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What’s in a name? Love Aaj Kal borrows its title from the 2009 Imtiaz Ali film; Is it a sequel, reboot or reimagining?

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The first look of an Imtiaz Ali film is always highly anticipated. In the case of his latest – Love Aaj Kal, more so because there has been a lot of online buzz over the past few weeks about what the film would be called.

The ‘original’ Love Aaj Kal had Saif Ali Khan and Deepika Padukone essay the title roles, while this one has Kartik Aaryan and Sara Ali Khan. So why is everyone calling it a sequel? Maybe it is because our collective media dubbed it Love Aaj Kal 2 in the absence of an official title. For the longest time, I could not wrap my head around a sequel that did not feature the original actors —is a sequel not, after all, supposed to take a story forward? Unless this is one of those ‘saat janmon ka rishta’ thingamajigs, where Saif gets reborn with more hair. Well, who knows?

Now that the makers have settled on the same title as the 2009 film, one can confidently walk into a theatre knowing it is a reboot. Or is it? What if it is a reimagining? Or a remake?

Damn. All this Hollywood terminology is so confusing. Which is why we in Bollywood, use the word sequel to describe any and every film in a franchise. Take Dostana 2, for example. The upcoming film features Kartik Aaryan, Janhvi Kapoor, and Lakshya in the lead roles. Again, unless the characters played by John Abraham, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, and Abhishek Bachchan had kids that have grown up to be 20-somethings in the last dozen years, it seems strange the studio would append a ‘2’ after the original title. But that is what they are calling it. Go figure.

This ambiguity creates an element of suspense Hollywood totally seems to have missed out on. I will be going to watch Dostana 2 knowing it has got something to do with the original, but will not know whether it is a case of new actors in a new story or new actors living in the same Miami apartment. Will they wear the same Manish Malhotra threads? And, more importantly, will they dance to a Tanishk Bagchi remix of ‘Desi Girl?’

As a true-blue believer in all things Bollywood though, I think, it is important to understand what I am dissing on the other side.

Hollywood reserves the word sequel for the continuation of a story. Studios add numbers like 2, 3, 4… to the original title in order to make it clear to people that what they are going to watch begins where they left off the last time. If you think about it, though, this shows an utter lack of imagination, and dumbs things down. Where is the fun in that?

Hollywood also loves a good prequel, where you dial back the story in time, and finish the new story where the old one begins. Sometimes, the prequels can have second and third parts, which are technically still prequels to the originals, but sequels to previously released prequels, as George Lucas (Star Wars) would tell you. And because they are spoilsports, they numbered the films with Episode numbers. A totally lost opportunity if you ask me. It would have been so much fun had they just announced every film saying it is a prequel/sequel, and let the audience figure which is which.

They also have spin-offs, which focus on aspects and characters that did not get much footage in the original story, but got uber-positive vibes from controlled audience tests conducted by their research teams. Take Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them. When Harry Potter was done killing Voldemort, one would have thought that is the end of that cash cow. But Warner Bros and author JK Rowling were not ready to give up yet. They took a 12,000-word book, and announced a five-film series around it. See? Capitalism at work. However, they could have spiced things up a little bit more by calling it a sequel, and letting us imagine everything from Harry’s newfound interest in bestiality to the return of Voldemort as a dragon. No?

There are also remakes which essentially tell the same story, but with CGI. And then there are reimaginings, something Disney has built an empire around — take an old story, change one major thing, and you have got yourself a new Cinderella. So, what is a reboot then? This one is actually complicated. Here, the writers can either take an existing story and mess with the continuity, thereby creating a new status quo, or reconfigure the entire story. I am not sure I get it either, which is why I love Bollywood, and how it refuses to get caught up in semantics. Everything is a ‘sequel,’ deal with it. Even when none of the Housefull films have anything to do with each other.

 

Chhapaak, Deepika Padukone, Vikrant Massey’s film, makes Rs 4.77 cr on opening day at domestic box office

Chhapaak was one of the most Deepika Padukone films in recent memory. Based on true events in the life of acid attack survivor Laxmi Agarwal, audiences were eagerly awaiting Deepika’s treatment of such an unconventional subject.

The opening day collection of the film, as stated by trade analysts, was underwhelming in certain sections of the country, but the film did well in urban multiplexes. Chhapaak has made a total of Rs 4.77 crore on its opening day at the box office.

Leading film trade analyst Taran Adarsh has shared the figures, and added the film was unable to perform in tier-2 and tier-3 cities.

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But contrary to belief, the collections have not been affected by the supposed boycott declared after the lead actress extended her support to the students of Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Trade Analyst Atul Mohan informs Firstpost, “Even before the boycott, we were expecting the film to open at Rs 3.50-4.50 crore, as the release was very limited. It is still a limited release. They haven’t gone all out. The film has received well in the multiplexes of Chandigarh, Delhi, and the northern part of the country. The film registered good occupancy in the high-end multiplexes.”

Another trade expert, Vishek Chauhan, adds no political stance could affect the box office numbers, mostly because according to him, film business and politics are unrelated to each other. “I think it all media hype. People don’t watch film depending upon the political ideologies of an actor. Please don’t mix cinema with politics, and that is the worst thing we can do. Deepika is one of the best actresses, and let’s not demean her by saying that her film worked because she went to JNU or vice-versa. The picture will work on its merits. Let’s not mix it as it becomes dangerous. I haven’t come across anyone who said that he’s watching Chhapaak because Deepika visited JNU or not watching it because of Deepika went to JNU,

Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior, Ajay Devgn and Saif Ali Khan’s epic drama, makes Rs 15.10 cr on opening day

Ajay Devgn and Saif Ali Khan-starrer high-octane period drama Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior released in theatres this past Friday, along with Deepika Padukone and Vikrant Massey-starrer Chhapaak.

The film, directed by Om Raut, has witnessed a healthy box office outcome on the first day of its release, making Rs 15.10 crore. According to trade analysts, Tanhaji started picking up in the latter part of the day, and has been performing exceedingly well in Maharashtra. It is expected to continue its upward trend during the weekend as well.

Featuring Devgn as the valiant Maratha warrior Subedar Tanhaji Malusare, the film charts the heroic character’s journey through the Battle of Sinhagad in 1670 AD.

Saif Ali Khan plays the role of antagonist Uday Bhan Singh in the film. Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior sees Kajol reunite with Devgn onscreen after over a decade. She is seen as the Maratha warrior’s wife Savitribai.

The film also stars Sharad Kelkar, Jagapathi Babu, Devdutta Nage, Pankaj Tripathi, Neha Sharma, Ajinkya Deo, Kailash Waghmare, Hardik Sangani, Luke Kenny, and Vipul G in supporting roles.

Ajay had earlier confessed his production house, Ajay Devgn FFilms, is looking to develop a franchise based on the warriors in history, who have not got their day under the sun. That is when the idea of Tanhaji Malusare came to Raut and Ajay. The actor emphasised the idea to build a franchise is to essentially take these Indian stories to global audiences.

Street Dancer 3D song Illegal Weapon 2.0 sees Shraddha Kapoor, Varun Dhawan gear up for high-stake dance-off

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After the revamped ‘Muqabla’ and the party number ‘Garmi,’ the makers of Street Dancer 3D have dropped the third song from the lineup, ‘Illegal Weapon 2.0.’ The song will serve as Shraddha Kapoor’s introductory number in the movie, reports Mid-Day.

Rivals Inayat (Shraddha Kapoor) and Sahej (Varun Dhawan) whirl, twirl, and shake a leg in perfectly choreographed and coordinated dance moves. They break-dance and hip-hop across the streets of an urban space, challenging each other to up their game at every beat.

In an interaction with Mid-Day, director Remo D’Souza reveals Shraddha Kapoor and Varun Dhawan belong to different dance groups, and keep competing with each other. In ‘Illegal weapon 2.0‘, the two groups meet for the first time. The director further says the makers were looking for a groovy number for the sequence when producer Bhushan Kumar recommended the 2018 hit. “We realised it could be a perfect song to introduce Shraddha’s character. We have retained the music and hook line, but have changed the lyrics. We have pumped up the groove and added a street mix vibe to the track,” Remo states. ‘Illegal Weapon’ is a Punjabi single sung by Jasmine Sandlas and Garry Sandhu. Ahead of the release of the song, a promo video was also launched.

The first song released by the makers was ‘Muqabla,’ a rehashed version of Prabhu Deva’s iconic number ‘Muqabla Muqabla’ from the 1994 film Humse Hai Muqabla. The song features Prabhu, Varun, and Shraddha locking and popping with ease, as they sway to the classic dance steps from the songs. There are many other interesting formations and rain dance sequences in the rehashed song.

The trailer, released on 18 December, portrays Dhawan as an Indian dancer and Shraddha as a performer from Pakistan. Shakti Mohan, Aparkshakti Khurana, and Nora Fatehi feature in supporting roles.

The film is produced by Bhushan Kumar, Divya Khosla Kumar, Krishan Kumar, and Lizelle D’Souza. Street Dancer 3D is slated to release on 24 January, alongside Kangana Ranaut-starrer sports drama Panga.

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Good Newwz movie review: Kareena Kapoor Khan, Akshay Kumar’s dramedy provides perfect dose of infotainment

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The surge in Hindi films addressing ‘taboo’ subjects, particularly those starring Akshay Kumar and Ayushmann Khurrana, have often toed the fine line between entertainment and preaching. Kumar’s latest film, Raj Mehta’s dramedy Good Newwz is the perfect blend of both, given it comes from a place of sheer conviction and embracing all tropes of meaningful entertainment.

Good Newwz revolves around two couples — the Batras, and well, the Batras. The first pair is from an upbeat Mumbai society, and consists of an entertainment journalist Deepti (Kareena Kapoor Khan) and Varun (Akshay Kumar), a sales executive. The second pair is based in Chandigarh, and consists of homemaker Monika (Kiara Advani) and Honey (Diljit Dosanjh). After several failed attempts at conceiving a child naturally, both couples seek treatment from the same Mumbai-based infertility clinic, owned by Doctor Joshi (Adil Hussain) and his wife (Tisca Chopra).

A mix-up of sperms during the In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) process results in Honey’s sperm getting implanted in Deepti’s womb and Varun’s in Monika. All this is in the trailer but what follows is an organic progression in the narrative, full of situational comedy, resulting in a sumptuous drama. The switch from comedy to drama in the final half hour of the film slides in very smoothly. The tone changes completely but the inflection never seems jarring or unwarranted.

This only proves the command debutant Raj Mehta has over his craft. Though his film is supported by experienced actors, he makes the most of them by lending them both a free hand at what they do best, and yet retain control over the director’s unifying vision. Writers Jyoti Kapoor, Rishabh Sharma, and Mehta not only know how to build a narrative with the perfect pace and precision but also pen some hilariously witty lines for the characters. They also incorporate a few gags that stem from real life, like Akshay referring to his previous collaboration with Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions, Anurag Singh’s historical war drama Kesari earlier this year.

Kareena Kapoor Khan makes the most of her meaty part by sinking her teeth into it. Having worked with seasoned comedy filmmakers like Priyadarshan and Rajkumar Hirani, one knows she has impeccable comic timing. But in this film, besides some sarcastic retorts to Akshay’s character, she lets the boys do most of the comedy. She shines the most either in reacting or the dramatic scenes. A special mention to her for pulling off the scene she had said she did the film for — towards the end of the film, she delivers a monologue to Varun, critisising him for being a non-supportive husband while she has to bear the brunt of pregnancy alone.

Akshay, who probably has the best character graph in the film, is great at comedy, as he has proved time and again over the years. Here, the humour is not close to the Housefull franchise but more on the lines of his character in Jagan Shakti’s space drama Mission Mangal earlier this year. He delivers some skillfully written lines with his trademark straight face. The narrative also allows him to display his range, as he is seen laughing his guts out and crying his eyes out in two different yet key scenes of the film. And needless to say, he does both with immense conviction.

Diljit’s sense of humour is completely tapped into, and his character is the closest to his onscreen persona. But as he has proved with Shaad Ali’s sports biopic Soorma last year, he also possesses a versatality that he can put out if given a chance. In Good Newwz, while he is the one providing most of the cracks, he does not miss a beat when he leads the narrative to a more dramatic tone. Kiara gets the nuances of her character’s Punjabi accent right, and fares well in her role of a ditsy wife. But she is given only a couple of fleeting shots to show her potential. Her character remains in shadows most of the time, given the presence of three scene-stealing co-actors.

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The music does act as a hindrance in some sequences, but Good Newwz does not do a half bad job of embracing the mainstream Hindi cinema abandon of breaking into a song out of nowhere, whether it is Kareena and Akshay in ‘Laal Ghagra’ on the occasion of Lohri or Kiara and Diljit during a Zumba session. The best one, Hardy Sandhu and Badshah’s ‘Chandigarh Mein,’ is saved for the end credits, and is undoubtedly a smashing sequence. The background score is commendably non-intrusive and only complements the narrative, particularly the bits of Kiara and Diljit.

The cinematography (by Vishnu Rao) and the editing boast of flashes of brilliance yet are mostly serviceable to the central narrative. Natasha Poonawala’s production design and Priyanka Mundada and Aki Narula’s costume design splash colours on the screen in every frame of the film. They breathe more life into an already lively narrative. The costume design particularly stands out as it is not only tastefully done, but also bring out the subtle geographical differences between the two Batra couples.

To say Good Newwz is a smart sociopolitical commentary on class would be a slight exaggeration. But it truly is an accurate, evolving into ideal, representation of our social zeitgeist.

Good Newwz box office collection: Akshay Kumar, Kareena Kapoor Khan’s comedy earns Rs 39.34 cr in two days

Akshay Kumar, Kareena Kapoor Khan’s comedy Good Newwz is winning at the box office. The film which opened to decent collections of Rs 17.56 crore on Friday, earned Rs 21.78 crore on Saturday, thus taking the total box office collection to Rs 39.34 crore so far. Trade analysts note that Good Newwz is performing well in the metro cities and eyes to mint Rs 65 crore over the opening weekend.

Also starring Diljit Dosanjh and Kiara Advani, Good Newwz deals with the confusion that ensues after Kumar and Dosanjh’s sperms get exchanged in an IVF clinic. The film has been jointly produced by Karan Johar Dharma Productions and Akshay Kumar’s Cape of Good Hope Films.

After having worked in films like Ajnabee, Bewafaa, Kambakkht Ishq, and Tashan, Kumar and Khan feature together onscreen after almost a decade. Good Newwzz is also Dosanjh’s first film with Dharma Productions.

Meanwhile, Kumar who has had a successful 2019 with back-to-back hits such as Kesari, Mission Mangal and Housefull 4, is gearing up for Rohit Shetty’s cop drama Sooryavanshi. He will also been seen in Raghav Lawrence’s Laxmmi Bomb, opposite Advani. Kumar has also started working on historical drama Prithviraj alongside Manushi Chillar.

Khan who was last seen in Veere De Wedding, has recently wrapped up shooting for Angrezi Medium. She is currently shooting Aamir Khan’s Laal Singh Chaddha, and also has Karan Johar’s ambitious Takht, which is likely to commence early next year.

Directed by Raj Mehta, Good Newwz is produced by Hiroo Yash Johar, Aruna Bhatia, Karan Johar, Apoorva Mehta and Shashank Khaitan, the film hit the theatres on 27 December.

Dabangg 3, third instalment in Salman Khan’s cop drama franchise, makes Rs 24.5 cr on opening day

Salman Khan’s Dabangg 3, the third instalment in the cop franchise, has had a decent opening at the box office. The film collected Rs 24.5 crore on its first day.

Considering the film is the only Bollywood release this week, and is led by Salman Khan, the first-day earnings do not seem to be as high as his earlier films, such as Bharat (Rs 42.30 crore) and Prem Ratan Dhan Paayo (Rs 40.35 crore). However, trade analysts have cited the Citizen Amendment Act Protests (CAA) protests that have rocked the nation as the reason behind lower footfalls in theatres.

The first film, released in 2010, minted Rs 14.50 crore on the first day, becoming the highest opener of all time across India. Dabangg 2 (2012), which collected Rs 21.10 crore on the first day, went on to become the second-highest grosser of the year behind Salman’s other release of the year, Ek Tha Tiger. The critical response to Dabangg 3 has been quite less than overwhelming. Critics have panned the movie for its hackneyed plot and its monotonous protagonist, Chulbul Pandey. Dabangg 3 sees Sonakshi Sinha reprise her role of Chulbul’s wife Rajjo. Arbaaz Khan once again plays his younger brother Makkhi. Vinod Khanna’s brother Pramod essays their father Prajapati in the third instalment. Kannada actor Kiccha Sudeep plays the antagonist Balli. The film has been directed by Prabhu Deva.

Dabangg 3 box office collection: Salman Khan, Sonakshi Sinha film earns Rs 49.25 in two days

Dabangg 3, Salman Khan’s cop drama which had a decent opening day, has earned Rs 49.25 crore after two days. The film earned Rs 24.50 cr on Friday, Rs 24.75 cr on Saturday, thus taking its entire collection closer to Rs 50 crore.

The actor has reprised his cult favourite role of Chulbul Pandey in the film helmed by Prabhu Deva. Sonakshi Sinha is seen as Rajjo, Arbaaz Khan portrays Makkhi, and Vinod Khanna’s brother Pramod plays the character of Chulbul’s father Prajapati Pandey. Kannada actor Sudeep is also a part of the film.

Salman Khan who shares writing credits in Dabangg 3, told Firstpost about his vision for the franchise, “I came up with a thought and Arbaaz and I just kept on improvising, brainstorming. We wanted to start from the present and go in the past to track the journey of Chulbul Pandey and how his past comes into his present. It’s not entirely a prequel. The whole film isn’t set in the past. The thought was to begin the film with an idea and then go back to how my character became Chulbul Pandey, and then, his past meets his present and how Chulbul has to deal with that.” he says.

Dabangg 3 was released on 20 December in Hindi, Kannada, Telugu, and Tamil for a pan-Indian audience.

Rishi Kapoor on returning to Hindi films and his ‘second stint': ‘I don’t mind if the film is small. I’m not a star, I’m an actor’

After a one-year break (his very first in his 47-year-old career), Rishi Kapoor is back, looking enthusiastic and looking forward to continue his golden run. Last seen notably in films like Mulk and Rajma Chawal, the veteran actor will return to the big screen with The Body, a murder mystery and remake of a 2012 Spanish mystery thriller, that also stars Emraan Hashmi and Sobhita Dhulipala.

Directed by Malayalam thriller Drishyam-fame Jeethu Joseph (he makes his debut in Bollywood), the film will have Kapoor play an investigative police officer in this crime thriller.

The veteran actor is enjoying his second stint, as he has always said. “I now get a chance to actually act, and win awards on merit.” Breaking from his romantic image, Kapoor, in his golden innings, has reinvented himself, and won acclaim for his unusual and superlative performances in films like Agneepath, D-Day, Kapoor & Sons, and most recently, by playing a 75-year-old son to Amitabh Bachchan in 102 Not Out, and the critically acclaimed Mulk.

The Body breaks his image, yet again

Kapoor, who plays a cop in the suspense thriller, is excited about playing different roles. He says he could never do so in his heydays. “If you look at my graph, in my times, when I was a hero, I have only done films which were expected of me because of my image of that of a romantic hero. Mr Bachchan was the action hero. We never had a chance of doing films like Vicky Donor, Bala, Andhadhun. This kind of content was never made in those days because audiences were not ready for that. Today, audience has evolved. They are not going to take nonsense. In my time, every actor had done four to five films, and all based on lost and found. If in my time, Vicky Donor was made, they would have banned the film. I am happy that the transformation is taking place,” he says, adding, “But yes, I have also done some progressive films like Doosra Aadmi, Ek Chaddar Maili Si, and a few more but these films didn’t work then probably because people didn’t understand these films.”

“What is also exciting is the audience today is more accepting of seeing senior actors in prominent roles on screen. It’s a very different scenario today. He (Joseph) has made a film with me and Emraan Hashmi, where we both are playing important roles in the film. I don’t want to play the usual father. That is all rubbish. I want to play after the hero, maybe as good as hero, whatever age it may be but my character in the film should be very demanding, and it should be one of the central characters of the story. But otherwise character actors have got no image. We are like potato and carrot that can mix into any dish. Whether you make biryani or anything, potato just fits into anything. If we have the talent and caliber then we will contribute well but the dish will be called biryani only (laughs).”

However, the actor is tight-lipped about his upcoming film, and cannot give away much. “It’s a suspense thriller, a remake, and I cannot tell you more about the story. Only after watching the film one would understand. But obviously, The Body is not in the same genre as Mulk or 102 Not Out because in those films, I had the scope to perform. This is more of an avante-garde film, you will like it for its content but not so much for the performances. But then too, I have tried to put little bit from my side.”

Working with the new director

“My experience is vast so it becomes easy for me to work with any director. Basically I am a director’s actor. But there are some directors who are very stubborn and difficult then that reflects in my work. I have decided not to work with them again. It is their loss, not mine. I am not saying that I am world’s greatest actor but I want some freedom to express myself. But I can’t tell you my process,” says Rishi.

Kapoor also reveals Joseph, who had helmed Drishyam, was keen to have him headline the Hindi remake, which eventually featured Ajay Devgn. “Jeethu had directed the original Drishyam, and he wanted me to do the Hindi version. If you see the Tamil version, it has Kamal Haasan. It was supposed to be a senior hero and not a junior… it was meant to be a senior man. But I am not a saleable star. I couldn’t get the audiences in so obviously they would not make the film with me,” he said.

Avoids shouldering huge responsibilities – “I’m not a star, I’m an actor”

On one hand, Kapoor is happy playing central characters but he has been also refusing many films for the fear of “carrying the burden of the entire film”. “The ones I don’t want to do is because sometimes I get worried that what if the film will get sold or not. If you are playing the main role, then its making, exhibiting, getting the audience becomes your responsibility. Then you feel disappointed that the film didn’t get a good release. It flopped or a big film took away all the theatres.

Hence, I tell many makers not to cast me because I can’t take big responsibilities. You can do that if there is a huge star in the film so that people come to see the star at least. I can only add to the story with my work but I can’t bring the audience to theatres. I just love playing interesting characters. I don’t mind if the film is small. I’m not a star, I’m an actor.

I suppose filmmakers come to me when they are not able to get a hero, and they want to just make a project. But I am not a desperate actor. I have got name, fame, money. I can’t be forced to work. How many actors have worked for 47 years? And I am a working actor. I am working since 1972. Bachchan and Dharmendra took long breaks. Dev (Anand) saab, Dilip (Kumar) saab did one film in three to four years. There are two generations who have come in front of me. I don’t do film for money. I never compromise with whatever my status is. I have never been told that the film didn’t work because of me or that my work was bad,” Kapoor adds.

Why did he not direct more films? (Kapoor directed 1999 release Aa Ab Laut Chalen with Akshaye Khanna and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan)

“I didn’t find the time. When I tried hands at directing, I had lot of pressure from Veeru Devgn, Rahul Rawail. They all wanted me to act, and then the flow never stopped. But my passion was acting, and direction is a very demanding job. Also, I don’t want to direct because I am a very critical person. I look at very small, minute details. I will get unwell if I turn director. But who knows tomorrow Ranbir (Kapoor, son) might direct? We have not closed the door. But filmmaking is not a factory. It is a creative field. Either you know it or you don’t.”

“There are so many next generation kids of filmmakers who couldn’t make it or became actors. After all, we are chosen by the people. You can’t force people to watch somebody’s son or daughter. Now, that can be called nepotism. That way, nepotism started with our family… with Raj Kapoor. He was a huge actor Prithviraj’s son but nobody talked about nepotism then. Why? Because we had to really slog. Bobby was a super hit and I was cast because no other actor was available for this teenage love story. Dimple Kapadia played the titular role. After Bobby, I gave quite a few flops. I was the same son of Raj Kapoor. I worked hard, and recreated myself. I had the talent. After several flops, I bounced back after reinventing myself. People forget all this,” he adds.

Does Rishi evaluate his work?

“No because most of the times, I don’t watch my films. Once the film is released and the result is out, I become very conscious. After my final dubbing, I watch my film, and for the same reason, I don’t watch Ranbir’s films because I am a very critical person so I don’t understand what is good and what is bad. My wife Neetu (Kapoor) is a practical person whereas I get very tense when I watch my film. I don’t have any clue how it will fare at the box office. I’m engrossed in several other thoughts rather than the film: its story or the dialogues. Therefore, I lose out watching some important scenes, and I am totally disconnected to the film. I am so self-critical that I won’t be able to tell you which of my performances were the best.”

Forthcoming projects

Kapoor’s next is tentatively titled Sharmaji Namkeen with Juhi Chawla, his co-star of films like Bol Radha Bol and Daraar among many. “I want to look different in every film and every character so for this film, I’m growing a beard,” he says. He is also excited about doing a love story, “where the girl is 35 years younger than me. It is a mature love story,” he says. But he is most excited about reuniting with his wife Neetu for the Hindi remake of super hit Bengali film, Bela Seshe, directed by Shibo Prasad Mukherjee. The film looks at an older couple’s journey and their separation after a four-decade-long relationship. “I may do this film with Neetu. It is about a married couple who, after 40 years of marriage, are divorcing. Shibo Prasad has offered me the film. We are still in talks,” he concludes.

Rani Mukerji says her cop drama Mardaani 2 intends to make ‘every woman channel her inner Durga’

After a gap of four years, Rani Mukerji will be seen as police inspector Shivani Shivaji Roy yet again in the second instalment of her 2015 film, Pradeep Sarkar’s cop drama Mardaani. While Rani showed off her versatility in Siddharth P Malhotra’s Hichki last year (in which she played a schoolteacher battling Tourette’s syndrome), her next outing, this time as a Police Superintendent, is in Gopi Puthran’s Mardaani 2.

In an interview at Yash Raj Studios, Rani reveals she signs a film on the basis of what her state of mind is at that time. “Before I signed Mardaani, the whole country was angry, upset, and helpless because of the Nirbhaya case. For the first time, media brought us the gory details of a heinous rape. So I wanted to do a film that expresses the rage I, or for that matter the entire nation, men and women, was going through at that time. Before Hichki, I had my daughter Adira (with filmmaker-husband Aditya Chopra). I had been working since I was 16. When I had Adira, it was the first time I wanted to be home since I felt the responsibility of another life. So when Hichki was offered to me, I felt it was something that was worth being away from my child. Now, Mardaani 2 addresses the issue of juvenile rape accused. The number of juveniles, who were rape-accused, were brought to the fore after Nirbhaya. So I really wanted to deal with that through Mardaani 2.”

Like Mardaani, the sequel, directed by Gopi, the writer of the first instalment, will star Rani as an avenging cop who does not shy away from using violence to put the absconding rape accused to task. Rani claims she intends to give the same message to viewers that she did with Mardaani — to use violence as a means of self-reliance and self-defense. Last year, after the Actresses’ Roundtable on News18, Rani was criticised for allegedly diluting the significance of the #MeToo movement by putting the onus on women, and not men who commit the crimes, to learn martial arts in order to defend themselves on streets.

“I’ve always said this, and I will keep on saying it. It’s great to have discussions. Those should keep on happening simultaneously. But if you think practically, you can’t stop going out, whether for work or in general. And we’ve reached a stage that we need to learn self-defense if we want to roam freely. I do believe Durga resides in every woman, and she needs to channelise it in some way or the other, whether through using paper spray, performing martial arts or just roaring deafeningly so the man gets scared. Change will come gradually of course but until then, we need to bring our issues into our hands.”

She narrates an incident of channeling her inner Durga in order to overcome a childhood fear. For a key underwater action sequence in Mardaani 2, Rani had to learn swimming and triumph over hydrophobia, which she has been battling since she was a kid. “When Gopi narrated the script to me, I really liked it. But I informed him that I didn’t know swimming so wouldn’t be able to do the underwater sequence. Once we finished shooting the film in July, I wasted a lot of time not learning swimming because of the monsoon. Fortunately for me, the rains this year went on till October. But Gopi said it was high time we shot the sequence then since the film was supposed to release in December. So I signed a trainer, and started with the baby pool. I was very comfortable there since my feet were on the ground. But I was thrown into the deep end later. I managed to learn swimming and shoot the sequence eventually.”

She says besides picking up physical skills like martial arts, all her diverse roles in her 23-year-old career have helped improve her mental health as well. “My characters have not only made me more empathetic but also allowed me to look at the brighter side. When I did Black, I realised what a gift speech is. When you’re deprived of that, and you resort to sign language, your hands and shoulders start paining after a while because you’re constantly using them to express themselves. I know some may say it’s easier to focus on the positives at the position of privilege but even the slum people I’ve met in my career are happy with their dal-rice and bhakri-pyaaz. So it really depends on how much you choose to victimise yourself. Again, it boils down to self-reliance.”

Rani is aware the Indian audience is warming up to a more ‘realistix’ portrayal of women police officers after Netflix film Soni and series Delhi Crime. But she believes the cops she has met during the Mardaani franchise deserve the heroic treatment in her films. “I want to show them as heroes. I think of them as nothing less heroic. But you won’t see a film which has me beating up goons by defying laws of gravity. It’s because I’ve met those female officers. My portrayal stems from first-hand experiences. In fact, Mardaani is not just about the women police officers. It’s a spirit that anyone, whether male or female, can live by. It refers to how my character of Shivani Shivaji Roy fights crime. When a poet described Rani Lakshmibai, he was referring to her spirit, and not her gender, when he said, ‘Khoob ladi mardaani wo toh Jhansi wali rani thi.'”

Rani jokes about how the Mardaani spirit is not going down well with her daughter, who wants to see her in a happy space onscreen. “I’ll be the happiest to do a lighthearted romantic comedy now. After I did Black and was offered Bunty Aur Babli, I was so glad that I could get rid of all the baggage of a serious role like Black by doing a fun film like Bunty Aur Babli. I think I’m in that head space again,” says Rani.

Then is she doing Bunty Aur Babli 2 opposite Hum Tum co-star Saif Ali Khan next, as reports suggest. “Oh wow? Is it? That’s a forecast I hope turns out to be true,” is all Rani would say.

Mardaani 2 is slated to release this Friday on 13 December.