Over the next two years India will be flooded with mythological heroes. The Indian film industry has decided to go back in time to look for heroes and even anti-heroes. Storytelling will be a mixture of great narratives and sharp special effects as an array of atmanirbhar (self-reliant) superheroes descend on the big screen. Nitesh Tiwari is working on a retelling of the Ramayana for the big screen; Aditya Dhar, who wowed the establishment with Uri: The Surgical Strike (2019), will tell the tragic story of Drona’s son, Ashwathama, played by Vicky Kaushal. Rana Daggubati, a fanboy of the Star Wars franchise and Amar Chitra Katha comics, will be playing Hiranyakashyap, whose story he heard as a child. Both Ashwathama and Hiranyakashyap believed they were immortal, which anyone who has read our epics knows is an invitation to a very public humiliation. Prabhas plays Ram and Saif Ali Khan plays Raavan in Om Raut’s Adipurush. Deepika Padukone is developing her dream of playing Draupadi. Is this a copycat phenomenon? Or is there a deeper search for meaning here which ends reliance on remakes of past movies and rip-offs of foreign films? Mirroring the flourishing genre of Indian epic fiction in literature, the film industry hopes to bring to the big screen these made-in-India offerings.
Pathan Meets Tiger
Yash Raj Films, which has had a miserable two years with only War (2019) clicking at the box office, has decided to expand what was meant to be a cameo by Salman Khan in Shah Rukh Khan’s Pathan. Salman will play Tiger and appear towards the end of the Siddharth Anand-directed movie. Salman will then go straight into playing Tiger once again in the third edition of his spy franchise, this time to be directed by Maneesh Sharma, a favourite of Aditya Chopra. Salman returns to the cleanshaven Tiger of the first film even as his mission predictably takes him across half the world. What we are seeing is the birth of a new hyphenated franchise, Pathan-Tiger, if the Shah Rukh film succeeds, which will probably be on the lines of Rohit Shetty’s ever-growing cop universe.
Back to Magadh
Writer and director Neeraj Pandey will be paying homage to his native Bihar in an ambitious film he is working on, starring Ajay Devgn as Chanakya. After much research on ancient Magadh, Pandey has finalised the script and will start casting for the young Chandragupta Maurya whom Chanakya mentored. Pandey who created The Special Ops series for Disney+ Hotstar, under the FridayStorytellers banner, is now working on the backstory of his lead character Himmat Singh, played by Kay Kay Menon. The Special Ops took off from the 2001 attack on Parliament, so expect the special edition to go further back. It is clearly all about creating a web of narratives which can lend themselves to individual spin-offs. Pandey pioneered this in Naam Shabana (2017) when he co-produced the new vehicle for Taapsee Pannu, spinning off from her seven-minute long apperance in Baby (2015).
News that Karan Johar is directing Ranveer Singh and Alia Bhatt in a love story indicates the end of his ambitious but ill-fated Takht. The movie which was going to delve into the relationship between Aurangzeb (Vicky Kaushal) and Dara Shikoh (Ranveer Singh) was expected to cost Rs 250 crore. After the failure of the big-budget Kalank (2019), it was always going to be difficult for Dharma Productions to sustain Takht but the Covid-19 lockdown first ensured cancellation of the shoot in Florence, Italy and then the postponement of production on sets in Mumbai. He has promised an “epic series” as part of the “Change Within” initiative to contribute to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “nation-building narratives” to celebrate 75 years of Independence. Perhaps the Mughals do not epitomise the “values, valour and culture” of India Johar tweeted about, tagging the prime minister.
Did You Know?
Former collegemates Aravind Adiga and Ramin Bahrani have proved to be a successful combination for Netflix. After The White Tiger, they will adapt Adiga’s novel Amnesty, about immigrants in Australia. Bahrani’s old friend Ashok Amritraj, one of the first Indians to set up shop as a producer in Hollywood, will join them as producer. A former tennis player and brother of ace Vijay, he co-produced Bahrani’s 99 Homes (2015) about the 2008 US recession.