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Might Of The Marans Behind Rajini Starrer ‘Annathe’ But Still ‘Enemy’ Lurks Around

Tamil Nadu’s powerful political family which has stranglehold on the film business is going all out to promote Rajini starrer Annathe this Diwali. Marans are leaving no cinema seat vacant to promote Annathe. Timing could not have been better. Superstar has just won the Dadasaheb Phalke Award. Besides, the overdrive is largely because one of the distributors is Udhayanidhi Stalin, Chief Minister’s son and promoter of Red Giant Movies — production and distribution house. Marans and Stalin call shots in all things entertainment in the State. Stalin Junior, according to Kollywood sources, is bargaining for a higher take from cinemas with a target of 700 screens all over TN. But is Annathe the one and only release this Diwali? No! A number of producers who have completed their films are praying anxiously for theatres to open but are scared to release their films as they do not want to take on the might of Rajini-SUN combo. But there are exceptions. Vishal and Arya starrer Enemy is planning to take on the behemoth as a me-too Diwali release. Flashback to 2019, when Rajini starrer Petta and Ajit’s Viswasam collided at the box office. Petta earned Rs 50 crore less than factored. Viswasam hit the finish line with critical acclaim and money.

Photo : Twitter

Spotlight On Ananya Panday’s Special Talents & Initiatives Amid Aryan Khan-Drugs-On-Cruise Case

Twenty-three year old Ananya Panday is probably one of the most promising millennial actors who won accolades from the audience right from the first film Student of the Year 2. Ananya who played a lead role in Pati Patni Aur Woh has already won two awards for ‘Best Female Debut’. The actress, daughter of the popular actor, Chunky Panday, has been quite vocal about social issues which is rarely a case with today’s younger actors in Bollywood. Ananya’s initiative – So Positive – seeks to create awareness about social media bullying, prevent negativity and build a positive community. This initiative has touched a chord with Bollywood. Ananya has over 20 million social media followers with almost all top youth brands in her kitty. She is also the first female brand ambassador for Skechers India. Currently, she is in the dock over a drug case and was summoned by Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) post the arrest of Aryan Khan and others. But, people who are close to her say that the young actor was not nervous when summoned by the NCB. She not only appeared before NCB officials but post that she went about meeting her professional commitments — shooting for her forthcoming films and promoting brands. Clearly, Ananya knows how to balance the two worlds.

Photo : Fotocorp

After Jail & Bail How Many Bollywood Stars Have Bounced Back?

It is a wager within Bollywood that once Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan comes out of the jail there will be any number of producers willing to sign him as a hero. “He is bound to become a big star,” predicts an industry insider. Really? Twenty-three-year-old Aryan had already made his intent clear that he wants to be behind the camera. So, one has to wait-and-watch whether he succumbs to producers’ pressure and becomes a reel life hero. How do the public at large react to those stars serving jail terms? Salman Khan has two cases against him: a fatal hit-and-run case in Mumbai; and a blackbuck poaching case in Rajasthan. Salman’s brush with the law is in sharp contrast to his softer image supported via the Being Human foundation’s charity work. Also, reality show Bigg Boss helped him build a positive image. Likewise, Sanjay Dutt who served a jail term under the Arms Act continues to be Munnabhai for the people. Rhea Chakraborty – out on bail in a narcotics case – is also getting offers. So too Sooraj Pancholi post Jiah Khan’s suicide. But some careers were damaged: like Shiney Ahuja (out on bail in a rape case); and Monica Bedi, girl friend of gangster Abu Salem (who is serving life sentence) didn’t get any offers after a Big Boss show. Is it fear, one wonders!

Do Replacing Actors In Popular TV Series Work?

In popular TV serials the on-screen characters played by actors seem so real that it becomes difficult to separate the two. Audience not only falls in love with these screen characters but start empathizing, sympathizing and identifying with them. So be it Tulsi (Smriti Irani) in Kyonki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi; Manav (Sushant Singh Rajput) in Pavitra Rishta or Dayaben (Disha Vakani) in Tarak Mehta Ka Ulta Chasma they all became synonymous with the characters. So, this brings us to the larger question, can these stars be replaced? When Shaheer Shaikh was announced as a replacement for Manav in the popular TV serial Pavitra Rishta 2 played by Sushant Singh Rajput (SSR) the producers, pressurized by SSR’s fan club, had to clarify that Shaheer was replacing Hiten Tejwani, the second Manav as he was not accepted by the audience. Likewise Smriti Irani had to come back as the audience refused to accept Gautami as Tulsi in Kyonki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu. The makers of Tarak Mehta Ka Olthah Chashma have been waiting for over three years for Dayaben (Disha Vakani) to return to the show instead of replacing her. In Ballika Vadhu Shashank Vyas as Jagya was a huge hit. So, when he decided to move out of the serial, the makers showed him going to the US so that the audience continues to wait for him to return to the show.

Sivakarthikeyan: Kollywood’s New Superstar & Serious Comedian

Sitting next to SK on the metro, you could easily take him for just another middle-class commuter. His simple, boy next door, no airs looks hide a volcano of talent and dedication to cinema. Currently, he commands Rs 35 crore per movie, overtaking his finder and mentor Dhanush at Rs 28 crore. Thirty-six-year-old Sivakarthikeyan made his debut in Tamil cinema in 2012.  With over 22 movies, this stand-up comedian and TV show host has seamlessly transformed himself into a saleable star, singer, lyricist and film producer. Yet, he has not lost his simplicity and humility, and wins over his audience with his tongue-in-cheek portrayals of the accidental hero. His just released Doctor in cinemas after a gap of nearly two years of lockdown is already wowing his fans. As its producer, SK had a few serious financial hiccups prior to release, he was bailed out by a well-known production house. Doctor is drawing appreciation as just the right prognosis for a good cinema house run, post Corona blues. The black comedy is all set to rake in the Dhan, though audiences are a bit baffled by a new look SK — all stern and serious throughout the movie. Oh, well, the director must have wanted him to play a serious comedian.

Photo : Fotocorp

Is Bollywood A Soft Target?

A few years back, when Shah Rukh Khan was targeted by the Shiv Sena for speaking in favor of Pakistan’s inclusion in the IPL, his film My Name Is Khan was almost banned by the Sena in Mumbai. Then, he had to fight his own battle; the film fraternity did not come out in the open to support him for the fear of incurring the wrath of Sena. SRK too never spoke why he was targeted but in one of his interviews he obliquely hinted at the religion factor. Likewise, when Aamir Khan in an interaction with the Indian Express said that his wife had told him that she wanted to leave the country over an ‘intolerant’ issue, he faced a lot of flak. The actor had to do a lot of firefighting via social media till the issue simmered down. Filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali was attacked by the conservatives during the making of Padmavat. Bhansali did not speak a word about it; he quietly made changes and released the film. It was Sushant Singh Rajput’s death that brought to fore that Bollywood is not united and that they don’t speak in one voice to fight the injustices done to them. Most of them admit, they fear being singled out by politicians or government agencies and this is why they don’t openly show their solidarity or express their views.
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A Telugu Love Story Opens To Rave Reviews Amid Splitsville For Nag Chaitanya & Samantha

Two leading stars from the south – Nag Chaitanya and Samantha – have realised that they are not made for each other after all… Nearly a decade of courtship and four years of marriage later. Samantha’s OTT series, The Family Man brought her worldwide fame, and infamy when Tamils resented her playing the role of a Sri Lankan terrorist. Badnaam tho hua, magar naam tho kamaya! Critics acclaimed her stellar performance, and her stock went up. Coincidentally, Chaitanya hadn’t had a hit for some time, and the chasm only widened! Fate has a way of even-stevening things! On September 24, Nag Chaitanya and the adorable Sai Pallavi’s Telugu movie, Love Story released to rave reviews. A simple story of inter-caste marriage and child abuse were woven into a gripping movie by director Sekhar Kammula. Audience identified closely with the hero and heroine, some openly shedding tears. This reel love story has put Nag on top of bankable heroes, but the real life love story between the couple, went bust. Divorce is nothing new in film families. Nagarjuna, Telugu film Superstar Akkineni Nageswara Rao’s son, had divorced his first wife Lakshmi Daggubatti, and married Amala. Tinsel town marriages may be made in heaven, often break down on ground once the stardust wears off.

Photo : Fotocorp

Do Marriages Between Co-Stars Work?

In Bollywood most marriages between co-stars have worked even though ‘other woman’ and ‘doosra aadmi’ in some cases have created rift – which could be seen for a brief period before the status return to ‘happily married.’ It happened with Bollywood’s legendary couple Dilip Kumar and Saira Banu. Their marriage survived and thrived except for the entry of the other woman Asma that fortunately didn’t last long. So was the case with Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Singh. Rishi’s link to another star almost derailed the marriage. Same can be said of Big B-Jaya — and here the other woman was Rekha. In the case of Randhir Kapoor-Babita and Rajesh Khanna-Dimple Kapadia they separated but were not divorced. But stars like Mithun Chakraborty-Yogita Bali, Shatrughan Sinha-Poonam Sinha did not allow anybody to come into their married lives. Before marriage Akshay Kumar had several affairs but after marriage with Twinkle Khanna, he is said to have turned into an ideal husband. In the last few years, a handful of stars and marriages between the co-stars have gone sour but maintain they are ‘friends’. Some of them are: Hrithik Roshan-Suzanne Khan, Aamir Khan-Kiran Rao, Arbaaz Khan-Malaika Arora and Saif Ali Khan-Amrita Singh. Unlike the olden days when star couples did everything to save their marriages, today’s stars prefer to separate and find new partners. Long Live Bollywood.

Next 007 Won’t Be A Jamie Bond Nor A James With Libido Unbound

The buzz again is all about James Bond, a character born in a book in 1952 and who came to films 10 years later. Delayed by 18 months because of the pandemic, the spy caper is about to take the world for a billion dollars at the box office, with a premiere in the UK on September 28 and worldwide release September 30. Daniel Craig, the latest to play the Bond character with great success, prepares to take his bow even as the talk is about his successor who could be a woman going by the plot of the film in which a black female character inherits the 007 designation. As the world grapples with the rise of women power, there is a demand for a female Bond but Craig and the film’s executive producer, Barbara Broccoli, inheritor of the family franchise from granddad Albert, are convinced that the central role should remain male. This despite a debate on Bond triggered by the film’s director Cary Fukunaga expressing the opinion that the early Bonds were rapists as portrayed on screen. Sean Connery was seen thrusting himself on a nurse in the 1965 Thunderball and virtually blackmailing her into sleeping with him while in Goldfinger, the heroine was named Pussy Galore and the subject of Bond’s sex drive. The age of Bond’s endless libido may be over.
vijay antony

Vijay Antony’s Emotional Thriller Kodiyil Oruvan’s Success Stuns Critics

When 46-year-old Vijay Antony announced his movie Kodiyil Oruvan, eyebrows shot up! Was he on par with the legendary MGR and his Aayirathil Oruvan which swashbuckled its way to commercial success? No, Antony is too introverted and underplayed. Rightly so. He is a singer, music composer, lyricist, sound engineer, actor and producer-director. His take, I am a Jack of All trades, but master of none. His trademark ….Masala formulas that tell the story as not obvious masala, but with an inherent empathetic twist, that audience relate to, anchored in strong Indian sentiments. Take his runaway hit Pichaikaran (The Beggar), a simple story of a seriously ill mother. Her son vows to beg on the streets for a year, incognito to make her live. The twists and turns made for a very authentic story. Audience cried at Antony’s fall from rich man to beggar. Movie a hit, including multiple TV runs. It is not surprising that among the four movies released in September (including Thalaivi), Kodiyil Oruvan has already fetched 4.5 crore in a short span. The producers who preferred to release without the distributor link, are already bean counting. Antony has not hankered after that razzmatazz Star title…but he is soon to add that title to his quiver.

Photo : Fotocorp

Salman Khan: The Big Boss Of All Formats

Salman Khan’s popularity on the small screen continues to soar with every passing year. Reportedly, the actor will be paid around Rs 350 crore for the new season of Bigg Boss 15 that premieres on October 1 and will run for 14 weeks. Well, eyebrows were raised over this number but Bollywood analysts say that Salman Khan who has over 42 million Twitter followers, plus other social media assets, knows how to connect with his audiences via movies, small screen and social media. And his valuation is based on those plus the intangibles he brings to the table. Well, it is the small screen that has played a big role in making him hugely popular with the masses. That was probably the reason the actor took the risk of releasing Radhe although the theatres shut just before the release of his film. The actor kept his promise he made to his loyal fans and released the film on OTT and later in cinema halls. The actor is back on set completing the third instalment of his film Tiger which is one of the most successful franchises and Salman is surely looking forward to a huge hit at the box office. But for now, the audience wants the actor returning on Bigg Boss 15 with Rekha playing a proxy for Bigg Boss voice.

Photo : Twitter

Trisha's Wedding Plans Sets Tongues Wagging About Her Future In Kollywood

Tamil film’s enfant terrible, 38-year-old Trisha Krishnan had media build-up as a gamin imp, couldn’t-care-less brat for conservative chin wags. All the more striking as she is from a TamBrahm (Tamil Brahmin) family. But she built up a loyal fan base for her sophistication and strong roles, topping her career with a memorable performance in the film, 96, pitted against the formidable Vijay Sethupathi whose huge physique starkly contrasted with Trisha’s elfin looks. Trisha has also held media attention for her mercurial love interests: she had STR Simbu wrapped around her after the commercial success of Gautam Menon’s Vinnai Thandi Varuvaya. For a long time after, she and Rana Daggubati were an item, as the slow and steady twosome. She almost got engaged to Varun Manian but walked out, and much talked about! She is a free spirit, and her escapades with close friends and spirits is the stuff midnight masala is made of on Besant Nagar beach. But recently she has not signed any new movies. Have the offers fallen? The Kollywood world sprouts new and sexy females like mushrooms in the monsoon. It is rumoured… finally Trisha has found her love and will soon sashay into marital bliss. What goes up, has to come down. Beached film careers lead to the altar.

Dharam Chopra with brother BR Chopra, nephew Ravi Chopra and mother

How Dharam Chopra’s Cinematic Debut Soared With A Yes From Rajendra Kumar

BR Chopra’s younger brother Dharam Chopra (elder to Yash Chopra) was learning cinematography. So as to give him a chance to become a full-fledged cameraman (now called director of photography), BR launched Dhool Ka Phool in 1960. Since it was Dharam’s first film as a cameraman, no star readily agreed to sign on for the film. Even Rajendra Kumar, popularly known as Jubilee Kumar, did not respond when approached. Those days Dharam used to stay in a building called Parchhaiyan in Juhu, which was built by lyricist Sahir Ludhiyanvi. One night around 11 pm, Dharam heard somebody shouting out his name. When he looked out, the person was none other than Rajendra Kumar. He shouted “Dharam me kar riyan teri picture! Don’t worry!” And that one yes from Rajendra Kumar changed Dharam’s life forever. Dhool Ka Phool was a runaway hit and thereafter Dharam was on a roll. It was Dharamputra (1961), T Prakash Rao’s College Girl (1962), PL Santoshi’s Dil Hi to Hai (1964), BR Chopra’s Waqt (1965) and many more. For Waqt he bagged Filmfare’s best cinematographer award. Dharam, who was ranked among top five cinematographers in the country, predominantly worked for his brother BR Chopra. He passed away in 2002.

Photo : Fotocorp

Govinda Waiting For Second Innings In Bollywood: It’s Not Funny

For the past two years, versatile actor Govinda who has given any number of hits in the past has been playing the waiting game to stage a big comeback. But alas! Luck seems to elude this talented actor who in the recent past worked in Rangeela Raja and FryDay. Surprisingly, the actor who is in popular demand for reality shows does not have the same pull today when it comes to the box office. Both the movies failed miserably. Actually, times have changed, cinema has changed and so too has audiences’ tastes. There is a place in Bollywood only for those who can reinvent themselves. Big B smartly staged a comeback via the small screen by hosting KBC. This sense of rejection has made him bitter and philosophical. He feels there is a conspiracy to keep him out. But many industry insiders say there is no merit in this argument. Well, there are plenty of guesses and theories peddled to explain what’s coming in the way for any producer wanting to sign him up. But what has added to his cup of sorrow is the public spat between his family and nephew Krushna Abhishek’s family. Producers feel Govinda who has the potential should rather focus on his career. Recognizing his talent, Salman Khan offered him a film but Govinda turned it down for reasons best known to him.

Kangana’s Thalaivi Stirs Jaya Memories, Raises Stakes For Cinema Release Vs OTTs

A biopic, Thalaivi, of the avowed stormy petrel of Indian politics, late J Jayalalithaa (former CM of Tamil Nadu, reigning Queen of Kollywood of the 80’s) was one of the most awaited releases. Kangana Ranaut, who plays the lead is also a firebrand in her own right. The budget for Thalaivi was Rs 90 crore. But, OTT signing, music rights and cinema advances have already netted Rs 110 crore, and whatever overflows now is money for jam. Meanwhile, there is a fight royal between the top cinemas — PVR, Inox and Cinepolis and Netflix. The Hindi version rights have been awarded to these entities, and cinemas are adamant that they need at least four weeks between their shows and OTT. Netflix is bent on immediate release. What about the original Tamil and Telugu prints? Thankfully, Amazon Prime is more yielding and agreed to wait for the cooling period. Any surprise that Kangana made a whirlwind promo trip to Chennai, to cool all tempers on the political front. She visited the memorials of JJ, MGR and Kalaignar to ensure all round peace! Thalaivi shows that ignoble public display of crass behaviour in the Tamil Nadu Assembly, some 35 years ago, when Kalaignar was the CM and a DMK MLA pulled her saree. Is DMK ready to squirm when Thalaivi hits the Tamil audience?
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Photo : Fotocorp

Kiara Advani Wows With Intense Characters, From Cameo Appearances

Kiara Advani, with that girl-next-door look, innocent face and endearing smile, is one of the most sought after Bolllywood actresses. Kiara who made her debut in 2014 has acted in over 14 films that includes Hindi, Telugu and Netflix. She is currently working on four films with top stars like Kartik Aaryan, Vicky Kaushal and Ranveer Singh. This 29-year-old glam doll who has a high visibility on small screen, thanks to her brand endorsements for Colgate, Myntra, among others, is considered a lucky mascot by many producers. Critics hold that what goes in her favour is that she gets her fellow actors perform to the fullest — be it in Kabir Singh or Shershaah which eventually wins audiences too. Her performance as Dimple Cheema, girlfriend of Param Vir Chakra-awardee Captain Vikram Batra (martyred in the Kargil war) in Shershaah won her accolades. Not many know that Kiara has a Bollywood connection. Legendary actor Dada Muni and Saeed Jaffrey are step-great grandfather and great-uncle. Her debut wasn’t great with films like Fugly and Machine although many liked her role as Sakshi Rawat in MS Dhoni: The Untold Story. In most movies till date, Kiara has not bagged lengthy roles nor has had the opportunities to experiment like Alia Bhatt who has been doing it right from her second film. But, for now Kiara has arrived.
tollywood collage

Decoding Drinking Personality Of Tamil Superstars

According to cine raconteur and news caster Bayilvan Ranganathan, the iconic Tamil film superstar-turned-chief minister MG Ramachandran was a teetotaller whereas the legendary actor Sivaji Ganesan had to amp up his spirits after the day’s shooting. The late SS Rajendran, a DMK pillar, had a peculiar drinking ritual; he would have a glass full of egg whites, and sip alternately from both glasses. Villain MR Radha was just as rambunctious in his alcohol intake but could stand rock steady and perform. These are the yesteryear’s cine brigade. Superstar Rajinikanth is known not to chomp into any side dish or fritters; he just pays full attention to the elixir of life. At a press conference, where the media was served drinks, the gathered had to demand short eats! Suave Ajith Kumar socialises with his Martini’s and exotic cocktails while the emerging superstar Vijay never drinks in social gatherings. The women brigade are not far behind. The late Savitri was a known alcoholic, many a time she could outrank the romantic hero Gemini Ganesan (Rekha’s father) in a contest. Among the younger stars, Trisha is a rebel. She is a free spirit reveller on the Bessy beach congregating with her feline female friends to have a blast. For these easy spirits, it is Dil Mange More. Live life king size with a Patiala peg.

Photo : Fotocorp

Bollywood’s Experimental Story: Female Stars Scoring Big Against Men

While the male actors of Bollywood are reluctant to experiment with their roles, it is the women brigade that has taken the lead in attempting different roles and even shouldering the risk of spearheading them too. Hrithik Roshan who was offered an adaptation of Night Manager reportedly opted out because of his comfort with conventional films versus the web series that requires long working hours. Experimental endeavours like Tubelight and Zero have forced Salman Khan and Shah Rukh Khan to go back to doing commercial cinema, their strongholds. Whereas Aamir Khan continues to script new hits with experimental creativity as his USP. Other names that feature prominently in the experimental genre are Saif Ali Khan, who today is one of those who play characters rather than conventional heroes in the film; and Shahid Kapoor, who has taken risks with a whole-hearted plunge into the webspace. Still, the most sought-after actors are concerned about the image and worried about losing their audiences if they drifted away from formula films. At the same time more and more actresses are coming forward to experiment; striving to “be the change” in the cinema, just like what Vidya Balan once promised to her fans. Today, a Kangana Ranaut, Taapsee, Deepika Padukone, and Alia don’t really need a hero as they prefer to play the heroes in their respective films

Stories Behind Story: Why Mughal-E-Azam Took 10 Years To Make?

Mughal-e-Azam is considered a masterpiece in Indian cinema. This all-time hit epic historical drama directed by the renowned K Asif starring Prithviraj Kapoor, Madhubala, Durga Khote and Dilip Kumar was released in 1960. The character of Prince Salim played by Dilip Kumar has been immortalized. But not many know this great masterpiece was made in fits and starts. It took 10 years to complete it. And there were several reasons for it. One was director Asif fell in love with Dilip Kumar’s sister Akhtar and this incensed Dilip Kumar who refused to shoot till the matter was finally resolved. Besides, Dilip Kumar and Madhubala had an affair that ended around the making of this film and this took a toll on the shoots as their on-screen chemistry went awry. Finally, the pearls that were used in the shoot would break every time it fell on the floor, and the shooting had to be cancelled. It was then decided to import unbreakable pearls from Belgium and getting those in the sixties took months. It was finally released with all the fanfare at Maratha Mandir. By evening it was declared flop. This news depressed the cast which met at Asif’s house near Opera House after the premiere. Looking at all of them Asif said, “Kyon, Chehre Latak Gaye! Dekhna Ye Film Zabardast Hit Hogi.“ And it did.

Photo : Fotocorp

Rumour Mills Abuzz As Salman Khan Opts Out Of Bollywood Remake Of Tamil Hit Master

Tamil film Master with Vijay as a hero and Vijay Sethupathi as the villain directed by Lokesh Kanakaraj turned out to be the 2021 blockbuster despite the lockdown. A very restricted cinema release and the earliest to mount the OTT platform (Amazon Prime), Master grossed, according to industry sources, Rs 300 crore with its fast and furious story and screenplay that Kanakaraj penned. A tad lengthy, critics wished it could have been trimmed to match Vijay’s fit persona! This South Indian director is no flash in the pan, as his earlier movie Managaram (now shaping up in Hindi as Mumbaikar) and Kaithee’s success proved.  Salman Khan was approached for the Hindi remake of Master. Even as the pre-production details were sewn up, Salman Khan opted out.  Apparently, Salman Khan was not quite happy with the story and screenplay, and suggested some changes. But, director Kanakaraj, sources say, did not agree to be involved with the project after those changes. He has taken up another assignment to direct a film featuring Vijay, Kamal Haasan and Fahadh Faasil.  The producer who has the Hindi remake rights will have to wait for now. Post the release of Master, it is rumoured, Vijay’s earnings have skyrocketed to the Rs 120 crore fee bracket. Opportunity and luck do not knock often at the doors of supplicants.

Photo : Twitter

Rhea Chakraborty: To Hell And Back

Finally, the controversy-hit Rhea Chakraborty will see the release of her film Chehre this month. It was during the making of this film, the idea to act in a film opposite Sushant Singh Rajput (SSR) was mooted. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen with the mysterious death of SSR. Rhea, one of the main accused, faced trial by the media for more than a year. But the young star managed to weather it all and get her life back. Rhea is now confidently socializing, focusing on fitness and talking to producers. She seems to get her PR right as the personal attacks vis a vis SSR coverage have reduced except on Twitter where SSR continues to trend. Although the industry is not spelling it out, but it seems they have accepted her and some announcements may be made soon. Director of Chhere Rumi Jaffery may sign her for his next film. Speaking to a cross-section of people, the general thinking is: Rhea deserves a second chance – just like actor Sanjay Dutt, who spent five years in prison under Arms Act after the TADA Court acquitted him in the 1993 Mumbai serial bomb blast case. The audience has accepted him, and he continues to be the most sought-after actor in Bollywood. Well, Amitabh Bachchan and Emraan Hashmi-starrer Chehre looks like a ‘thodi si lift kara de’ moment for Rhea, which may open up new possibilities for the budding star.

Photo : Atlee Kumar - Wikipedia, SRK - Fotocorp

SRK Betting On Kollywood Director Atlee To Lend The Midas Touch

Post Chennai Express Superstar Shah Rukh Khan’s other movies like Fan, Raees, Jab Harry Met Sejal and Zero did not do well. So what does he do? Turn South and rope in one of the most successful young directors of Tamil movies, Atlee (Arun Kumar) for that magic touch, a fail-safe formula film designed to make stakeholders laugh all the way to the bank. And for added kick, two winsome and talented leading ladies have also been signed on. Tamil films’ top paid heroine Nayantara and the young bubbly Sanya Malhotra to provide the glamour quotient. Who is this Atlee? What is his track record as a hot and hip director to call the shots especially when SRK is decidedly wanting an encore of the Chennai Express? Thirty-five-year-old Atlee first worked as S Shankar’s assistant in Enthiran and Nanban, sculpted himself as a box office brand. Soon, he went solo and directed his debut film, Raja Rani with Nayantara in the lead, and secured his place as one of the most promising debut directors of 2016. For those who may be sceptical about a Tamil director’s dexterity, he made three successive films, Theri, Mercel and Bigil, all starring Vijay that rocked the box office, making Vijay the Number 2 after Rajnikant. Don’t underestimate these quiet non-flamboyant South Indian types. They know their cinema inside out.

Photo : Fotocorp

Deepika, Kareena Case Draws Focus On Equal Pay For Female Stars

Top star Deepika Padukone lost a role in Sanjay Leela Bansali’s Baiju Bawra as she demanded more remuneration than Ranveer Singh. And Deepika is not the first heroine to do so. Kareena Kapoor Khan demanded Rs 12 crore to play the lead role in Alaukik Desai’s film Sita. Earlier, her close friend Karan Johar replaced her with Preity Zinta in Kal Ho Naa Ho for demanding more remuneration. A few years back Aishwarya Rai Bachchan lost an important role opposite Aamir Khan in Mangal Pandey because she demanded Rs 1 crore. Effectively, both Kareena and Deepika have lost opportunity to play iconic roles for asking what they deserve. This brings us back to the burning question of pay disparity in Bollywood. The general thinking in Bollywood is heroes (read men) have box office draw and female stars don’t have that kind of pull. A top producer clarifies, “Pay cheques are decided on the basis of how much business he or she rakes in. It is not based on the gender.” Sridevi and Madhuri Dixit got higher remuneration because audience went to the theatre to watch their performances. And of course, one heroine who has managed to single-handedly become a big hit is Kangana Ranaut. With Queen she proved it.  She has made it clear that she prefers not to work with the Khans because “she would get over shadowed”.

Photo : Vijay - Twitter , Dhanush - Fotocorp

Madras HC Judge Peeved At Trend Of Superstars Seeking Import Exemptions On Super Luxury Cars

Barely had the dust settled down on the cringe worthy indictment meted out to top Tamil star Vijay for evading tax on the import of his Rolls Royce Ghost, when the same Bench of Justice SM Subramaniam had to come down hard on actor K Dhanush for a similar tax evasion. Both these highly bankable stars had coveted the ultra-luxury Rolls Royce Ghost as their preferred wheels to match their status and style, paid Rs 5 crore plus for the car. This raises several questions amongst us, the common, run of the mill Aam Aadmi. Is tax payment selective and evasion even more selective? Why put a burden on with such preposterous pleas when the law of the land clearly states what tax is to be paid? Do film celebrities think that they are extraordinary people with extraordinary status? To add insult to injury, the highly bankable hero, Vijay (rumoured to earn the second highest of Rs 70 crore per film, next only to Rajinikant topping the spreadsheet at Rs 100 crore) baffled the judge some more. Under the question, occupation, Vijay did not think it needed a response! These are the filmy heroes whose every stunt, song and dance movement and thunderous dialogues are greeted with whistles and approval by a swarming, swooning audience. Hope they don’t emulate their heroes and evade tax!
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Inset : Mani Ratnam

Mani Ratnam’s Magnum Opus ‘Ponniyin Selvan’

Mani Ratnam’s cinematic genius and the late Amarar Kalki’s literary genius merge in the soon to be released magnum opus, Ponniyin Selvan (The son of Ponni). But which screen? Cinema lovers wait with bated breath for a Mani Ratnam movie; his every script and film have riveted audience to an amazing creative spark, unparalleled in Tamil cinema, and in the Hindi adaptations. So, we are justified in speculating, will Ponniyin Selvan stride the premium screens, like the cult Spartacus? Or OTT, if the pandemic plays foul? Such challenges are sleight of hand for Ratnam. Cine buffs are goggle eyed about the omnibus ensemble cast. The joke doing the rounds, except Rajini and Kamal, most Kollywood top stars are in the film: Vikram, Karthi, Jayam Ravi, Sarath Kumar, Prakash Raj, Trisha, Keerthi Suresh, Nayantara, Aishwarya Lekshmi and more top rung names. Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is in the lead. With AR Rahman‘s mesmerising music, palace intrigues, conquests and empire building, awe inspiring temples that still stand as testament to the Chola era artistic genius, beautiful women and intricate costumes, audience expectation is sky high. Ponniyin Selvan, we expect, will match the grandeur and scale of the Tanjore Big Temple, built by Rajaraja Chola, an architectural feat unmatched so far
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Photo : Fotocorp

Ekta, Nadiadwala Sign On Kartik Aaryan As He Proves He Is Bankable

A few months back, when the 30-year old Kartik Aaryan lost three films in a row there were murmurs in the film trade especially the big production houses that the actor’s career is over and he may not get work as he was ousted from both Shah Rukh Khan and Karan Johar productions. On the contrary, the opposite has happened. A few well-known production houses who were chasing him have quickly signed him on.  Among them is well known producer Sajid Nadiadwala. Likewise Ekta Kapoor who is supposedly to be a close friend of Karan has taken over the project that was once to be produced by SRK’s Red Chillies Entertainment. Interestingly, Kartik seems to have carved a niche within Bollywood. He has support from award winning filmmakers like Hansal Mehta who is also directing him. Besides, producer-director-writer Anubhav Sinha has been praising Kartik on social media. The proof of the pudding is in eating and it is learnt that the actor’s remuneration too has gone up. This proves that he is a bankable star and his box office track record proves he is a big draw as a solo hero. Kartik who started his journey in Bollywood with multi-starrers It is his track record with Lukka Chhupi and Pati Patni Aur Who that won him the confidence of producers like Sinha, Mehta and Nadiadwala.

Photo : Twitter, Bollywood Hungama

Second Innings In Bollywood: How Many Stars Succeed?

Everybody deserves a second chance. In Bollywood, yesteryear’s stars are padding up for a second innings. Mandakini of Ram Teri Ganga Maili fame, Kalpana Iyer who predominantly played a vamp role, and Farheen Prabhakar, a Madhuri Dixit look alike who married cricketer Manoj Prabhakar, are keen to return to acting, and don’t mind playing their age.  Big B was lucky. Kaun Banega Crorepati launched him into the stratosphere and there was no looking back. But, not everybody is lucky. Superstar Rajesh Khanna tried very hard to make a comeback but alas. Ditto: Popular star Mumtaz. Versatile star Govinda who is making guest appearances on reality shows, is yet to get the big break on the silver screen. Fardeen Khan is also knocking at producers’ doors and may sign up for a web series. For Madhuri Dixit-Nene the return was not a cakewalk. She has now come to terms, and settled down to judging a dance reality show, acting in a web series for Dharma Productions and occasionally cutting an album. Effectively, she is in the limelight. Shilpa Shetty had a high visibility thanks to a reality show Super Dancer, and her Yoga album, but got a break in the big screen after a gap of 11 years. Bhagyashree of Maine Pyar Kiya fame will be seen in Thalavi, a biopic on J Jayalalithaa played by Kangana Ranaut.

S Mukerji: How His Movie ‘Nagin’ Created The Cult Classic

Sashadhar Mukerji became a legend in his own lifetime. Popularly known as S Mukherji, his contribution to the Indian film industry remains unparalleled. Mukerji, who initially joined Bombay Talkies and went on to create Filmistan and Filmalaya Studios was known as the man with Midas touch. Everything was a hit – his movies, stars, songs. In fact, people who worked closely with Mukerji say that he had an ear for music. They say he had the knack of picking the right ones when a music director gave him a choice of 10 tunes for a song. Naturally this success created a lot of enemies within the industry, and they would spread rumours about his movie. A similar thing happened in 1954 when he released Nagin, famous for its song Man Dole Mera, Tan Dole Mera sung by Lata Mangeshkar to the accompaniment of Been music.  His rivals said snakes were entering the cinema halls the moment Been music played. This rumour kept the audience away from the theatres for a few days. But, not for long. Not only was the movie a super hit but the Been music became synonymous with snakes and snake charmers. And of course, the movie established Vyjayanthimala’s career as a star.

Photo - Fotocorp

Raj Kundra Arrest Seen Unlocking Bollywood’s #MeToo 2.0

The #MeToo movement seems to have resurfaced in Bollywood but in a new avatar with the arrest of Raj Kundra, husband of film star Shilpa Shetty, for allegedly exploiting young girls and actresses to make adult content for his mobile app. Not many cases of #MeToo were reported during the Lockdown but a couple of high-profile cases of sexual assault and exploitation were filed. FIRs were filed against Bhushan Kumar of T Series fame; and Ajit Thakur, former head of content, Reliance Industries. But, no action was taken as both have stated they were ‘victims’ of extortion. Tanushree Datta, who led the #MeToo movement against veteran actor Nana Patekar (the charge failed in the court); and Payal Ghosh against filmmaker Anurag Kashyap are trying to keep the issue alive via media. In the past names of Alok Nath, Vikas Bahl, Sajid Khan, Kailash Kher, Rajat Kapoor, Subhash Ghai and Anu Malik surfaced. Recently, actress Prachi Desai talked about her #MeToo experience. And so did Priyanka Chopra in her book Unfinished though without dropping any names. An actress confides that most people who had spoken out against big names have settled the issue for “consideration”. This is the reason the entire movement within Bollywood has gone kaput. So, will the adult stars like Poonam Pandey, Gehna Vashishth and Sherlyn Chopra revive the #MeToo movement

Spiritual Kancheepuram Mutt Launches Ad-Free Kamakoti TV

The raging pandemic has triggered in its wake a social distancing of an unusual kind. That has reconfigured the relationships. While relatives staying afar have become digital friends, immediate neighbours have become close relatives. Indeed, the world has changed so much since the outbreak of the virus early last year. Well, that has brought connectivity issues for many religious institutions. The Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam in Kancheepuram, Tamil Nadu has now sought to overcome this by embracing the digital platform. It is all set to launch a web TV in the name and style of Kamakoti TV. Coming up with the blessings of the current Shankaracharya, it will go live on the auspicious Vyasa Puja Day – July 24. The ostensible objective of launching a TV is to reach the programmes and events of the Mutt to devotees across the globe. Also, the devotees are assured of an ad-free experience of watching the Mutt programmes. Mutt followers – young and old alike – can now hope for a round-the-clock spiritual delight with the advent of Kamakoti TV.  Shri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham was established by Sri Adi Sankara in the year 482 BC and has the distinction of an unbroken line of 70 Acharyas.

Coming Up: Suriya’s Hindi Remake Of Tamil Hit Movie On Capt Gopinath

Popular Tamil star Suriya’s Soorarai Pottru boldly released on Amazon Prime in November 2020 brought him and his home production house, a number of accolades. While most were left trying to understand the esoteric Tamil title (Hail The Brave), the film’s treatment of the subject Simply Fly and its impact on the audience was terrific. Suriya played the role of Capt GR Gopinath, who introduced the concept of low-cost flying experience to the not so well-heeled, his struggles for raising the money, get the needed approvals to get Air Deccan on flight mode. Suriya struggled just as much with his ambitious movie which Sudha Kongara Prasad directed so brilliantly. Apart from Paresh Rawal and Urvashi, the other actors were not so well known. Suriya has just announced a pan Indian Hindi version, with Kongara to direct this intense subject that has transited to cinema with telling impact. So far, the cast and other components have not been finalised. May be he wants to keep it a suspense and reveal all once the project is buttoned up. Sudha Kongara had a fully ready script before shooting started for the Tamil version. The Hindi version of Simply Fly, Capt Gopinath’s dream airline will take off before long with Suriya’s determination and passion for perfection. Any takers for a campaign to guess the cast from Bollywood?

Top Left Clockwise: Suhana, Ahan, Abhimanyu, Meezan, Shanaya , Zahan

Star Kids Join The Bollywood Race To Stardom

For star kids getting entry into Bollywood is easy. But, how many make it big – like Hrithik, Aamir, Kajol and Ranbir in past three decades? The cine fans are pinning hopes on a new crop of star kids. Shah Rukh Khan’s daughter Suhana who has performed in plays will soon face the camera; while son Aaryan who has done a voice over for The Lion King is keen to stay behind the camera, for now. Suniel Shetty’s son Ahan who debuts in Tadap may be signed for Aashiqui3. Producer Sajid Nadiadwala’s son Subhan is all set to debut. Shashi Kapoor’s grandson Zahan (Kunal’s son) has just started shooting for Hansal Mehta’s film. Meezan Jaffrey, son of actor Javed Jaffrey, made his debut in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Malal, and is already into his second film Hungama2.. Abhimanyu Dassani, son of Bhagyashree of Maine Pyar Kiya fame, who made his debut in Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota, eagerly awaits the release of Nikamma with Shirley Setia as heroine. Sanjay Kapoor’s daughter Shanaya gets a lead role in a Karan Johar film. Salman Khan’s niece Alizeh and nephew Nirvaan are all set to dab the grease paint. Waiting in the wings are Sridevi’s daughter Khushi and Saif Ali Khan’s son Ibrahim. So, who will survive the star race? Only talent will tell!


Howdy Baby to Rowdy Baby – Sai Pallavi Scripting A Sensational Journey

Sai Pallavi, all of 29 years, is on a high. Why not? Her chartbuster 2019 Rowdy Baby from Tamil film Maari2 with Dhanush as her lead garnered 5 million likes (and over a billion views), an unheard of popularity for a Tamil film song and dance. This racy, raunchy and rambunctious number has amazingly inane lyrics…For Sai, Dhanush is her Goli Soda (the flying fizz), and she, his Kari Kuzhambe (spicy hot curry)! Who cares for such over the top lyrics? Sai has danced her way in frame to frame, all the way to fame. Dhanush who has sung the song and played the lead, comes off as a timid foil to the high voltage Sai Pallavi. From a Badaga family of Nilgiris with an MBBS from Georgia University, this youthful charmer has already tucked away two Filmfare and several other film awards, for her electrifying performances in Malayalam, Tamil and Telugu films. Premam, Fidaa, Athiran, Kali, and Maari2 have zoomed her to the top. She comes across as innocent and sparkling as a mountain stream, hardly needs any makeup as her envious skin is inner lit. Watch out for this bubbly.
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When Producer Dilip Kumar Had To Plead Before The Censor Board Babu

Dilip Kumar was not just a legendary actor but was also a writer and producer who made the blockbuster movie Ganga Jamuna in 1961 and played the title role of Ganga in that film. The heroine was Vyayanthimala. It was a tale of two brothers one — an uneducated, simple human being who is forced by the circumstances to take the law in his own hands and the other Jamuna who is educated, urbanized and who tilts on the side of the law of the land. The movie Ganga Jamuna was inspiration for the famous duo Salim-Javed while scripting for Deewar.  So too it was for Amitabh Bachchan. Well, when Ganga Jamuna was to be released it went to the Censor Board for clearance. They recommended a cut of the scene where Ganga is shot and utters Hey Ram! When asked why should it be cut? The Sarkari Babu said it was Gandhi who uttered Hey Ram…so how can you utter the same words? Dilip Kumar was shocked by his logic and said every Hindu when he dies might utter Hey Ram!  Come to think of it one must admire the creative guys from Bollywood who have had to put up with idiosyncrasies of babus and politicians for decades now.

Aamir Khan and Kiran Rao during happier times -- Photo : Fotocorp

Why Some Star Marriages Fail While Some Survive

Is it chemistry or mental harassment or the classic story of doosra aadmi or pati, patni aur woh? The morality in most of us is intact because of sheer lack of opportunities but in the case of celebrities — film stars and cricketers — they have opportunities galore. Money, fame and with that comes women and men.  So, Aamir Khan-Kiran Rao deciding to go in for a divorce should not raise eyebrows. They have more than survived a seven-year itch. Well, one can say… 16-year itch. Insiders say it has been simmering for over two years now. So much so that Kiran moved to Goa. So, what was the final nail in the coffin? Again, close circles point out it is another woman. In the past many marriages were almost on the rocks because of linkup — Shah Rukh Khan-Priyanka Chopra, Amitabh-Rekha. In the case of yesteryear’s superstar Rajesh Khanna, it was one too many affairs. Again, in the case of a well-known star, his wife’s affair rocked his marriage of two kids. Women alone cannot be blamed. A respected star confessed: “It is difficult not to have an affair with our co-stars as we work in close proximity.” Some stars did not call off their marriages because of sheer societal pressure and kept it under wraps. Others did not: Hrithik Rohan, Karishma Kapoor, Arjun Rampal.
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Bill Cosby Walks Free: Is It The End Of #Metoo?

Some may mark Wednesday, June 30 as the day of “Justice for Black America” when Bill Cosby —  an American stand-up comedian, actor and author famous for his TV show, The Cosby Show — walked free after serving just three years of a 10-year sentence on three counts of aggravated sexual attack. Half the world will mourn it as the day the #metoo movement died. When “America’s Dad” was convicted in 2018, it seemed a landmark moment when a famous and powerful man was held to account for abusing his position to exploit women. Women exulted as their movement gained traction with the Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby cases. Cosby used the classic Black card, much like American football legend OJ Simpson did to exploit racial divisions splitting the court of public opinion. The court decided that Cosby had been unfairly prosecuted three years ago but a 12-person jury had found him guilty. The climax in this cause celebre shows the American legal system is flawed and that the rich and famous can find their way out. But what it does for the women’s movement against sexual assault is a sad commentary on what is still a man’s world in which power and money can make a mockery of justice.

Mumbai’s Film City To Invest Rs 392 Cr On Latest Technology

Dadasaheb Phalke Chitra Nagari, famously known as the Film City, is getting ready for a makeover in phases. This integrated film studio complex, spread over 520 acres, is located in Mumbai’s western suburb at Goregaon East. It has over 42 outdoor shooting locations and 16 studios of various sizes. Now, the latest news is that Maharashtra Film, Stage & Cultural Development Corporation (MFSCDC) is keen to equip the Film City with technologically advanced infrastructure. According to – a leading real estate website, MFSCDC intends to undertake the development of 22 acres of the Film City via the PPP route. It will develop sound stages, post production facilities, and related infrastructure. It has invited Expression of Interest and the cost envisaged is around Rs 391.6 crore. With big demand coming from commercial cinema, TV and now OTT, most state governments see business opportunities in creating a hub for film shooting. It may be recalled that UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath met with several leading Bollywood bigwigs when he was in Mumbai a few months back, inviting them to shoot in UP. Perhaps not wishing to lose out business to other states, the Maharashtra government is going all out to ensure that the Film City is equipped with latest state-of-art technology that makes life easier for film makers. About time too.

Why Are Bollywood Starlets Focusing On Social Media Platforms?

The lockdown seems to be a boon for Bollywood actresses, especially the newcomers who are active on social media. Ananya Panday who has 19 million Instagram followers has been cashing on it by running some social media campaigns. Sara Ali Khan has been promoting fitness videos through a fitness app, Power. But on Instagram she has been regularly promoting brands like Vivo and Colgate. Janhvi Kapoor posts only activity videos like dancing and fitness apart from paid partnerships like Nykaa. Sara Ali Khan’s Hello Darshako which predominantly posts shayaris and random videos has gained her good many followers. Encouraged by this response, Sara has roped in her mother Amrita Singh, a former actress on this platform. And today we see mother-daughter doing commercials together. Disha Patani actively engages with her followers by posting action video almost every hour. Her popularity has gone up ever since she has been dating Tiger Shroff. Interestingly, a new starlet has been openly saying that she makes enough money (Rs 3-5 lakh per month) to pay her entire year’s rent by being active on social media. No, wonder these starlets are heavily focused on social media. Incidentally, most of the top actresses may not be getting big billing from films they sign but on social media they have more followers than the Khans and the Kumars.

Vijay: The Emerging Superstar Of Tamil Cinema

It was the quietest of birthdays for the emerging superstar of Tamil cinema. In normal times, his fans would also have indulged in shows of grand affection by holding charity events in honour of Vijay. In pandemic times, the star has been content to keep a low profile but his phenomenal record in the 2010s marks him out as the industry’s undisputed money spinner.  His co-stars held a Twitter chat event on his 47th birthday that was a super hit in terms of numbers. As Total Unlock nears with the second wave waning, Vijay awaits the opening of theatres to continue his domination of the big screens. In the last decade, he churned out nine films that grossed over Rs 100 crore, a record that surpassed the industry’s ageing Superstar, the one and only Rajinikanth who is now in the US for medical checkup. Vijay’s last four releases – Bigil, Sarkar, Mersal and Master – saw business in excess of Rs 350 crore worldwide with Master a Superhit even in the pandemic year of 2020. And now Beast is getting ready as the star’s next with Pooja Hegde and Yogi Babu in supporting roles. Beast may usher in the next wave of theatre-going cinema fans.

Photo: Fotocorp

The Family Man 2: Samantha Akkineni’s Touching Tribute To Eelam Women

Samantha Ruth Prabhu, now Samantha Akkineni, has put in a once in a lifetime performance as the LTTE woman in a very highly acclaimed Season 2 of The Family Man, on Amazon Prime. The central antagonist, Srikant Tiwari who carried Season 1 entirely on his talent and skill, playing the role of a covert operator of TASC (a fictional NIA), is pushed to play second fiddle to Samantha as Raji. In trying to tar her in sepia tones as a Sri Lankan, the brown make up has totally gone haywire…but this does not diminish from her brooding, menacing , almost other worldly countenance as she takes on the suicide mission of bombing the venue for a crucial meet of the two neighbouring country’s Prime Ministers. Her kill skills, spycraft and totally frigid inhuman approach to the enemy spies and mission…chilling. Samantha has pirouetted through many inane films that showcased her good looks. In The Family Man Season 2, she conveys every nuance needed to prove what it takes to be a suicide missionary, whatever the cause.
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How Underworld Entered Bollywood – Part 3

The D Gang’s clout was all pervading.  All top stars – heroes, heroines and producers – were forced to fly to Dubai and perform for bhai’s events. There is video footage of stars hobnobbing with the Don at a Sharjah cricket match. A ‘No’ was not an option. And the job of terrorizing the film industry was entrusted to the handsome gangster Abu Salem, now languishing in Taloja jail, on the outskirts of Mumbai. Abu Salem almost threatened every top actor and producer. One of the early victims was Rajiv Rai, son of Gulshan Rai of Trimurti Films fame. He fled to the UK with his wife Sonam and son after a failed attempt on his life by Abu Salem’s henchmen. Gulshan Kumar of T Series fame was chased and gunned down. Bollywood biggies – producer-director Subhash Ghai, Manmohan Shetty, and Rakesh Roshan received threatening calls from Abu Salem. Rakesh Roshan survived a brutal murderous attack, and luckily recovered from gunshots wounds. Not unlike Haji Mastan, Abu Salem too needed his share of Bollywood beauties – and he got Monica Bedi. His threat forced producers to cast her opposite big stars in movies like Jodi No 1, and Pyaar Ishq Aur Mohabbat. In September 2002, Monica Bedi and Abu Salem were arrested in Portugal. After serving prison sentences there, they were deported to India. To cut to the chase, the gangsters had paid informers in the film industry who tipped them about stars’ financials – movie signing amount, movie release date etc. Armed with this information, the underworld would make extortion calls. The Bollywood-Underworld nexus became apparent when Mumbai serial blasts of 1993 was investigated.  READ PART 4
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How Underworld Entered Bollywood – Part 4

High on money and muscle power, the underworld started dominating Bollywood. The money was routed through financiers and big stars who often visited Dubai to meet the Don. In the late 90s, early 2000s photographs of top actors, musicians and singers performing at Dawood’s Darbar were published by the media. These photographs exposed the nexus between Bollywood-Underworld. And proof of that was tapped telephonic conversation between Dawood’s right hand man Chhota Shakeel and various film personalities. This nexus pressurised Mumbai police to arrest diamond merchant cum film financier Bharat Shah under MCOCA. Reportedly, Shah was arrested for aiding Chhota Shakeel. Somebody like Rakesh Roshan had a narrow escape on the eve of the release of Kaho Naa…Pyaar Hai, his son Hrithik’s first movie. The sharp shooters fired two rounds at him for not paying Rs 5 crore. This incident shook the film world. The Mumbai police came forward to provide them protection. But, things started ebbing with Dawood not keeping well; Abu Salem incarcerated, and Chhota Rajan too cooling his heels in Tihar jail. Insiders say the extortion cases have come down. Though there were sporadic incidents like gangster Ravi Pujari trying to take advantage of the situation. Now, he too has been arrested. Now the underworld has almost stopped extortion but continues with its piracy business. Ironically, the fraternity which complains about the underworld are the same people who glamorize the underworld, making them larger than life.  CONCLUDED
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How Underworld Entered Bollywood – Part 1

Karim Lala was one of the three dreaded dons of Mumbai till the early 1980s. The other two dons were: Haji Mastan and Vardabhai or Varadarajan Mudaliar. This Pashto speaking Pathan who had moved to Mumbai from Afghanistan in the early 1920s was operating from Mumbai’s Dongri area. He ran two hotels and a travel agency – which was just a façade. As a leader of the Pathan gang his real job was extortion, kidnapping, contract killing and narcotics. Many people instead of going to the police went to Karim Lala’s court to get instant justice. During his peak, Lala frequently invited several film personalities to his parties and Eid celebrations. One of his close friends was a well-known Pathan — Mohammad Yusuf Khan aka Dilip Kumar (who hailed from Peshawar in British India – now in Pakistan). At one such party, cabaret sensation Helen tagged along with Dilip Kumar to meet Lala and casually complained about her manager PN Arora, who had allegedly duped her of large sums of money. All that Karim Lala did was make a phone call. By the time the party was over and Helen reached home, a sweating Arora was standing outside her building with a briefcase full of money. For many producers, it was an Open Sesame moment. They started paying the underworld to put a stop to starry tantrums and ensure stars report to their sets on time. In south India, stars are time-conscious and report on sets with full make up. There are stories galore about top stars keeping the entire crew waiting for hours. Producers’ myopic vision and actors’ indiscipline paved the way for the entry of the underworld into the film world. For the goons not only the money was good but they were more than rubbing shoulders with stars and starlets. Guns and roses were a deadly combination.  READ PART 2
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How Underworld Entered Bollywood – Part 2

Neither dreaded don Karim Lala nor Vardarajan Mudaliar were glamour struck. For them looking at other women was a taboo – well, that was the image they had arduously cultivated. But, not so for Mastan Mirza aka Haji Mastan, the man from Salem, Tamil Nadu. He was besotted by actresses. So much so that he financed quite a few movies with well-endowed stars. He was particularly infatuated by Madhubala. And in her memory, married an upcoming starlet Sona, a look alike of Madhubala. There are photographs of well-known film makers paying obeisance to Haji Mastan by touching his feet. It was fear and money. Mastan’s diktat ran large. There are stories of how well-known actors and actresses were forced to complete movies.  A top leading actress, on her arrival from London, drove straight from the airport to the set as she was confronted by Mastan’s men. Similarly a thespian actor was physically picked up by the goons from his bungalow taken to Hyderabad and brought back after completion of shooting. Parallely, even as Mastan was going about his filmy business, Dawood Ibrahim’s notoriety was fast rising for contract killing, gold smuggling, extortions, drug trafficking and real estate deals. After fleeing to Dubai he had corporatized illegal activities under the umbrella D Company, paid his henchmen monthly salaries. For D Company, which was spreading its tentacles, the film industry was the low hanging fruit. Of course, like all Dons he and his brothers too sought to have their own harem of heroines and starlets. A case in point is Mandakini of Ram Teri Ganga Maili fame. With the D gang entering the scene, stars started reporting to sets on time. Producers were happy. But, not Dawood. This protection money was small beer for him. He saw huge business opportunities in acquiring distribution rights in India, then he moved to acquiring overseas rights before becoming a producer. Of course, Dawood’s brother Noora penned songs for Hindi films.  TO BE CONTINUED – PART 3 & PART...

Remembering Seductive Siren Silk Smitha Who Set Silver Screen On Fire

She oozed oomph in the most unselfconscious manner. Maybe she herself was not aware of the magnetic sexuality she projected when she came alive on the screen. If fate had consigned her to the backwaters of Eluru in Andhra Pradesh as Vijayalakshmi Vadapatla, this seductive actor launched as Silk Smitha in the Tamil film, Vandichakram in 1979, would have remained yet another anonymous villager. Silk fought her way out of abject poverty and struck out to conquer the arc lights of Kodambakkam as the Rani of raunch. This dark skinned, scintillating, and striking woman careened across the filmy scape, like a meteor, acted in over 300 films in just a span of 17 years, before she died by suicide in 1996. Whatever a lecherous audience spoke about her in trashing terms, few had the integrity to speak about the goodness of Silk Smitha. Bayilvan Ranganathan, a film actor, critic and chronicler talks about Silk as a generous, dignified person, who was punctual and disciplined. If a producer was in dire straits, she would not insist on immediate payment, cooperated with all on the sets, never asked for exotic meals to be catered. Even when the skimpiest costumes were given, she would robotically perform. Director Bharathi Raja cast her in a memorable role in Alaigal Oyvadillai. But Late Balu Mahendra exploited her raw sensuality to the maximum in Moonram Pirai (Sadma ). Even when Rajnikant or Kamal Haasan were signed as leads, the distributor/ financier would insist on at least one dance by Silk, guarantee for repeat audience. Three biopics, including Dirty Picture (Vidya Balan as lead) were made on Silk Smitha.  

Mammootty Is Number ‘1’

Easy to speculate: did Pinarayi Vijayan, Kerala’s cult CM look over his back after watching Mammootty in the just released Malayalam movie 1? Every Malayalee worth his pips as an educated political would wish… if only Mammootty stood for election, if only he could lead our state to that Camelot. This Mammootty showcase has a laudable theme…the Right to Recall your elected representative if he is proved corrupt, self-serving and insensitive. Many films have taken inspiration from this kernel….unbridled corruption, and unpatriotic representatives. But the ideal is beyond the best intentions of the idealists. 1 too tries and weaves a few commonplace incidents to ignite that fire of selfless service to the people. Even as the CM, Kadakkal Chandran played by Mammootty, moots the bill to Recall the Elected, the expected outcry, posturing and malevolent reactions from his own party and the opposition erupts. And in a telling comment, the ruling party MLA hits out, “we will face elections every two years.” The ganging up of the plundering and profiteering is quick. Even as the well-intentioned plot touches a chord, no viable or practical solutions are given. In fact, 1 leaves the viewer mystified, baffled: why so many loose ends including those memory losses the CM suffers? But it is Mammootty who carries this me-too motivational effort on his towering self. And makes 1 worth a watch…who knows some young contenders may come up with an ideal of politics.  

Luck Or Destiny: Dilip Kumar Not Guru Dutt Was To Play Lead Role In ‘Pyaasa’

The 1957 romance-drama Pyaasa starring Guru Dutt and Waheeda Rehman is widely considered one of the best Indian films. Produced and directed by Guru Dutt, it was a box office hit too. And of course who can forget the melodious songs like Jaane woh kaise log they jinake pyaar ko pyaar milaa or ye mahalo, ye takto, ye taajo ki duniyaa…  Guru Dutt not only perfectly fitted the role of a sensitive poet, he immortalized the character! But Guru played the role not because he wanted to but because he was left with no option. How?  Actually for the main role of the poet, the actor finalized was Dilip Kumar. Guru Dutt briefed him about the story and finalized the deal. But strangely as promised, Dilip Kumar never reported to the set for shooting. The entire crew was kept waiting and a totally exasperated Guru Dutt decided he will put on the make-up and do the role. And what a momentous decision he took. It turned out the best thing that could have ever happened to him, the movie and also the Indian audience. Even today Pyaasa is regarded as one of the greatest films ever made. It frequently features on world cinema’s greatest films lists. It was one of the earliest films to have achieved a healthy blend of artistic as well as commercial mainstream traits. One may ask, was it destiny or luck that played the role here!

When Ad-Libbing By Dada Moni Helped The Director of ‘Victoria 203’

It was quite a popular song of the 1970s Do Bichaare Bina Sahaare, Dekho Puchh Puchhkar Haare sung on screen by Ashok Kumar and Pran in the 1972 comedy movie Victoria 203. The movie, produced and directed by Brij Sadanah, had Navin Nishchol and Saira Banu in the lead roles. Those days most of the films were shot with the original sound recorded simultaneously at the time of shooting. There was no post-production concept. The shooting of the movie was in full progress at a Mumbai studio with Ashok Kumar (Raja) and Pran (Rana) in full flow…delivering their dialogues. But there was a problem. Every time the camera rolled it would capture the cooing sound of pigeons. The sound recordist said that pigeon cooing noise was interfering with the dialogues. After three takes everybody was exasperated as to how to overcome the pigeon noise issue.  Ashok Kumar said, “Okay, don’t worry, I will manage.” No one understood what he meant by ‘manage’.  When the director said lights, camera, action, Dada Moni effortlessly added a line before his actual dialogue, ”Kya zamana aa gaya hai Rana, aajkal raat me bhi kabootar bolte hain!”  This thinking on the feet or ad-libbing as it is popularly known saved the day and the director Brij could finally say cut and pack up.
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Kartik Aaryan Takes In Stride Double Hits From SRK + Karan Johar

Thirty-year-old Kartik Aaryan, considered one of the most bankable NextGen stars, has been making headlines for all the wrong reasons. First, Karan Johar’s Dharma Production dropped him from Dostanna2 for his ‘alleged misbehaviour’. Now, comes the news that Shah Rukh Khan promoted Red Chillies Entertainment has dropped him from Good-Bye Freddie. Is it coincidence or a coterie at play? There has been no official confirmation but people close to Kartik say that he has returned the signing amount of Rs 2 crore. His exit seems to have evoked mixed reactions. His rivals that include few producers and stars who were unhappy with his meteoric rise are elated. They are wishing he goes down like the yesteryear’s superstar. But it’s wishful thinking as there are producers after producers eagerly waiting to sign this most bankable star. The news brings to fore once again the raging debate about nepotism and outsider vs insider in Bollywood which started with the untimely death of Sushant Singh Rajput in June 2020. Reportedly, Karan Johar is playing safe and is looking for Kartik’s replacement from ‘outside’. So what are the reasons for Kartik’s exit? Sources say in both cases he asked for scripts to be changed – a theory that has not many takers. But is it the first time a star has made such a request? All stars have made changes while at the peak. Luckily, two production houses have offered Kartik a three-film contract worth Rs 70 crore, but he is yet to sign on the dotted line. For now, millions of his fans need not worry, they will see more of their hero.

Salman Khan’s ‘Radhe’ Sets The Trend, Hybrid Release Will Be The New Normal

It does seem like Salman Khan has set the trend of hybrid releases in India. Even if the net business is Rs 125 crore, Radhe has set a new yardstick for tangible recoveries, proportionate to Box Office (BO) returns. Overseas, the theatre numbers of the film are very encouraging, given the currently restricted footfalls in the cinemas. In the past Zee had released Khali Peeli which didn’t work but a Tamil/ Telugu film released on the same day worked wonders. So, the writing is on the wall, that in the coming months when cinemas will start opening, the hybrid formula of the revenues via Transactional Video on Demand (TVOD) will continue. It has raised the bar, which will only add to the BO number game. There are middle-order films that are now released directly on OTT like Hungama 2 and Bhoot Police and we also hear that some big films that are in the pipeline are looking to keep a TVOD window for their films.

Aishwarya Lekshmi The Fast Rising Star On OTT

Covid 19 has overturned our ethos and lifestyles in ways that we haven’t fully fathomed. OTT is one of the most significant changes in our entertainment spectrum. Whichever the platform, the content and creative genius still remains supreme. Without sounding partisan, Tamil content has made that OTT transition, a much more creative, smooth as silk experience …whether in its earliest Anthology…Putham Pudhiya Kaalai, of five stories brilliantly directed by five outstanding directors among them Gautam Menon, Sudha Kangana, Suhasini Maniratnam. This showcased how the characters handle a corona ridden milieu. Urvashi, Jayaram, Kalidas, Prakshraj are memorable for their performances. Another anthology, Paava Kathaigal did fairly well. Two cute Hindi movies, Pagglait and Choked were super entertainers on a small budget. Bombay Begums is a pretentious me too. Big budget producers and mega vista directors like Shanker have to wait patiently for cinemas to come to life. In the meanwhile, new stars, new trends and more appealing entertainment in the privacy of your home are gaining big currency. One such OTT star is predicted to be Aishwarya Lekshmi, the stunning Malayalam actor from a hit movie, Maayanadhi. Her Jagame Thandiram with Dhanush, directed by Karthik Subburaj, is expected to raise the OTT bar even higher when released in June. Lekshmi is also in the ensemble cast of Mani Rathnam’s Ponniyin Selvan. No wonder OTT’s are in a keenly run race to garner gripping content.  Reportedly, Zee5 claims their subscriptions have jumped 50% during Covid lockdown. Bloomberg analysts also estimates that multiple OTTs, Hotstar, Amazon Prime, Netflix are cashing in on an 82% increase in viewership.


Technology Cannot Disrupt Original Content Provider: Short Post Editor

They say time flies. How true!  Today is our #SecondAnniversary. Two years back at the height of Covid-19 Pandemic when lockdown was the way of life we took a leap of faith and launched Short Post (Jan 28, 2021), the first-of-its-kind website in the country that focuses on Authentic Gossip. The Oxymoron is deliberate. Well, the response has been quite encouraging. That’s what has kept us going. Till date we have posted close to 2000 stories in the areas of Politics, Business, Entertainment and Sports. Each insightful story of around 225 words has been contributed by Senior Editors. There is a sense of satisfaction of creating a new segment in the market – authentic gossip — and in the process creating a brand (in a limited sense), creating demand (readers) and creating supply (writers). Well known advertisers — IDFC FIRST Bank, ICICI Lombard – supported us.  And that really boosted our confidence. Thank you!

So here we are raring to go.  But, when I look at the media landscape the disruption is indeed fast and furious. Technology is playing a very big role in how content will be consumed. In the past, we have seen how social media has disrupted the media world. Now, everybody is saying the same thing about ChatGPT. It has reached 1 million users in five days. Its scorching pace of growth is indeed frightening and will disrupt the media industry big time. My limited argument is can it do investigative stories, write gossip items using the digital world ecosystem. Unlikely. Clearly, the original content has to be created first — only then can ChatGPT do the magic. That’s what we promise to do – focus on original content.

Before I sign off, I am reminded of an old advertisement of the early sixties: “Avis is only No.2 in rent a cars. So we try harder”. Likewise I can say, we are two years old and we are trying even harder to be relevant to you readers.