(L to R) Radhika Seth, Gurinder Chadha and Devika Bhise
What does it take to break into Bollywood today if you’re not a star child with your grooming bills paid by daddy and mummy? I asked Radhika Seth who came to Mumbai from Delhi to break into Bollywood and landed a role in Call My Agent: Bollywood eight years later. “At least ₹ 2 lakh a month,” she says, if one wants to keep in fine fettle when the call finally comes. Her day would start at 6AM and end at 9PM, and she would travel across Mumbai in her best friend actor Alaya F’s car. There would be kathak class, pilates, followed by an hour of gymnastics, two sessions of Western dancing, ending with an acting workshop. Both were working with acting guru Ritesh Kant. “We would have such little time between classes that we would eat lunch from our dabbas in the car,” says Seth, who is forever grateful to Alaya for her support. Seth didn’t want to borrow from her parents, so made her way through the years after her graduation from National College by being paid for her fashion and styling advice on Instagram. She has amassed 932,000 followers and counting, and has wisely monetised it doing videos and reels for brands ranging from Urban Company to Home Store. She also has an agent now but back in the day, she was conned quite a few times, she says—including being paid one-tenth of what was due to her with the rest taken by the modelling coordinator. “I always wanted to be launched like Deepika Padukone or Anushka Sharma,” she says, referring to the former being cast with Shah Rukh Khan in Om Shanti Om (2007) and the latter being cast, again with Shah Rukh, by Yash Raj Films in Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (2008). “But now I realise you can’t replicate any kind of life, you have to be on your own journey,” she says.
Marriage, Punjabi Style
Bollywood movies may have moved on from their obsession with traditional romances, but the conventional depiction of weddings just won’t go away. Which means most weddings in Bollywood movies, with the exception of specific nuptials required by the story (as in Devdas or the forthcoming Meenakshi Sundareshwar) have been Punjabified. One only has to look at Disney+Hotstar’s recent Hum Do Hamare Do. The girl is a blogger, the guy is a VR app maker. The older couple is a former dhaba owner and a widow, but the marriage is with band, baja, baraat and bhangra. Blame the 1990s young guns Sooraj Barjatya, Aditya Chopra and Karan Johar, but spread it a little to the movie that transported it on a global scale, Monsoon Wedding. Mira Nair’s 2001 movie, with its small-time wedding planner, its cross-cultural relatives and its drunk dancing uncles and aunties was a diaspora darling at a time Indian cinema was consciously trying to move away from family dramas. Gurinder Chadha’s 2004 Bride and Prejudice, with weddings replacing ballroom dances, transported the Punjabi Hindu shaadi to an even bigger stage with the global launch of Aishwarya Rai. Jane Austen must have been a Punjabi in her previous life, Chadha had said. Brides such as Anushka Sharma, Deepika Padukone and Priyanka Chopra who converted their weddings into public relations exercises only solidified the centrality of the big fat north Indian wedding in the Indian imagination. Anytime anyone has tried to reshape the Indian wedding experience or associated rituals, as in the Tanishq ad or the Fem bleach ad, it has only led to an outcry, so deeply ingrained is the north Indian ideal in all of us.
Did You Know?
Adarsh Gourav is not the only Indian actor to be cast in Extrapolations, an eight-episode anthology based on climate change which stars, among others, Marion Cotillard, Tobey Maguire and Meryl Streep. Devika Bhise, last seen by the Indian audiences in The Man Who Knew Infinity (2015), is in one episode as well. Bhise has also played Rani Lakshmibai in The Warrior Queen of Jhansi (2019), an English language movie directed by her mother, Swati Bhise, that was made at the time of Kangana Ranaut’s Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi, and hardly seen in India.