(L to R) Vidyut Jammwal; Rani Mukerji and Jackie Shroff
Vipul Shah is one of Bollywood’s most successful producer-directors but keeps such a low profile that people tend to forget he’s the maker of hits such as Aankhen (2002), Waqt: The Race Against Time (2005), and Namastey London (2007). Of late, he’s produced action franchises such as the Commando trilogy, Force and Force 2. The latest in the series is Sanak, for which lead actor Vidyut Jammwal did a boot camp for all the action required with 15 international fighters. He believes India has unique action to offer, just as its song and dance is so spectacularly distinct. From kalaripayattu in Kerala to gatka in Punjab, India is quite capable of exporting action movies to the world. “But that will require time to execute, investment on the part of producers and research on the part of action directors,” says Shah, who points to the popularity of the action genre all over the world. “For the growth of cinema, we should not look down on the commercial entertainers. They are the toughest to make, get the least respect, but are vital in expanding box-office reach,” he says. But action movies also have the problem of security, highlighted so awfully this week with the accidental death of Halyna Hutchins, the cinematographer on Alec Baldwin’s set of Rust. Shah’s also the producer-director of Human, a forthcoming Disney+Hotstar series based on drug trials, which, eerily, was thought of before the pandemic struck the world.
What do you do when you can’t get one beloved pair back and you want to lean on nostalgia? Well, if you’re Yash Raj Fims, which defined romcoms in the first decade of the millennium, you replace Abhishek Bachchan and Rani Mukerji from the original Bunty Aur Babli (2005) with another romcom pair Saif Ali Khan and Rani Mukerji, also from their own Hum Tum (2004). So 16 years after Bunty Aur Babli from “chhote chhote sheher” and empty boring afternoons wanted to become like corporate honchos, there’s a new pair of fortune-hunters in Bunty Aur Babli 2. Siddhant Chaturvedi who was on fire in Gully Boy (2019) as MC Sher and Sharvari who was distinctive in Kabir Khan’s The Forgotten Army: Azaadi Ke Liye (2020) before being remodelled to fit the babe mould in Bunty Aur Babli 2, have the difficult task of competing with one of the earliest films to understand the small-town aspirations of emerging India. Gulzar’s inventive lyrics, Aishwarya Rai’s “Kajra re”, Amitabh Bachchan’s gruff police officer, and the massive con of selling the Taj Mahal (which was partly nestled in reality, hence the Mayawati-type politician Phool Sakhi played by Pratima Kazmi). There was something about that film directed by the Kanpur-bred Shaad Ali that spoke of the limitless possibilities that millennial India offered. In retrospect, the idea that “chand se hokar sadak jati hain, usee se aage apna makan hoga (there’s a street that goes past the moon, and we will have our home there),” was so not true. But who was to know that? Blame Gulzar. We were deafened by his artistry.
Nandita Das directing Jackie Shroff, real-life couple Richa Chadha and Ali Fazal fight, Lara Dutta and Dia Mirza play exaggerated versions of themselves. In Call My Agent: Bollywood, when Applause Entertainment approached actors to do cameos, they were more than happy to send themselves up. CEO Sameer Nair says he was delighted to see that Bollywood still has the ability to laugh at itself. Written by brothers Hussain and Abbas Dalal, quite outrageous in their narration, the agents are also finely cast. With the inner workings of Bollywood being in the news currently, and the role of managers and agents coming under scrutiny, it will be fun to see if fact is stranger than fiction.
Did You Know?
While India was moving inexorably towards the horror of Partition, which would see up to two-three million dead and 12-15 million people displaced, Lord Mountbatten and his wife Edwina would relax by watching movies in what was then the Viceroy’s House. The film they watched on August 14th, on the eve of India’s freedom, was Bob Hope’s My Favourite Brunette (1947). There’s this and much more vivid detail just waiting to be made into a web series sometime soon in the first of Manreet Sodhi Someshwar’s Partition trilogy, Lahore.