Monthly Archives: December 2019

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.

Ashutosh Gowariker on choosing historical war film Panipat as his next directorial: Tragic stories also need to be told

Having made two films dealing with eras from modern and medieval history, Ashutosh Gowariker is back with yet another visual spectacle on ancient history – Panipat- The Great Betrayal, recreating one of the most epic battles of the 18th century.

Known as one of the most revered filmmakers ever since he made the ultimate coloniser versus colonised saga Lagaan (2001), that earned itself a nomination at the Academy Awards, followed by the cult classic Swades, and the mesmerising Jodhaa Akbar, Gowariker has not stopped at taking risks even after the debacle of his last two period films, Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey and Mohenjo Daro.

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Just a few days before the unveiling of his next period extravaganza, the maverick director sits down to chat on what made him choose the ‘tragic battle story’, comparisons drawn with Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Bajirao Mastani, choosing Arjun Kapoor and Kriti Sanon, where he erred with Mohenjo Daro, and memories from Swades as the film completes 15 years. Excerpts from the chat below.

What made you go for this story?

It is a very intriguing and interesting storyline which if not told… because the battle was lost, and, of course, all of us like victories. But tragedies also need to be told otherwise how do you explain so many tragic love stories being successful? This is a tragic battle story. This army consisted of Hindus, Muslims, Marathas, farmers… it was just a blend and unification of a different kind. I found that very interesting.

We have read about the Battle of Panipat in our history lessons but how do you made it look contemporary in modern times so that you generate interest and draw people to theatres?

This is the very first question I asked myself when I was choosing the theme that I wanted to work on, in which it can be a modern film or it can be a contemporary film. But if it is a historical then selecting that right one becomes most time consuming. Then the theme becomes very important. What is the theme that can today connect to the audience? We have reduced from five-day cricket test matches to one day international, to Twenty20. Next, we will just have umpires coming and doing toss, and that’s it (laughs). When I go to see a film in theatre, every minute, there are at least 10 people checking their mobile phone. In this situation, how do you tell a screenplay which is fast moving, which is interesting all the time, has action, music. This was constantly playing on my mind.

Similarities have been drawn not just between Arjun’s Sadashivrao Bhau and Ranveer’s Bajirao, Sanjay Dutt’s Abdali and Ranveer’s Khilji but also with your own work, Jodha Akbar. What is new in your latest work?

That newness is coming out of the theme, or the script, or the period that I am choosing. If I made Jodha Akbar I know I will not make anything on Jehangir or Shahjahan because the Mughal period aspect is done. When I am talking about British Raj, if I made Lagaan, I am not interested anymore on anything after 1857. So making those choices is very important. Comparisons will always happen, and if you are compared with yourself, that’s great. But if you are compared to previous big hit films that is a natural thing, and you have to always welcome that. If you are doing a battle film, it will be compared to the previous battle film. Now I am doing Peshwa period, one compares it to Bajirao Mastani. But the fact is that they are Bajirao’s kids. It is the next generation after 20 years. So the clothes, the house Shaniwarwada has to be the same. But the story is what really defines, and that is what is different in Panipat.

When I cast Hrithik (Roshan) in Jodhaa Akbar, his comparison happened with Prithviraj Kapoor, who was seen 40 years ago in Mughal-E-Azam. There is absolutely no connect. It was set apart by four generations but questions were raised: ‘Is Hrithik like Prithviraj Kapoor?’ I don’t think much about all that. The characters that I have selected here, Sadashivrao Bhau Peshwa, he was very stubborn, someone large like a warrior, and only Arjun (Kapoor) would have fitted in that character. He looks fresh as he hasn’t been seen as a warrior. Kriti (Sanon) is a superb actress. She plays a Maharastrian, and she hasn’t done a historical either. Sanjay has gone to some other level of persona, and even he hasn’t done any historical. So all three coming together brings a lot of freshness, and I wanted to capture that. I wasn’t thinking that Sanjay has earlier played Kancha Cheena in Agneepath, and whether I should cast him as a villain or not.

You said there was certain freshness in the actors you cast. But how did you work upon them? What did they have to unlearn to play the parts?

First of all, I watched all their films. I studied them and tried to understand what qualities they have in which they excel. I wanted to use those qualities that got them stardom and popularity. Then what do I have in mind about Sadashiv? I wanted to blend that with the qualities that have made them stars. Kriti has a certain contemporary quality in her. I am creating Parvatibai, my regal, royal character but it also has Kriti’s chatpata quality. Sanjay also has his own persona but I have made his behaviour emperor-like. So it is a blend. I have taken star persona and infused with the character, and somewhere, they start blending. We did a lot of readings to arrive on that.

What makes you create these worlds which nobody has seen but only read in history books? And how difficult it is?

Whenever I complete my historical films, I have this thought about my next film that it will only have two characters, it will be one night story, shot in just one room. We will shoot in Switzerland, and there won’t be any stress, and I will wrap it in 18 days flat (laughs). Usually, I shoot for about 100 to 120 days. When I start thinking what should I do next, I don’t think about doing a historical again. It is always the theme that I try to look for, what is inspiring me, and that theme turns out to be a historical.

After Jodha Akbar, I made What’s Your Raashee, and then I made television series, Everest, and of course, Swades. So those are contemporary cinema. I got excited to make these in between. But the Panipat story is quite authentic on a different level. My treatment is much more authentic. Like what happened between Jodha and Akbar in their palace, nobody knows. I could take liberties there but for Panipat, I had to keep in mind the realistic and authentic portrayal of what all things happened in their entire journey. It becomes a task, and in the language of cookery, if you have to make dal, bhindi, rice, you will do it in a jiffy. But if you are told to make pasta or puran poli, there needs to be a preparation from the previous night. But yes, it is very difficult to make period dramas, and hence, I make one film in three years. It’s like building an army.

When people accuse you of distorting facts after you have worked so hard on your project, how do you deal with it?

Every 10 to 15 years, a new historian comes, and they are also accused. There are doubts about their writings, or their approach, and point of view. I am not a historian. Mine is cinematic history. I am a filmmaker who is trying to tell a chapter of history on screen. It is like doing an audio-visual of what is there in the books. Every history book has 400 to 500 pages but all can’t be adapted on screen, so one has to edit. Now what chapters do I keep, and what do I omit? Questions are raised over both, what is edited out, and what is retained. It is a never-ending thing so I am prepared to face whatever questions or objections are raised. I have answers to all the questions, and I don’t feel bad about giving explanations because history belongs to everyone.

What perception or imagination people had about Mohenjo Daro and Harappa civilization since their childhood, perhaps my film didn’t fulfill that, and hence the film didn’t work. Everyone felt that the film was good but they had not imagined it in that way. Why do Jodhaa Akbar and Lagaan appeal to us? That’s because these films match our imagination.

You recently said that you want to make a film on Gautam Buddha, on how Prince Siddhartha became Gautam Buddha. Is there any progress on that?

Actually I was supposed to make this film in 2010 but I didn’t get the right casting. I still haven’t decided what I want to do next.

You have collaborated with AR Rahman on four films – LagaanSwadesJodhaa Akbar, and Mohenjo Daro. How come you decided to go for Ajay-Atul for Panipat?

Rahman is great, and if he had to compose for Panipat, he would have extensively researched and studied the Marathi milieu, and music required for it. But this time, I needed the Marathi-ness, which was very natural, and hence, I went to Ajay-Atul. I have never got the chance to work with them, and I have been a great admirer of all their work for past 10 years. Whatever they have created is absolutely stunning and original compositions. But I first spoke to Rahman, and told him that I have called you for my next film but can you allow me to have another composer this time. He asked that why did I need his permission, and I told him it was because of our long association. He told me to go ahead but he wanted to know who was the composer (laughs). Rahman is also a great admirer of Ajay-Atul. Javed Akhtar has written the lyrics, and it has been such an enriching experience for me.

Your film Swades completes 15 years this year (17 December). What memories do you have from the film?

The sadness, that I felt at the release of Swades obviously because the film wasn’t accepted by the audience, has been covered up in the last 15 years because the kind of love the film has got over the years. It has been tremendous. Of course, film working at the box office is important because you recover the cost but at that time, we didn’t even get the pat on the back. But the kind of appreciation that I have been getting over the years, I am very indebted to the audience for that. I wish we could have re-released the film now.