Akshay Kumar turns 53: A look at the actor’s upcoming projects from Laxmmi Bomb to Sooryavanshi

Akshay Kumar, who made his debut with Saugandh in 1991, has multiple upcoming projects.

Kumar will also be featuring in Discovery Channel’s Into The Wild With Bear Grylls. Last week, he shared an action-packed promo, where he said he tasted elephant poop tea and ran into the woods along with Grylls.

The cop comedy was scheduled to release in theatres on 24 March, but had to be postponed due to the shuttering of cinemas. Kumar will play Veer Sooryavanshi, the chief of the anti-terrorism squad; the name seems to be inspired by Salman Khan’s Veer (2010) and Suryavanshi (1992).

With this film, also starring Katrina Kaif, director Rohit Shetty will expand his cop universe. He had previously directed Ajay Devgn in Singham and Singham Returns, and Ranveer Singh in Simmba. Singh and Devgn will also make a cameo appearance in the film.

Raghava Lawrence’s Tamil horror comedy remake, Laxmmi Bomb, will see Kumar as a man haunted by vengeful ghosts. Kiara Advani plays the opposite lead in the Hindi version.

The horror-comedy is set to stream on Disney+Hotstar, bypassing a theatrical release as screens remain closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. In a virtual press conference in June, Kumar had said OTT release was the only wise option in the current scenario.

Kumar will reunite with frequent collaborator Sajid Nadiadwala for this feature. Housefull 4 director Farhad Samji is at the helm. The makers had shared two different looks of the actor last year. Also starring Kriti Sanon, Bachchan Pandey releases in January, 2021.

Kumar will play Rajput warrior and king, Prithviraj Chauhan in the YRF production, which marks the feature debut of Miss World 2017 Manushi Chillar. On his 52nd birthday, Kumar had shared a brief teaser of Prithviraj.

A source told Mumbai Mirror that the shoot of Prithviraj had to be halted in March due to the pandemic, and after Kumar wraps up Bell Bottom, he will begin work on the historical drama by October.

The Aanand L Rai produced film will feature Tamil superstar Dhanush and Sara Ali Khan in the lead, while Kumar will be seen in a cameo appearance.

“It’s is a challenging character to play, but at the same time, it is such a special role that my heart just couldn’t say ‘no’ to it. I will remember it for the rest of my life. My combination with Sara and Dhanush truly makes it true to its title — Atrangi! And I know that Aanand, in his special and simple way of storytelling, will only add magic to it,” Kumar had previously told Times of India.

Bunty Aur Babli 2: Saif Ali Khan, Rani Mukerji, Siddhant Chaturvedi, Sharvani wrap up sequel of YRF caper comedy

The shooting for Bunty Aur Babli 2 was almost complete, except for a song sequence, before the coronavirus pandemic brought all the production activity to a stop.

Actors Rani Mukherji and Saif Ali Khan have concluded shooting for their upcoming movie Bunty Aur Babli 2, Yash Raj Films announced on Saturday.

The movie, touted as a “rebooted sequel” to the 2005 original, also features actors Siddhant Chaturvedi and Sharvari.

The film’s shoot was almost complete, except for a song sequence, before the coronavirus pandemic brought all the production activity to a stop.

The banner also shared a photo in which Khan, Mukerji, Siddhant Chaturvedi, and newcomer Sharvari are seen happily posing together in Yash Raj Films studio in suburban Mumbai.

Bunty Aur Babli 2 reunites Mukerji and Khan after 11 years.

Mukherji, who featured opposite Abhishek Bachchan in the original 2005 crime comedy, is reprising her role in the new movie.

Khan has replaced Bachchan as the titular Bunty.

Produced by Yash Raj Films, the film is being directed by Varun Sharma, who has previously worked as an assistant director on YRF blockbusters Sultan and Tiger Zinda Hai.

According to the makers, the sequel takes a time leap of a decade and will feature two pairs of the eponymous con duo — Mukerji and Khan, and Siddhant and Sharvari.

Khaali Peeli makers tweak ‘Beyonce Sharma Jayegi’ title after facing flak over

Ever since the song ‘Beyonce Sharma Jayegi’ from the film Khaali Peeli, featuring Ishaan Khatter and Ananya Panday released, it has snowballed into controversies. The makers have now changed the spelling of iconic pop singer Beyonce to ‘Beyonse’ in the title.

The song was heavily criticised of racism and for glorifying Panday’s white skin by using the term ‘goriya’. Things were more complicated when the track invoked comparisons with the African-American pop icon, Beyonce. This attempt did not sit well with netizens who took to Twitter to protest against the ‘racially insensitive’ song.

In an interview to Hindustaan Times, Khaali Peeli’s director Maqbool defended the song’s lyrics and said and there was never any question of disrespect, “First, without any hesitation or excuses we want to apologise to anyone offended. We assure you that the lyric in question was never intended racially. In fact, the term ‘goriya’ has been so often and traditionally used in Indian songs to address a girl, that it didn’t occur to any of us to interpret it in a literal manner.”

He also opened up on the comparison with Beyonce and said it was simply meant to be a street-smart guy flattering a girl who is trying to impress by saying that her dancing/performance is ‘worth comparing’ to even Beyonce who we all see as the ‘final word, the epitome of talent, beauty, performance, style and attitude’.

‘Beyonse Sharma Jayegi’ has been composed by Vishal and Shekhar and has been sung by Nakash Aziz and Neeti Mohan.

Besides Khatter and Panday, the film also stars Jaideep Ahlawat and Satish Kaushik in pivotal roles.

On Rishi Kapoor’s 68th birth anniversary, daughter Riddhima remembers late actor: ‘You’ve given me the gift of compassion

Riddhima Kapoor Sahni has taken to Instagram to share pictures with her father, actor Rishi Kapoor, who passed away on 30 April this year.

On veteran actor Rishi Kapoor’s 68th birth anniversary today, his daughter Riddhima Kapoor Sahni took to Instagram where she posted several old pictures with the family.

The picture from her childhood and youth gave glimpses of how Rishi Kapoor looked during his younger days. The pictures included Neetu Singh and Ranbir Kapoor among others.

One of the pictures showed the actor cutting cake with granddaughter Samara. In another photo, he is seen celebrating New Year Eve with his family.

Along with the pictures, Riddhima shared a heartfelt note in memory of the late actor. She wrote that she misses her father each day and she will always love him.

Rishi Kapoor passed away on 30 April this year. He was battling leukaemia since 2018. In July 2019, the actor tweeted that his cancer was in remission.

Known for his versatility, Rishi Kapoor was seen in over 150 films including Bobby, Kabhie Kabhie, Karz, Amar Akbar Anthony, Fanaa, and more recently, Kapoor & Sons and Mulk.

The actor was in the US for almost a year where he underwent treatment for cancer. After returning to India, he promoted his film The Body in December and also resumed shooting for his long-pending film opposite Juhi Chawla that was being produced by Honey Trehan.

PUBG ban: Diljit Dosanjh impresses fans with meme on Chinese gaming app

While responding to fans over the PUBG ban, Dosanjh said he would rather play SUB-G in the kitchen than playing the popular combat game

The ban on popular combat game PUBG has created ripples on the internet as game lovers shared their despair over the government’s move, while many are just making the most of the opportunity to crack up memes.

Actor and singer Diljit Dosanjh also shared a meme that featured him and actor Akshay Kumar.

Both the actors who have worked together in the hit comedy Good Newwz, were seen smiling in the picture. The meme creator posed the actors as the parents and the government who seemed to be happy after the addictive combat game was banned by the government.

This resulted in multiple Twitter users asking Dosanjh whether he played the popular game. The GOAT singer’s reply to one of the users was also pretty hilarious, and got a lot of traction on Twitter.

Weeks ago, a clip from TV show Saath Nibhana Saathiya went viral as netizens turned a seemingly serious episode into mock rap on techno beats.

Meanwhile, Dosanjh’s fellow star in the meme, Akshay Kumar made an announcement earlier today. The actor presented an action game called the Fearless And United-Guards or FAU-G. Launching the look of the game, Kumar said that the game was created under the aegis of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s AtmaNirbhar movement.

Kumar said that players, apart from being entertained, will be able to learn more about the sacrifices of our soldiers while playing this game. Also, 20 percent of the “net revenue generated” from the game will be donated to a trust called Bharat Ke Veer.

Anushka Sharma, Virat Kohli announce they are expecting their first child

Anushka Sharma posted a picture with husband Virat Kohli, and announced that their first child is due in January 2021.

Actor-producer Anushka Sharma and Indian cricket team captain Virat Kohli took to social media and announced that they were expecting their first child. In their respective posts, the two shared the same photo and wrote, “And then, we were three!

Kohli and Sharma’s wedding took place at the Borgo Finocchieto luxury retreat near Tuscany in Italy in 2017 that was kept strictly private with only close friends and family.

On the work front, Sharma’s last role was in Zero alongside Shah Rukh Khan and Katrina Kaif in 2018. She recently produced an OTT series and a film, Paatal Lok for Amazon Prime Video and Bulbbul for Netflix, respectively via Clean Slate Filmz. Her production house has previously bankrolled NH10, Phillauri, and Pari that dealt with unconventional subjects.

Meanwhile, Kohli along with his deputy Rohit Sharma were listed as the top of the ICC (International Council for Cricket) ODI (One Day International) rankings for batsmen, reports Press Trust of India. He is currently also the captain of the Indian Premier League (IPL) team Royal Challengers Bangalore.

Kangana Ranaut shares new poster of Tejas; film to go on floors in December

Kangana Ranaut shared a new poster of her upcoming film Tejas on Friday. In the picture, the actress can be seen wearing the Indian Air Force uniform and standing in front of a Tejas fighter jet.

Kangana announced that the filming of Tejas will officially take off in December this year.

Tejas is being produced by Ronnie Screwvala and will be directed by Sarvesh Mewara.

In February, the first look of Tejas was shared by the actress on her social media page. Kangana in a statement had said that very often the sacrifices made by brave women in uniform go unnoticed.

“Tejas is a film where I have the honour of playing the role of one such air force pilot that puts country before self. I hope we instill a sense of patriotism and pride in the youth of today with this film,” the actress added.

According to a report by Pinkvilla, Kangana’s training for the film began in July. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the schedule may have been postponed. The initial release date for Tejas was April 2021.

Kangana will next be seen in Thalaivi, a biopic on former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa.

Kangana will don the director’s hat for the second time in Aparajitha Ayodhya which will focus on the Babri Masjid-Ram Mandir issue. She had made her directorial debut with Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi where she also played the lead role.

For Janhvi Kapoor, Pankaj Tripathi and Sharan Sharma, why the making of Gunjan Saxena felt personal

In a conversation with Firstpost on Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl, director Sharan Sharma, Janhvi Kapoor and Pankaj Tripathi open up about trials of telling a true story, the debate surrounding the trailer, and more

Janhvi Kapoor’s sophomore feature film Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl, directed by debutant Sharan Sharma, has been faced with the uphill task of staving off online debate on nepotism. Premiering on Netflix on 12 August, the film stars Pankaj Tripathi, Vineet Kumar Singh and Angad Bedi in supporting acts, and is based on the life of Flight Lieutenant Gunjan Saxena.

Among her several firsts, Saxena was the first woman to join the Indian Air Force as a pilot at the young age of 24, and served in the ’99 Kargil war. She was also the maiden female recipient of the Shaurya Vir Award, given to her for displaying courage and grit during the Kargil conflict.

In a Zoom conversation with Firstpost, Sharan Sharma, Janhvi Kapoor and Pankaj Tripathi open up about the wonders of inhabiting Gunjan Saxena’s world, the debate over the trailer, and why the journey felt so deeply personal.

I actually stumbled upon the story of Gunjan Saxena. I feel very lucky and blessed that even though what we show of her story ended in the year ’99, nobody else had picked it up in all these years — this was a blessing for me. When I stumbled upon an article on Gunjan ma’am, I did not find too much on her. All it said was that she was a 24-year-old girl who had served in the Kargil war as a rescue pilot, and her brother was also in the army and a part of the Kargil war, and that her father was in the army as well. At the moment that I saw the article, I took it to my mother and asked her what she thinks of it, and she said it is interesting. There was something about it which appealed to me. I took it to Karan (Johar) with the intention that somebody should tell the story; I was a little skeptical about telling it myself, because as somebody raised in Mumbai, I really wasn’t familiar with Gunjan ma’am’s world. He asked me to research it and see where it goes. He really backed me up from an early stage.

When I went to meet Gunjan ma’am, I was not sure about what to expect. But when I did meet her, I was so pleasantly surprised and thrilled to understand her personality, her outlook towards life, her family dynamics, even her brother-sister dynamics. A few things also hit me at a very personal level. While I went there as an outsider trying to understand her world, as a human being and in terms of her thoughts, they really felt very personal to me — especially how she was a kid with this dream of wanting to fly. I was a kid who dreamt of becoming Sachin Tendulkar, but that did not happen. So, I know that feeling.

She and her brother have this very interesting dynamic, and I too have a younger sister. So their equation really struck me. I have always heard that a filmmaker should tell a story that is close to them, but I think it’s also important for a filmmaker to tell a story that they want to know about, and Gunjan Saxena’s world was one that I wanted to really dig deep into. I am very lucky that nobody else picked up this story in these 17-18 years, and I had the good fortune of telling it.

What were the biggest challenges you faced in the process?

As a filmmaker, a film is a collection of challenges, no matter which one you’re making. But to answer your question more specifically, I would say that as an assistant director, the kind of films I have worked on did not give me the opportunity to understand the technicalities of action sequences. But again, I was very lucky that I had with me two big pillars of support: one is my director of photography Manush Nandan, who is a terrific human being besides being terrific at his job, and also an outstanding aerial coordinator, Marc Wolff. If you look up his page on IMDb, it might take you two or three days to go through it entirely, because he has done so many films, like Star Wars, Mission Impossible, Black Hawk Down, etc. So he really came in with his expertise, helped me, and navigated the entire journey for us.

Janhvi, this is is your second feature film since Dhadak, which was released two years ago, with Ghost Stories in between. In these two years, how do you think your craft has changed, or perhaps improved?

No, I don’t think that’s something for me to say. I think you should ask that question to people who’ve seen the film. I don’t know, I don’t think I can say anything for myself. Hopefully, I’ve gotten more confident, and I’ve gotten more comfortable in front of the camera, and I hope there’s been improvement (laughs).

Is there any training that you’ve undertaken in these two years, or any tricks of the trade that you may have picked up that you can talk about?

I think there is a lot that I have tried to pick up. I know it’s been a two years’ gap, but during this time I have shot for two full feature films, one short film and one half of Dostana, which is my third feature film. So, I’ve been working non-stop for these two years. The best way to learn when it comes to acting is on the job, because no matter how much you do or prepare (for a part), the kind of experience you get when you are actually in front of the camera…and then you watch, and you do, you review and then you learn, and you do it again — I think that’s the best kind of learning. Of course, when you’re in the company of great actors like Pankaj Tripathi, you learn a lot from them.

And I’ve just been trying to learn from my surroundings. I’ve had the opportunity to travel to many interesting places within my country that I’d never heard of, let alone even seen. So one thing that I think I have tried to actively do is get to know my people more. Because at the end of the day, as actors we are playing people of our country, so you need to know where they come from, where they are, where they want to go, their likes, their ambitions, their dislikes, their livelihoods. I’ve led a relatively protected life, so I think that it’s been a dream…no, not a dream of mine, but an aspiration of mine to always have the freedom to explore that, and I think through my film shoots I’ve been able to do that a lot more in these past two years.

Pankaj, the father-daughter relationship on-screen between you and Janhvi has a very simple, old-world charm to it, and your characters are, of course, based on real people. What kind of preparation or homework do you do for a role based on a real person?

I did not do any homework beyond the normal amount for this role. Whatever written material and research was there, along with Anup Saxena’s voice notes that Sharan had brought with him to me, were enough for me. I realised that I, coincidentally, belong to the same background as him, — whether it’s economically or socially — I come from that part of the country itself. So I think I understand his concerns, his dreams and his needs. But yes, since he was a real person and not a work of fiction, the voice notes and the various elements incorporated into the script made it easy for me to play the role. It did not feel all that tough for me.

When you work on a film that is biographical in nature, what are the toughest elements to navigate?

Janhvi Kapoor: I don’t know if there are any challenges, but there’s a lot of clarity, because you have a real-life example in front of you. However, there is a sense of duty and responsibility, especially because of the world that Gunjan Saxena comes from, and because of everything she has done. So besides a sense of duty, there is also a moral and ethical responsibility that I think all of us felt very greatly.

Sharan Sharma: I think from my experience of this film, the biggest challenge is to earn the trust of the person on whom the film is being made. And luckily for us, I think we crossed that bridge very early in the process. When Gunjan ma’am came on-board, there was great syncing from a very early stage. And after that, I did not see it as a challenge; I only saw it as something positive, because there is so much in front of you to play with. There were times when certain things came into the film that had they not happened in real life, I don’t think me and my writers would even have thought of them.

Also, I think the way I would put it is a true story gives you so much to play with that it can only be positive. I don’t see any challenges coming in the way; I believe it only enhances creativity, and enhances the journey of being able to tell a story.

Pankaj Tripathi: In real stories, especially in ones like Gunjan Saxena, I feel a certain amount of delicacy, sincerity and compassion need to be present, and Sharan brings all of that to the table. You see, a lot of times we end up approaching such stories in a very ‘filmy’ manner, and a film like this demanded not being filmy. It is not one of those stories. Sharan has that kind of sincerity and sensitivity in abundance, which is why he could make this film.

Sharan, when you write a film based on true events, how do you decide how much of it will be factual, and how much of it is going to be fictionalised or dramatised for celluloid?

That is one of the biggest challenges in the writing phase, because sometimes you find so much that’s good about the real story. One of the writers, Nikhil (Mehrotra), had actually told me that the biggest difficulty in a film of this nature is deciding what should not go into it, and he is somebody who has worked on a film like Dangal before this. He has gone through that journey. So that is very critical in a film based on a true story, where there are so many amazing incidents, and you need to decide what should not go in. We had a very important chat with Karan Johar in the beginning, where he said that if people like a film, it should not be because of the fact that it is a true story. Even if people don’t know it’s a true story, the film and the drama themselves should hold, and the narrative itself should work. So, I believe while you can take from real life, the film itself should work as a film, and not just because it is a true story. That is a discipline that we tried to take into our writing phase.

Barbaad ho rahe hai hum log Single-screen exhibitors DISAPPOINTED

Since more than a month, there have been speculations that Disney+ Hotstar, one of the biggest streaming platforms, has acquired more than a half-a-dozen films for a direct OTT release due to the Coronavirus-induced lockdown. Today, on June 29, the suspense was finally unveiled and it came to light that as many as 7 films will skip theatrical release and arrive straightaway on the internet. These films are Akshay Kumar’s horror comedy Laxmmi Bomb, Ajay Devgn’s war saga Bhuj – The Pride Of India, Sushant Singh Rajput’s last film Dil Bechara, Mahesh Bhatt’s directorial comeback Sadak 2, Abhishek Bachchan’s stock market drama The Big Bull, Kunal Kemmu’s comic caper Lootcase and Vidyut Jammwal’s action love story Khuda Hafiz.

As expected, the exhibitors are disappointed with this historic announcement. Already, they have been suffering since cinemas are shut since more than 3 months. And with the lockdown getting extended in most major states to July-end, they are all set to suffer more. In such a scenario, to see 7 films going straight to OTT, including few star-studded ventures which could have drawn audiences to cinemas in big numbers, have not just saddened them but also infuriated the exhibitors. While the representatives of multiplex chains were unavailable, the single-screen exhibitors have openly made their displeasure clear.

Akshaye Rathi, film exhibitor and distributor, says, “We all saw it coming since 1 ½ months. Hence, we were all prepared to see this happening. As an exhibitor, I’d say that it’s a bit disappointing because some of these films could have actually played a role in resurrecting the very medium that made them such big stars.” A very angry Vishek Chauhan, owner of Roopbani Cinema in Bihar, angrily tells, “I think Bollywood has jumped the gun and have pressed the panic button too early. This will have a very bad long-term impact on the Hindi film industry.” Raj Bansal, the owner of Entertainment Paradise theatre in Jaipur states, “I am not very happy with this announcement. They should have waited for some more time, at least two more months. I understand that they have invested heavily in these films and they must have had their reasons. But in this time of crisis, we should support each other.”

Vishek Chauhan makes it clear that “Bollywood is in danger, theatres are not” and also adds, “People feel that right now that the theatres will suffer if Hindi films will arrive on TV or OTT. Hollywood started this trend of releasing films on streaming platforms in the lockdown and the first film to do so was Trolls World Tour. But that film could be accessed through PVOD (Premium Video-On-Demand) and not SVOD (Subscription Video-On-Demand). So you have to pay $19.99 to buy the film and then you get to watch it. In our case, the accessibility is so easy for these new films that these films would be counted in the same breath as Aarya and Chaman Bahaar. Look at Gulabo Sitabo – it came and it went in no time. My point is that, what makes actors stars is when people take the trouble of heading to a cinema hall, standing in a queue and then watching them perform on the big screen. So if Akshay Kumar’s film will be accessible online without any effort at home, Akshay Kumar is then no longer that star! He and Ajay Devgn just killed their own stardom. Disney has kept its Hollywood film, Black Widow, ready. Even James Bond’s No Time To Die is ready for release. But these films are being held back for theatrical release. Toh fir yeh log kyun apni film online release kar rahe hai?”

The thoughts of Sandeep Jain, an exhibitor from Indore and Bhopal, are in sync. He states, “What they are doing is wrong. They are trying to destroy the medium that made them such big stars. Has there been any star from OTT? Alia Bhatt became a craze because she debuted in Student Of The Year, which released in cinemas. Same goes for other actors.”

Vishek Chauhan further adds, “Suriya is not giving away his film on the internet. Vijay hasn’t given his finished film Master to an OTT platform. Same goes for Dhanush, Chiyaan Vikram and Mahesh Babu. They have all declined the offer from OTT because they know where their stardom comes from. And look at our Bollywood actors. They are killing their stardom which they painstakingly cultivated over the years. They are forgetting that stardom jaane mein time nahi lagta hai.”

Other exhibitors too agree that they’ll now give preference to films of other languages. Akshaye Rathi opines, “Theatres have survived a hundred years and will survive long enough. The only thing that might change is the content that reaches the theatrical medium. If you see, in every other industry, from Southern to Hollywood, all the tent pole films have been held back for theatrical. So if these Hindi films don’t release, there will be enough Hollywood and Southern films in dubbed Hindi versions and also regional films that will take that space and keep bringing people to cinemas so that they keep getting their share of entertainment.” Manoj Desai, executive director of G7 multiplex in Mumbai, popularly known as Gaiety-Galaxy cinema complex, agrees as he says, “We’ll now give preference to South films which are dubbed in Hindi. Also, we’ll show dubbed Hollywood flicks. And I am sure audiences will come to these films as these films have lot of entertainment. The action in Hollywood films is amazing. As for South films, their action too is a visual delight. Also, their songs make for a great watch.”

Vishek Chauhan also argues that OTT won’t give these films the desired and the deserved viewership. He says, “Uday Shankar (The Walt Disney Company [Asia Pacific] and Chairman, Star & Disney India) is claiming that there are 50 crore smartphones in India and hence the reach is tremendous for these 7 films. If that’s the case, then why does your platform have just 80 lakhs subscribers? At least, Akshay Kumar’s films in cinemas gets footfalls of 2 or 2.5 crore. Your subscriber base is less than half of that. Bollywood has to decide for whom they are making the film. If they give films on the internet, then Bollywood will become an OTT industry.”

Thankfully, not all is lost. There are still many big Bollywood films which will come directly to theatres. Akshaye Rathi exults, “There are quite a few Hindi films as well like Sooryavanshi, ’83, Coolie No 1, Radhe etc which will make it to cinemas.” Raj Bansal in agreement says, “Those who will hold their films will get more benefit. It’s a matter of time.”

However, the other industries are already all set to take advantage. Vishek Chauhan reveals, “The day Disney+ Hotstar announced and hinted about releasing 7 films on OTT, Warner Bros sent a mail to all the exhibitors in the country that their Hollywood films Tenet and Wonder Woman 1984 releasing only in theatres. Universal Pictures also regularly tells us that they are releasing No Time To Die only in theatres. The idea behind these messages is that if Bollywood steps aside, then Hollywood will have a free run in cinemas of India. Similarly, down South, producers have asked us to let their films release simultaneously in North and Western belt.”

As of now, exhibitors are suffering immensely and the Disney+ Hotstar announcement has added to their woes. Manoj Desai rues, “Barbaad ho rahe hai hum log aur digital platforms aabaad ho rahe hai. Aaj Maharashtra mein July 31 tak lockdown extend ho gaya lekin Uddhav Thackeray ji ne theatres ke baare mein ek lafz nahi bola hai.”

Sandeep Jain has the last word and he is confident that once the lockdown is lifted, exhibitors will benefit. “Once things get back to normal, viewers will forget OTT and will come to cinemas. Even when VCR technology had arrived, we had faced some problems. Right now, with theatres shut, these platforms are getting so much importance. But later on, audiences will flock to theatres just like old times.”

Gulabo Sitabo Movie Review: Amitabh Bachchan beats Ayushmann Khurrana. The audience wins

Gulabo Sitabo Movie Review: Shoojit Sircar’s Gulabo Sitabo, starring Amitabh Bachchan and Ayushmann Khurrana, dropped on Amazon Prime Video on June 12.

Movie Name: Gulabo Sitabo
Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Ayushmann Khurrana
Director: Shoojit Sircar

Fatima Mahal is no Taj Mahal. It most certainly was built with love, but right now it serves but one purpose – to serve. A hundred years give or take, Fatima Mahal houses Mirza (Amitabh Bachchan) and his Begum, and a bunch of tenants unofficially led by Baankey (Ayushmann Khurrana). Mirza and Baankey’s nokjhok, as the makers told us repeatedly, holds the whole plot together. Yet, it is not the central point of Shoojit Sircar’s Gulabo Sitabo – Fatima Mahal is.

Mirza wants to throw Baankey out. Baankey won’t leave. Mirza decides to sell the haveli instead, if that helps. He has to cross out those extended family members who could lay claim on the property before he sells it. In addition, Fatima Mahal’s 100-year-old legacy has by now attracted the archaeological department. Like little school children, all these atrangi characters flutter around Fatima Mahal, and she simply watches. A brick falls here, a railing drops there, she continues to stand witness to it all.

Greed is an excellent driver. Mirza’s greed, very evident, drove him to marry a woman 17 years older to him. “Aapne unme kya dekha?” and Mirza quips, “Haveli dekhi.” He is 78 now, old, frail, stooping under the weight of his once tall stature, yet his greed doesn’t leave him. He survives on pennies he gets to pick from Begum’s baksa, sells chandeliers for pocket money, Begum squarely tells him, “Apni shakal ab kafi dinon tak mat dikhana,” and he almost happily obliges.

Baankey, on the other hand, runs a chakki (small-scale wheat mill) feeding the mouths of his three growing sisters and a widowed mother. He can ride a bike and buy a microwave, but ghar ka bhada will remain Rs 30 a month. Rent-control areas in any old part of this country, no matter the city – Lucknow or Mumbai or Kolkata – will have such bickering landlord-tenant jodis. In that, Shoojit has yet again picked a subject so simple and everyday, that you would have thought they couldn’t have been made into a full-fledged feature film. Shoojit surprises you yet again. But then, not really.
Amitabh Bachchan and Ayushmann Khurrana coming together for the first time was a big deal. But Bachchan’s Mirza trumps Ayushmann’s Baankey. Bachchan’s prosthetic make-up, especially the nose, sticks out like a sore thumb in parts, but the maverick more than makes up for it with his acting and more importantly, his body language. Ayushmann’s Baankey, unfortunately, oscillates between the Punjabi munda that he is and the Lucknavi that he is supposed to be. And then there is the Lucknavi twang. There’s so much diction can do.

Bachchan’s perfect Urdu – from the epiglottis and all – leaves Baankey miles behind him. Baankey, in fact, has a lisp, and we’re not sure if it was a character requirement or was it put to shroud the actor’s shortcoming, especially stark in contrast to Bachchan. Nonetheless, Ayushmann the actor is so resilient that he doesn’t let that bog his performance down.

Unlike Fatima Mahal’s walls, literally crumbling, failing to support its enormous legacy, the supporting cast of Gulabo Sitabo outdo the lead cast. Brijendra Kala as the astute lawyer Christopher Clarke, a property-dispute specialist Mirza seeks the help of, jo khane mein sirf lunch aur dinner letein hai because that’s how ‘English’ he is, is excellent. Vijay Raaz’s Gyanesh Shukla, an archaeology department official adamant to declare Fatima Mahal a heritage site, who suffers from arthritis and pyorrhea, and the occasional character slip, goes beyond what the script might have said. There are legit moments when you know the script could not have written this expression or that hand gesture down; and Raaz adds a dash of masala to this steaming pot of biryani.

Srishti Shrivastava doesn’t need to be introduced as the girl you saw in Gully Boy; she stands on firm ground, at least for us internet-content consumers. She brings her TVF-style madness into Guddo, Baankey’s graduate sister, and Shoojit’s rumbling Fatima Mahal. But Farukh Jaffer as Mirza’s Begum, 95 in the film right now, is par excellence.

Juhi Chaturvedi, credited for story and dialogues, truly deserves credit. Shantanu Moitra’s music adds a certain melancholy that compliments Fatima Mahal’s texture. You will find yourself humming Madari Ka Bandar in the kitchen while you sip that cup of morning tea. Yet we missed Swanand Kirkire’s throaty voice. Tochi Raina and Anuj Garg do a good job, but you can’t but click your tongue. Tch!

Gulabo Sitabo was supposed to have a theatre release. But owing to the coronavirus crisis, went for an OTT premiere instead. It works in Shoojit’s favour that this film renders itself beautifully to small-screen viewing.