(L to R) Pavan Malhotra, Katrina Kaif and Sikandar Kher
Bollywood may not believe in gender equality either for pay or for parts, but its women are not hanging about waiting for handouts. They’ve all decided to invest their time and money in businesses that may well outlast their film careers. Alia Bhatt has just invested in a startup, Phool.co, which uses temple waste to create fragrances, and started her own production house Eternal Sunshine. Katrina Kaif has collaborated with beauty brand Nykaa for Kay Beauty. Taapsee Pannu has launched her own production company and is busy creating opportunities not only for herself but for other women as well. Deepika Padukone is getting ready to launch her lifestyle brand, of which beauty and skincare will be the first categories to be rolled out next year. Priyanka Chopra Jonas has an array of investments, from the dating app Bumble to the New York restaurant Sona. More women heading businesses mean more women in those companies and in their projects. Already Taapsee has sent a script to Samantha Ruth Prabhu because she felt she suited the part. Alia hired a woman director to do her first film—and Shefali Shah to star in it along with her. “She would throw me snowballs and I would run to catch them,” says Alia of her co-star. The film Darlings wrapped up in 28 days, proof that when women are in charge, it’s good for business.
Kher’s All-New Career
Fortune favours the patient. Five years ago, Sikandar Kher did an audition for Dev Patel for Monkey Man. The film, directed by Patel, was finally made this year in Indonesia in a biobubble, which required the entire cast to be cloistered together. Kher got a call just before filming began if he could make it to the shoot. Patel was going through the auditions and remembered Kher had aced it. In a matter of weeks, Kher, who reprises his role as Daulat, the brooding bodyguard-cum-hitman-cum-odd-job man in the family saga who has a not-so-secret crush on the reluctant drug queen played by Sushmita Sen, turned up. Kher gives special credit to casting director Abhimanyu Ray who can see him in such different roles—his next is Netflix’s Monica, O My Darling with Rajkummar Rao, directed by Vasan Bala. It has emboldened Kher as well to always go for the different. In a new web show, he decided to play a Gujarati storekeeper. “If I can read something at one go, and if the whole script works, then I’ll do it,” he says. Kher says he is lucky to have been born in privilege and didn’t have to fight for food. “I just want to act, regardless of the language or the industry,” he says.
In 1989, his first year in the industry, Pavan Malhotra, who had already made a name for himself in the Doordarshan series Nukkad (1986), was in two National Award-winning movies—Buddhadeb Dasgupta’s Bagh Bahadur and Saeed Akhtar Mirza’s Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro. “I was there from the first frame to the last frame,” he says. And he has never looked back since then, working slowly and steadily, happy with his lot. “Sometimes, people tell me you should go out and network and meet directors. I can’t do that. God has been very kind to me. I could never create work for myself; it always came to me,” says Malhotra. In the last 10 years, he did two pioneering Punjabi films, Punjab 1984 (2014) and Eh Janam Tumhare Lekhe (2015). And now, with streaming, he has been brilliant in two Punjab-based web series, Grahan and Tabbar. Artists have the right to fail, he says. “I make an effort to not repeat myself,” he adds. “That’s why you will never find anyone mimicking me. Actors are never mimicked, stars are—their voice, their mannerisms, their body language.”
Did You Know?
The late actor Sanjeev Kumar was so generous that he would lend money to anyone who asked, from producer Boney Kapoor who needed to complete Hum Paanch (1980) to producer-director Raj Kapoor who needed money for Rahul Rawail’s Biwi-O-Biwi (1981), starring son Randhir. Boney returned the money after Kumar died, but Raj didn’t