Monthly Archives: August 2018

Ayushmann Khurrana’s wife Tahira Kashyap to debut as director with slice-of-life drama

Ayushmann Khurrana’s wife Tahira Kashyap will soon debut as a director with a slice-of-life drama set in Mumbai. Kashyap has previously helmed a short film Toffee, produced by Khurrana and casting director Mukesh Chhabra, according to Hindustan Times.

Ayushmann Khurrana with Tahira Kashyap. Twitter @Ayushmann_Team

The yet-to-be-titled film will be produced by T Series’ Bhushan Kumar and Ellipsis Entertainment’s Tanuj Garg and Atul Kasbekar. This project will mark the third collaboration between the production houses, after Suresh Triveni’s debut with Tumhari Sulu starring Vidya Balan and more recently, Soumik Sen’s second feature Cheat India with Emraan Hashmi in the lead.

A statement from the producers read: “Tahira has worn several hats…. from being the programming head of a radio station in the North to a theatre writer-director, author, teacher of mass communication and journalism, and short film-maker. Her incredible stories are rooted in realism and heart. We are delighted to back her debut journey and look forward to making many more movies with her.”

The casting for the upcoming film is ongoing and will be announced soon. The makers expect it to go into production in early 2019.

Meanwhile, Khurrana will be seen next as a visually impaired pianist in Sriram Raghavan’s (of Badlapur fame) neo-noir thriller Andhadhun. The film also stars Radhika Apte and Tabu in pivotal roles.

Manto trailer: Nawazuddin Siddiqui portrays the Urdu poet’s tribulations in a post-independent India

Nandita Das’ upcoming directorial Manto, which features Nawazuddin Siddiqui in the titular role, launched its trailer on Independence Day, 15 August. The narrative is clear from the well-shot video; an impassioned poet who fights to express what he feels, without fear.

The opening dialogue which Siddiqui’s Manto delivers in his patent sombre style, reverberates throughout the video, “Mein toh apni kahaniyon ko ek aina samajhta hun jisme samaaj apne aap ko dekh sakey (I consider my stories to be the mirror in which society sees itself).” He repeatedly asks why speaking up and saying the truth is wrong or something that ought to be curbed.

Nawazuddin Siddiqui essyas the role of in Nandita Das' biopic on the Urdu poet.

The narrative unfolds as Manto is forced to shift to Lahore. Kartik Vijay captures post-independent India and Lahore in subtle sepia which perfectly blends with the crises of that time.

Siddiqui oscillates from the mind of a creative genius to a vulnerable man torn by the country falling apart while intolerance is on a continuous rise.

Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi movie review: Sonakshi Sinha leads charge with gusto in a pleasantly silly comedy

Happy Bhag Jayegi was the sleeper hit of 2016, a comedy revolving around an Amritsari bride who runs away from her wedding to marry the man she loves, but lands up in the home of a stranger – a Pakistani politician – by mistake. Diana Penty was luminous as the eponymous leading lady of that film, which, despite its insubstantial plot and flagging second half, managed to be funny all the same. She reprises her role in a cameo in Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi even as it diverts its gaze to another Punjabi girl called Harpreet aka Happy, this one played by Sonakshi Sinha.

Writer-director Mudassar Aziz appears to have taken the feedback on his previous venture to heart. Happy Part 2 not only remains largely amusing if you can excuse a few waning patches here and there, the writing of its characters and the plot also have more substance than Part 1. Of course it is a parade of non-stop nonsense, but how does it hurt to get a fit of the giggles in a film that yet does not insult your intelligence and heads off in directions that Bollywood rarely bothers with, especially in comedy?

Diana Penty and Sonakshi Sinha in a still from Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi. YouTube

For a start, it is nice to once again meet a heroine not helplessly hanging around waiting for a man, any man, to bachao (save) her when she is trapped in trying circumstances. This Happy is a combustible woman and like that Happy takes matters into her own hands when the going gets tough.

There’s more where she came from. How often do we get to see a Hindi film featuring a turbanned Sikh as a major character without the screenplay being packed with Bhangra and cries of “balle balle”, without the guy in question being loud and boisterous, and sans sermons about Sikh valour or traditions of service to others? Representation should not be about pedestalising minority communities, but about acknowledging their existence in big and small ways without feeling compelled to create a shindig around an individual’s religious or ethnic identity.

So yeah, we have Khushwant Singh Gill (played by the very likeable Jassie Gill) who is recruited to Happy’s team in a foreign country, without so much as a balle balle or a lecture about Sikhism. Then there is the Lahori cop Usman Afridi (Piyush Mishra) and the Amritsari thug-politician Daman Singh Bagga (Jimmy Sheirgill), carryovers from Happy Bhag Jayegi, still sparring over Urdu and Pakistan in a still engaging and still inoffensive fashion. Yeah, a Pakistani character who is not belittled or demonised in this era of crude, in-your-face nationalism that India is passing through and Bollywood is pandering to. Imagine that.

The trickiest part of Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi is that it is set in China, which would have been an excuse to make lazy racist jokes in most Bollywood films, but not here. Aziz walks a fine line – a clever line – by allowing his characters to be racist as they would be in real life, while using their prejudice to throw a spotlight on the “all Chinese look alike” attitude of the average insular Indian who resorts to the dismissive umbrella labels “Cheeni” and “chinky” for people of the entire geographical region extending from our own north-eastern states all the way to Japan. Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi’s humour incorporates consequences that the primary characters suffer for their insularity and ignorance. This is done mainly through the medium of the gangster Chang played by Jason Tham.

None of this is spelt out in black and white, nor is the normalisation of a gay romance in a brief passage that eschews Dostana-style jokes completely. In a film where you least expect it, we are thus reminded without anyone overtly saying so, that homosexuals, cross dressers, Pakistanis, the Chinese, Punjabis and women – groups that are usually stereotyped in Hindi cinema – are all just regular people.

Jassie Gill, Sonakshi Sinha and Jimmy Shiergill in a still from Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi

 

Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi could still have done with more work on its writing and direction – the songs (barring the remix of the appropriately chosen classic, ‘Mera Naam Chin Chin Chu’) are ordinary and feel superfluous, there are places in the narrative where the energy dips (which is inexcusable in a comedy), the manner in which a fellow called Fa in Shanghai is introduced seems to suggest that he will be a significant player among Happy’s allies but then he inexplicably disappears for most of the film, and the sidelining of Diana Penty’s Happy feels like such an opportunity lost considering the spark this underrated, under-utilised actor showed in the first Happy.

Truth be told, I was really looking forward to more scenes with Sinha and Penty together, because though Sinha is the bigger star, Penty has the charisma to match. Where she does get screen space in Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi, Penty gives us evidence of her innate verve, which adds to the disappointment on this front.

Sinha’s filmography so far has been dominated by crass big-banner ventures often trivialising sexual harassment and starring major male stars, in which she played the hero’s lover who could have been played by any other marginal female star. She has underlined her ability to be more than just a vapid sidelight and in fact to carry a story on her shoulders in films such as Lootera, Noor and Ittefaq. Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi gives her the chance to tap her comic timing and she does so with gusto, leading the charge in an ensemble cast of gifted actors. Piyush Mishra is as hilarious as he was last time. Sheirgill gets more opportunities here to mine his flair for comedy and is good too. And Gill is, without question, hero material.

Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi is not without flaws, but they are overshadowed by the absence of references to farts, poop and animal backsides, homophobia, misogyny and other ugly biases that have repeatedly reared their heads in the kind of comedies Sinha herself has been a part of over the years. Pleasant and engaging is an option in this genre – thank you, Mr Aziz, for knowing that.

Note: This is not a Hindi film. The dialogues are a mix of Punjabi, Hindi, Urdu and a spot of Mandarin (I think), with Punjabi dominating the conversations but not so much that a non-Hindi speaker would be lost.

After Soorma’s success, Chitrangada Singh to reportedly produce biopic on disabled South Indian swimmer

Mumbai: Chitrangada Singh, who turned producer with Soorma, is all set to back yet another inspiring story of a sports personality.

Through Soorma, she brought the heartwarming story of hockey player and former captain of the Indian national team, Sandeep Singh, who was accidentally hit by a gun shot in a train in 2006, on the big screen.

Chitrangada Singh. Image via Instagram

According to sources, Chitrangada, 41, is exploring a film based on the life of a disabled swimmer.

“She is intrigued by the a story of disabled sports lady who has done so much for the country. She is a swimmer who hails from the South. We are in talks. Biopics do take time as you have to take permission and all” a source close to the development told PTI.

Talking about the trend of biopics, Chitrangada had earlier told PTI, “I am totally in favour of biopics. True stories must be told to the people. If you tell it well, it does work.”

She was last seen in Sanjay Dutt starrer Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster 3.

Her next release is Bazaar that features Saif Ali Khan in the lead. The film, directed by Gaurav Chawla, is about the world of stock markets and trading and Saif plays a street smart Gujarati businessman.

Stree director Amar Kaushik says he’s made a ‘desi’ horror film with conviction: I find ghost stories fascinating

Amar Kaushik, the debutant director of Rajkummar Rao-Shraddha Kapoor’s Stree was very clear that he wanted to start his career with a rare genre – horror comedy. There are many directors who helm rom-coms or action-thrillers, which he considers to be safe. But that isn’t the only reason why Kaushik chose to direct a horror comedy. It’s also because he’s always found ghost stories intriguing and fascinating.

“I vividly remember, many years ago I was told about this challenge: whoever was able to watch Bees Saal Baad (Waheeda Rehman-Biswajeet’s horror film from 1962) alone in a theatre will get a reward,” recalls Kaushik.

Then, a short visit to a “ghost” town called Chanderi further ignited his passion. “I grew up in Kanpur (Uttar Pradesh). When I was in graduation first year, I was passing by this small town Chanderi. It was around 10 pm and I checked-in into a hotel. It was dark and nobody was seen around outside the hotel. I was terrified. Something about the place stayed with me,” says the director.

“Later,” he continues, “when we started researching shooting locations for Stree, I felt it should be somewhere in Central India. I thought of Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh and then I suddenly remembered my Chanderi experience. Once I went there for my recce, I was convinced about the location. It was as if every scene was tailor made for the film and I insisted on shooting in the most spooky locations. I deliberately chose those locations, the ones we were warned from frequenting by the local people. I wanted the actors to get really scared during the shoot. I deliberately shot at midnight. That has really worked,” says Kaushik, who claims to have made a “desi” horror film with conviction.

Also read: Rajkummar Rao on Stree co-star Shraddha Kapoor: She was supposed to do my debut film Kai Po Che

“We usually read stories, or watch movies that show an old, isolated, dilapidated haunted house situated in the mountains, or in some secluded spot. But the ghost in my film is very basic. We have used little bit of VFX but otherwise all the action scenes are real. I didn’t want too much of technology. Also, sound in a thriller or horror is quite important but music need not be very loud. Silence can also be effective,” he adds.

Starting his career as an assistant director, Kaushik was a part of the Rajiv Khandelwal-starrer Aamir (2008). Working with accomplished directors in the industry, he was also a part of Sorry Bhai (2008), I Am (2010), No One Killed Jessica (2011), Go Goa Gone (2013), Fukrey (2013), Ghanchakkar (2013), and Beyond the Clouds (2017). After years of playing second fiddle, he finally made his directorial debut with a short film Aaba (2017), which was the only award winning Indian short film at Berlin International Film Festival, in 2017.

Kaushik considers himself to be lucky to cast Rajkummar and Shraddha Kapoor for his first feature. “Raj and I would often meet during film festivals and when I had to choose an actor for the character Vicky (in Stree) it had to be Raj. When I told him that he was playing a tailor’s part, his immediate reaction was, ‘Okay, send a sewing machine to my house, I will learn tailoring’. For diction, he just needed one month and a teacher. Raj makes your work easy,” says Kaushik, further adding, “I wanted a girl with that small town innocence and Shraddha fitted the brief. The fact is, established actors are realising that new directors are coming up with fresh ideas. There is no pressure on us about our previous or next film. We concentrate on just one project, the one that is in front of us.”

Also read: Shraddha Kapoor on Stree co-stars Rajkummar Rao, Pankaj Tripathi: ‘Huge fan of their work’

The film’s promotions attracted a lot of attention particularly because of its unique teaser and posters that said: ‘Mard ko dard hoga…Stree aa rahi hai’.

“‘Mard ko dard hoga’ is not just the tag line. In the movie we talk everything related to that. In small towns, girls are told to come home early in the evening. We have changed all of that by saying – ‘Boys, don’t leave the house late night, strees (women) are roaming around, they will take you with them’. In the film, we tell boys to come out wearing a saree and bangles to stay safe,” he explains.