(From L to R) Saloni Batra, Salman Khan, Deepika Padukone
It’s an idea whose time had come long ago but was stymied thanks to the power of the multiplex lobby. It’s being implemented now because of Covid-19 and the hybrid movie release may well become the new normal. With Zee buying all the rights to Salman Khan’s latest release Radhe: Your Most Wanted Bhai for Rs 200 crore, the network will now play it on DTH, in theatres that are open, and on OTT as a pay-per-view model. This is something that other filmmakers might want to contemplate given the Covid-19 crisis. It was first suggested for 3 Idiots (2009) by Aamir Khan as a way to reach out to rural areas which are underserved by theatres, but the exhibitors’ lobby had put its foot down. Salman had promised his fans that he would release the movie on Eid and his fanatical admirers will be delighted. It may seem a mash-up of Wanted and Race 3 to critics, but his fandom operates on another level. They see in him someone just like them—unsuccessful in love and perennially in trouble. It’s the kind of bond Rajinikanth shares with his fans and it seems likely that it will overcome poor filmmaking. As long as Salman can give them inane jokes, belt dances and a villain whom he will beat to a pulp, they will swear by him.
Movie of the Moment
If Nomadland captured the zeitgeist of America 2021, then in India it is Milestone (2020), Ivan Ayr’s meditative narrative on a truck driver’s ceaseless transit. The movie focuses on the solitude of the trucker as he watches the world trapped within his box, just as we were during the lockdown. Starring Suvinder Vicky, who was discovered in commercial cinema and cast in Chauthi Koot by Gurvinder Singh, the film captures the lifestyle of long-haul truckers. Ayr spent a lot of time at Sanjay Gandhi Transport Nagar near Delhi and discovered it was a world in itself. The movie has been wowing festivals globally and comes to Netflix now. The Chandigarh-based Ayr (he picked up his surname from the Scottish village where he wrote his first short story) made Soni in 2018 which captured the relationship between two women police officers and was inspired by the 2012 gangrape. Milestone, originally called ‘Meel Patthar’, looks like it will go far too.
Saloni Batra was noticed by the world for Ayr’s Soni, as was her feisty co-star Geetika Vidya Ohlyan. Now Batra has reunited with the producer of Soni, Kartikeya Narayan Singh, to star in Uljhan (The Knot), a movie that chronicles a couple’s descent into the rabbit hole after an accident. Directed by a film studies professor at the College of Mount Saint Vincent, Ashish Pant, who is originally from Lucknow, the film was part of the NFDC Film Bazaar that was pitched at the Marche du Film at the Cannes Film Festival 2020. The film is about a divided society and what the middle class needs to do to overcome it, something that The White Tiger tapped into as well.
There is a long tradition of women from the south making it big in Bollywood and it looks like Rashmika Mandanna is the latest to have picked up two quick films in Bollywood, as well as a McDonald’s endorsement. The Kodava actress is opposite Sidharth Malhotra in Mission Majnu and plays Amitabh Bachchan’s daughter in Goodbye. All within five years of her debut in the Kannada film Kirik Party in 2016. From Vijay Devarakonda to Mahesh Babu to Allu Arjun, she has acted with several stars down south. Time to spread her wings.
It’s no surprise that celebrity Instagrammers are under attack currently for being tone deaf. Star daughters posting photographs of New York bedrooms and starling friends exercising together in the Maldives when the country is facing such trying times just seems cruel and narcissistic. Perhaps they need a reminder that Instagram numbers don’t really mean anything. If Deepika Padukone has 56 million followers on Instagram, then Urvashi Rautela has 37 million. Without being disrespectful to the latter actor, clearly, it doesn’t take much to amass followers.
Did You Know
The Gray Man, which co-stars Dhanush, is Netflix’s most expensive movie yet. The Russo Brothers movie is intended as a franchise and stars virtually every hot young male star there is, from Ryan Gosling to Chris Evans to Regé-Jean Page. Not only does it look like fulfilling the diversity quota, but it also ensures the deepening of new markets.