(From L to R) Anubhav Sinha, Shlok Sharma and R Madhavan
Audiences too have to step out of their homes to support good cinema, says Anubhav Sinha, director of Anek, which became the fourth part of his quartet of movies dealing with religion, gender, caste, and race (Mulk, Thappad, Article 15 and Anek). The prolific writer-director, who has made six movies in the past four years, believes audience tastes have changed after the pandemic, but cannot understand whether it is a change in economic behaviour or cultural behaviour. “These are strange times at the box office in north India. Movies with the biggest film stars are not opening wide,” says Sinha, whose Anek underperformed commercially. “They are sending signals to the filmmakers to change, telling them they’ve been riding on inertia for a long time.” But he is not sure whether it is economic behaviour or a psychological change. Perhaps they just want the reality of what they’ve been promised by the trailer. Having shot Bheed with Rajkummar Rao and Bhumi Pednekar, which is to release soon, Sinha is now taking a short break, reading, catching up with good cinema, and working on an anthology based in the times of Covid with dear friends, Ketan Mehta, Sudhir Mishra, and Hansal Mehta. Along with Vishal Bhardwaj and Anurag Kashyap, these filmmakers have created an efficient ecosystem where they read each others’ scripts, see first cuts, and discuss ideas. He is also producing Hansal Mehta’s Faraaz, based on the 2016 Holey Artisan Bakery terror attack in Dhaka, Sudhir Mishra’s Afwaah (which is not a benign thriller, he says) and his wife Ratnaa Sinha’s middle-class campus romance, Middle Class Love. As he says, if mainstream Bollywood is a well-maintained expressway, it also has several highways and service lanes which carry movies to audiences.
Shlok Sharma loves to borrow his movie ideas from real life, whether it was Haraamkhor, inspired by a Patna teacher and his relationship with his student, or his latest triumph at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, Two Sisters and a Husband. With his writing partner Shilpa Srivastava, Sharma, who was named by the poet-lyricist Gulzar (his father was his yoga guru), has developed a taste for observing human relationships without drama and judgment. Sharma grew up watching movies such as Ijaazat (1987) and remembers hearing of a family where a man lived, quite happily, with two sisters. It formed the basis of his new film which has a most unusual cast. Photographer Avani Rai is the mostly silent, wistful and luscious Tara, Manya Grover is her once-bubbly sister Amrita. Rai was Srivastava’s idea while the Lady Shri Ram-London School of Economics graduate Grover had shot with Sharma for a Flipkart advertisement. Dinker Sharma, graduate of Film and Television Institute of India, last seen as the troubled son of Justice Quaze in Guilty Minds, is the husband, Rajat, while Himansh Kohli from the National School of Drama plays the eccentric hotel owner Bhed Singh. Sharma and Srivastava didn’t use a casting agency and relied on their own instincts, which is incredible because it is a star-making turn for all their main actors. Both have assisted Anurag Kashyap over the years and wrote the script together while Sharma directed the film with its stunning climax. This is one partnership worth following.
Scene and Heard
What does a man do after having lived with a story for six years? A story that has as many twists and turns as that of ISRO scientist S Nambi Narayanan, who was accused of being part of an espionage network. Long cleared of the charge of being a spy, the scientist feels that he has not been vindicated in the court of public opinion. Enter actor R Madhavan, who wrote, directed and acted in Rocketry: The Nambi Effect. So what does the actor do next? “Sleep for two months,” says Madhavan. And why not? Among the many things he had to do for the role was to change the bridge of his teeth, use applied kinesiology to bloat up to play the scientist in middle age, and sit in hair and make-up for 14 hours a day for a particular phase. Not to speak of the mental trauma he had to imagine being in Nambi Narayanan’s shoes and being called a traitor despite having served his country and the cause of science all his life.