Category Archives: Movies Review

Durgamati has been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, satisfying and challenging at the same time: Bhumi Pednekar

Durgamati is high on content because it is a conspiracy thriller. It is not illogical, yet is massy at the same time,’ says Bhumi Pednekar.

Bhumi Pednekar, who has successfully straddled the middle-of-road cinema, has made a mark for portraying strong characters. After a much acclaimed debut in Yash Raj Films’ Dum Laga Ke Haisha, successful outings such as Toilet: Ek Prem Katha and Shubh Mangal Saavdhan followed, as did the massively acclaimed Netflix India Original Lust Stories and commercial entertainer Pati Patni Aur Woh.

After Netflix’s Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare, Pednekar will next be seen in Amazon Prime Video India film Durgamati. A remake of Telugu movie Bhaagamathie, Durgamati is being touted as a high drama horror-conspiracy thriller. Excerpts below, from a chat with the brave actress who wants to leave behind a legacy with good cinema.

It must be really exciting to helm a solo film for the first time?

Yes! And Durgamati has really been one of the toughest performances. We always talk about how tough my films get, and the amount of hard work that I put in. But this one has really gone notches above anything that I have done so far. Physically, mentally, and emotionally, Durgamati was very demanding. Horror, conspiracy thriller, as a genre, is tough. The film actually has a lot more than seen in the trailer. My character is serving jail time for murder. There are a lot of things that happen to her. There are a lot of shades to Chanchal Chauhan, the IAS officer, in the part that I play. Every scene was very high drama, very emotional, very taxing as a performance but I can say very proudly that this has by far been one of the most exciting roles of a lifetime.

And you have said that such roles rarely come to female actor. Why is that so?

Yes, you rarely get such opportunities especially as a woman where you get a canvas that is so large, where you get to perform a role that you usually see your male counterparts doing. You usually see boys do action, drama, performance that is so macho and so full of heroism, that angry young man emotion… and that is what excited me the most about Durgamati. This is that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do a film which is high on content because it is a conspiracy thriller, and it is not something illogical, and it is massy at the same time. It was a very challenging but very satisfying experience.

How difficult was horror as a genre, where you are reacting to moving images, visual effects, different sounds, and not to any human?

It was very tough because as an actor, half of the time you are reacting to things that you can’t see, you can’t hear or feel. Then you don’t know whether you are overdoing or under doing things, and how it is going to eventually look because that is what happens when you are reacting to only the visual effects, and it is a genre that I have never done. Through the film, there is a lot of screaming and shouting. Everything is real, honest, and we wanted it to be pitch perfect. I had to put in a lot of energy with my body tense. I had to scream, cry, howl, it would be so exhausting. I have played out of my comfort zone but it was the conviction that I had on the material and the director and people who are attached to the film and that really kind of got me going. It is a challenge when you have to give a long monologue. There were times when I had to give eight- to nine-minute long takes. Every scene is crucial; every scene is high on emotion and drama. This film is like a part of my soul.

Durgamati is definitely more dramatic than the rest of your work. How did you approach the part?

The prep for this film was very different. Usually, I have a dialect. I have a certain body language for the kind of characters I do. Here, because I was playing an IAS officer, the upbringing is very similar to what I had gone through in my real life. So for me, the whole process was more about the mindset. She is serving jail time, and there is a chain of incidents that have happened to her that has completely changed her being.

Bhaagamathie struck gold at the box office. Not only in India but Anushka Shetty scored her biggest solo hit even in the US, where it collected over $1.1 million. Are you worried about the comparisons?

Comparisons would happen, it is very natural. South film Bhaagamathie has a huge following, and it is the film and performances that made a huge impact. I completely understand if the comparisons happen but I have already done a remake, and comparisons happened when I did Pati Patni Aur Woh, so it will definitely happen with this fil. But it is not something that I am scared of or I will shy away from. I understand that as fans, you get very passionate and rightly so. But I just hope that after Durgamati, all fans of Bhaagamathie  watch Durgamati, and hopefully, they enjoy it because what we have done in this film is our version of what we feel the script is, or what we feel as characters. It is a remake. The only newness in the film is through the performances, and we all have tried hard to do it differently. Anushka (Shetty) had given such an inspiring performance in Bhaagamathie, and it got her a lot of love, and I hope that my work brings the same amount of love and adulation.

You said you have watched the original but many times, directors do not want actors to watch the original work. Did you consciously try to be different from Anushka?

But I watched the film when I didn’t know that I would do Durgamati. I watched it because I had heard that it’s an interesting film, it is a genre-breaker. The only thought in my head was, ‘Oh my god, this is a role of a lifetime for any actor’, and when the remake was offered to me, I was like, ‘Wow, I must have really manifested this.’ When I watched the original, I was amazed and in awe of what Anushka had done. Her performance really excited me to take the film on.

You are one of the few actors who has always pushed boundaries. Is there always a struggle to find exciting work?

Definitely. If you look at my trajectory of work, I have always tried to present a new version of myself to the audience, and something that both people and I also enjoy. I don’t want to limit myself to one kind of cinema. I will get bored. I love challenges. I love pushing boundaries. I love trying to do newer things, and Durgamati was the perfect script for me. I got an opportunity to do something that I have never done on celluloid. The idea is always to create characters, to leave behind the legacy of characters that you will be remembered for generations to come.

When do you start shooting your next, Badhaai Do (opposite Rajkummar Rao)? 

Yes, I do. I am absolutely excited to start shooting for the film. Right now, I am concentrating and giving all my energy to Durgamati. It is a matter of few days that the film will be in public domain, and then I will start Badhaai Do

Would you not have preferred a theatrical release for Durgamati since it is a larger-than-life thriller mounted on such a huge scale? Will it have a desired impact when watched on a smaller screen?

Maybe a few months ago if you had asked me this question, I would have said, ‘Haan yaar, it is made for theatre, and it should have released in theatre,’ but my thinking has drastically changed over the last few months because during the pandemic, when we all were home, there was so much content that I watched on OTT platform, right from horror to action to thriller to romance. And I realised that by the end of it, it is the content that you are watching. Yes, some films should be out in theatres as well but everything that is happening right now, I couldn’t have asked for the better collaborator than the Amazon Prime Video because I am greedy, and I want my film to reach out to as many people as possible. When I get to know that my material is going to reach out to people in 200 countries, and in a time like this I have had two releases, I feel very lucky.

I love to keep doing different genres': Arshad Warsi on being offered a range of roles on streaming platforms

Arshad Warsi, most recently seen with Bhumi Pednekar in Durgamati, is slowly and steadily broadening the range of characters he is playing onscreen, thanks to streaming platforms

Arshad Warsi is not a big fan of horror genre but he agreed on Durgamati not just for its interesting and unpredictable script but because “the film didn’t have all those elements that I don’t like in horror. I don’t like ugly faces, blood, gore, somebody’s head blown off…The whole atmosphere, the house, the eeriness of spirit, I liked all that. I look for a good role and a good film, a film that I would like to see.”

“And then I got a serious role to play for a change,” adds Warsi. “Playing a politician, playing somebody way more mature than I am was great fun. My character Ishwar Prasad is pretty much like the original (Telugu film Bhaagamathie) but my body language and style of dialogue delivery is different.

Being someone who believes horror as a genre is difficult for an actor to perform, Warsi is all praises for Bhumi Pednekar. “I feel bad for Bhumi. That poor girl has gone through hell. She was dragged, pushed, thrown here and there. She went through a lot of torture. Fortunately I didn’t have to do all that. Bhumi is very hard-working, she puts her heart and soul into her work. She just doesn’t give up, she wants to give her best. I was quite impressed with her. I have also seen the original and I know how difficult it must have been to be part of it.”

Warsi may be more popular for his comedic turns in Munna Bhai, Golmaal and Dhamaal but he has been appreciated for his distinct characters in films like Hogi Pyaar Ki Jeet, Ishiqiya, and Jolly LLB. He even garnered critical acclaim for playing a police officer (SSP Ajay Kumar) in the crime drama Sehar (2005). The actor says stereotyping is not a problem but definitely a cycle he wants to break out of. “I have to keep doing different genres otherwise it is like being fed the same food everyday of your life. You will get fed up with it no matter how much you like it. I love doing comedies but at the same time I want to mix it with a couple of serious films here and there. I need movies like Durgamati, Jolly LLB, Sehar, and Ishqiya to keep me going. These movies don’t come to me very often.”

The versatile actor is slowly and steadily broadening the range of characters he is playing, thanks to streaming platforms. Warsi calls the OTT sphere a boon that has provided him with an opportunity to play more “serious” roles. Quite recently, he made his digital debut with Asur, a Voot Select crime thriller, in which he played Dhananjay Rajput, a forensic expert.

In cinema I am mostly getting comedy parts. I have been waiting for so many years and OTT has offered me various serious roles and I am doing most of them. Actors who haven’t got their chance to prove themselves in cinema have got a chance in OTT. I have been appreciated in Asur and I am going to start shooting for Asur 2 as soon as I finish Bachchan Pandey (Sajid Nadiadwala production’s film co-starring Akshay Kumar, Kriti Sanon and Jacqueline Fernandez). I will wrap Bachchan Pandey, which is completely nuts, mad comedy and then I will go to a very serious dramatic set for Asur,” says Warsi. “It is going to be great fun for people to watch Akshay and I together. We are completely insane, two mad people who enjoy doing comedy. The film is going to be bizarre and I love Akshay’s character in the film. We plan to start the shoot January next and will wrap up in March.”

Warsi has been busy with a lot of narrations during the lockdown but the story he is eagerly awaiting to hear is of Golmaal’s fifth instalment. “But I know that suddenly I will get a call from Rohit Shetty, he will summon me saying, ‘Come, we are listening to the script’. Sooner or later it will happen,” divulges Warsi, adding that the chances of Munna Bhai 3 happening appear bleak. “I don’t think Munna Bhai 3 will happen. I really doubt it. This is the strangest thing to happen. You have a producer and director who want to make the film, we have almost three scripts ready, we have actors who are all set. There are people waiting to watch it but still there is no film.”

Meanwhile, he isn’t complaining being holed up indoors with his family. “I have been enjoying myself. I am chilling, relaxing, hanging out with kids, and my dogs. My wife Maria (Goretti) has been cooking some great food and we are all putting on weight. I love being on the sets and I love being at home as well. I can’t say that I am missing work. I love going on bike rides, hanging out in mountainous regions and greener places. I live my life like that. I like not to work too much. With pandemic happening looks like we have started valuing life.

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.

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.

Paresh Rawal’s son Aditya on Anurag Kashyap’s Bamfaad: Glad to be part of the thrilling film

Veteran actor Paresh Rawal’s son Aditya is set to make his acting debut with ZEE5 original film Bamfaad. The movie, directed by debutant filmmaker Ranjan Chandel, will also mark the digital debut of Arjun Reddy star Shalini Pandey.

According to the official logline, the Hindi film, based in Allahabad, is set in a romantic volatile backdrop which will bring out an unusual yet raw and edgy love story on the screen.

Aditya, who is playing the male lead Nasir Jamal, said he is happy that he got the chance to enter the film industry with such a thrilling story.

“I am glad that I got the chance to be a part of such a thrilling film. Though the driving force of the film is the love story, it has many more layers to it. I want to make my own mark as an actor in the industry, and it feels great to begin my journey by playing Nasir Jamal, a character that fascinated me ever since I read the script,” the newcomer said in a statement.

I hope that people watch the film in huge numbers on Zee5, and I am eager to hear their feedback,” he added.

Shalini described her character Neelam as bold and strong but said it was her vulnerability that resonated with her strongly.

“As an artist, I look forward to projects that challenge me and this project really pushed me and I learned a lot while playing this part. Bamfaad has a phenomenal storyline and it is getting the perfect exposure with a massive video streaming platform like ZEE5,” she said.

Bamfaad is presented by Anurag Kashyap, who shared the film’s poster on his Instagram account.

“Jahaan dil lagaana nahin asaan wahan aashiqi hogi bamfaad! Introducing Aditya Rawal as Nasir Jamal and Shalini Pandey as Neelam, directed by Ranjan Chandel. Premieres 10th April on @zee5premium#ZEE5Original (sic),” Anurag wrote in the caption.

Tiger Shroff’s Baaghi 3 becomes highest opener of this year; here are records the action drama missed breaking

Tiger Shroff’s star power has driven Baaghi 3 to a promising start at the box office, despite odds stacked up against its business. Moreover, it has also been panned by critics.

The film made Rs 17.50 crore at the ticketing counters, becoming the biggest opener of 2020 yet. It has bested Ajay Devgn and Saif Ali Khan-starrer blockbuster Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior. Imtiaz Ali’s rejigged Love Aaj Kal has nabbed the position of the third-highest opening film with Rs 12.40 crore, followed by Street Dancer 3D (Rs 10.26 crore) and Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan (Rs 9.55 crore).

Tiger Shroff’s third-highest opening movie Baaghi 3 is now Shroff’s third-highest opening film ever, behind Yash Raj Films’ War (Rs 53.35 crore) and the franchise predecessor Baaghi 2 (Rs 25.10 crore). Since War also starred another mainstream actor, Hrithik Roshan, Baaghi 3 is Shroff’s second-highest solo film. The collections of his other films are Student of The Year 2 (Rs 12.06 crore), A Flying Jatt (Rs 7.10 crore), Munna Michael (Rs 6.65 crore), and Heropanti (Rs 6.63 crore). Here are the figures

The Ahmed Khan-directorial, starring Shraddha Kapoor as the female lead, also became the second-highest opener in the franchise, followed by Baaghi 2 (Rs 25.10 crore).

Potential roadblocks in the box office results

Trade analysts state the high-octane action drama fared well regardless of being released during the board examination month, the coronavirus scare, and the pre-Holi lull period. They added the film recorded higher footfalls at the single screens. However, the film was a decent performer in the multiplexes as well.

The revenge drama also features Riteish Deshmukh, Jackie Shroff, Vijay Varma, Jaideep Ahlawat, and Ankita Lokhande in pivotal roles.

Thappad box office collection: Taapsee Pannu starrer collects Rs 3 crores on first day

The Taapsee Pannu-starrer Thappad, directed by Anubhav Sinha, saw a low-key opening on Friday, its first day of release, in the domestic market despite excellent reviews and positive word of mouth. The film collected 3.07 crores on Day 1.

The makers of Thappad had systematically worked on creating a buzz about the socially relevant and well-crafted film over the past week or so, by screening it for select audiences in Delhi and Mumbai.

The viewers have loved how such a critical topic has gotten light and has been talked about in such a tenacious way. Weekend collections expected to be big due to strong word of mouth and positive media reviews.

Thappad marks the hattrick of hits given by Anubhav Sinha after Mulk and Article 15. The movie also marks the reunion of Taapsee Pannu and Anubahv after Mulk. The on-screen duo has surely created the right noise with such a gut-wrenching storyline.

Thappad is directed by Anubhav Sinha and stars Taapsee Pannu in the lead role. The movie hit the screens on 28th February 2020.

Thappad box office collection: Anubhav Sinha, Taapsee Pannu’s film makes Rs 3.07 cr on opening day

Anubhav Sinha’s social drama Thappad had a slow start at the box office on Friday but the business gained momentum in the latter part of the day. The film has raked in Rs 3.07 crore on its opening day.

According to trade analysts, the Taapsee Pannu-starrer witnessed a healthy footfall in the metros, especially in Delhi. The movie is expected to multiply its business at least two-fold during the opening weekend.

In an earlier interview with Firstpost, Taapsee Pannu had spoken about what it means for her to be a star:

“By definition, a ‘star’ means someone who can ensure a certain consistent opening at the box office. When I meet the media, they make me feel like a star. But it’s their job to observe cinema. My first day figures grounds me, and prove that in the mind of an audience member, I’m still not a star. These people have a lot of work to do. The day they take time out for my film, I think that is the day I’ll call myself a star. I’m waiting desperately for that day.”

Thappad seems to investigate the nitty-gritties of systemic oppression in even a “seemingly normal” marriage. Pannu essays the role of an educated, upper-middle-class woman who is forced to evaluate her relationship after being slapped by her husband, played by Pavail Gulati. Thappad chronicles her struggle as she files for a divorce petition, and ventures on in her pursuit of justice.

The film also stars Ratna Pathak Shah, Manav Kaul, Dia Mirza, Geetika Vidya Ohlyan, Kumud Mishra, Tanvi Azmi, and Ram Kapoor in pivotal roles.

 

 

Bhoot — Part One: The Haunted Ship’s box office collection stands at Rs 5.10 cr on opening day

Vicky Kaushal-starrer Bhoot — Part One: The Haunted Ship had a promising opening day at the box office. The film, which released alongside Ayushmann Khurrana and Jitendra Kumar’s Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan on 21 February, raked in Rs 5.10 crore.

Trade analysts say Bhoot’s performance benefited from the Mahashivratri holiday. However, they add that the film needs to display an increase in earnings during its weekend run, to accumulate a healthy total.

Bhoot is Vicky Kaushal’s third-highest opening film (excluding Sanju, where he played a supporting part), after Uri: The Surgical Strike (2019) and Raazi (2018).

The film is directed by Bhanu Pratap Singh and also stars Bhumi Pednekar and Ashutosh Rana in key roles. It has received mixed reviews from critics.

Bhoot – Part One: The Haunted Ship, is produced by Karan Johar, Hiroo Johar, Shashank Khaitan and Apoorva Mehta. Previously, Khaitan had said that their main intention with this film was to develop it into a series (which might also include horror comedies).

The production house also approached Ram Gopal Varma to buy the rights of the title ‘Bhoot'; he made the 2003 horror film of the same name starring Urmila Matondkar. Johar thanked Varma in a statement, mentioning that with Bhoot – Part One: The Haunted Ship, the makers at Dharma would “aspire to make sure the title is in the right hands of horror.

Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan movie review: Ayushmann Khurrana-starrer crosses a new frontier by Bollywood

From the pre-2000 decades when LGBT+ persons were almost always (almost, but not always) written purely as objects of either derision or comedy by Bollywood scriptwriters, to this week’s Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan (SMZS); from an earlier era when comparatively sensitive Hindi filmmakers packed their works with subliminal messaging about same-sex love, to the post-2000 era’s intermittent open declarations; from the days when the homosexual relationships in My Brother Nikhil (2005) and I Am (2011) were assumed to be of niche interest by producers, distributors and exhibitors, to the present day when glamorous mainstream stars have been cast as same-sex lovers in films bearing all the trappings of mainstream commercial Bollywood such as Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga (2019) and SMZS, it has been a long long time coming.

Bollywood in 2020 is far from being a jannat, orthodox masses still seem to need comedy as a package for a sensitive reality, and at a couple of places, Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan (Be Extra Wary of Marriage) does make apologetic noises to traditionalists. Still, from a time when audiences were conditioned to assume that songs like ‘Yeh dosti hum nahin todenge’ (We will not break this friendship) were about platonic male buddies, to today when SMZS is questioning those assumptions, Bollywood has come a long way, baby.

Ayushmann Khurrana stars in writer-director Hitesh Kewalya’s Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan as Kartik, a young man living in Delhi and in a committed relationship with Aman (Jitendra Kumar, listed for some reason as Jeetu in the closing credits here). The two are not out to their families. When they travel to Aman’s hometown, Allahabad, for a wedding, relatives go berserk on accidentally discovering that they are a couple in love. SMZS is devoted to how Kartik and Aman come to terms with this rejection and how the family comes to terms with their truth.

Kewalya’s film is an intelligently handled affair. It is hilarious, but it never mocks the two gay men at the centre of the story. Its laughter is reserved entirely for the prejudice they encounter and the straitjacketed existence of those around them who are determined to preserve their notion of “normal”, even if that “normal” has sucked the joy out of their own lives. SMZS’s sense of humour does occasionally slip up for other reasons (example: that really flat joke about Neil Nitin Mukesh), but at no point does its comedy turn homophobic.

With a word here and a touch there, through long conversations and fleeting references, Kewalya invites us into his questioning mind and shows a deeper understanding of human relations, gender, Hindu mythology and popular culture than most mainstream Hindi filmmakers. In 2014, when I was working on a feature about the history of LGBT+ portrayals in Bollywood, Ruth Vanita, co-editor with Salim Kidwai of the book Same-Sex Love In India, had told me that when she showed Hindi films featuring the old-style intense yaari-dosti between male leads to her students at the University of Montana, “all of them commented on the fact that the men are singing romantic songs to each other like ‘Diye jalte hai’ (from Namak Haram) and the songs from Dosti. If you played those songs without knowing that a man is singing to a man, it sounds like a man is singing to a woman…” (For more on that, click here.)

Like Vanita, Kewalya repeatedly asks us to step outside ourselves and consider the possibility of messaging, including coded messaging, featured in art works and mythological motifs we have long loved but seen with different eyes in the past.

Aman’s relatives, played by the phenomenal Neena Gupta, Gajraj Rao, Sunita Rajwar, Manu Rishi Chadha and Maanvi Gagroo, perfectly capture various shades of bias and acceptance to be found in families that are weighed down by social conditioning and ignorance, not hate.

In the midst of this carefully chosen cast, Bhumi Pednekar appears incongruous, not for any fault of hers but because of what her brief appearance in the narrative signifies. The lovely Ms Pednekar was the heroine of the 2017 Bollywood hit Shubh Mangal Saavdhan (with dialogues and screenplay by Kewalya) in which she had a solid role alongside Khurrana. Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan has no plot connection to the previous film, the title merely cashes in on that one’s recall value. It is telling then that the producers felt comfortable revisiting the name while dispensing with the leading lady, instead of establishing a new brand. As it happens, this is customary in the world of Bollywood franchises and sequels. Obviously Pednekar’s cameo here is a bow to the success of Shubh Mangal Saavdhan, but her role is written almost like a spare tyre lying unused, it is embarrassingly insignificant (a cameo need not be) and forgettable, and it is an unfortunate reminder of the continuing dispensability of women stars in this male-star-obsessed industry.

Repeat: Bollywood is far from being a jannat of progressiveness. It is up to viewers to decide whether to see the glass as half full or half empty. There is a third option: we could celebrate forward movement and yet draw attention to missteps and steps yet to be taken.

SMZS falters during a scene in which Aman’s mother laments her husband’s unwillingness to fight for her son, but simultaneously criticises her son for — so she says — expecting his family to evolve overnight. This monologue is designed as an expression of empathy, so it has to be placed on the record that marginalised social groups do not owe it to dominant groups to break them in gently. Individuals may CHOOSE to do so for strategic reasons or out of love and affection, but no one has a right to demand it.

Whether this scene is a mark of the writer’s own sub-conscious conservatism or a safety net spread out with commercial compulsions in mind is hard to tell. It is troubling though, as is the odd emphasis on how homosexual relations ought to be private during a TV news announcement about the Supreme Court’s ruling on Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that earlier criminalised same-sex relations. This moment in the film would perhaps pacify conservatives who seem to have this bizarre expectation that anyone who is not heterosexual wants nothing more than to have sex in public. Perhaps that is why it is there.

Hopefully these aberrations will find mention among the many conversations SMZS will spark off. That it will spark off conversations is a given. This is, after all, no ordinary film raising ordinary questions, as is evident early on when two characters dwell on how a father’s sole contribution to creating a child is his sperm. One of them adds that a child spends an entire lifetime repaying the debt of that single sperm. So you see, SMZS’s courage lies not just in its condemnation of homophobia, but also in its questioning of the very foundation of the Indian patriarchal family structure which rests on the belief that children owe parents a debt of gratitude for having made them us.