Fenil and Bollywood

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WHO AM I? Shah Rukh Khan as Rizwan Khan


Shah Rukh Khan speaks exclusively to BT about his role in the biggest film of his career

MARK MANUEL Times News Network (BOMBAY TIMES; December 29, 2009)

Shah Rukh Khan, the pains and failures of 2009 behind him if not entirely forgotten, is looking forward to the New Year because it brings with it the imminent release and promise of the biggest film of his career (his words, not mine) – Karan Johar’s My Name Is Khan. He’s had a bad year starting with the shoulder injury and surgery, then the uninspiring box-office returns for Billu – his only release in 2009, and finally the humiliating decimation of his IPL team in South Africa. But, as the poet T. S. Eliot famously wrote, “For last year’s words belong to last year’s language and next year’s words await another voice”… and SRK, suspect, is secretly hoping that the next voice cinema audiences will listen to is going to be his in 2010. Or rather Rizwan Khan’s, the autistic character he plays in My Name Is Khan, which is slated for a grand bi-lingual worldwide release in February. Actually, the character in this ambitious film suffers from asperger’s syndrome, an autistic disorder whose main symptom is a difficulty in social interaction. It is a role that Shah Rukh, who is notoriously among Bollywood’s least social people, must have slipped into with consummate ease. Over a glass of tea in his vanity van one night late at Mehboob Studios, I asked him whether audiences were ready for another challenged hero after Bachchan with progeria in Paa and, before that, Aamir with dyslexia in Taare Zameen Par. Shah Rukh replied, “Audiences understand what you tell them. People like a good story. And this is a joyous film with a new romantic thought, the journey of an ordinary man. It is a love story with an epic feel. All love stories have obstacles, but the obstacle in My Name Is Khan is real, it happens in everyday life. For me, the film was an opportunity to play a challenged character… bahut maaza aaya!” What he was saying was contrary to public belief that the film is based on terrorism. Shah Rukh scowled. “I don’t know where you got that idea,” he said in exasperation, “yes, it is set in the aftermath of 9/11, and it is heroic without the fighting and screaming, but My Name Is Khan is a heartening and even funny film… even though we didn’t try to make a funny film! I am excited about it as I am about all my films. But this one I’m very proud of. Mainly because I’ve co-produced it with Karan. Also because Kajol and I are acting together after eight years.” He’s not seen a trial of the film as yet to voice an opinion on how well it will do at the box-office. That Shah Rukh never does. Not for his own films nor anybody else’s. In fact, he said he’s hardly seen any of his films completely. “Trials mean analysis,” he explained, “but trial reactions are different from theatre reactions. I don’t make a film for myself, I make it for the story. Besides, I’m shy of myself on screen, I’m not vain, it’s just that I’m not fond of my face or physique. Maybe that’s why I’m an actor – so that I can play someone else.”
Perhaps, he was still in character for the film. Or, maybe, interacting with people is as much a problem for Shah Rukh Khan in real life as it is for Rizwan Khan in reel. “I’m not antisocial,” he protested, “I’m a quiet person, strangely reclusive, I’m not as confident as you think I am. I have issues. I’m thankful to Allah… to be not so gifted and have all this. It may sound pompous, but I’m great enough to be humble, I’m very happy when people say ‘SRK’s the best’… there is a sense of achievement, I’m happy by what I’ve done, but humble enough to know it’s not because of me. Yet put me on stage, say, at Salt Lake Stadium before a million people and I will comfortably entertain you for an hour. As long as I’m an entertainer, I have no problems. It’s when I’m Shah Rukh Khan that the problems arise. I’m a fun guy… yet my kids enjoy their mother’s company more.”

ROCKET SINGH GOES THE ‘THE HANGOVER’ WAY!

I always believe that promotion is of utmost importance for a film to succeed. It helps to create hype and arouse curiosity which in turn helps the film get a good opening. But some producers don’t stress too much on promotion, presumably for two reasons:

-> The producer doesn’t have enough money to publicize his product. Or maybe, the budget of the film went so high that the producer couldn’t afford to spend additional 2-3 crores on promotion

-> The producer is supremely confident of his product. He is confident that he has come up with a winner and come what may, it will attract audiences and do a great job commercially.

The second reason seems applicable as to why Rocket Singh-Salesman Of The Year, releasing tomorrow, isn’t promoted much.  Obviously, YRF aren’t short on funds so first reason can be ruled out. And going by Ranbir Kapoor’s confident declaration that Rocket Singh is his best film till date, it seems that the film will turn out to be a great entertainer. In his words, “I can proudly say that Rocket Singh… is not just my greatest film till date but also one of the greatest films made in the recent times. Believe me, it belongs to a different world altogether”.

Maybe, Ranbir did this as a personal publicity campaign on his part; after all, actors always do this, isn’t it? But it’s a fact that whenever the Chopras adopt a negligible promotional strategy for their film, then that film works wonders. ‘Chak De! India’ was also badly promoted and many trade pundits had predicted that it’ll fail. It even took an average opening. But the response was extremely positive and from the 2nd day, the film began attracting audiences in large numbers. It later turned out to be one of the biggest blockbusters of that year, 2007. Similarly, last year, Chopras went slow in promoting Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi which was very successful at the BO.

Another classic example is the case of The Hangover. How many of were aware of this film or had planned to see it when it released? The film had no famous stars and it also wasn’t promoted well across the world. In India, it released with a Hindi biggie, New York and Hollywood biggie, Terminator Salvation. The first day collections were pathetic. But the critics’ positive response and equally satisfying response of junta compelled moviegoers to catch this flick. In big cities, it ran for as many as 6-7 weeks (a rarity for Hollywood films) and was running with 70%+ occupancy even in weekdays!

So the point is-promotion is most vital but when your product is top-class and you are confident about its success, it’s okay to not promote the product much. Even ‘A Wednesday!’ and Mumbai Meri Jaan weren’t marketed well but later turned out to be two of the most loved films of 2008.

Coming back to Rocket Singh, the other reason why its promotion is low is because of Ranbir Kapoor’s presence in the film. He has received immense appreciation from his last 2 films, Wake Up Sid and Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani and is already on his way to become superstar. So maybe, YRF is of the opinion that Ranbir’s presence is now enough to get people to theatres. Also the title of the film, title song and the fact that it’s directed by Shimit Amin (director of Chak De and Ab Tak Chappan) has created some curiosity. If the film really turns out to be exciting as Ranbir has said, then he would be immediately crowned as the superstar for sure! Let’s hope for the best!
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CELINA’S AWARD WINNING FLICK NOT RELEASING IN INDIA

Many moviegoers and even those in industry were shocked to hear that Celina Jaitly got the Best Female Actor award for her New Zealand flick Love Has No Language at the Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF)! A popular Bollywood screenwriter’s status on Facebook read, “Celina has won the Best Actor Award at CIFF. I’m trying to find out whether Stevie Wonder, Ravindra Jain and Nasser Khan (of Shadow fame) were the judges”! Such reactions were expected as Celina was never considered as an ‘actor’ anytime by majority. So this news came as 440 volt ka jakta!

Talking about the film, it has released in several countries but it still hasn’t got a release here in India and now Celina has confessed that the film won’t see a theatrical release here-it would come directly on DVDs. It pains to see inferior treatment being meted out to India so many times. The lead actress in the film is from India, she has even bagged a prestigious award and yet the film won’t release here-doesn’t sound fair, does it? Even Slumdog Millionaire got a very late release in India and it didn’t do a great job as people had already seen the film by downloading from the internet. Somewhere, this should stop!

CHECK OUT THE PROMO OF LOVE HAS NO LANGUAGE HERE

(Ranbir and Celina’s quotes taken from Bollywood Hungama.com)

This post first appeared on MouthShut.com: http://www.mouthshut.com/diary/chidprllp/Fenils-Bollywood-Talk78

I don’t know what the trade pundits have to say about Karan Johar’s Kurbaan, but Saif Ali Khan, whose first film this is opposite Kareena

Saif Ali Khan

Saif Ali Khan More Pics

Kapoor, is very confident about the November 20 release.

MARK MANUEL (Bombay Times; November 5, 2009)

“I’ve a good feeling about it,” he told me. We were talking on the phone because he’s here, there and everywhere promoting the film, and just not available in Mumbai.

Tuesday he was in Delhi, yesterday London, next Dubai. “There’s more to life than shooting,” he sighed. In the background, I could hear Kareena prompting his replies. They’re not doing all the promotions together, because she’s busy making Stepmom with Karan at the same time, and Saif… well, after this he swore he’s taking a month off in December to “train and get into serious shape” before they start shooting for his home production Agent Vinod. His idea of training is not the same as Aamir’s or, say, Salman’s.
“I won’t get a funda trainer… but just kill myself in the gym. It’ll be a combo of yoga and weights. You don’t need a NASA scientist to get a great body,” he chortled.

He’s worked with Karan before in Kal Ho Na Ho, but that time, the filmmaker was completely involved in every aspect of the film. This time, Karan has left it to director Rensil D’Silva. “So the film’s got its own flavour,” explained Saif, “Rensil has brought his ad world sensibilities to Kurbaan, and this is not a filmi kind of movie… it’s a love story and thriller with a socio-politically relevant background. When I step back and see the promos, the posters, I’m like – wow!” Which means he’s confident about what it will do at the box-office. “But there’s also the risk of an off-screen couple being boring on-screen,” he admitted.

“Which means Bebo and I have to choose our roles carefully. We’ve got to present an exciting avatar on-screen… more than the usual pairing. And that we have done in this film. I was equally confident about Love Aaj Kal (his last film and first home production)… but there were moments of panic as well then. In this business, it’s tough to be consistent about your emotions. I can’t be like a rock. I go through ambivalence.”

There’s a lot riding for Kareena, as well, in Kurbaan… especially since her last film Main Aur Mrs Khanna, and Kambakht Ishq before that, didn’t exactly do much for her at the box-office. Saif, aware that she is listening to our conversation, defended his co-star and love. “I preferred her in Jab We Met,” he said cleverly.

“And I thought she looked stunning in Kambakht Ishq. It was a clever attempt at a commercial potboiler. Akshay was very funny. But people discuss Kambakth Ishq as if it was of great national importance. It was a fun film. Main Aur Mrs Khanna… I’m not sure, I saw a rough print, I don’t watch too many films, I’m not an authority… it was a sweet film, I don’t know what to say, baba! I think she chooses all kinds of films. She covers the entire spectrum of Hindi cinema in her choices… not all of them for the best! She’s done Kambakht Ishq and Main Aur Mrs Khanna this year, now she’s got Kurbaan, then 3 Idiots, and she’s working on Stepmom… all different. I think she works more for the audience than herself!”

They’ve worked together in Tashan earlier. The film, well, was disastrous… but it brought them close. Was Kareena different as an actress then, I asked. Saif hummed and hawed, then safely replied, “The same… she’s focused and a sensitive artiste, very concentrated. Also great fun to work with. I had just a couple of scenes with her in Tashan. So Kurbaan is really my first experience with her. There are few people I’ve met who are more passionate about their work. And I’m impressed with that. It’s not just about giving your shot… her knowledge of cinema is great and all round, and she has a deep interest, which I find very cool.”

Naturally, there must have been joys and pains in working with her. I pictured him giving her a backward glance then saying, “No pains, being together, creating something special, watching each other at work… those were the joys. I normally don’t have to worry about my co-star’s moods because I’ve not been so deeply involved with a co-star. But here we were connected. So I had to take time… to get comfortable… to find my own space… to figure out what to do between shots, how to unwind, I mean… we didn’t have to be together all the time. It’s a bit like working with your mom… she knows you so well, there’s no scope of impressing her!

” So, who’s your favourite actress, I asked Saif Ali Khan, the artful dodger. “Suchitra Sen, Zeenat Aman, Madhubala…” he began. Then, “Oh, you mean who I’ve worked with… I don’t know what to say… I’ve not worked with too many… but Rani’s a great co-star and Kareena’s fab… but my favourite actress, hmmm…” And Kareena Kapoor replied for him from the background, “Monica Bedi!”

NOTHING BUT THE BEST WILL DO: Ajay Devgn, used to intense action roles, returns to the comedy genre tomorrow with his new film
…Ajay Devgn is confident of his Diwali release All the Best

MARK MANUEL Times News Network (BOMBAY TIMES; October 15, 2009)

You would have thought, with two other big budget, multi-star films releasing tomorrow alongside his All the Best, Fun Begins…, producer-actor Ajay Devgn might be in an excitable state of nerves. Far from it! On Monday evening, when I met him at home over coffee, Ajay was uber cool. Also, sleepy. That’s because it was 8 pm and in the Devgn bungalow at JVPD, it’s lights out at 9. “My daughter Nysa won’t sleep without me,” said Ajay explaining the early nights. “But, yes, I saw the film again yesterday with family and friends who are absolutely honest in their criticism. And, from seven to 65, they were all laughing nonstop! My mother, who normally worries about my releases, was relaxed. And I’ve never seen my father laughing so much. So I’m quite confident the film will work.”

He’s busy dubbing for London Dreams with Salman Khan. And shooting with Katrina Kaif and Ranbir Kapoor for Rajniti. But it’s All the Best that Ajay is living right now. And happily for the producer in him, the book on this
Devgn Films release is that it is a clean comedy that families can enjoy for Diwali, there are no double meaning dialogues at the cost of humour, the situations in the script are hilarious, the performances by Sanjay Dutt, Bipasha Basu, Fardeen Khan and, well, Ajay himself are funny and riotous. “The film takes ten minutes to sink in,” Ajay revealed, “but from then on until the climax, you’ll laugh. There is an emotional moment in between. It’s needed. You take a rest in between laughing!” I understand the production of the film in Goa and Hyderabad was one big party. “We had a blast,” Ajay agreed, “this is a good team, and for 80 to 90 per cent of the film, all the characters are in every scene. Well, five are definitely there… and there are seven or eight characters. The climax has 20! All complement each other. When you are comfortable with your co-stars, when the entire cast understands that the film is the most important thing, then there is no stress. It’s team work. You can see that in All the Best. There’s great rapport between Sanju and me, Bips and I always get along well, Fardeen — I just got to know, but what a great guy he is, and Mugdha took just a day to get comfortable.”

Ajay is handsome in his praise for his director, Rohit Shetty, who apparently knows the pulse of comedies. “A comedy improvises,” said Ajay, “but how much works, when do you stop stretching it? Rohit has mastered the knack of entertaining audiences. He stopped
well within the limit.”
And he’s also generous in his acknowledgement of Sanjay Dutt’s performance: “His best — after Munnabhai, what timing, but Sanju was behaving like a producer… he was more worried about the film than me!” His own performance, Ajay is naturally reluctant to discuss. From action and intense roles that won him two National Awards, he’s now doing comedies. “I’m honest at what I do,” he shrugged, “and I guess that works.”

It was getting onto 9 pm and Ajay was stubbing out his last cigarette when the door burst open. Little Nysa bounded in, cutely dressed for bed, but with a reserve amount of energy and mischief left in her to fuss over her
father. “How long,” she demanded. “Five minutes, sweetheart,” the big Bollywood produceractor said unconvincingly. She picked up his phone meaningfully and began to fiddle with the keys. “Nysa… please, not my phone,” Ajay was pleading. “All the best,” I told him slipping out.
mark.manuel@timesgroup.com
Anupam Kher writes from London on his experience of working with Woody Allen on his new film
Posted On August 27, 2009 (MUMBAI MIRROR)

A few months ago, my agent in London, Ruth Young, told me that Woody Allen had cast me in his untitled film as Freida Pinto’s father. That news came to me on May 24, as I was hosting the celebrations of the 25th anniversary of the release of my first film Saaransh. No award that I had received in my quarter century in cinema could have made me happier than this bit of news.

Buried as I was with work, the excitement abated only to resurface on August 23, when I was set to go to London for the shoot. It suddenly hit me that I was going to work with someone I had adored and almost worshipped for decades. Then, a strange nervousness gripped me; just like it did during the first day’s shoot of Saaransh. But that was understandable when I was a rookie being directed by Mahesh Bhatt. Now I had acted in almost 400 films. Yet I was nervous.

To understand this reaction, I spoke to my mentor Mahesh Bhatt and asked him how I should behave when I would be on Woody Allen’s sets. Nervous, confident or important? Mahesh said, “Just be the way you are: inquisitive, nervous, and, be yourself.”

I reached London the next morning and was taken for a ‘costume and look’ trial. I was told that Woody Allen would see me the next day as he only meets actors directly on the sets on the day of the shoot. But I pleaded and they reluctantly took me to a holding area near the location. The scene that was being shot was the exterior of a restaurant on a busy street in Notting Hill.

I was introduced to Freida who was warm and turned out to be a great admirer of my work. She introduced me to her co-star, Josh Brolin and I told him that he was brilliant in Milk. I then went out on the crowded street and some Bangladeshis waved to me. But there was an overpowering silence. I was searching for the man who I had seen only in films and whose books I had read and who was my icon. And suddenly I saw him. He was in his trademark beige trousers, light blue shirt and brown shoes. His specs were black. His hair had gone whiter and strangely, he looked taller and larger.

I had never seen anyone in my life who was as focussed as him. For him, the world did not exist, the crowds did not exist. There were no security guards around him. All that mattered was the frame of his shot. Even the crowd sensed his concentration. In respect, passersby moved in silence.

The executive producer was apprehensive, knowing Woody’s reluctance to meet actors in advance. On seeing the waving Bangladeshis, she knew I was as famous in the sub-continent as I had been made out to be and that made her apologetic as well.

There was a gap in the shoot; Woody had turned to his iPhone and was listening with great concentration to some music. The costume girl then walked up to him and showed him my pictures with the ‘look’ and told him that I was on location. I was wondering what his reaction would be.  My tongue was swollen and my mouth was dry.

He turned around and tried to match the face with the picture he had seen. And then, he spotted me and smiled. I tried to portray the confident look of Anupam Kher the veteran of almost 400 films and the winner of many awards. But all I managed was the anxious look that I had when I had watched my first shooting as a 16-year-old in Shimla. That was Rajesh Khanna, Sharmila Tagore and Rakhee in Yash Chopra’s Daag.

I wondered if Woody’s smile was out of politeness. But there was warmth in his eyes. I felt as if it took me a year to cover the five feet that separated us and I can vividly remember each step. His grip was firm and before I could say anything, he said, “It is a pleasure meeting you.” I heard myself saying, “I can’t believe it!” Woody insisted and repeated, “I am really am happy to see you!”

I told him I had seen all his movies, and he kept nodding, as he had heard such comments many times in his career. Then he looked at me as if to say, “Can I go back to my work…”

The next day I did my scenes with him and I realised that all what I had experienced as an actor in the decades was not of much use as one could not depend on any one school of acting. In my eye flashed scenes from Annie Hall, Manhattan, Sleeper, Crimes and Misdemeanors…

Suddenly the sun got brighter and the shooting stopped. I asked an assistant the reason and was told that Woody does not shoot in bright light. Imagine, everyone loves to shoot in bright light, save Woody Allen!

I discovered that I had left my camera in Mumbai and decided that it would be a pity to shoot pictures of the occasion on my cell. And as the day ended, Woody was more vocal. I told him that Indian cinema was changing and how we were making the kind of movies we always wanted. His cogent response was that it could only happen when the audience changes. He spoke of his early years in New York when he would watch films by Satyajit Ray and Kurosawa. “But now, it is the time of $200 million blockbusters,” he said.

Later that evening, I bought a camera and clicked some pictures. I also got some books for Woody to autograph and gifted him copies of the Ramayana and the Gita. One of the vintage memories of that day I will carry is when Woody was shooting a scene with lots of people and he wanted, in his typical style, for the camera to move from one speaking person to another. At the end of it, he told his cameraman, “You were a little lost…but I liked the chaos.”

Indeed, working three days with Woody Allen has been my most memorable experience in cinema. And I wish to thank Indian cinema for making all this happen. As I have said in my one-man play, “Kuchh bhi ho sakta hai…” Or, as my grandmother would say, “Allah meherban to gadheda pahelwan!”