mange) hire Emily (Lara Dutta) to work as a translator. Emily with her intentional wrong translations create a lot of confusion between Sara, Raftaar and his sidekicks.
There is another parallel story where Boxer a local goon is trying to buy the casino owned by Raftaar’s boss, which he refuses to sell. In the bargain there are small fights happening and in one such fight Sara shows her fighting skills and injures Boxer and his men. In turn Boxer informs Marc (Kay Kay Menon) the man who is trying to hunt down Sara and kill her about her whereabouts. Soon the story takes a change. Will Sara find her mother? Will Sara and Raftaar fall in love and lead a happy life or would she get killed by Marc and his men? To find out watch the movie.
Performance-wise Akshay Kumar does a wonderful job as always. His comic timing is superb and his scenes especially with Lara Dutta, Arfi, Anil and Amy is quite hilarious. Amy Jackson as Sara is a perfectly cast. As her character happens to be born and raised in Romania all her dialogues are in English. Moreover, she has executed the fight sequences very well and it is a joy to see her kick some ass. Lara Dutta in her comeback role is superb. It is a small role but she has done justice to it and raises a lot of laughter throughout her screen presence. Arfi Lamba and Anil Mange as Akshay’s sidekicks have done a good job and so are the rest of the supporting cast including Rati Agnihotri, Pradeep Rawat and Murali Sharma.
Prabhudheva after his last disaster Action Jackson is in full form with Singh Is Bliing. Prabhu has entered into an unchartered territory and has come out with flying colors. The story, screenplay and dialogues are good. However, the climax could have been more powerful and the second half could have been edited better by Steven Benardi. Cinematography by Dudley is wonderful. Music is credited to Manj, Sajid-Wajid, Sneha Khanwalkar and Meet Bros. Every song is a chartbuster and gels perfectly with the story and setup.
On the whole this movie will appeal to anyone and everyone.
If the dialogues of Sholay or Mr. India are still popular then you remember the faces mouthing them. When Bajrangi Bhaijaan or Bahubali is applauded for their sheer performance at the Box Office and also connecting with the audiences than Salman Khan and Rajamouli takes the credit so on and so forth. If I have to give you examples then it will take reams and reams of cyberspace.
In the star-driven industry the most exploited creative people are the writers. And who else other than me (a writer) can vouch for it? The saddest thing for any creative person to face is his / her work being passed off as somebody else’s or someone plagiarizing their work. Few months ago one person stuck her head high and challenged one of the most prominent directors of the industry on charges of plagiarism and pleasantly won the case against him in court, giving a ray of hope to the oppressed and over-exploited writer community. Yes friends I am talking about Jyoti Kapoor, the ‘Iron Lady’ of writer community who won the plagiarism case against the mighty Kunal Kohli. Sitting right next to me sipping a cup of hot Chai we talk about the controversy that shook the industry and also about movies in general. Here are some excerpts from our conversation.
Welcome Jyoti to my web series Chai With Shai (smiles).
Thank you Shaiju for inviting me over (smiles) ‘Iron Lady of Writer Community’ huh? That’s a new one (beams).
I am sure there might be few more flattering titles given to you by the media (smiles). Anyway, let’s begin with you being in the news lately for winning a case against director Kunal Kohli for lifting your story idea and turning it into a movie – Phir Se. So how are you feeling about the victory?
Relieved, (smiles) much relieved! I have stopped having nightmares, my appetite is back and I can concentrate on work again (laughs).
(Laughs) That’s nice to hear. Moving on… Plagiarism is a common thing in the industry, why do you think reputed directors resort to such tactics when they can very well hire the original writer and get the script done?
Because they think they can get away with it (frowns). Some of the ‘reputed’ directors have built their careers on stealing. The ghosts of the original writers will come and haunt them if they don’t stop this stealing business (giggles).
I am sure it will happen one day (laughs). After the case was judged in your favor, Kunal went on record saying that he didn’t want to harm the movie’s release therefore he agreed for an out of court settlement. How far is it true?
I’d say he’s becoming a better actor by the day. I wish him all the best for his second innings (winks).
Kunal also went on record that going forward he will never entertain a new writer ever and if he does then he will make sure the meeting is recorded. What are your thoughts about the same?
I am actually worried if any writer ‘OLD OR NEW’ will ever entertain him. I think having meetings recorded is a brilliant idea. Every writer should carry a camera hidden in their script/ purse/ chappal/ eyes/ hands/ underwear, basically wherever they can squeeze it in (laughs). I think, journalists should also have lie detectors fitted in their mics, especially when interviewing ‘reputed’ people (smiles).
What have you learnt from this incident?
Always fight for what is rightfully yours and don’t listen to naysayers.
How has the industry reacted to you? Has this incident done any harm to your career?
So many colleagues have reached out to me with good wishes, strangers (from the industry) have hugged me when they got to know that I was the same person who had fought this case (pauses). I receive so many messages from fellow writers from all over the country who are stuck in similar situations and need guidance with the legal course of action. I’ve been overwhelmed with support from all over and I’m thankful to everyone for that (crosses fingers).
As far as this incident affecting my career is concerned, I can only say that nothing can harm your career if you are good at what you do. If people see any value in your work, they will always work with you.
Absolutely! (Smiles) Do you think writers as a lot is hugely neglected and underpaid in Bollywood?
YES! Put that in Capital Letters (smiles).
Why is it that Indian movies have not experimented in genres that Hollywood has excelled? We still have the stereotypical movies being made. Whom do you blame – the writer / the director / the audience?
Firstly, I think Hollywood is overrated. In terms of experimentation, their TV content is way better than their films; a majority which, by the way, are not any less formulaic than the ones we make. Also, why do we need to conform to the western idea of experimentation? Our films are born out of Indian ethos and are unique in their own way. Bollywood, however, is not the true and only representative of Indian cinema. The Indian Independent cinema, which has always co-existed, is slowly and steadily finding its bearings. Sadly however, we don’t get to see these films as much as we should. The filmmakers are perpetually struggling with their shoestring budgets and don’t have enough backing, especially when it comes to marketing their films. There are a few producers who are putting their money where their mouth is but we are still way behind. In that respect, I think Hollywood is more sorted. You’ll see mainstream actors/producers supporting small content driven films even as they continue to produce their big budget movies.
As far as the mainstream Indian films go, we are “mostly” churning out the same done to death, run of the mill movies except a few gems like ‘Dum Laga Ke Haisha’. I don’t know whom to blame. But in a star driven system where everything revolves around a handful of Ks – from the epiglottis (say animatedly and giggles) I don’t see things changing anytime soon. Having said that, there’s no dearth of scripts. There aren’t enough people ready to take a risk. And ever since the studios have taken over, things have only worsened (grim). Films have taken a back seat. It’s projects that are made now (frowns).
So True! Anyway let’s go back to how you started your journey in Bollywood? (Rubbing my hands) This is one of the most favorite part I like to ask my guests (smiles).
Okay…(laughs). I was a journalist for almost 4 years before I packed my bags and landed at the Film and Television Institute of India. I wanted to go beyond the facts, beyond the five W’s and one ‘H’ (What, When, Where, Who, Why and How) of journalism. After completing my course in screenwriting in 2005, I shifted back to Mumbai and have been working as a screenwriter ever since. My training in screenwriting has definitely helped me understand the craft better but my first teacher will always be the fieldwork in journalism.
Okay… One thing I am very curious to know about is, Habib Faisal is a wonderful writer himself, so dow did you get to write Daawat-E-Ishq for him?
Even the best of writers need collaborators. Plus, Habib has collaborated with newer writers in the past. I met him at one of our screenwriting study circles and was quite impressed with his approach towards writing. Post that I shared one of my scripts with him, which he liked and asked me if I’d be interested in collaborating with him on his next script. He is a wonderful mind to collaborate with.
How I wish such interesting incidents happen with me too (frowns animatedly).
Anyway moving ahead… Did you get to learn anything new with your association with Habib?
Yes, lots. Habib is a hard taskmaster. He will keep pushing you until you have explored all the possibilities in your story, which I think is how we should always approach it. Another thing I like about his writing is his ordinary, everyday, endearing characters, which I could completely relate to.
Why do you think Daawat-E-Ishq failed to connect with the audience?
Nobody can predict what will work and what won’t, especially when it comes to movies. I think we should just keep at it (writing) without second-guessing the audience. The most we can do is to try and enjoy the process of writing and hope that some of that excitement passes on to the audience as well. Too much of analysis makes Jack a dull boy (giggles).
You are looked as a new-age crusader for writers in Bollywood. Any tips for your fellow writers?
My case came out in the open for various reasons that were beyond my control but it was certainly not the first one. There have been so many writers before me who have taken on the big guns and won. Urmi Juvekar for example, who took on CNN-IBN and Kapil Chopra who fought against the Bhatts, won their respective cases among others.
To my fellow writers, my two cents:
a) Do not doubt yourself – except may be two days a week (winks)
b) Do not take yourself too seriously
c) You cannot control the fate of your script, so just enjoy the process.
d) You will always be the unsung hero, so get used to it
e) You will always need to take up commissioned work to sustain yourself but try and take out some time for stories that make you happy, that you are passionate about. Or you’ll get burnt out before you know.
f) Keep your family and friends VERY close to you. On days you are suicidal, they will help you sail through it.
g) Don’t take shit from anyone. Nobody is giving you a break here. People are working with you because they are getting something out of it.
h) Lastly and most importantly, Bollywood is not the be all and end all. It’s just one of the platforms where we can showcase our work. As long as you are writing, whether that’s a book, a play, a story or a poem, you are fine. Diversify, as much as you can.
Wow! Those were really some pearls of wisdom (smiles). Accha… it is normally seen that eventually every writer at some point of time wants to turn director. Do you have any such aspirations?
In an ideal world, I’d rather be a writer; write quietly in my cubbyhole and not deal with too many people and their big egos. However, with each passing day I am realizing that you can’t trust many people with your stories and it’s frustrating to see your work getting butchered. So unless you find that perfect collaborator, you are left with no choice but to go ahead and direct your scripts yourself. So yeah, never say never! (Smiles).
So what’s the future ahead for you?
A movie each with Junglee Pictures and Landmarc Films which are in the pipeline (smiles). I’m hoping that my projects see the light of day soon.
It will I am sure (smiles). Okay Jyoti I think we have done a lot of serious talking and we need to brighten up. What do you think?
True… so what’s in store for me next?
Haha! If you are a regular reader of my series then you will know that next is where I will throw few questions at you and you have to answer in short (grins).
In the industry there are no permanent friends or foes. So will you work with Kunal in the future?
Only if I can manage to carry a hidden camera inside! (winks and burst out laughing)
Funny (joins laughing)… Okay… YRF or Dharma the best production house to work with?
Haven’t had a chance to work with Dharma. So can’t really say.
So for now YRF huh?
The most underrated actor in Bollywood?
The most overrated actor in Bollywood?
Oh there are so many!
Come on… One name, please…
You will put me in trouble… so no comments (giggles)
The most underrated director in Bollywood?
The most overrated director in Bollywood?
Actor / Actress to watch out from the present lot?
Radhika Apte looks promising among the newer lot.
Parineeti Chopra or Priyanka Chopra the better actor?
On a wild date whom would you like to go with?
TV or Films?
Any advice to upcoming writers?
That’s Interesting (laughs). Alright Jyoti it was a pleasure chatting up with you.
Same here (smiles).
I wish you all the very best for your future and I hope you inspire more and more budding as well as established writers to stand for their rights and the situation definitely changes for the writer community of which even I am a part of (smiles).
Hopefully (fingers crossed).
If there is one director who has learnt the art of balancing Art cinema with Commercial potboilers in India, then it is none other than Anant Mahadevan. He is one director who I believe follows his heart and makes movies around subjects that he believes in without caring about its Box Office results. Case in point are movies like Dil Vil Pyar Vyar, Dil Maange More, Aksar, Staying Alive, Xpose, Mee Sindhutai Sapkal and Gour Hari Dastaan among others. It is a proud moment for me as I am blessed to interview my favorite actor-director Anant Mahadevan today over a cup of chai and cookies. Here is an excerpt of our intense chat.
On the onset Anantji let me congratulate you on Gour Hari Dastaan. It was one of the most sincere movies I saw this year. How did the idea take shape? (Smiles) Das’ story in a tabloid set me thinking about the “absurdity” of the drama. A man having to fight for an identity in his own country…a country he had helped to free. Why was this country living in a constant state of denial and untruth? Was the freedom that Das fought for abused and corrupted? The man opened up several layers to ponder about and translate into cinema that was at once a personal account and a political statement.
Right… So, how did your journey with Bollywood start?
I was self-tutored in the arts, particularly cinema. The film society and festival screenings exposed me to the work of masters from Europe, Asia and the Americas. But it wasn’t easy to start off making the films one wanted to make. I often wish I had started with Staying Alive and then gone on to Red Alert, Mee Sindhutai Sapkal, Gour Hari Dastaan and now Rough Book and Life is Good. But like they say, the brook has to flow through marshy land to open up into the river. I had to bide my time. Mainstream cinema helped me to get recognition and contacts.
In Bollywood you either see mainstream commercial movies or independent art movies. It is rare or I must say unheard of a director like you whose movie repertoire has a mix of both hard-core commercial potboilers as well as simple artistic movies. How do you balance it out?
I don’t know whether that is something to be proud of (throwing his hands in the air). Mainstream cinema often demands compromises and you wind up being dissatisfied at the end of it all. Like I said, it was some sort of pre-requisite to bring in the kind of cinema I was yearning to do. In the process I got this tag of being at home with “mainstream” and “independent” cinema. How I wish mainstream cinema would permit more sensibilities so that one could emulate a Billy Wilder, Scorcese or Spielberg who are the people who have pulled off both worlds so well (smiles).
You are one of the most talented actors in our industry. I have seen how well you own a character and turn yourself into that character eg: The villainous role in Khiladi, the fatherly roles in several movies, the comic role in Ghar Jamai etc. then why do we see so less of you in movies as an actor?
I have had my fill of blockbuster movies like Khiladi, Baazigar, Ishq, Baadshah, Gardish et al. They gave me some fine screen time and I still enjoy the adulation… But currently the scene tends to marginalize actors like me who want to sink their teeth into something substantial. Television has become a cruel joke and popular cinema ends up making you look redundant. So, I have to wait patiently for a Papanaasam to come and whet my appetite (smiles). I would now want to work with the masters of regional cinema like Shaji Karun or Buddadheb Das Gupta and others, and portray some memorable characters.
How did the Papanasam role come to you?
Kamal Haasan, after what seemed an eternity, called to find out if I would be interested to do a bilingual in Vishwaroopam 2. We had a great time filming it and the bonding strengthened. So when he recommended me for Uttama Villain, I was cursing my luck as I was shooting for Xpose in Mumbai on the same dates. But Kamal didn’t hold that against me. He along with director Jeetu Joseph who had made the original Drishyam cast me in the pivotal role of the boy’s father. Papanaasam brought me some of my best critical acclaim as an actor and I am grateful for that (smiles).
I loved your character in Papanasam (smiles) you brought in a different persona to the role which was quite different from what Siddique did in the original.
Thank you (smiles).
Any interesting incidents you can narrate while working with Kamal Hasanji in Vishwaroopam 2 and Papanasam?
Kamal would so gracefully prepare coffee for me from the percolator he carried with him and then discussions over life and cinema would begin. He had so much to share and lunch breaks were brainstorming sessions. There was this wonderful vibe between us… the thirst to discuss everything under the sun. That was so different from the Hindi film scene where only gossip dominates amidst actors (smiles).
You have worked with Aamir and Shah Rukh Khan whom did you enjoy working with?
I had more screen time and off-screen time with Shah Rukh. Baazigar, Baadshah and Yes Boss were three films I did with him. I then went on to direct his first fiction series for television Ghar Ki Baat Hai produced under Red Chillies’ Idiot Box.
With Aamir it was a guest appearance in Akele Hum Akele Tum where we enjoyed playing chess between shots, and the rather lacklustre Mann. So I guess Shah Rukh takes the bigger share of the pie (laughs). If only he showed some inclination towards substantial alternate productions, I could have shot some interesting films as director for his company. But I guess the commercial wave let loose by people around him will never let that happen (frowns).
The music in all your commercial movies have been chartbusters. How much do you contribute in your movie’s music or is it left to the music composers to come up with their own compositions?
I have a great affinity for music and melody is a trait I always cherish. Having devoured the great compositions of the 1950s, 60s and 70s, I was quite rigid about the best possible compositions from the mind of a music director for my films. I was lucky to get the rights to recreate Panchamda’s works in my debut Dil Vil Pyar Vyar while Himmesh came up with some lovely romantic melodies and toe-tapping numbers in Dil Maange More and Aksar. So did Anu Malik who recreated the Rajasthan ethos in Anamika. Sometimes I miss making musicals, but now I must not succumb to the formula again (smiles).
Out of all the actors you have directed in your movies, who is your favorite?
It would be tough to answer that. Suniel Shetty worked really hard in Red Alert, though it is Vinay Pathak who has me applauding each time I watch Gour Hari Dastaan-The Freedom File. The thought and work behind the portrayal of Das could open up an entire master’s class, though some critics displayed their utter lack of understanding of an actor’s preparation and pitching, and misread the whole performance.
Mee Sindhutai Sapkal gave you 4 National Awards, however Gour Hari Dastaan did not even get nominated for any. Any thoughts?
The 4 National awards for Mee Sindhutai Sapkal reinstated my faith in things working on merit in this country. But I was dismayed, to say the least, that Gour Hari Dastaan did not fetch even an award for maestros like Resul Pookutty and Dr L Subramaniam this year, forget Vinay Pathak! (pause) Did it not deserve even to be the best Hindi film, if not anything else? It was a real shocker but I have grown out of it and conditioned myself not to expect anything in future even if I have created a highly rewarding slice of cinema.
How difficult is it to tell a story of a living personality?
A tough call (frowns). You have your task cut out. The challenge is to steer clear of a documentary, yet dramatize the life without taking too much licences. Of late making biopics has become a sensational joke in Hindi cinema. The character is exploited within the parameters of the formula and tom-tomed as a true story. Both in Sindhutai Sapkal and Gour Hari Das’ cases I was extra cautious to recreate the lives without resorting to clichés and melodrama. And specially when dealing with a living person, the research and approach has to be just right.
Are you directing Xpose 2?
No Xpose 2 is not on the cards.
You have the distinction of giving Emraan Hashmi the first hit outside Bhatt camp. How was it working with Emraan?
Emraan is quite a trooper. He had the guts to say “yes” to a character that dies three-fourth into a film where the villain [Dino Morea] walks away with murder. He was a real professional who enjoyed his moments before the camera and was totally devoid of tantrums or attitude.
How comfortable were you while directing a Marathi movie? Any challenges you faced during the shoot of Sindhutai Sapkal?
Marathi has been a second language right from my school days, so the comfort levels were bang-on. Of course changing the style of Marathi actors to a more natural tone was the task, and I had to make them shed their sing-song dialogue delivery. But the filming was one of the best experiences I had and the rawness of the subject was appreciated worldwide.
You have worked in both Tollywood and Bollywood. What is the major difference you saw in both industries?
I have only worked as an actor in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, I hate those “wooden” nicknames (irritated) they are a disciplined lot and take their schedules seriously. In many ways far more organised than the Hindi film scene where laptops and emails are passed off as hectic prep activity.
So what are your future projects as an actor as well as a director? ROUGH BOOK (excitedly), a gritty analysis of the education scene in India is my new film and all set to be theatrically screened soon. Principals, teachers and educationists who have seen previews are recommending it to scores of parents and students and I am hoping that the film becomes a cult film for youth. There is also another major biopic I am working on now after Rough Book.
Okay (smiles)… Anantji we have a small fun segment in Chai With Shai where I will ask you few questions and you have to reply in one word.
So brace yourself…here is the first question (winks) Himesh Reshamiyya as an actor or music director?
Even I would agree to it (smiles)… Which is your favorite movie Sindhu Tai Sapkal or Gour Hari Dastaan?
Gour Hari Dastaan, because it made me grow as a director
Okay here comes a difficult one (rubbing my hands) pick your favorite movie amongst Dil Vil Pyar Vyar, Dil Maange More, Aksar and Xpose. (smiles) Dil Vil Pyar Vyar
Konkona Sen or Tejaswini Pandit?
Both a class of their own
Tollywood Err…. (pauses) South Indian Movies or Hindi Movies?
The South (chuckles),
Who is the most promising star among the younger lot?
That was fast (smiles)… Okay, your all-time favorite movie?
A Separation [Iran]
If given a choice which old classic would you like to remake?
No remakes for me (waving his hand)…Victoria 203 is a lesson learnt (laughs)
Which book would you like to ever adapt into a movie?
The book that scientist Nambinarayan has just written on the ISRO scandal. In fact am already doing it (smiles).
Last not the least, any advice to your fans?
This is not a career which is a last resort…education, passion, perseverance and resistance to temptation are the key-words (smiles).
Well said Sir, I am sure most of the youngsters will definitely take your advice seriously and act upon it. Thank you so much for being a part of my chat series, looking forward to many more straight-from-the-heart movies from you in the future.