Fenil and Bollywood

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Aishwarya Rai Bachchan on her birthday… and the 15th anniversary of her Miss World crown

MEENA IYER Times News Network (BOMBAY TIMES; November 1, 2009)


ashFifteen years after she won the Miss World beauty pageant, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan continues to be the most celebrated Bollywood brand ever. With her waist-length hair cascading down high cheek bones, and striking green-grey eyes, with bodyguards keeping vigilance, she looks every inch the diva she is. And we ask…


How’s it feel to be the most beautiful face in Bollywood 15 years after you won your crown?

• I’m not very good at handling compliments but I accept it with grace. I’m grateful to God, my audiences and my filmmakers —be it Mani Ratnam (Iruvar, Guru, Raavan), Sanjay Leela Bhansali (Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Devdas, Guzaarish), Mansoor Khan (Josh), Ashutosh Gowarikar (Jodhaa Akbar), Ram Gopal Varma (Sarkar Raj), Raj Kumar Santoshi (Khakee), Aditya Chopra (Mohabbatein, Dhoom II) and others who never used just my beauty as the fulcrum. Instead, they kept the beauty and the aesthetics going at the same time in each of the film characters I played.


Life has come a full circle. Even after marriage, you still have the best makers backing you.

• These are the same filmmakers I have worked with in the beginning of my career. I got married in the middle of shooting Jodhaa Akbar and when I reported back on his set, Ashu told me that nothing has changed. It just meant so much more hard work for me because when I come to the work front, I don’t want anyone to think of me as being any less professional than I was when I was single. It was important for me to strike the right balance between home and work. All the film-makers I’m working with are super passionate about their work. Thanks to them, I still feel the same adrenaline rush that I always feel when I’m on set.


Earlier this year, you were awarded the Padmashree…

• It has been a memorable year, every other month there has been some honour. I have much to thank God for.


Abhishek and you have tickled audiences with that recent soap commercial.

• It is ten years of my association with the brand. So they suggested that it would be nice to bring Abhishek on board. Honestly, how time flies.


Amitabh Bachchan said it is for you and Abhishek to make him a grandpa whenever…

• Well, if you ask him a question like that, what can he say? It is an apt answer for a parent to give. When I was on the Oprah Winfrey show, I told her that every time there is even a bump, it is assumed that I’m with child. Being pregnant is not something one can conceal. When I am pregnant, the world will know.
meena.iyer@timesgroup.com

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Aishwarya Rai and Abhishek Bachchan to be seen together for the first time in an ad for a soap. Buzz is, they have been paid Rs 25 crore
By Vickey Lalwani (MUMBAI MIRROR; October 01, 2009)

Aishwarya Rai and Abhishek Bachchan

After their marriage, Aishwarya Rai and Abhishek Bachchan have seldom been seen apart. Be it filmi events, the Cannes festival, films such as Sarkar Raj and forthcoming films Raavana and Crooked or even a recent episode of the Oprah Winfrey show, the doting couple is always seen hand-in-hand, smiling happily much to the delight of photographers.

Now, the couple is ready to take brand Bachchan to an altogether next level with a soap commercial. Buzz is that they are being paid a whopping Rs 25 crore for the ad. The deal, which has been kept under wraps, was finalised four days ago.

Explaining why the couple was paid an exorbitant amount, that too for an ad film, a source said, “The endorsement market is booming right now. Also, it will be the first time that Abhishek and the Bachchan bahu will be seen together in a commercial. The couple had been in talks for a long time with the ad filmmakers, who were extremely keen to get the two together. They finally agreed to be part of the ad last week.”

The ad is likely to be shot abroad.

Despite wanting to complete the Sarkar trilogy, Ram Gopal Varma gives up on Sarkar 3 because of no satisfactory script

By Meena Iyer (MUMBAI MIRROR; July 21, 2009)

Abhishek and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in Sarkar Raj

Sarkar (2005) is one of Ram Gopal Varma’s acclaimed films. The film is his tribute to Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather series and it also netted handsome returns for the filmmaker. Then came the sequel, Sarkar Raj in 2008, but received a lukewarm response. Expectations from Bollywood’s first family, the Bachchans, were so high that critics and the audience were unkind to the film.

Ramu says, “At that stage, I seriously wanted to take the series forward.” The general buzz was that after Abhishek Bachchan’s character was bumped off, the mantle of running the family would be taken over by Aishwarya Rai’s character and the story would be taken forward by her and Amitabh Bachchan’s character. RGV felt he had a winner on his hands and his team of writers tried to take the story forward from where they had left it with Sarkar Raj.

“However, we couldn’t do justice to it,” confesses the filmmaker. Like The Godfather series, he too felt the graph going down with a third film. “If you have seen The Godfather, the first part where Marlon Brando plays the head of the family is easily the most arresting of the three films.”

Ram Gopal Varma

Now, as he struggles with his writers to come up with the perfect script for the third film, he knows that it is not working out. “My relationship with the Bachchan family (no pun intended) is over,” RGV laughs. “I will make something with the three Bachchans at some other stage in life… But as far as a Sarkar 3 is concerned, it is shelved for sure.”

Ramu adds, “My relationship with the Bachchan family is very close. I don’t wish to discuss the extent of proximity of our relationship because I have never done that in print. But yes, I can say that at the moment, my screen relationship with the Bachchan family is over.”

Hindi entertainment channels are nowadays mostly dominated by family melodramatic soaps and rigged reality shows! At this point of time, Sony Entertainment Television came up with an interesting concept. Titled ‘Specials @ 10’, the series consist of 4 different tele-films, each produced/presented by renowned filmmakers like Anurag Kashyap, Vikram Bhatt, Mahesh Manjrekar and Madhur Bhandarkar.Anurag Kashyap-presented Rajuben took away the cake as it managed to keep the viewers at the edge of the seat and moved at a fast pace, both of these qualities which other serials on TV lack!

Rajuben2Rajuben started on March 2, 2009 and ended 12 weeks later on May 18 (last Monday). It was aired only once in a week on Mondays at 10pm and each episode was an hour long. Unlike other serials on TV, Rajuben was shot in a different format and had a film-like visual quality.

The plot of the serial: Rajuben is the story of Rajshree (Shilpa Shukla), daughter of a staunch Gandhian (K K Raina). The serial focuses on three different points of Rajshree aka Raju’s life which is as follows:

Year 1986: Raju is an electrician and one day goes to Rohit’s (Rajesh Shringapure) place to repair his fan. Later, she learns that he is a gangster. But still, she falls for him and Rohit too starts liking her. Raju’s father gets the biggest shock of his life when he learns this. He tries hard to explain Raju that falling in love with a gangster can be dangerous but she stood adamant. Finally, she marries him and Raju’s father breaks all ties with her. As Rohit’s wife, she took time to adjust, given his husband’s profession. She tried to persuade Rohit into leaving the underworld. Rohit tried but his plan backfired.
Year 1990: Raju is pregnant. Rohit is all set to escape to Malaysia, to escape the crutches of police, much to the annoyance of Raju. By this time, Raju has understood A to Z of ‘bhaigiri’ business and she takes Rohit’s place in her absence. All of Rohit’s colleagues including Tabrez (Raj Arun) accept her. But Abu Miya, Rohit’s godfather and Abu’s close aide and corrupt politician Joshi (Harsh Chaaya) is dead against this idea and they tried to ward off Raju. But Rajuben has acquired too strong a position to feel threatened by anyone.

Rajuben
Year 2009: Raju is now MLA Rajshree and all set to contest for elections. Joshi is also in her political party and both are rivals. Rajshree’s twins, Sameer and Shraddha return after completing their studies and upon their arrival, some unknown gunmen attack them. Shraddha escapes unhurt but Sameer is kidnapped. Some hours later, Tabrez (who is still with Raju as her confidante) find Sameer unconscious in a gunny bag. Rajshree now tries to find out who could be behind it. On the other hand, Shraddha tries to strike a chord with Rajshree’s father, who still hasn’t talked to his daughter and after she married. And as for Rohit, he died in 1993 in Malaysia in a police firing.

What sets Rajuben apart from the rest of the soaps is its wonderful treatment. All these above mentioned three eras of Raju’s life move simultaneously as parallel tracks and intersect at several points, a laRang De Basanti style! Although these three tracks may seem to be poles apart at times, there’s a constant coordination between all three of them. For instance, when Raju’s son Sameer starts taking drugs, the story moves back to 90’s era and the viewers here learn how Raju had started selling drugs in order to make money. Even though the story constantly moves back and forth jostling between three tracks, the story doesn’t become confusing and complicated at all. And that’s the biggest achievement for the makers!

Some of the characters are very intriguing. Raju’s daughter Shraddha has feelings for Tabrez but is mature enough to understand that her mother deserves him more than anyone else. Shraddha equally loves her mother but is angry at the way she plays politics and takes wrong advantage of the media for her gains. On the other hand, Raju’s father, a Gandhian, wanted his children to follow the eternal Gandhian principals. But his own daughter married a gangster while his other two children used wrong means in their business, which was unacceptable to him. So he disowned all his children and lived alone with his wife. This raises a question-Does being a Gandhian also implies that we should not be supportive of our children, no matter what they do? Should a Gandhian be very ‘ziddi’ and angry-types? But at the same time, should a Gandhian give up his Satyagraha mentality just because everyone around is corrupt?

Tabrez

But the most favourite of all has to be Tabrez (see pic above)! He spoke little and when he opened his mouth, he won’t utter anything nonsense. He obediently carried out Raju’s orders without questioning her. He was unmarried but always loved Raju a lot and yet, didn’t marry her after Rohit’s death. Everyone around used him as a punching bag to vent their frustration. Yet, he was always loyal to Raju and her family and would see to it that nothing untoward happens with them. He is a guy who can be trusted anytime. Tabrez, you rock!

Performance-wise, everyone was perfect. Shilpa Shukla who had already proved her worth as Bindiya Naik in Chak De! India, does an amazing job as Rajuben. She gave a perfect performance in each of the three tracks. She impressed a lot in 90’s track. Eight month pregnant Raju, having fruit salad and ordering her men to finish off members of a rival gang-wow…what a scene!

Rajesh Shringapure too does a great job. It was difficult to accept in the beginning that he’s the same guy who gave a rocking performance in Sarkar Raj as Sanjay Somji! Raj Arun as Tabrez was undoubtedly the best performer! His wonderful role coupled with his natural performance made Tabrez the most adorable bhai of the story!

Harsh Chaaya did a great job as the villain. K K Raina left a mark as Raju’s father. Ritu Dutta as Shraddha was fantastic. Others did a great job too.

Amit Trivedi who created waves with Dev D album, composed the title track of Rajuben which suited the mood and theme of the serial. Editing was perfect. Screenplay was gripping and of course, the biggest winner! Lalit Marathe, who also directed the upcoming film Shabri (*ing Ishaa Koppikar; produced by RGV) directed this serial and did a wonderful job. Some of the scenes were truly memorable. My most fav was when Raju kills Abu Miya. She disassembled parts of her gun, hid all its parts including in her hair and inside her sandal. Then she went to Abu Miya’s place and proceeded towards the loo. Inside, she assembled all the parts together and came out and killed him! Brilliant!

On the whole, Rajuben was a slick and very interesting concept that succeeded in keeping the viewers engrossed and entertained. Those who have missed it, there’s a good news-Anurag Kashyap is going to release its DVDs soon! So all those interested in this wonderful one of its kind serial, grab your copy and do watch it!

My rating-***** out of 5!


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