Monday, February 25, 2013

Vivek Oberoi

“Fake it till you make it”

By Ankita R Kanabar

(This interview was published in the February 16, 2013 issue of Super Cinema)

Every debutant would probably wish for a debut film like his. He was a star, over-night, but since then, it’s not really been a smooth ride for him. Most would agree. But he’s ever-so-positive, and smiling. That is, Vivek Oberoi for you! Now can any of us deny that ‘Company’ was the best launch pad for this blue-eyed boy? Vivek’s journey has obviously not been easy. He saw a rough patch, but now is on the other side of it, looking extremely strong and confident. In fact, this seems to be his best phase, since the man has more than one reason to be happy! He has five releases this year. And, he’s just turned father to a baby boy. As I speak to him, his animated voice reflects the happiness that he is experiencing. You just know that the man is content with all that he’s got, and is raring to go, to achieve much more! His film ‘Jayantabhai Ki Luv Story’ has just released, and a few days prior to the release, we chatted with him. He gets talking about the film, at length. Also, his upcoming projects, fatherhood and more…

So, how has it been, doing a film like ‘Jayantabhai Ki Luv Story’?
It’s been awesome! This film has been such an amazing experience and so much fun. Just the whole cast and crew that came together for this. It’s been a complete joy ride. Plus it’s a very cute, very sweet film. I was shooting in Hyderabad for ‘Krrish 3’ and Kumar Taurani ji called me up and told me that ‘you need to hear this script, and this role is totally for you’. And when Kumarji tells me something, I take it very seriously. When I heard the script, I was completely into it just within the first few minutes, and I wanted to do the film. I thought the role was so exciting! A ‘bhai’ who people fear, who hits ten guys, and then he’s this lover boy. I’ve played a gangster in films like ‘Shootout at Lokhandwala’ and ‘Company’ and then the romantic hero in ‘Saathiya’. This film is an interesting mix of the two.

Your chemistry with Neha Sharma is being well-appreciated in the promos…
Our chemistry in the film is amazing! I adore her. She’s so sincere, so beautiful, so professional and hard working. I’ve had a great time working with Neha.

How was it working with a first-time director like Vinnil Markan?
Vinnil is a friend of mine since he’s been an associate director for ‘Prince’. I think he’s a fantastic director, who’s been able to make such a sweet, naïve, honest film.

Are there any similarities between Vivek Oberoi and Jayanta Bhai?
What I liked about Jayanta is that he’s a very positive character. Be it success or failure, he’s always smiling and he never loses his positivity. And somewhere that’s how even I am. I’m extremely positive, and always smiling.

You’ve played a gangster earlier. So this film might have not required much of homework…did it?
When you’re doing a film, you try and stay in touch with a network of people, to get into the character. Like when I did ‘Company’, I spoke to people who probably had the knowledge of how a gangster would talk and walk. Here, just before we started shooting for ‘Jayantabhai…’, Vinnil, some of my other friends and I, we sat together to think of new ideas, new words. We came up with different words that I’ve never heard before. So, that was quite interesting! One prepares like that and then your look helps in getting into the zone of the character. For instance Jaya Taurani who was the stylist for the film had a clear picture about every character – that he is a rastachaap mawaali, so when you’re looking like that character, you tend to even behave like that character.

Over the years, as an actor, what has been your approach towards a character like?
While I was in New York, they taught us this very interesting thing that you need to psyche yourself, which means you think from a character’s perspective. I tend to do that a lot. I slowly start getting into the zone of the character before I go on the set. That switch off-switch on mode looks extremely fake and unreal. And there’s this phrase that I learnt: “Fake it till you make it”. I think I do go by that. When I have to do a scene where I have to be extremely emotional and cry, I get into that zone. I don’t really talk to people, I stay quiet at most times. And when there’s this high-energy scene that I have to perform, I just chit chat with everyone, try and laugh.

Usually, what makes you give your nod to a script?
I think I’m extremely impulsive when it comes to taking a decision. So, if I hear a script, and like it, I immediately jump on it. And then sometimes I just say no. My impulsiveness has benefitted me at times, and sometimes also cost me quite a bit.

You certainly have an interesting line-up of films this year…  
This year is fabulous! I’m extremely happy with the kind of films that I’m doing. So, now there’s ‘Jayantabhai…’ which is such a sweet love story and then ‘Zilla Ghaziabad’ which is completely different. Then there’s ‘Grand Masti’ which is the sequel to the superhit ‘Masti’. It’s so much fun to come together for this film again. And of course, later, there’s ‘Krrish 3’ where I play this super villain, and a role that’s extremely dark!

So how do you manage to essay a dark character, that of a super-villain which is a far cry from your real self?
I’m so fortunate that I’ve gotten the opportunity to work with, and be directed by someone like Rakesh Roshan. I’m glad to be working with a legend like him. And Guddu uncle has guided me so much through this film. There’s so much that I’ve learned on this film. And it’s obvious that you learn a lot as an actor by working with directors like him.

What genre comes easy to you, and which one do you find the most difficult?
I think there is challenge in every genre and anything that you do. For instance, in ‘Jayantabhai…’, to play this extremely tough guy, who also has a sense of humour and has a heart of gold, was a challenge for me. Because there are two completely different sides to him.

Professionally, things seem good for you. Personally, everything seems awesome for you with the new addition to your family…
You’ve no idea how happy I am and what an amazing feeling this is! The happiness of just holding my little prince is out of this world! It’s truly wonderful!

And you’re away from them, busy with work. That would be quite difficult!
I’m just missing my baby and my wife so much. But thank God for skype, I see them both every day. Even while promoting the film, I’ve tried every little possibility to go to Bangalore where my wife and baby are. Despite all the work, I’m trying my best to just be with him and my wife, see my baby, spend time with him, change his diapers, just hold him in my arms. It’s just the most amazing feeling! I’ve decided to go on a break once ‘Zilla Ghaziabad’ releases. But before that I want to concentrate well on promoting ‘Jayantabhai..’ and ‘Zilla Ghaziabad’, before I take some time off. And everything’s just going so good at the moment that I’m hoping ‘kisi ki nazar na lage’.

So, what next post ‘Jayantabhai…’ and ‘Zilla Ghaziabad’?
At the moment, I’m dubbing for ‘Krrish 3’, so that should be done soon. And last 20 days of shooting ‘Grand Masti’ remains, but that shall happen only after March now. So, hopefully, I’ll get some time off, to be with my family (smiles). 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Amit Sadh

“I'm proud that I'm not scared to show my emotions”

By Ankita R Kanabar

(This interview was published in the January 19, 2013 issue of Super Cinema)

When he commenced his acting career, on small screen with ‘Kyun Hota Hai Pyarr’, he was a heartthrob for several teenage girls. ‘Kyun Hota Hai Pyarr’, ‘Guns and Roses’, ‘Bigg Boss’ to ‘Kai Po Che’, Amit Sadh has, most definitely, come a long way! While he remains modest, and credits his luck for him bagging a film like ‘Kai Po Che’, we know for a fact that he’s worked extremely hard to be where he is, today. And, obviously, the journey hasn’t been easy. Though, what’s commendable is the fact that the rough patches have just made Amit stronger and better as a person. He is more positive than ever now, and in fact, his positivity is kind of inspiring. When I met Amit, he seemed completely at ease, with not much of nervousness or anxiety pangs despite the fact that the film is nearing release. His eyes were brimming with excitement as he spoke about the film. His animated face, as he spoke about various things, made the passion for his craft, evident. And the glint in his eyes while he speaks about films is endearing. Amit isn’t diplomatic, while he answers the questions asked, and has no qualms about expressing his emotions. So, here’s the ‘Kai Po Che’ boy talking about his journey, working on this film, about director Abhishek Kapoor, equation with his co-stars, his favourite actors and a lot more in a heart-to-heart conversation…

From ‘Kyun Hota Hai Pyarr’ to ‘Kai Po Che’…how has your journey been…especially with several ups and downs?
The journey has been great. I’ve only taken the positives from it. 10 years back I was 20, I didn’t know much of acting, and I was not ready to handle what I got. I was this young angry man who was very high on his emotions, who called a spade a spade. Luckily, I got a break, many people were noticing me, and I was making a lot of money too. But I realised, I just didn’t get time to grow. Sixteen hours I was on the set. From 20-25, I made money, I made a house, and I realised, I haven’t grown in 5yrs…haven’t read a book in 5yrs, I’ve not done anything. Then, I took a conscious decision where I thought I need to find myself. So, there was this phase of one year, when I didn’t know if I wanted to be an actor. I travelled; I just learnt various things, met old friends. When I wanted to come back and act in movies, I faced a lot of rejection. Then I told myself, okay, this is not happening, I can’t bluff myself as an actor now that I want to be one. I can’t just go to the gym and make six pack abs, and be an actor. Here most times, that’s what works. So, I took a very bold crazy decision, I sold everything I had and went to Lee Strasberg Institute in New York to learn acting, in any case, my money had almost finished. I learnt, and when I came back in 2011, on 29th April, I got ‘Maximum’, that happened till December. And, last year has changed my whole life. In February I signed ‘Kai Po Che’, and just the whole journey on ‘Kai Po Che’ has been like a miracle.

And during this whole journey, so far, have you changed as a person?
My foundation is still the same. I’ve learnt how to be quiet. My tolerance level is now very high. I only react in front of the camera. If events in your life change you, then that’s not right. I’d like to believe that I’ve become more mature. I think I’ve become more humble, after seeing so much. I met Al Pachino, when he was doing his play ‘Merchant of Venice’ and the kind of humility and calmness this man has is amazing! When he being one of the best actors in the world can be so humble, then I guess we better stay grounded.

But when one goes through several rough patches, sometimes one could get a little negative?
I think that way, I’m still the same. I still have a lot of love for everyone. I’ve not got cynical which I’m happy about. With God’s grace, I’m glad I haven’t got negative. Honestly, I don’t know what negativity is. I can never be negative in life.

So, how did ‘Kai Po Che’ happen?
Mukesh Chhabra, who is one of the biggest casting directors here, called me and I went for the screen test. To be honest, getting the film was easy, and I still think it was a miracle. My screen test tape went to my director, Gattu (Abhishek Kapoor), he liked it and he said he wanted me on this film. Yes, getting the film was really easy, only the 6-7 years before this film happened, were bad (smiles). And I would say that with this film, I feel like a new-born. It has been a life-changing experience for me especially working with people like these. I used to say, this film has no actual stars, everyone in the film apart from the actors, are stars. We have national award winning producer, then a national-award winning costume designer, sound-recordist, director! All of these are the stars of the film.

And then what kind of preparations went into the film and your character?
Before the film went on floors, we did workshops. We had to work on the dialogues and the body language since we’re playing Gujarati guys. It was a lot of work. And for me, this film has been difficult because of the whole journey of my character, from a normal guy to how he changes, his understanding of life. There’s a lot of travel for my character in the film. Omi starts something, becomes something and in the end becomes something else. To be that way, age wise, mentally and emotion wise was too tough. To be able to portray his emotional turmoil and also maintain the physicality of the character was a task. There were times when I had to lose 6-7 kilos of weight over-night, which I had no choice but to lose by wrong means, which I’m not proud of. But sometimes, you have no choice and then, I also had to pay for it, since it affected my health. So, I wouldn’t say this film has been easy. But, I think it’s all worth it, since my character in the film is completely different from Chetan Bhagat’s book, Gattu has written an amazing screenplay, and my character would be a surprise in the film! And I’m still amazed at my luck to get a character like this so early on in my career. I still don’t know how I did it! I’m still soaking it all in.

How was it working with a director like Abhishek Kapoor? 
I have two relationships with Gattu. I call him ‘Gattu bro’ which is after 9’o clock, after the pack up; and while we’re shooting, he’s Gattu sir for me. He’s one of the most amazing human beings I’ve ever met in my life. I’m extremely grateful to him. And as a director, I think he has spoilt me. Because he gives you so much liberty and he’s always there for you, just like a brother. For this film, his clarity was so immense that I just gave myself to him completely. In this film, what I’ve done, is what he has told me to do. I think after this film, people will realise what a fine director he is, since I think it’s much better than ‘Rock On!!’

What kind of equation did you share with co-stars Sushant Singh Rajput and Rajkumar Yadav?
Rajkumar is one of the most fantastic actors in this country I think. He’s from a different school of acting all together, or perhaps he’s a school in himself as an actor. Sushant is very spontaneous, and he has a certain charisma on screen. He’s worked very hard and the fun was that all three of us bonded so well. We weren’t really acting with each other, and that’s the USP of the film. There’s this amazing camaraderie that we share off-screen, which I think has transferred on-screen too.

If you could choose one, which has been your most special moment during ‘Kai Po Che’?  
There was this scene in the film where I had to be all sad, and cry due to some reasons. So, I had to actually prepare myself for that scene. I didn’t really eat. I literally cried for 2-3 days. I stopped talking to everyone. I was completely in that zone. So, nobody came and talked to me. On the day when we were shooting, Gattu came to me and he was like, “Beta tu yahan baith jaa. Nobody would distract you, disturb you.” They were whispering, they were tip-toeing, so that I don’t get disturbed. The kind of respect they gave me, the way they respected my process was very touching. They could have said ‘kya naatak kar raha hai, he’s still so new, he must just act and go’, but they believed in the process, supported me. That was the high point of the film for me. I was so touched that I went to everyone, hugged them and thanked them after that scene. For a newcomer like me, they didn’t have to do it. Who am I? I’m nobody. That was a beautiful experience for me.

What kind of roles do you see yourself doing, from here on?
I think I’ve not even started my career. What you see in ‘Kai Po Che’ could be just a glimpse what I actually want to do. I think, I’m extremely greedy as an actor. I want to do everything. I want to play a lover, a psycho, a mad man, a bad man, everything and extremely challenging roles, because, that’s the high. I hope I do get challenging roles and writers write more roles like that. I want to work hard, and I want people to forget Amit Sadh, the person, and just see the character on-screen. When you watch me on-screen, I want you to forget me. I’ve tried that with this film, and so, in this film you won’t see Amit, you’ll only see Omi, because everything about him is so different. His walk, the way he talks, his emotions, his energy, everything is different.

Any wish-list of actors that you want to share screen-space with? 
The list just keeps getting longer (laughs). I’m definitely dying to work with Amitabh Bachchan. I just think that watching him, listening to his interviews, reading what he writes, makes you a better person. I think Amitabh Bachchan is a man, every man should be. Just getting a glimpse of that man and the way he conducts himself, makes you a better man. How amazing is he! And I’m a die-hard fan of Vidya Balan. Just the actor that she is, she changed the way actresses were perceived. Everyone’s pretty, we’re all pretty, but there were these perceptions that if you are like this, only then, you’re pretty. Vidya Balan came and changed all of that. What a woman! But more than working with people, I just want to be a part of good stories. When you’re making a movie, you just don’t work with people, you’re working on a story. And what matters is a good director since cinema is a director’s medium.

You think now, the perceptions that people had about you are changing? 
I believe that, people don’t leave you, may be you have an energy that doesn’t attract people. I can be very cynical and say that people left me during a bad phase, but I’d like to think that may be something about me wasn’t right at that time. My aura was such that nobody wanted me. Today, my energy is beautiful, my aura is great, I know that, so, I’m attracting people now. And I meet so many people every day, I’m not negative, I meet them all with love. I never put the blame on others. I think when you have a problem, it’s because of you, and nobody else. So, when I realised that, I worked on myself, I worked on things.

And so, how is Amit Sadh – the person, different from Amit Sadh - the actor? I believe, you are quite emotional and sensitive…
I’m extremely emotional and sensitive, and I’m proud that I’m not scared to show my emotions. Though, I’ve groomed myself now and may be right now I won’t be as elaborate and forthcoming as I was five years back. I didn’t like the fact that I was sensitive, but when you embrace yourself you’re at peace. And I think it’s great to be sensitive because as an actor, it helps you relate to every situation, so then you’re feeling a situation, and not just acting. I’ve learnt how to detach from Amit Sadh, the actor, and am more focused on Amit Sadh, the person, which I think is great and it shall make me a better actor. Because off screen, I don’t behave like an actor, I’m just a normal guy. I stand in queues; I would open the door for a lady and all that. When you take your work into your personal life, you become cocky, arrogant and crazy. I don’t want that.

As an audience, what are the kind of films do you like watching?
I’m such a movie buff, I watch all kinds of films. I watch Iranian films, French films, English films, and of course, most Hindi films. Films like ‘Half Ticket’, ‘Kabhi Kabhie’, then, all those Manoj Kumar films, Raj Kapoor films, I like. And Kamal Hassan’s ‘Ek Duje Ke Liye’ continues to remain my all-time favourite film. Ironically, I never saw a film till I was 16; I didn’t like movies back then.

Oh so you seem like a romantic at heart?
(laughs) Yes, you can write that! I won’t mind that image.

Any other films that you’ve signed at the moment?
There are a few films lined up. But at the moment, I only want to concentrate on ‘Kai Po Che’ and talk about that. I don’t want to sound like actors who make a lot of noise and just talk a lot about the films they’ve signed.

And last words on ‘Kai Po Che’
All I would say is, I think we’ve made a great film. It’s a collaborate association of a lot of visionary, talented people – be it the producer, director, art department or costume department. So, I hope people like it. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Aditi Rao Hydari

‘I don’t think about love-making scenes, I just go with the flow’ 

By Ankita R Kanabar

(This interview was published in November 10, 2012 issue of Super Cinema)

Amidst all the new faces that one sees in the Hindi Film Industry, there are just a few who totally grab your attention, and remain in your head for a very long time. Now, Aditi Rao Hydari, is, certainly one such pretty face who you can’t help but notice. She’s unique from the super glamourous, dazzling divas we see on-screen. Not that she’s less glamourous, but seemingly, she’s something else you know, ‘thoda hatke’. She’s sexy, sensuous and extremely glamourous too, but in her own natural way. Little wonder then, that just four films old Aditi has managed to make some space for herself already, in the industry and the minds of the audience. And yes, mind it, she wasn’t even the main lead in ‘Delhi 6’, or ‘Rockstar’ while ‘Yeh Saali Zindagi’ had her as the parallel lead. I’m sure, you wouldn’t deny that it certainly is commendable on the actor’s part to make her debut in Hindi films, not as a lead, and in a film that starred established actors like Abhishek Bachchan, and veterans like Waheeda Rehman and Rishi Kapoor.
While we caught up with Aditi on the sets of her next film, ‘Murder 3’, she seemed pretty relaxed, and shared her thoughts on various things. Dressed in a pair of comfortable shorts and a t-shirt, she looked far more pretty sans make-up than she does on-screen. Yes, it’s totally justified that men are drooling over this lovely lady. Her eyes express all that is there in her heart, and that she says, is a “big give away”. She’s bold, yet, the innocence in her eyes is hard to miss. A rare combination that is. So, here we have, Aditi Rao Hydari talking about her little journey so far, and a lot more in candid little chat.

What made you choose ‘Delhi 6’ for your debut vehicle, with a role that wasn’t really the lead? Though, it’s commendable on your part to do so...
You know, initially, I was told that my role in the film would be like Jaya Bachchan ji’s role in ‘Sholay’, so that really excited me. Plus the kind of actors that were there in the film, was another good factor. But when I went on the sets, I was slightly disappointed with the way, my role was shaping up. Yet, I didn’t lose my faith. I believe, whatever little you do, must be done with due conviction. What matters the most is, that you have to be honest to your work and give in your best. Also, I would never forget the kind of love I got from every person on the sets of ‘Delhi 6’. Even people like Waheeda ji and Rishi ji, they were so encouraging and supportive. Everyone’s showered me with so much love. So, I don’t regret doing the film at all.

Now you are being offered to play the main lead, but weren’t you afraid of being stereotyped, post ‘Delhi 6’?
I think if you really wish for something, and work towards it accordingly, sooner or later, things will work for you. So, that time, I always had it in mind that I want to be a heroine, and not get categorised as a character artist. And for that, I’m actually grateful to people who didn’t give me work that time, because if I’d done a lot of similar roles like what I did in ‘Delhi 6’, I’d have got typecast for sure. For that matter, I’d always be so thankful to Goldie Behl and Shrishti Arya for thinking that I could be cast in ‘London Paris New York’ and having that confidence in me.

So, ‘London Paris New York’ has been the game changer?
Oh yes! Post ‘London Paris New York’, I’ve started getting a variety of offers which are more heroine-like roles, some main leads, and some second leads, which I think is a big thing for me. Also, I think ‘Yeh Saali Zindagi’ worked for me too, as it was a parallel lead, and people appreciated me in the role since there was this natural sensuousness to my character. But like I said, I would be grateful to Shrishti and Goldie for offering me ‘LPNY’. Even today, when I sign something big or interesting, they’re the first people I would call and inform. But, they told me, they signed me after seeing me in an Airtel ad, which had gotten very popular. So, I’m actually thankful to the casting director who signed me for that Airtel ad. But I’m glad that I’ve now made that shift to being a heroine, because that’s what I’ve been wanting to do forever. Like I’m a trained bharatnatyam dancer, I can sing too. And what’s the point of being in Hindi movies if I can’t sing, dance and wear nice clothes? Of course, all that comes after being able to act well (smiles).

You’ve portrayed bold characters on-screen and have had no qualms about doing an intimate scene. How is it that you’re still seen as a girl-next-door?
Well, that’s a wonderful observation from your end. Yes, I’m so glad I’ve not been stereotyped as bold or someone who only does kissing scenes on-screen. But that’s the whole point you see, to portray something which is natural. Tell me something, would a girl have any qualms about kissing her boyfriend or husband? No right? It’s a natural thing which people in love do. And that was the whole idea even when we were shooting for ‘Yeh Saali Zindagi’. Sudhir Mishra didn’t portray me as this sex symbol wearing skimpy clothes. My character was of a normal woman, who makes love with her husband. I think Sudhir Mishra also cast me for the film, because he wanted someone who looked sweet and vulnerable, and yet has that natural sensuousness.

But how comfortable are you in pulling off something like a love-making scene?
You know what I do is, I don’t think about it. That’s the best thing. If I know I have to do a particular kissing scene or love-making scene, after like two months, I will not think about it and waste my two months. I decide to go with the flow, and take it as any other scene. In any case, I have to do it, so might as well I look at my co-star with ‘pyaar bhari nazar’, and think like my character at that point, just go ahead and do it. So, the point is, not to think about it, and go with the flow (laughs). Moreover, I think I need to trust a director completely. I make sure, that I’ve built trust in him before signing the film, and then there’s no looking back. I take time to trust people, anybody, and once I trust you, I give in completely. So, once I have that trust in my director’s conviction, there’s no looking back. I consider this as a part of my job, and do it with utmost honesty.

What’s Aditi’s take on love, in real life?
I belong to this old world. I’m not a dater. I believe in falling in love, and be with one person, stay committed. More importantly, I’m very clear. Like if someone is a friend, he will remain a friend, nothing else happens then. So, there’s this clear distinction I have between a friend and someone I love.

Tell us about ‘Murder 3’?
I can’t really divulge much, but as you know about the ‘Murder’ franchise, it’s a thriller. And it’s totally wonderful working with the Bhatts, and I’ve so thankful to them for even thinking that I could suit a part like this, since it’s a kind of role, I’ve never done before.

What kind of films do you wish to do in future, or the kind of directors you want to work with?
I’m not someone who believes in doing films from a particular genre. I would do any film, of any genre, that I think would engage the audience, has a good script and a good director. That’s it. And yes, I’m dying to work with Vishal Bhardwaj.

Friday, February 8, 2013

All that is ‘dhinchaak’

Adding all the spice!

By Ankita R Kanabar

(This feature was published in the December 8, 2012 issue of Super Cinema)

Fun, glamour, oomph, fisticuffs, bade-bade dialogue and lots of ‘naach-gaana’ is what the quintessential Hindi Cinema comprises of. Of course, song and dance sequences are integral to our films and are totally inseparable. Now, we have movies of various genres and a vast variety of subjects, but, the west still, more often than not, identifies with our films as full of dancing and lots of vibrancy. All these song and dance sequences probably define our Hindi Cinema culture. That explains why, a term like ‘Bollywood dancing’ exists. While we’re talking about those wonderful songs, and romantic sequences that look larger-than-life on-screen, on the other hand, there’s always been something like ‘item songs’. Vyjanthimala, who is still remembered as one of the finest dancers Indian Cinema has ever seen, is said to be the first actress to have done an item song, ‘Man dole mera tan dole’ in the 1954 hit film ‘Nagin’. The song is a classic, and is still remembered for Vyjanthimala’s mesmerising moves. In fact, this particular song had gained more popularity than the film itself. Cut to present. We now have Katrina Kaif grooving to ‘Chikni Chameli’, and Kareena Kapoor amusing us with her ‘Fevicol’ stint. Over the years, the trends have changed, but item numbers have always been a part of the Hindi Cinema culture. But while Vyjanthimala charmed the audience with her simplicity and grace, later the trend was to have an item girl dancing sensuously to a racy number. Dance numbers were then, not done by actresses, but by professional dancers who would usually only be seen in a song. These dancers would don the role of cabaret dancers, ‘tawaifs’ or the villain’s sidekick and fill in for the glamour, sexy quotient in the film, because back then, actresses used to usually play, righteous, ‘sati-savitri’ kind of roles. They left the seduction bit to ‘the other woman’. In the 60’s and 70’s, Helen completely ruled all the item numbers, and fit into the ‘ultimate cabaret dancer’ category with a number of popular songs. Actresses like Bindu and Aruna Irani were also in demand when it came to peppy numbers that instantly would strike a chord with the audience and stand high on the popularity charts. Later, the trend of leading ladies performing to popular dance numbers took a rise with heroines like Zeenat Aman and Parveen Babi. Oh and who can forget the evergreen Rekha, her dancing skills and her songs? It’s not your fault if you can’t get over Rekha when you see her dancing on those songs, even today. And then, came Madhuri Dixit. A mainstream actress who did several hit films, and performed meaty roles, but completely wooed the audience with her dancing prowess. We also had actresses like Urmila Matondkar and Raveena Tandon who did a perfect ten job when it came to dance numbers. But the tables turned again, and item girls came into picture. That’s why we know of Rakhi Sawant, Yana Gupta, and several others. Malaika Arora Khan is the ultimate item girl with several hit numbers in her kitty. In recent times though, we have several top-notch actresses doing item numbers and being their sensuous best. Today, seemingly, it’s become important for a mainstream actress to be a part of an item number in order to motivate her popularity and status in the industry. Heroines seem to be grabbing the opportunity of dancing on a raunchy number. They have no qualms about being typecast, or not getting ‘serious’ roles as a result of doing more item numbers. And no, it’s not just the actresses who seem fascinated by item numbers. We now, even have item boys. But of course, it’s the heroines who rule this category. We have Salman Khan doing a ‘Peeni Hai’ and dancing with ‘Munni’, Aamir Khan dancing on ‘I hate you, like I love you’, and Shah Rukh Khan doing a ‘Dard-e-disco’. One still remembers Abhishek Bachchan and his ‘One Love’ stint. Undoubtedly, item numbers are considered important in order to create some sizzle, and create more appeal towards the film. They help to draw audiences to the theatres and that explains why producers are willing to spend huge ‘moolah’ on item numbers. Some love item numbers, some hate item numbers, but one definitely can’t ignore them. Here’s a list of actresses who seem to have got it bang on, when it comes to item numbers. We also have few item girls talking about ‘item numbers’ and the changing trends. Take a look!

Vyajanthimala: Nobody can ever come close to Vyjayanthimala’s dancing skills and simplicity. It’s unparalleled. In those days, songs weren’t tagged as ‘item songs’. But Vyjayanthimala, with her dancing prowess, has made songs memorable and made them even more popular than the films. Even today’s generation who may not have seen her films, shall most definitely know of her songs. That’s the kind of impact she’s made. There can’t be another Vyjayanthimala. Her songs like ‘Man Dole Mera Tan Dole’, ‘Eena Meena Deeka’, ‘Chadh Gayo Paapi Bichua’, ‘Hothon Pe Aisi Baat’, and many more are classics, and nobody could do justice to these songs, than someone like Vyjayanthimala, someone who can express through dance, the way she did.

Helen: Helen is the ultimate item queen. With a number of mesmerising performances, and seductive moves in songs like ‘Mera Naam Chin Chin Choo’, ‘Piya Tu Ab Toh Aaja’, ‘Mehbooba Mehbooba’ and ‘Yeh Mera Dil’ among many others, Helen was the ultimate dancing diva of those times. In fact, still continues to remain so. There’s nobody who can match her when it comes to cabaret dancing on-screen and when it comes to her kind of sensuousness.

Parveen Babi: Parveen Babi was known for her charm. She looked innocent and sexy at the same time and the audience has loved her in her films and dance numbers. Two of her most famous songs that all of us still remember and love are, ‘Raat Baaki Baat Baaki’ and ‘Jawaani Jaaneman, Haseen Dilruba’. Both these songs are fresh in the minds of the audience even today and they certainly helped in raising the actresses’ popularity.

Rekha: She has the capability to leave you awestruck with her ‘diva-like’ quality. That’s Rekha for you. While she has given so many stellar performances, one cannot overlook her excellent dancing prowess and her popular songs that can now be called ‘classics’. Be it her ‘mujra’ act in ‘Salam-e-ishq Meri Jaan’ or ‘In Aankhon Ki Masti’ or any other form of dancing. While she did ‘mujra’ like she’s trained at it, she did an equally good job when it came to western numbers like ‘Pyar Do Pyar Lo’. And over the years, Rekha hasn’t lost her charm. Not too long ago, she did a song, ‘Kaisi Paheli’, for ‘Parineeta’, and we were left asking for more.

Madhuri Dixit: Madhuri Dixit, is well, Madhuri Dixit. Her grace, her expressions, her elegance while she dances is completely unmatched. She’s an actress who’s done some meaningful roles and also has a huge list of item songs to her kitty. Where do we start from? Be it ‘Ek Do Teen’ or ‘Dhak Dhak Karne Laga’ or ‘Akhiyan Milaoon Kabhi Akhiyan Churaoon’ or ‘Humko Aaj Kal Hai Intezaar’. She even danced to the controversial ‘Choli Ke Peeche Kya Hai’ with equal panache. Her songs have become iconic. And we have the signature Madhuri Dixit steps. Now who doesn’t know of the signature step of ‘Chane Ke Khet Mein’? The list of her most popular songs is endless. And over the years, her grace and dancing skills just seem to have gotten better. That’s why we saw the same kind of charm even in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s ‘Devdas’ while she danced to ‘Dola Re Dola’ and her comeback film ‘Aaja Nachle’, just as her finesse in the 90’s. Madhuri probably reigns when it comes to dancing, and despite all the tough competition from so many other leading ladies over the years, Madhuri’s grace at dancing remains unmatched.

Urmila Matondkar: You just cannot forget Urmila Matondkar and her dance numbers from ‘Rangeela’. She can dance and she can look hot. And then she is equally convincing through her acting. Apart from her own films, Urmila has done item songs like ‘Chamma Chamma’ and ‘Mehbooba Mehbooba’ which have been popular chartbusters. It’s always immense pleasure to see this lovely lady dance on-screen.

Malaika Arora Khan: From ‘Chaiyya Chaiyya’ to ‘Munni Badnaam Huyi’ to ‘Anarkali’, Malaika Arora Khan is undoubtedly one of the top-notch item girls ever. She can be touted as a trend-setter when it comes to item songs because, she does something different and that goes on to become a trend. For instance, her song ‘Mahi Ve’ from ‘Kaante’ brought the typical pole dancing style and strip clubs to Indian Cinema. Then she did the desi, raunchy, ‘Munni Badnaam’, post which we had the likes of ‘Sheila Ki Jawaani’, ‘Halkat Jawaani’ and ‘Chikni Chameli’ coming in. She’s also called the ‘yummy mummy’. The unique style and naughtiness that Malaika brings in to her songs is probably what sets her apart. Commendable dancing skills, the power to connect with the audience and make men drool over her, is probably what makes Malaika so very awesome.

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan: She personifies beauty and grace. And that’s what Aishwarya Rai Bachchan brings to her dance performances. While she’s given several stellar performances and is one of the finest actresses we have, Aishwarya is still remembered for ‘Kajrare’ that left the audience completely smitten and in awe. She can be credited for kick-starting this trend of top-notch actresses dancing to raunchy numbers, in recent times. She carries off classical dancing in films like ‘Umrao Jaan’ and Devdas’ and at the same time goes on to do numbers like ‘Ishq Kameena’ and ‘kajrare’ with due conviction. She’s a dancing diva. And you can’t blink your eye when she’s dancing on-screen. Her numbers like ‘Nimbooda’ and ‘Kahin Aag Lage’ from ‘Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam’ and ‘Taal’ respectively, also remain popular till date. She expresses through her eyes while she dances. No wonder, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan proves time and again that she epitomises beauty.

Katrina Kaif: You can’t deny that you remember Katrina Kaif more for ‘Sheila Ki Jawaani’ and ‘Chikni Chameli’ than her performance-oriented role in films like ‘Raajneeti’. She left us surprised with an insane, earthy song like ‘Chikni Chameli’. The petite, prim and proper Katrina Kaif totally got into the ‘Chikni Chameli’ mode and surprised us. The woman can dance and dance in a way that makes her even more sexy. Her little appearance even in the ‘Bodyguard’ title song grabbed eye balls. In recent times, Kat has proven to be one of the most popular item girls. Despite criticisms that she had faced for her Hindi, we’re certain, she makes it up for all of it with her perfect ten dancing skills. Obviously, she’s also getting better and better when it comes to her acting and expressions!

Kareena Kapoor: She’s confident, naughty, flamboyant and beautiful. And all that is what you see even in her dance numbers. Kareena Kapoor dances like nobody’s seeing her. Her expressions, even in the rowdiest dance numbers, like the very recent ‘Fevicol’ from ‘Dabangg 2’ look extremely real. It’s like she’s just dancing for herself and has nothing to prove to the world. That you can observe in all her acts. And undoubtedly, she’s improved so much over time. From ‘You’re my soniya’ to ‘It’s rocking’ to ‘Yeh Mera Dil’ to ‘Mauja Hi Mauja’, to ‘Marjaani’ to ‘Bebo Main Bebo’ to ‘Chammak Challo’ to ‘Dil Mera Muft Ka’, and then, of course, ‘Halkat Jawaani’; each song is different and Bebo has certainly added her personal touch and vivaciousness to every dance and that’s what probably makes her stand out. She has her distinctive style and confidence and that’s what we love about her.

Mallika Sherawat: Mallika Sherawat has the knack of making heads turn with what she does on-screen. Being sexy probably comes naturally to this ‘Murder’ girl. Her song ‘Mayya Mayya’ from Mani Ratnam’s ‘Guru’ generated a lot of buzz and was enough to make her a favourite among filmmakers and the audience when it came to item numbers. She dazzled the screen with several other item numbers like ‘Razia’, ‘Shalu Ke Thumkey’, ‘Jalebi Bai’ and ‘Laila’. Of course, Jalebi Bai was the most famous among all. So much so, that Mallika is now also referred to as ‘Jalebi Bai’. Indeed, Mallika knows how to set the temperatures soaring.

Bipasha Basu: ‘Bombshell’ is most definitely the apt word used for Bipasha Basu. She takes up the hotness quotient several notches higher when she’s dancing in a song. How can one forget this sexy lady gyrating to the beats of ‘No entry’, ‘Beedi Jalaile’ and ‘Namak Isq Ka’? You can’t help but start dancing the moment you hear ‘Beedi Jailaile’. While the song is so catchy, much credit for the song’s popularity goes to Bipasha. She’s a rockstar in terms of how she totally rocks every song she performs to. And then of course, there’s the ‘Bipasha’ song. This dusky beauty totally does take her songs to the popularity charts.

Deepika Padukone: Her dynamic presence on the screen is what makes you take notice of Deepika. Her smile coupled with dimples as she dances, adds all what is needed for her dance to look great. When you see her dancing, you get a feeling that dancing must be like a cake for her. That’s the kind of ease she portrays on-screen. Being a newcomer, performing with SRK in a song like ‘Love Mera Hit Hit’ and getting highly noticed is no small feat. Her dance numbers like ‘Uff Teri Adaa’ and ‘Kadhi Te Has Bol De’, from her films have been equally successful. But the highlight remains her item number in ‘Dum Maro Dum’ which was one of the major attractions of the film. The leggy lass did the same yet again in ‘Cocktail’. She definitely knows how to dance and how to allure the audience.

“Today, we usually have actresses like Katrina and Kareena bagging item numbers, hence, for me to get an opportunity to perform a peppy number like ‘Balma’ in a big film like ‘Khiladi 786’ alongside Akshay Kumar was a huge opportunity. I still am completely overwhelmed with the response that I’m getting. But yes, the times are changing. Like I said, we have actresses doing item numbers. I think I like the changes that we’ve had in Bollywood, though today we hardly have any ‘item girls’. I believe that this is just a phase and the trends keep changing. Like this year, if we had actresses doing item numbers, next year, we might see more of item girls. So, there are these different phases. But I think today, item numbers have become important and they certainly help a film. The song promos of a film release at least a month or two months before the film releases, and if that song is a hit among the audience, definitely it shall arouse interest in the film and people might want to go and watch a film. For that, obviously, the song has to be catchy and sensuous. Item songs I believe, also help us to get noticed and get better offers. For instance, I’ve got several offers for so many other songs, not just in Hindi films, but also from the south after ‘Balma’. New opportunities do open, once the audience and people from the industry like you in a particular song. So, I’m completely happy about it at the moment.”
 – Claudia Ciesla.   

“Just like how time has changed and we’ve evolved, item numbers have changed too. Back then, in times of yesteryear actresses like Helen and all, there were no tags like ‘item numbers’. But item numbers are a hot property of any movie. Though now, we have actresses themselves doing item numbers. It is something very challenging, and the actresses are doing a good job too, but if you ask me, as a dancer, I feel there’s much more that a dancer can do to make a song magical. Sometimes, actors are very plastic. But I love it when I watch Madhuri Dixit act and dance. She’s so graceful, and other actors today must draw inspiration from her. You know, our country is very Bollywood-centric. So most times songs and dances work here and they work well in the film’s favour because we love to sing and dance. Even though a film may be very good, item numbers add to the popularity of a film, they add this beautiful flavour and I’m glad our item number from ‘Rowdy Rathore’ did so well. Shooting for the song was as much as fun as it is to watch it.”
– Shakti Mohan 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Happy birthday AB!

Knowing him more...  

A set full of hustle-bustle, suddenly turns silent, as he enters donning a black shirt, black trousers, and sunglasses. Some people make an impact when they look at you, some people make an impact when they talk, but for me, his walk was enough. That walk says a lot about him. It makes a statement. Of course, he takes his appeal to another level when he speaks, but that's a different story all together. So, here I was completely stunned and in awe as he walked on to the set. That was my first encounter with Abhishek Bachchan. This was on June 4, 2006, at Filmcity where he was shooting for a Motorola commercial. 

In my first year of college, I was no less than a kid. The fact that I was recovering from mumps made me feel even more miserable as I met him. I sat there, observing him, and observing the shoot, until finally I got to interact with him. He spent 45 minutes with a college kid, who was a nobody actually. 45 minutes reading something that I'd made for him. Just as he leaves you completely intimidated as he walks in, it's so endearing to see the warm-hearted man that he is, when you speak to Abhishek. Yes, he is an actor. Yes, he is a star. But it's never really about him when you speak to him. He is not obliged to ask you if you're doing good. He doesn't have to, but he still shows concern, all the time. While I had mumps, and looked completely horrible, he went on to say, "No no you're looking beautiful!" That must have been his biggest lie, ever, but it made me smile. That's what he always does. Making people smile, and I'm sure most people who meet him, and speak to him would completely echo that sentiment. He treats his fans, as his family, similar to how even Amitjee treats his fans. But it's heart-warming to see him interact with them. Staying in touch with his fans through twitter, remembering most of them, wishing them happy birthday, and just making them smile.....It's truly awesome what he does! Most definitely, he's a favourite among so many people from the industry, and of course, the media. That's hard not to notice. All of that, just because of the extremely loving person that he is. 

For me, more than a wonderful actor, he's a wonderful human. The fun side of him as seen in films like 'Bunty  Aur Babli', or 'Dostana', is an extension to his off-screen persona unlike his serious roles, or angry-young man avatar in films like the 'Dhoom' series or 'Sarkar' or 'Guru'. He greets you with a warm hug every time you meet him and shall make sure to ask you about your well-being. Just the way he conducts himself with people, inspires you. Inspires you to be humble and grounded. Inspires you to treat everyone with respect. And inspires you to always stay positive. He's a child at heart; as pure as a child could be. Yet, a thorough gentleman. There's so much one could learn from him. He keeps saying, "When the bad doesn't stop being bad, why should the good stop being good?" and that gives away so much about the person that he is. Completely at ease in his skin and someone who's so secure in his shoes despite being in an industry where there's immense competition. 

Evidently, the path hasn't been all smooth for AB! But his perseverance and devotion has paid off, and it will continue to do so. I'm yet to come across someone who deals with criticism the way he does. And now when he's sweeping away all the awards with his comic act in 'Bol Bachchan', and everyone's talking about him after his entry into the 'so-called' 100-crore club, I'm amazed. Because, somehow, it's not really surprising for me. He had to be here. High time he gets the kind of accolades that he truly deserves, for the hard work that he puts in. And after all, good things must happen to good people right?

I don't need a special occasion for wishing good for him. Because that, I always do. Still, here's wishing one of the most wonderful human beings I know, a very very happy birthday! And on this day, I'd really like to thank AB for always being so amazing, for making so many of us smile, for inspiring me, and for all the memorable moments I've had with him. Just be the person that you've always been. 

Lots of love, 

Monday, February 4, 2013

A mixed bag!

2012 – Fun year at the movies!

By Ankita R Kanabar

(This feature was published in the January 5, 2013 issue of Super Cinema)

2012 has come to an end, but the cinema lovers haven’t stopped raving about the year, for obvious reasons. The year gone by, certainly sprung in quite a few surprises for the moviegoers and then, also presented them with the staple Hindi cinema fare which the audience relished whole-heartedly. What a remarkable year it’s been! And as a huge fan of Hindi cinema, I’ve myself thoroughly enjoyed so many films last year. We had films that tickled our funny bone, then films that could give you an adrenaline rush, films that made you teary-eyed, films that made you whistle, films that were soul-stirring and films that made an impact in our hearts. All in all, we had films that provided wholesome entertainment! We noticed a change, a change in Hindi cinema where we saw the line between commercial cinema and niche cinema fading away. And why not? Why should there even be any difference between these two when now, a film like ‘Barfi!’ which could have earlier been catergorised as ‘parallel cinema’ goes on to make 100 crores at the box office. We had women-centric films like ‘Kahaani’ and ‘English Vinglish’, being liked by everybody! We had a film with a unique subject like ‘Vicky Donor’ being accepted so well by the audience, without any inhibitions. A film like ‘Paan Singh Tomar’ not only got critical acclaim but worked with the audience too. And while we did break the mould, we didn’t really lose the essence of Hindi cinema and also had the quintessential Hindi potboilers alluring the audience, like ‘Agneepath’, ‘Housefull 2’, ‘Rowdy Rathore’, ‘Bol Bachchan’, ‘Ek Tha Tiger’, ‘Son of Sardar’, ‘Jab Tak Hai Jaan’ and ‘Dabangg 2’. Obviously, with a mix bunch of films like these, we’ve had a terrific year at the movies. 

The audience enjoyed, and certainly the filmmakers have had a great time too. Not to forget, we’ve also had newcomers displaying some great talent with utmost confidence. Most definitely, 2012 shall prove to be a stepping stone for the coming years for filmmakers to go beyond the obvious. We spoke to few filmmakers who’ve given major hits in 2012, and they told us how the year has been for them and the industry. We also have trade experts summerising the year in terms of the movies. Also, let’s find out what  we could expect from 2013 on the cinema front! Read on…

Shoojit Sircar, Director
“I still think that ‘Vicky Donor’ worked because the idea and concept was very unique. It was a very high concept film backed by real, natural performances by everyone in the cast. And it had a song which has proven to be one of the best songs this year. I’m extremely happy about it. Even business wise, it earned so much more than its actual cost, since it was made under a budget of 4 crores and it earned around 65 crores at the box office. So, obviously, 2012 has been very special for me personally, because I had a release after almost 7 years. I’m very happy and proud. Moreover, I’m very proud of Indian cinema at the moment. It obviously has been the best year for us with best films. And we’ve had so many content-driven films like ‘Kahaani’, ‘Barfi!’, ‘Paan Singh Tomar’, and they were all made so well. It’s been such a glorious year for the industry. But now the challenge is that the audience would expect more from me. For 2013, I’ll be first working on my film ‘Madras Café’, before ‘Hamara Bajaj’ with Ayushmann.”

Sujoy Ghosh, Director
“Honestly, I didn’t really expect this kind of response to ‘Kahaani’. Our aim was to make a good film which the audience will enjoy. But, I guess, somewhere at the back of the mind there’s always a hope that the film will get both critical and commercial success. But the way the audience took the responsibility of ‘Kahaani’ and made it into a success is like an intervention from God. And I’m so grateful to the audience because none of them ever revealed the ending, even now. There are so many other films that I loved this year. I generally love films and every time I see a film, I wonder as to how they made that film because I would not have been able to do so. 2012 was certainly very good. I saw more or less every film. I enjoyed ‘Paan Singh Tomar’ to ‘Housefull 2’ to ‘Bol Bachchan’ to ‘English Vinglish’ to ‘Rowdy Rathore’ to ‘Vicky Donor’. As far as this year is concerned, I’m working very hard on a script right now. The audience has placed a lot of faith in me so I have to make a good film, and that’s what they can expect from me. Let’s see how it goes.”
Sajid Khan, Director
“I’m extremely happy that we’ve had so many films doing well, so many films doing a 100 crore business and happy that ‘Housefull 2’ was one of them. I have always made sure that the audience likes my films, and finds it entertaining, and I would continue to make films for my audience. So, they could expect that from me from all my films in the future as well.”

Arbaaz Khan, Actor-Producer-Director 
"2012 has been remarkable with many films entering the 100 crore club...even films like 'Vicky Donor', 'Kahaani', 'Paan Singh Tomar' did remarkably well. We have also seen some promising talent as debutant directors and new faces and I was very lucky to make my mark this year considering the tough competition. The year ended on a very satisfying note, for me personally. This year there are lots of expectations with some promising films. I'm hoping to produce a film, though, as far as 'Dabangg 3' is concerned, it is something that we will take some time to work on." 

Shyam Shroff, Shringar Films 
"I would rate the year 2012 as very encouraging. We saw some amazing story lines, great narration, and great piece of acting and direction. Even on the music front, we had some real good and catchy numbers. But when it comes to the cost-profit ratio, I'd say, 'Kahaani', 'Vicky Donor' and 'OMG Oh My God', were the best films. For 2013, there are several films which are highly anticipated like 'Bullet Raja', 'Krrish 3', 'Dhoom 3', 'Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola', 'Chennai Express', 'Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai Again', 'Yeh Jawaani Hai Diwaani', 'Shootout At Wadala' and many more."

Girish Johar, head - Distribution and Acquisition, Balaji Motion Pictures 
“2012 has been a landmark year. We’ve had a total of 2600 crores of box office collection which is the highest we’ve seen. We had 8 films going above 100 crore. Obviously, it was a huge year in terms of the box office. And it’s also proven to be a stepping stone for the years to come by. When it comes to the return of investment too, we had several films doing exceptionally well. These include, ‘Vicky Donor’, ‘Kahaani’, ‘OMG Oh My God’, Kyaa Super Kool Hai Hum’, ‘Jannat 2’, ‘Ishaqzaade’, ‘Jism 2’, ‘SOTY’, ‘1920 Evil Returns’. These were not very big films, but they still did very well. And now, I believe that 2013 will be even better than 2012 because we have such big films coming up this year. There’s ‘Krrish 3’, ‘Dhoom 3’, ‘Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai Again’, ‘Shootout at Wadala’, ‘Chennai Express’, ‘Himmatwala’, ‘Besharam’ and so many more. In 2013, old records can be expected to be broken and new records can be created.”